The first thing you need to know about Crytek Studios is that they love making beautiful games, and they pride themselves for constantly achieving the benchmark of how gorgeous video games can look, at least on computers. Far Cry was once an industry titan in terms of graphical marvel and Crysis surpassed it with even more expansive jungle attractiveness. But all that beauty came with a price, playing these games required an incredible gaming PC with specs bursting through the roof. When Crytek announced that Crysis 2 would be on consoles, many gamers were shocked at the concept, could it really be achieved? Well, with the new and incredibly powerful CryEngine 3, apparently it has, and once again Crysis 2 sets the bar very high for shooters on consoles and computers alike.
Set some time after the events of Crysis, the sequel kicks off with you taking control of Alcatraz, a Marine who is sent to New York City with a squad to combat the attacking Cephaloids, the alien race from the original game. As far as the story goes, anyone who’s familiar with the plotline for Crysis will feel at home with its convoluted, but sometimes affective storyline that’s filled with many forgettable faces. The only cameo worth mentioning is Prophet, a protagonist from the first game, who meets you early on and for undisclosed reasons, gives you the coveted Nanosuit 2.
It’s not that the plot is bad, it just tries too hard at maintaining a coherent idea of what’s really going on. Aside from the Cephaloids, you battle an armed military company who are controlled by some company that is evil. That’s all you really need to know if you are playing Crysis 2 fresh with no back story. You run around New York doing tasks for scientists, the Army and whoever else gives you orders.
The fun lies in getting to each destination and witnessing the incredible devastation that lies ahead. You’ve never seen New York destroyed at this level of detail before, especially when it’s all viewed from the first person perspective. Mid-air battles between aircrafts zoom over you, bridges and highways ripple realistically from shockwaves and buildings topple in horrifying fashion. All presented without a cutscene breaking up the effect of utter chaos and destruction. The carnage is even more impressive with the graphical power that Crysis 2 provides.
CryEngine 3 has the best lighting effects used in a video game to date, and it enhances the already stellar graphics into a different realm. Most reviews now have praised how the light reflects off buildings and pours through windows and they’re right. It’s truly a sight to behold. Crytek knows how to incorporate graphics to improve immersion and you won’t see any cheap images here. No reused or flat textures pop up and everything is smooth and polished to perfection. The audio is also amazing, using a score that you’ll remember for a while. The bullets and explosions ring from every direction and like the graphics, create a thrilling experience.
While ditching the beaches and jungles of the original game was a smart move visually, it changes up the game play to make its own formula. New York isn’t presented in a linear manner, instead each section is wide and vertically accessible. Streets are collapsed, buildings are blown open, alleyways and tunnels are hidden, each supplying various ways to take on the enemy. This is where Crysis has always found its niche. You never fight a battle the same way with the options the Nanosuit offers. Like before, you have the ability to cloak or turn on your armor, which both deplete your energy meter when used. Sprinting and power moves are now built into the suit which is a tremendous way of making you feel even more unstoppable.
Each section in the game allows you to survey the battlefield ahead, using nanovision to mark where enemies are as well as vantage points and ammo crates. You then have your choice on how to progress, either guns blazing or silently using stealth. The nanosuit’s stealth option is genius and provides ample opportunities for experimentation. With its one button activation, you can go in and out of invisibility within seconds, while conserving energy. This is beneficial for quick stealth kills or sniper shots before moving to a new hidden location. It’s done so well when the A.I reacts to it sensibly.
The human soldiers will get confused when silently picked off, and hunt for you either in groups or alone. If spotted they will set off flares for backup and flank around your last known position, laying down covering fire and maneuvering in for the kill. It makes the firefights more compelling and even with armor activated, makes the run-and-gun strategy less effective. The nanosuit also has fun abilities like grabbing items to throw at superhuman speed, as well as your enemies themselves.
You can also do a slide move that can work as a way to quickly get into cover or to kick an enemy into the air. Now that your suit’s power is automatic, kicking cars atop of foes and the new mid-air pound move are easier to achieve. Throughout the game you also have the capacity to upgrade weapons with attachments or your suit with enhanced skills. It’s done very neatly and doesn’t give too much of an edge on one powerup alone.
When all is said and done, the single-player for Crysis 2 clocks in at about 12 hours or more depending on your difficulty setting. Trophies and achievements will keep you collecting and replaying sections as well. It’s a thrilling and often exciting campaign that will have you fired up and ready to go for the second part of Crysis 2, the multiplayer.
This is not a half-assed attempt at giving the game more longevity, the 8 on 8 combat here is top notch. With multiple game modes, upgradeable ranks, titles, awards and dog tags to collect, weapons and gadgets to unlock and classes with different perks and weapons, the multiplayer sets itself apart from other shooters like Call of Duty. This is primarily based on the fact that each player is able to use the nanosuit any way they like. You can parkour all over the various maps, jumping incredible distances and boosting up ledges. The suit makes the combat unique and creative. If there is any real complaints, it lies in the overpowered classes and abilities which diminish others. Shotguns are practically useless when it takes sometimes more than three shots close range to take down an opponent and cloaked snipers dominate the online battlefields right now, making the action very frustrating for new players. Hopefully future patches and DLC will make everything more balanced. Still, the multiplayer is strong enough to warrant putting time into and if you enjoy shooters outside of Call of Duty, you won’t be disappointed at what you get. It’s incredibly deep and wildly addicting.
The main worry that people have is what system they should buy the game on. Like always, the PC is the definitive version with surprising lower specs requirements than what you would expect from a title released by Crytek. The Xbox 360 version is brilliant, looking almost as good as its computer counterpart. The PS3 version, while unfortunately being the worst looking, is not the same game the rumors online report. The finished product is actually quite stunning, with only slight framerate issues and lower lighting effects used when compared to the 360 copy.
Whatever system you buy it on, Crysis 2 features the best graphics in video games right now, being completely cutting edge. But it uses it like few games out there do, by making the action onscreen even more eye-popping than it already is, further enhancing it into a experience like no other. Whether your battling in Central Park, or beside remains of the Statue of Liberty, the single-player campaign is long and remains fresh and challenging from start to finish. The story is brain-dead and ends like all shooters do these days, but it has too many incredible encounters and sequences that make it memorable. Crysis 2 is the ultimate package that delivers on every front: audio, visual, gameplay and lasting appeal. It should be played by everyone who loves action done extremely well, no matter the fact that it’s a first person shooter. It deserves to be in your collection immediately.
Crysis 2 was released on March 22nd, 2011.