Crysis 2 is the latest offering from Crytek, the German games developer most famous for pushing graphics boundaries to their limits (and blowing up plenty of computers in the process). The second Crysis is most definitely no exception to the trend responsible for this reputation, being by far the most beautiful game of any genre to ever grace consoles (although this may have held the development of PC visuals back somewhat), and quite possibly the most fantastic first-person shooter to date.
Newcomers to the franchise may be put off by the idea of approaching the sequel to such a well-respected title before playing through the original. Crysis 2, however, attempts to welcome newbies with open arms, with thorough tutorials, flash-back cutscenes and in-depth explanations of past occurrences by means of in-game dialogue. Although this is most definitely not as fulfilling as completing the campaign of each in turn, it’s more than bearable and erases having to shell out more money in an attempt to even begin to understand who you’re killing and why.
Set three years after the first game, the Ceph (the alien threat from the original) have invaded New York, infecting the city’s population with an extra-terrestrial disease. Players take on the role of Alcatraz, the sole survivor of a marine unit sent in to save Dr. Nathan Gould, who could be the key to winning the war.
Equipped with the upgradeable Nanosuit 2.0, Alcatraz is the ultimate weapon. A bio-mechanical shell designed by Crynet founder Jacob Hargreave, the Nanosuit gives players the ability to leap great heights, throw people around like ragdolls, become invisible and grow an impenetrable exoskeleton. The suit’s only limit is battery life, and if that isn’t enough for your arsenal, firearms are plentiful and fully customisable in real-time.
As an improvement to the original game’s control system, speed and strength come as standard to Alcatraz’s abilities as opposed to being something which must be toggled on and off (an arguably aggravating feature which followers will be thankful to see the back of). Cloak, armour and ‘Nanovision’ are the only perks which now need to be physically switched into action, with sprinting, leaping and feats of strength draining the energy bar as appropriate when used during fluid gameplay.
Similar to the FarCry titles, a built-in tactical visor allows you to assess every situation, tagging enemies and ammo supplies so they can be easily found on your HUD radar. This also lets you plan your attack, as each new scenario has several ways in which it can be completed. With the visor notifying you of each route, you can decide whether to slip through undetected or wreak havoc from the perfect sniping spot. The choice is completely yours and can mean the difference between life and death, but the added element of intelligent thought before attempting an objective definitely gives an extra sense of pride after completion.
To add to the challenge of traversing the hostile urban jungle that is the Big Apple, enemy AI is on a level that surpasses all competing titles. C.E.L.L. members and aliens work as squads to take you down once spotted, using the environment to their advantage in their assault. Frequently taking cover to protect themselves, instead of simply popping up in the same place so your pre-placed reticle can get a clean head shot, enemies will change positions whilst unseen in an attempt to confuse and take your flank. Finally, a truly worthy offline foe.
Crysis 2 online multiplayer is an unparalleled battlefield simulation. Combining elements of Halo and Call of Duty to spectacular effect, it could even be said that Crytek have achieved the unthinkable and produced an FPS experience that betters both. Fully customisable classes, perks and an anti-camping dog-tag collection system make this more than a cut above the rest.
Another thing to mention with regards to online is that connection remains relatively stable at all times. As opposed to many other EA games, which tend to suffer from loss of server signal, there are very few (if any) times a Crysis 2 session will be disrupted. Players can also keep track of their scores and updates via the official Crysis online community, MyCrysis, an added bonus to the online service.
With a sigh it must be admitted that Crysis 2 does suffer from several downfalls, however small. First of all, as has come to be understood with Crytek, a beast of a machine is necessary to run it to its fullest potential. Some may argue that this is not a downfall whatsoever and it’s actually true that the game can still be run on slower systems with higher graphics settings, but for those whose systems aren’t of the highest specs, the experience will be considerably reduced. Even the console versions struggle to render textures at times and this can somewhat detract from the visual experience.
Another major bug, which spans all platforms and has not been repaired since release, is the loss of Nano Catalyst. As the player progresses through the campaign, Nano Catalyst is extracted from fallen aliens, collected, and used to upgrade the Nanosuit. If the game is exited for any reason however, the counter is reduced back to zero or, even worse, a minus number. According to forums this has lead to many people playing for hours at a time, only to lose their hard-earned Catalyst and having to start over. This has obviously resulted in a lot of frustration from fans, but is hopefully something that can be sorted out quickly.
Although there may be some creases left to iron, Gamespy awarded Crytek the Best of E3 awards for best graphics, best shooter and best 3D experience for this title and from the first play it’s more than obvious why. Its March release date means it will face a lot more competition as the year goes by, but Crysis 2 has set the standard so high that we may have already found this year’s Game of the Year.