In many ways, Crysis 2 carries the hopes of the PC shooter genre on its shoulders. The original was as much a benchmark for PC capability as it was a running joke about the impossibility to run it at full power (the very first achievement in Crysis 2 is “Can it run Crysis?”). So does Crysis 2 succeed on consoles without watering down the gold standard that made it a PC legend? Barring some shortcomings, the answer is largely yes. Crysis 2 is a solid and beautiful shooter which is a breath of fresh air in a genre that has lately been dominated by realism centered military shooters.
Crysis 2 takes place in New York City in the midst of a total SNAFU. A global epidemic of unknown origin has broken out. Your gung-ho military and PMC types have cracked down on the city. To top it all off an alien race named the Seth are invading. You play a marine named Alcatraz whose team is ambushed shortly after arriving to the god forsaken island (the industry standard “military squad in a helicopter” opening scene has been replaced by a “military squad in a submarine”). Alcatraz is left badly wounded and knocking on heaven’s door when he is discovered by a super soldier named Prophet, who is kind enough to loan you his fancy nano-suit before promptly, and inexplicably committing suicide. From here you parade around the city laying siege to all manner of soldier and alien while a rotating cast of characters chime in on your super suit’s super secret party line and bark out orders and semi-philosophic banter (more on this later). And so your grand adventure begins.
Crysis 2 does nothing to tarnish the Cry-Engine’s amazing reputation. Crysis 2 is the best looking game thus far on the Xbox 360. The city looks amazing, things around you are delightfully destructible, and the game has no shortage of amazing set pieces of incredible destruction to flex its graphical muscles. Despite some frame rate issues and occasional glitches, Crysis 2 is a constant feast for the eyes. The HUD is sharp and effective, and the tactical and night vision modes work nicely. There are a nice variety of landscapes and levels, many of which feel tremendous in size and scope. Crysis 2 crafts a large, lush, and destructible Manhattan playground for you to explore with your new super suit.
The nano-suit adds good depth to the gameplay. The left and right bumpers control two main abilities: cloak and armor. Your menu of super suit abilities also includes super jump, super slide, thermal vision and tactical vision. Each of these abilities drains your energy, which must be managed effectively between the various abilities in the heat of battle. The variety of abilities offer up different styles of play and the tactical vision provides a good conduit for these choices. At key points or encounters, different tactical options are highlighted in the tactical vision. Choose the stealth route to slip by the guards or pull off a few stealth kills; try and flank the enemy; or jump on the turret. The expansive levels also provide the space for choice and creativity. It is a special feeling when you get into a groove of super jumping, sliding, and cloaking around a level to open a can of super soldier whoop ass. There are occasional annoyances: the driving feels a bit clumsy and turrets can be hard to latch on to; the weapons also feel a bit vanilla for a game about aliens and super soldiers. The weapons there aren’t bad, but they lack a sense of creativity or flair, especially for a game centered around aliens and high tech nano-suits.
The story is probably the game’s weakest point. The game seems to lean heavily on the story from the first Crysis. If you did not play the first game, you will spend most of this one scratching your head wondering who people are and what the hell is going on. The game would have benefited greatly from some kind of an intro video to cover past events, or a little more effort introducing characters and events in this game. You spend your time taking orders from or being shot at by people who are largely ambiguous in identity or motivation. The aliens have no personality or depth other than being more interesting things than soldiers to shoot at. You spend the first half taking orders from a renegade scientist with seemingly no back story, and with whom you have no relationship. In the second half he is replaced by a mysterious businessman named Hargreave, the creator of the suit, who splits his time between calmly ordering you around and rattling off esoteric speeches. It is not until the last third of the game that some genuine tension and intrigue begins to materialize. There are some fun twists at the end, and the story eventually does come together for an interesting finish, but it feels like too little too late. Strong gameplay, great set pieces, and some genuine tension and twists towards the end make it an enjoyable experience, but the story does seem to hold Crysis 2 back from being great.
Multiplayer builds on familiar conventions in the genre. You progress as you gain experience, unlocking new weapons and abilities. Your style of play affects how you progress, split into three different categories: Armor, Power and Stealth. Along the way you unlock new weapons, attachments, and suit abilities. Nothing as in depth as we have seen with the Call of Duty series, but enough depth to customize to your style of play. The suit adds a nice sense of variety without feeling overpowered.
There are killstreak bonuses, but with one elegant addition that I hope is taken note of by other shooters: in order to accrue points towards killstreak bonuses, you must collect the dog tags from your fallen foes. This helps to ensure that killstreaks are not an incentive to camp. You have to expose yourself to earn the bonuses. Overall the multiplayer is fun, but aside from a few interesting additions does not do much to differentiate itself from other shooters. It stands as a legitimate alternative to what is out there, but does not emerge as a clear leader.
Crysis 2 does not disappoint. It is a strong entry into the genre, and the nano-suit is a neat trick up its sleeve. Amazing visuals and a fun, albeit convoluted, 10-12 hour campaign and entertaining multiplayer make Crysis 2 a legitimate contender in a crowded field of shooters. Ultimately the poor story and failure to dare or greatly innovate keep Crysis 2 from elevating the genre to new heights, but you will not walk away disappointed.