Crytek's flagship first-person shooter Crysis wowed everyone who experienced it. But those people were few in number. The PC-only shooter made such heavy demands on its player PC that only those with the most powerful machines were capable of slipping into the main character suit. Those who did, however, found a smart, meticulous video game, a debut from which it seemed a series was certain to emerge.
Four years on and we have that sequel. Crysis 2 is a game that exhibits no less of the stunning visuals that defined its predecessor, but which is now playable not only on high-end PCs but also Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
It's difficult to convey quite how astonishing the New York of the game is. While this is a city under military siege and alien attack, with buildings crumbling, taxis overturned and thick radiation hanging on every street corner, you will stop to take in the detail and scope of the world long after that first injection of excitement fades.
It's in the spray of a fountain, or the licking flames of a burst gas pipe. It's in the rustle of treetops, or the reflection of the sun on the surface of the Hudson River. Crysis 2 is an exceptional-looking video game. This Manhattan may not be a place you like to live any more, but it demands virtual tourism. It's astonishing.
Dressed to Kill
You play as a soldier known as Alcatraz. But your character is far less important that the clothes he wears. Crysis 2 is a game about a suit. This futuristic weave of unseen technology defines not only the story but also the game mechanics. Strip away the Nanosuit and you have a basic first-person shooter. You can carry just two guns at any one time, a la Halo, and you must duck, cover and shoot enemies either Cell soldiers or the invading aliens before they shoot you.
But the Nanosuit transforms the game into something fresh and exciting. In its default powersetting, the suit enables you to sprint at twice the speed of a man and leap at twice his height. Meanwhile, squeeze the L-bumper and you'll activate its armourmode. Here the suit fabric stiffens to allow you to take more damage, at the cost of speed and maneuverability.
Finally, the R-bumper will activate stealthmode, blending you into your surroundings and, providing you walk quietly, letting you creep up on foes undetected for a silent takedown.
Silent but Deadly
These three modes allow you to tackle any given situation in a variety of strategic ways: rushing in guns blazing or creeping around like Solid Snake. To scale back the power fantasy a little, you must manage the suit power gauge.
Every special action you take in the game drains the suit power bar and, if it fully depletes, you'll need to pause till it recharges after a few seconds. The suit power also depletes more quickly the more of its abilities you use at any given time. Slide along the ground while in stealth mode, for example, and it'll empty in seconds.
As a result, you'll need to carefully plan and execute attacks with foresight; a welcome demand for players bored with the predictability, and prescribed play of so many corridor shooters. As you collect Nano catalyst from downed aliens, it even possible to upgrade the suit capabilities, providing added incentive to check the bodies of everyone you takedown.
Beauty in Brokeness
Less engaging is the game story, which fails to inspire across the generous amount of time it takes to complete the main campaign. There are few sympathetic characters in this world, and your motivation to keep pushing towards the endgame location of Central Park is fuzzy. Likewise, the character in your suit is cold and mechanical, efficient but essentially unlikeable, making this journey a lonely one.
But despite these reservations, Crysis 2 is an outstanding shooter. A well-formed Modern Warfare-esque multiplayer component sees almost all of the suit capabilities translated to team-based and Last Man Standing deathmatches, and as you can level your character through playing online, there is longevity long after the main campaign is spent.
Beautiful, smart and bleak, Crysis 2 is worth your time, both for the exceptional views it offers and the experiences available within them.
- Unreal visuals.
- Accomplished voice acting.
- Suit modes supremely well balanced.
- Weak story.
- SBland main character.
- Two-weapon system feels limiting.