Possibly the most graphically impressive game to come out in 2011
Originally a PC exclusive game, the original Crysis has since set the bar being the most graphically impressive and visually stunning game ever created. The game became the Holy Grail of PC gaming, with the many spending thousands to run the game on “Extreme” settings. Though it seemed unlikely an equally impressive follow-up would be created on console, developer Crytek has delivered a sequel that captures many ideas of the original game and implements a few new ones as well. But most importantly, Crysis 2 is just as visually impressive as its predecessor, even on PS3 and 360.
Swapping the picture perfect paradise Island in East Asia for New York’s Urban jungle could have been disastrous, but Crytek has found great variety in the setting, guiding players through skyscrapers, green parks and industrial harbours. It’s helped in no small part by CryEngine 3 which helped rendered a painstakingly detailed city, with even minor details such as street lamps and signboards are rendered in great detail. More importantly, the overall atmosphere of the Big Apple really shines, the combination collapsed tunnels and military checkpoints really sell it. There are more sobering echoes too, found in the dust choked streets which recalls footage of the 9/11 aftermath.
Your route through this city is very linear, interspaced with chunks of freeform play which luckily comes frequent enough to give an impression of open-endedness. When the moment the barriers surrounding you fall away and the tactical options open up, you are now in the Heart of Crysis 2.These sections are dubbed “Action Bubbles”. You usually enter the bubbles from a vantage point high above, encouraging carefully planned assaults. Switching to your “Tactical Visor ” which looks like a high-tech cousin to Far Cry 2’s Binoculars, you could highlight points of interest, such as ammo piles and turrets. Never is there a “Correct way” of approaching any particular situation, whether you enjoy slowly stalking your prey and silently plunging a knife into his chest or go charging in guns blazing for a full frontal Assault, they are all equally valid avenues of attack, this is made possible with the excellent level design and the adaptability of the Nanosuit.
There's a lot going on in Crysis 2's campaign, which takes the action into New York City. You begin the game as a normal US Marine named Alcatraz, who is deployed via sub to help out Prophet, the nanosuited team leader from the previous game. The sub insertion goes completely off the rails before the opening credits roll, and without getting too into the specifics, you quickly find yourself in a nanosuit of your own with the initial mission of extracting a doctor with vital research that will hopefully help stop the invasion of squid-like aliens that's currently tearing the city apart and infesting its inhabitants with spores. Along the way, much of the tension comes from a struggle between the Marines that seem to be there primarily to get as many uninfected civilians out of there as possible and a PMC called CELL, which seems almost singularly focused on taking you down. Then there's a further struggle inside of CELL between the head of the PMC's military arm that wants to murder you (to be fair, you do spend a large part of the game mowing down his men as if they were paper dolls) and the intelligence-focused special advisor who wants to obey the PMC's largest shareholder's demands to bring you back alive. The political intrigue isn't especially entertaining, and a lot of the drama emanates from watching or hearing about these bureaucrats and businessmen as they bicker with each other about the best way to handle the ongoing invasion.
That's not to say that the story is completely empty, but it means that the story doesn't start to reveal interesting things about the true state of things in this universe until the game is nearly complete, and even then, it isn't the easiest thing in the world to follow. Also, you should probably know that the game doesn't set up these characters or factions very well at all, and many of them are either key figures or directly related to key figures from the first Crysis… which didn't exactly have the most cohesive or interesting story in the world, either. Considering the way Crysis 2 leans on its past and the fact that console-only players haven't had a chance to play a Crysis game yet, it's surprising that there isn't some sort of "the story so far" introduction to help bring players up to speed on what Crysis is all about. But even if you remember what went down back on the Lingshan Islands, the plot of Crysis 2 isn't its strongest suit.
The AI is one of Crysis 2's biggest problems. It's utterly atrocious, to the point of parody at times. I encountered a group of five CELL soldiers, standing still in a line behind a crate, staring at a wall shouting "I can hear him" over and over. I observed numerous soldiers running back and forth on the spot, and in one instance that spot was on top of a tiny wall. The alien AI is even worse, with the basic grunts simply charging at you and clipping their way through your body as they hit out. When it works, it's fantastic, with enemies flanking you, calling for reinforcements and clambering around. But sometimes, the CELL soldiers vibrate on the spot or get stuck in walls, and the aliens rush you, flailing their tentacles. None of it is game ruining, and the vast majority of the combat is still great fun, but these moments of ridiculousless really shatter the immersion. Worse still, I encountered a glitch where my gun would cease to function. This happens in cutscenes, and in one instance I happily walked into an area and got mauled by a gang of aliens, the game still treating the action as a scripted event. The only way to break out of this was to melee, which returned the gun's functionality to normal. This happened quite a few times.
Crysis 2 is a very good game, then, but one which feels restricted not because the game itself, but it needs to be played on a Powerful Rig in order to get the full graphical experience. The game overall is cinematic, and in many cases thrilling, with some satisfying weaponry and the added tactical inclusion of the Nanosuit, but it's all very familiar; a beautiful world in which you feel more like a tourist, thrust through the corridors of New York on a rollercoaster-fast ride that still manages to drag a bit.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars
Writer, POPCulture Online
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