The original Crysis made waves for two main reasons: it looked bloody fantastic, and it offered players the freedom to approach mission objectives in a number of different ways – as well as the ability to switch between those differing approaches completely on the fly. It’s no surprise that Crysis 2 is a refinement of both of these qualities to an astounding degree, resulting in pretty much what you would expect – one hell of a quality game.
Putting you in the boots of your standard ageless, faceless, mute marine name Alcatraz, Crysis 2 opens with a tactical insertion into an alien-ravaged New York City that predictably goes horribly wrong. It’s not long before Alcatraz finds himself inside a Nanosuit, dodging mercenary goons and searching for a certain scientist to tell him how to blast the alien menace back into space.
Crysis 2’s story is unlikely to win any awards, but it’s somehow still oddly compelling. Pseudo-scientific terms and military machismo mix freely with alien sci-fi horror and some nice plot twists to create just enough impetus to keep you hooked. Characters are one-dimensional but still well-written, and there’s always that driving urge to find out what happens next.
Pleasingly, the single player is fairly substantial, clocking in at around 10-12 hours all up if you’re just looking to play through the story. The latter half of the game suffers from some typical Crytek fatigue though, thanks primarily (once again) to the overwhelming abundance of aliens, who aren’t nearly as fun to fight as the mercenaries. They’re alright in small amounts, but longer lengths of time with the aliens just gets tedious.
It’s clear that Crytek has done the logical thing and streamlined the hell out of the original’s already-accessible gameplay. By reducing the available suit modes down to just armor and stealth, and integrating super-speed and super-jump directly into the standard controls, it’s much faster and much easier to flip between whatever it is you want to do at any given moment.
As in the original, weapons can be modified on-the-fly to suit your particular playstyle; this time around your suit itself can also be customised by spending ‘nano catalysts’ you pick up from alien corpses. More interesting modifications include a tracker module which traces the path of incoming bullets and an ‘air friction’ ability that allows you to better control your descent.
Most levels aren’t nearly as open as the jungles of the original, with convenient piles of debris or giant jagged trenches often blocking you from wandering off the beaten track. The few areas that are open, though, are great; Crytek calls them ‘choreographed sandboxes’ and that term seems fairly apt. The designers have built and placed multiple opportunities for you to engage in various tactics throughout these situations and left them for you to play with – sniping spots, sewers, vehicles and so on. Many of these strategic options are even conveniently highlighted for you if you flip on your tactical visor.
What all of this adds up to is a tightly designed, even more fluid and accessible version of the original’s gameplay. It’s not long before you’re, say, using stealth to get into a better flanking position, flipping to armor to survive a hail of gunfire as you sprint off and slide-dash to better cover, before pausing for energy, cloaking and super-jumping away. After a while everything becomes completely intuitive, allowing for some fun, creative solutions to various problems. C4, anyone?
Curves In All the Right Places
As you would expect from pretty much anything out of Crytek, the game looks amazing. If you want to get picky, it’s not the technological tour de force the original Crysis was; you will see pop-in objects and not-quite-high-res textures as you fight your way through devastated New York. That said, the console versions are still very much at the head of the pack when it comes to graphics, and the PC build looks pretty damn good.
“Urban jungle” was the theme Crytek was going for here and it works quite well; the meticulously detailed and somewhat stylized environments look wonderful even as they are gradually destroyed throughout the course of the game. The diverse city environment also means that Crysis 2 manages to avoid the standard brown-grey mud palette of most other shooters, making for an oddly relaxing and colourful experience as you blast through alien exo-soldiers and C.E.L.L. (mercenary) goons. During the daytime, anyway.
Speaking of the enemy, the soldier AI is pretty smart, but not hugely different from the first game. Alien AI meanwhile is less individualistic and more group-focused this time around; they like to leap around buildings and close in for punishing physical attacks, though they will still shoot you if they get half the chance. They’re also a lot tougher than their human counterparts and consequently can become a lot less fun to fight, especially when wave after wave of them swarm you.
Multiplayer is satisfying for the same reasons as single player: the ability to adopt your own play style in a manner that goes farter than most other shooters. Useful modifications/perks include the tracker module that highlights where enemies have been recently or the aforementioned bullet tracer, which lets you quickly figure out who’s shooting from where. The built-in maneuverability that every player possesses also lends itself to frantic, fast-paced battles that see a larger focus on stealth and successful application of nanosuit skills, rather than simple run-and-gun gameplay.
Crysis 2 is a very, very fun and a very, very pretty-looking game, one that is at its best when allowing the players to approach objectives in whatever manner they choose. Don’t let Crytek syndrome near the end of the game prevent you from getting your hands on it.
10-12 hours of a mix of corridors and sandboxes: beware of aliens.
Perk-based level-up kilathons, plethora of game modes, suit powers mix things up.
Sandbox combat, pretty as hell, multiplayer combat.
Still fairly linear, alien fatigue.
Maximum sandbox! Maximum graphics! Maximum fun!