The sequel to what is widely regarded as the best-looking-game-ever-made had a lot to live up to, only this time it isn’t a PC graphics card melting exclusive – its out on the consoles this time around as well. I have played through the entire singleplayer campaign on PC over the last couple of nights and have gathered my thoughts in this here review. Abandoning the tropical island setting for a version of New York city that’s being violently ripped apart by an alien invasion, Crysis 2 seems to be very different to its predacessor. But is it any good? Read on to find out…
In a genre full of noisy sci-fi modern shooters, Crysis isn’t the most original of concepts on paper, and shifting the entire story to New York was a bold and risky move to say the least. But it does try very hard to stand out from the crowd, and for the most part succeeds – few games can pull off the spectacles that you see in Crysis 2. It clearly had a huge budget, and a highly dedicated team of artists and programmers being directed by a man with a very clear vision. From the minute detail in the environments to the sprawling destructive set pieces, this is a very well crafted game. There aren’t many games that can pull off such a realistic portrayal of total destruction, and you’ll feel completely immersed in its world for the duration of the game.
One of the key things it has going for it, and undoubtedly the star of the show throughout the game – both in context of the plot, and the core gameplay – is the nanosuit. It adds a great layer of tactical options to every combat situation you find yourself in, and it’s enough to make Crysis 2 stand above the likes of Black Ops, which is little more than a loud shooting gallery by comparison. It’s been refined from the first game so it feels easier to use and a little more powerful. You switch between the three modes at the press of a button (Q for Armour mode, and E for Stealth mode) but this time Power mode is constantly on. Injure a soldier and you can grab him by the throat and toss him like a ragdoll 40 feet through the air. Flick to Armour mode when you need a bit of a boost of HP to get you through a gun fight. But the most fun to use for me is the stealth mode.
Flick to invisibility and you can stalk your prey through the shadows. The suit still runs on an energy meter, and activating any of the powers will start to drain it. Merely walking about in stealth mode used to drain your energy rapidly, but this time its a lot more forgiving. I often found myself surveying an area with my cloak on, marking out enemies so they appear on my minimap, then carefully stalk my way through the area picking bad guys off one by one. You can perform some gruesome stealth kills if you manage to get behind a foe without them detecting you, and it makes for some very tense moments. Get spotted, and they’ll call in reinforcements usually by launching a bright red smoking flare into the sky.
The environments themselves are absolutely stunning. The game is full of gorgeous soft lighting, with every light source emitting a gentle lens flare which is noticeable but never overpowering. Its also the most natural-looking outdoor light I’ve ever seen in a game before. Sun beams casting through the trees, or reflecting off the glass skyscrapers is constantly breathtaking if you can find a moment to stop and take it in between all of the action. Its also hugely optimized – no doubt thanks to it being multi-platform, the game runs as smooth as silk on my PC in maximum settings and 1080 resolution. I must admit I was worried about the game being dumbed down to run on the ageing technology of this generation’s consoles, but Crytek must be commended for their intricate optimization. I’ve not seen it first-hand on the 360 but Paul tells me it does look pretty nice, especially some of the cityscape scenes in the distance. Other sites are claiming it to be the best-looking console game ever, which is saying something.
The game also features an excellent orchestrated musical score, which is ambient and eerie during the quieter moments, and kicks into full force during the explosive action scenes. The voice acting is decent throughout, though no more than that. I did encounter a few sound bugs however, such as when a character was talking to me it sounded as though he was behind me, yet he was stood across the other side of a road in front of me. There were a couple of moments where a characters lips were not moving even though he was talking to me, but these were not game breaking bugs, merely little quirks.
The AI is also a little iffy at times. I would often snipe enemies from a distance, and on more than one occasion I’d headshot a soldier, only for his mate stood next to him to not even bat an eyelid. Other times he might start running away, only to get stuck against a wall and continue to run there on the spot until I put him out of his misery. But again, these moments are rare, and may even be patched out soon – for the most part, the AI will give you a decent challenge. They find cover well and the alien Ceph in particular are very fun to fight with their athleticism allowing them to run around on walls and leap up to high ledges in an effort to flank you. I usually hate fighting aliens in games, but Crysis 2’s Ceph have proven they can be fun when done right.
I suppose I should mention the story, although if you’re going into Crysis 2 for any reason other than to have your mind blown away by some epic destruction, you might be a bit disappointed. You’re a typical grunt with a stupid name who finds himself caught up in the middle of the invasion, then you acquire the nanosuit and the fate of the city rests in your hands. From there you’re taken on a journey through the stunningly realised New York which becomes increasingly more destroyed as the game progresses. There are a few reflective non-combat scenes where you wander through run-down buildings and witness some of the suffering inhabitants of the city. There’s also some talky bits with military types and a scientist nerd, but there’s not really any stand-out characters for you to make any sort of emotional connection with.
I thought I had grown a little tired of modern shooters like this, but Crysis proved to me there’s still life left in them. With huge production values, it features some of the best scripted set pieces I’ve seen in a long time (its amazing how they kept some of these within the game engine), and is undoubtedly the prettiest game of recent memory. Clearly having been influenced by other popular shooters of our time, Crysis 2 has its share of flaws, but Crytek are definitely trying hard to do their own thing and they do it very well. If you want a new fix of FPS action this spring, you’d do well to check it out.