A Totally Biased Review: Crysis 2

Another well-balanced, beautiful game from Crytek that gives a superbly renditioned vision of the City That Never Sleeps in ruins.

Does this suit make my ass look big...?

It’s no secret that games are one of, if not the, most popular forms of escapism in the world today. We take a break from our problems by plopping down in front of the screen, and killing a bunch of polygonal dudes. That being said, there must be something especially enticing about the chance to play through something in a game that exists in the real world. To see something tangible, that we could all go and look at and touch, digitally rendered and demolished. Case in point, New York City is in ruins in Crysis 2, and, no offense to  the people living there, thank God for that. Crysis 2 turns the singular experience of Crysis into a tradition, by improving on most of what made the first game so unique.

New York’s seen much better days. If it’s not getting stomped on by dudes in dinosaur suits, it’s being invaded by aliens. The people there just can’t seem to catch a break. The game takes place 3 years after the original, and this time around, the city’s been infested with an alien invasion of Cephalopod-like creatures, aply named the “Ceph,” and has been mostly evacuated due to a disease called the “Manhatten Virus,” a nasty bug that causes complete cellular breakdown (read: liquifies your flesh). The city’s under martial law and occupied by soldiers from Crynet Enforcement & Local Logistics (or CELL, for short), a private military company contracted by the US Department of Defense to police the situation. CELL is run by the Crynet corporation, who are the developers of the Nanosuits from both games. You play this time as Alcatraz, a Force Recon Marine deployed into the city to extract a former Crynet employee named Dr. Nathan Gould, who has vital information on how to combat the alien invaders. But, Murphy’s law rears its ugly head, and as usual it’s a good thing, too, otherwise we may not even have a game to play through.

 

Oooh! That's a pretty color! Wait, what? It's explosive? Since when?!

The story this time around doesn’t have the same kind of impact the first did with the reveal of the alien threat, but the fact that it takes place in New York gives it a gravity the first didn’t have. The game also wisely sticks even more closely to the Half-Life template by, apart from loading screens, never taking the perspective out of Alcatraz’, as well as having him play the part of the silent protagonist (THANK CHRIST!). It works to great effect, and doesn’t generally come off as awkward to not hear Alcatraz speak, keeping him as nothing more than the vessl for us, the player. Every event in the game unfolds and occurs as he would see it, and it adds a great sense of exhiliration to the big, action-movie moments, while lending extra tension to the sunspenseful moments. And while Crysis has never been known for the strength of it’s story, the presentation of it’s story elements helps give the story more impact.

Those big movie moments are peppered abundantly throughout the entire game, and you’re (generally) in full control for them, with very few sections of gameplay feeling at all dull or dragging, with the exception of a couple of “boss” fights. There’s no real strategy for them, and they end up being just a war of attrition while you hope that 6th rocket you just fired will bring it down. That being said, the rest of the game flows and jives quite well and continues the tradition started with Crysis: you’re given objectives to complete in whatever manner you deem fit, and although the game leaves enough room for you to either make it a shoot-out or a stealth excercise, the levels and layouts do feel decidedly more closed in. The massive, open-world feel of the first game’s opening levels is gone, due to the obvious fact that you’re fighting through NYC’s world-famous streets. It’s unfortunate that the scope of the 1st game has been pulled back a bit, but the focus the linearity gives the game doesn’t necessarily detract from the gameplay, and the developer’s have done a good job at giving each area just enough space to let you decide what you’d really like to do. If there were anything that did detract from the gameplay, it would be the few AI glitches and bugs I sparsely encountered: enemies would run in circles or in place, or get stuck on pieces of the scenery. These were very infrequent, happening less than a handful of times through the entire game, and were never a cause for concern, just humor.

It'd almost be nice, if not for all the smoke... and fire... and like the uh, the rubble and stuff... It'd be beautiful...

Of course, if you’re not sure what to do, the game will make decisions for you. Kind of. The nanosuit has received almost a complete overhaul, with each aspect of the suit that was introduced in the first being tweaked, if only a little bit. Even the suit’s voice has changed. The suit’s energy store now lasts noticeably longer, something that plagued the first to an extent, as sneaking now feels much more viable with the distance you can travel while in Cloak. Armor seems to absorb considerably more small-arms fire, and the Speed and Strength modes have been streamlined to a single Power mode, with a better, longer jump and the ability to grab onto ledges, parkour-style. Even the suit’s visor has some welcome upgrades, which let you tag enemies with a marker that’s visible through walls and other obstacles, as well as a Predator-esque “Nanovision.” In addition to the tagging, the Tactical Visor, as it’s now called, let’s you mark weapons, ammo, enemies, and even gives you a Tactical Assessment of the area ahead, highlighting certain sneaking routes or battle emplacements that you can use to your advantage. It’s a little strange at first, and you can ignore them completely if you’d like, but it’s just another example of the different ways each area can be traversed, and most of the suggestions are generally helpful. All of these minor adjustments add a tremendous amount of balance to the suit’s powers, and both of the suit’s primary functions feel equalized to one another’s, with neither option being the clearly better one.

As an aside, all 3 primary modes also have a set of additional “perks” that can be bought with the game’s currency: nano catalyst, which is tissue collected from dead aliens. After you take down one of the Ceph, a small cloud of particles hovers over them, which you can gather to help your suit basically mutate and evolve. It’s a great incentive to actually fight and defeat as many enemies as you can, and the various upgrades help you further customize your play-style. The one stipulation to these perks, however, is you may only have one of them active for EACH of the suit’s four modes (Visor, Armor, Power and Cloak) at a time. Each of the options is useful in its own way, and the game never punishes you for choosing one over the other. More praise for the customization the game offers you in small, subtle ways.

Man, I still got it! Hide N' Seek Champion of the WORLD!

As I mentioned in the review for the first game, it was released originally as a PC-only title, finally being made available for download 4 years later. This time around, EA and Crytek wanted to reach a wider audience from the beginning, and released the game simultaneously for XBox 360, PS3 and PCs. Despite the graphical prowess of both PCs and the PS3, the 360 version (which is the only one I played) looks pretty astounding. Distant buildings look spectacular as they crumble and fall to the Earth, the familiar landmarks of NYC, such as Lady Liberty, look both stunning and eerie as the havoc in the city leaves them disfigured and in ruins. The development team chose to keep the design authentic in favor of dramatic flair, and the authenticity works wonders for the atmosphere. Times’ Square is hardly recognizable admist the battles, and Grand Central Station is full of rubble and ammo stores. It’s one of the most intriguing aspects of the game’s design, as well as frightening, and certainly helps add to the gravitas of the impending invasion. The lighting and particle effects are all topnotch, motion blur and depth of field add a remarkable realism to the look of the game, and all of the combined aspects of the graphics make the game one of the most beautiful ever made.

Stand and tremble! For I am now generic!

Unfortunately, this time around, the design choices the team made for the alien invaders aren’t as compelling as in the original. I lauded the first game’s alien designs for being totally original and unique, with great design choices surrounding almost every aspect of the creatures, from their monolithic dwelling to the flying, vehicle-like armor they wore outside of it. The fact that they needed to survive in extreme, sub-zero temperatures was also quite unique, and it’s a desicion I’m really upset to see changed. The creatures that populate the levels in Crysis 2 may or may not have been rejects from the Halo franchise, complete with complex, shiny plate armor, energy-based weapons and drop-ships that they hurtle to the ground from. In pods. See what I’m getting at here? There’s a few different varieties of them, but none of them have the same sense of awe the aliens in the first did.

Luckily, it’s one of the only components to the production that isn’t fantastic. The sound design, just like the first, is again some of the best there is, with the audio spectrum completely filling up whatever space you’d expect or, more importantly, want. Guns and explosions all sound appropriately loud and have plenty of oomph, and the white noise that fills up the empty space in the soundscape between the frenetic firefights add great ambiance. The voicework is solid all around with no blemishes, but also not necessarily any particular bright spots. The soundtrack is much more catchy this time around, though, thanks no doubt to award-winning composer Hans Zimmer being involved. The main theme for the soundtrack was particularly catchy, and I found I could hear it even while I wasn’t playing the game. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if that’s good or annoying… The one aspect of the sound design I found disagreebable was, again, having to do with the aliens. They didn’t make the bizarre screeching and otherworldly squawking noises they did in the original, instead sounding exactly like the Decepticons in the Transformers films. I’m not sure whose idea it was to completely redesign the aliens, but I’d like to have a word with them regarding the 3rd game…

As usual, there’s a multiplayer component that I have yet to try. And I probably won’t. Ever. It looks as through they’ve streamlined the couple dozen various suit powers into Armor, Stealth or Visor modes, and that there’s the typical leveling-up system you find in every single other shooter these days. It’s unfortunate that the only thing such a unique game has to offer its multiplayer are the suit powers, many of which are admittedly really cool, but even still. When it comes to multiplayer, game companies would rather just play it safe, and offer the same thing everyone else is.

Top-notch production and attention to detail adds a depth and flexibility to the gameplay not found in any other shooter series.

I’m not sure what it is about New York that makes it so fun to see decimated and reduced to ruin. Perhaps its gloriousness or lavishness? The sheer size and beauty of the city? Maybe it’s the people from there? Whatever the reason, Crysis 2’s take on New York being caught up in an alien invasion is a great one, and the game itself is another fantastic, well-produced title from the folks at Crytek. Except for a miscalculation in the redesign of the series’ signature alien foes, and a few minor AI bugs, the game is slick, polished and well-executed. The scale and scope of the game’s cinematic presentation is enhanced by the absolutely phenomenal visuals and immaculate sound production. This is one trip to the Big Apple definitely worth taking.

Comments
2 Responses to “A Totally Biased Review: Crysis 2”
  1. Johnathan says:

    Looks like a great game, can anyone tell me what they would recommend as the card to use on a budget?

    • Justin Yattaw says:

      Unfortunately, I can’t. I played both games on 360, not PC, but if you google “crysis cpu guide” or something, I know at least iGN and GameSpot both did a piece detailing that kind of info. Hope that helps! And thanks for the comment!

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