When the original Crysis launched for PC, gamers where at first stunned by it’s beauty. Once that had died down a bit, the players found themselves immersed as a super soldier equipped with an advanced, gadget-filled Nanosuit in an impressive jungle setting. An interesting side-effect of the sheer power of Crysis was that it quickly became a benchmark for gaming PC rigs, with gamers upgrading their machines in order to make the game look and play as well as possible. This fact alone caused the gaming community to have doubts about a sequel that would appear on the home consoles. Could it really measure up to the PC-only first game?
This time around, the jungle setting is replaced with that of the urban jungle, specifically New York City, three years later. The city is in the grip of an epidemic and the player, who takes on the role of Alcatraz, a Force Recon Marine, finds themselves in possession of the Nanosuit 2.0. Players will have very little time to become accustomed to the suits abilities before they have to deal with not only a city under siege, but also an alien invasion and being hunted by CELL soldiers who believe that Alcatraz is the former suit wearer. Not a good day!
The Nanosuit, which is perhaps the unique selling point of the game, bestows it’s wearer with abilities far beyond those of a normal human. Catering to different kinds of players, the suit has a stealth mode which renders the wearer almost invisible, which is ideal for those who prefer a sneaky shooter, and an armour mode that allows the wearer to take much more damage, proving useful for the run and gun style player. Other functions include strength and speed combined into the power mode, allowing bursts of speed and superhuman strength. All of these abilities are tempered by an energy gauge that depletes as the abilities are used, requiring the player to plan carefully the use of their powers. The new tactical vision can be activated to allow the player to scan the area and spot/mark important features such as enemy units, resupply dumps and such.
Early in the game, the player will find themselves facing off against CELL soldiers for the most part. These highly trained operatives may be far inferior to the player, but make up for it by sheer volume. They also prove to be the most interesting adversaries, allowing players to approach these encounters from various different directions. Later in the game, the player will come up against the aliens from the original game, albeit looking slightly different. These guys are much more powerful and pose more of a challenge.
What made the original game stand out was the visuals and Crytek have done an impressive job of making sure this sequel is equally as breath-taking. The set-pieces, New York in a state of all-out chaos, are quite simply incredible, especially when you come across an area that you recognise from either a movie, TV or real life. The level of detail is incredible and the game certainly does justice to it’s predecessor, especially considering the limitations of the home consoles over a modern PC. Let’s not forget the impressive use of sound in the game, building on the atmosphere with amazing sound-effects.
Something else that players of the original game were worried about were the controls which, as they were, would be in no way suited to the home consoles. Crytek obviously realised this and have redesigned the controls to be much more accessible. Stealth and armour are now mapped to the shoulder buttons on Xbox360, making them easier to engage. Likewise, speed is activated through clicking the left stick and click and holding the right stick will charge up your melee attack with added strength. The way that the controls have been set up allow for fluid gameplay and as a result make the game much easier to get into.
The Nanosuit can be upgraded through the game to improve the abilities or introduce new abilities. The same can be said for the impressive weapons found in the game, as players can find add-ons such as grenade launchers, scopes and silencers to add to their guns and adapt to various situations.
It’s not all glorious in the Crysis 2 world though. Whilst the progression of the story offers some truly breath-taking moments and some of the cut-scenes will stay in my mind for a long time to come, it can be accused of being too linear at times, forcing the player along a given route. Whilst this can be seen as important to the continuation of the story, the massive cityscape just seems to be screaming for some more “freeform” action. Another small problem, which is in no way game breaking, is the glitchy AI. I actually found this to be quite amusing, seeing an enemy soldiers boot appear under the staircase where I was hiding, or watching a soldier appear through a solid brick wall. These little glitches seem to happen quite frequently and can reduce the immersion somewhat.
Taking the game online for a spot of multiplayer action will offer few surprises to the veteran FPS player. The usual suspects of game modes all seem to be present and correct, albeit under the guise of different names. There are six different modes for the player to enjoy and gain xp from. This experience allows the player to level up their multiplayer character and unlock new weapons, upgrades and CoD-style perks. This allows players to set up their Nanosuit in different ways, adding variety, although the overall look cannot be customised.
Some fans of the original Crysis may well complain about the “dumbing down” of the controls. Other critics will whine about the generic New York setting, or the glitchy AI that sees soldiers balancing on pillars or running into walls. I am not a hardcore FPS fan and as such I look for “the experience”. For me, this consists of two things, simple controls which allow me to be immersed in the game world and a sense of “epicness”. On both of these counts, Crysis 2 hits the spot. I mean, c’mon, the New York setting may be generic, but the easily recognisable landmarks in various states of destruction and the utter gorgeousness of the visuals ensure that it is unlike any New York ever seen before.
In answer to my question “can Crysis 2 measure up to the first game”, the resounding answer has to be a firm “yes”. It may have a couple of small issues, but the rollercoaster ride that the player embarks on with the single player campaign is instantly memorable and the multiplayer, although not really offering anything especially new, is solid and enjoyable. But what makes the game stand out more than anything else is the way it looks. If eye candy is important to you, Crysis 2 should be top of your sweetie list.