German video game developers Crytek have become well known for their spectacular pieces of software, mainly in the PC market. Led by three brothers, Crytek made waves with its ‘Cryengine’ game engine used very well with their most prominent release Far Cry on the PC in 2004. Offering more adaptive gameplay and open world style environments, the game was a critical success which cemented the team’s positive posture in the development playing field. Far Cry on PC has garnered an impressive 89/100 review rating on Metacritic which speaks volumes about the dedication of the employees at a fledgling Crytek. After subsequent re-releases across other platforms including an Xbox version and a sequel developed by Ubisoft Montreal studios, the company reached godlike status amongst PC gamers with their graphic benchmark game Crysis. Releasing in 2007, Crysis was lauded as ‘the’ best looking PC game to date – which for some still holds true. It upped the stakes with a new engine and scored an impressive 91/100 on Metacritic indicating Crytek were improving with experience. Playing Crysis using the optimal settings and have the game run smoothly was seen by many as the pinnacle of testing the capabilities of their PCs at the time, and is still used today. As a side note, in Crysis 2 there’s an achievement relating to being able to ‘run’ Crysis which pops up early on and is a nod to this PC test which will no doubt raise a smile for those who’ve played it.
With Crysis proving to be hugely popular and well respected as a game beyond the flash of the graphics, the arrival of Crysis 2 was inevitable and is now here. Using its Cryengine 3 technology, Crysis 2 has opted to go for a more inhabited approach favouring the cityscapes of a destroyed and crumbling New York City over the organic climes of the Jungles in Crysis. With a lot of focus on what Crytek can pull off on home consoles the transition to city has meant a different tone is placed over the game even though the core mechanics are still there. Does Crysis 2 deliver an experience for console owners that provides fond memories of Far Cry and show them that as a developer the company means business when it comes to pushing the boundaries?
Crysis 2 is more like a first person adventure shooter than a straight up first person shooter simply because it presents a singular objective to the player but offers an array of gameplay options to reach that goal. It’s nothing new, as plenty of games give the player choice nowadays, but in the mostly restricting world of the first person shooter market, Crysis 2 comes up trumps and provides the gameplay nuances that really entice the gamer in a more casual manner. Without going into detail with the story it’s a standard tale of disaster meets hero and perhaps only serves as a catalyst to wading through New York either kicking serious ass or spending a lot of time crouching and admiring the scenery without being spotted.
The game’s biggest draw lies in the main character’s (Alcatraz) unwitting melding with the Nanosuit – a high tech battle suit designed to offer the wearer superhuman combat abilities (think Solid Snake as opposed to Spider-Man). The suit allows a number of functions which then dictates how you can tackle the various challenges that are thrown at you. The core first person shooter elements are well stocked and so there’s no complaints to grabbing one of the numerous on the fly customizable guns and letting things rip. However, the Nanosuit provides an unobtrusive and subtle amalgamation of gameplay techniques at the touch of a button. A stealth mode can be activated in the blink of an eye allowing you the chance to survey your surrounds before making a tactical decision. Your suit informs you of opportune moments to engage your tactical visor to highlight enemy positions and places of interest which further gives you the advantage. An armour modifier can also be utilized which offers a shield to your suit allowing you to sustain more damage than normal. Careful timing and use of intuition in determining when to use these are key to survival especially as these elements are powered by an energy which depletes quickly and needs to recharge before being usable again. In the thick of the moment when under fire or surrounded, running out of energy can turn the tides and either blow your cover or mean certain death depending on your evasive skills in a fire-fight. There’s much drama to be had from the stop start skirmishes on offer and really the core mechanic of choosing to stealth or go in full assault is well presented, leaving the player no fear in deciding which action to take.
Stealth gamers will love what’s on offer here as there’s plenty of sneaking around to be done. What’s ever so neat is the fact that should you make a error, then slipping away, replanning your strategy, and trying again is always something that can be done on the fly – there’s much in common with the Metal Gear Solid and the Riddick games here. Where other stealth games may force you into the shadows, the nature of Crysis 2’s open and well lit locales makes the stealth suit very much a welcome tool. Gameplay wouldn’t gel so well if you were forced to stealth it in the shadows. The fact that you’re not directly required to hide behind objects to succeed at stealth is very much a positive contrast and means you’re able to pounce when desired and then slip away into obscurity to avoid direct conflict. Once you’ve acquired more stealth based weaponry then you can operate on a more offensive stealth based approach which is refreshing to have multiple styles of play covered which you can adapt to suit your changeable approaches to obstacles.
Action gamers looking to go gung-ho will be pleased at the tools available and the fact that once you tactically plan your assaults you can kick up a real storm and prove that there’s fire in your soul. There’s a decent selection of guns to locate and use where ammo is never really an issue, and if you like, you’re able to customize them with scopes, silencers and attachments on the fly. The gun play is very smooth throughout and most weapons feel like they have a lot of weight behind their bullet impacts, although sadly there’s no bullet penetration even though there are some destructible elements on offer.
The AI is reasonably solid and feels very much like the same sort of routines we’ve seen in Crytek’s Far Cry. Soldiers work in teams, move from cover to cover, investigate sounds, radio communicate, and will call for backup if you’re spotted and too slow to bump them off first. The same three stages of alert status make a return with red being hostile, yellow alerted and white neutral and is key to clearing areas with the minimal or maximum fuss. What’s good are the audio cues from the radio chatter – you’re handily tuned in – which provides a perfect indication of what status your opponents are, saving the glances at the mini map and status meter on the HUD. It’s not all plain sailing though as there are numerous moments of madness whereby the AI will get stuck on the scenery or move into an object and simply stay put – sometimes walking on the spot against an object. It’s slightly off-putting and makes for easy kills, but not something you would expect to see often in such a polished game. There’s probably an obvious reason for this, and hopefully it’ll get patched, but it is clear to see that there’s some scripted routines as well as pathing that is more reactionary and free flowing which makes for a more tense and unpredictable experience but causes these errors on occasion.
You can toy with the AI if you’re smart and this conjures up not only some sadistic pleasures, but highlights how good the stealth combat mechanics are. At least the AI reacts when partners are downed, reaching for cover if you’re sniping from afar. However, there’s a real guilty pleasure to be had taking out entire units without being seen. You might say the Nanosuit makes you too powerful, and in some instances where used correctly and especially after you’ve upgraded it that can be true. However, as you progress through the story you’ll encounter more varied opponents which countermeasure your suit’s abilities adding much spice to gameplay which end up always keeping you on your toes.
Crysis may have been the benchmark game on PC but for console owners there might be a new kid on the block as Crysis 2 really is a sight to behold. The more open environments offering multiple paths contain much more than the corridor shooters synonymous with the genre and it’s staggering how much Crytek has managed to squeeze in. Aside from some mixed textures which range from highly beautiful woefully basic (especially the NPC character models), you’ll find some impressive lighting which does a good job of recreating multiple light sources within confined and open playing spaces. The effects are often subtle, and add a flashy layer to an already impressive look. Shadows, dance around surfaces in real time, and there’s some excellent light bloom when the sun beams down on you – it’s a shame that not all light sources offer dynamic shadows, but if you’re after making things dark then at least you’re able to shoot out some lights. The water effects are also of a high standard when looking at larger bodies of water, with realistic movement and light reflection, however there are some lesser effects used to covey wetness that are not as impressive in comparison. Crysis 2 features some great use of physics where kicking or throwing inanimate objects is a choice one can make but also means there’s a decent level of reaction to things like explosions. This interactive element whilst pointless in some cases and should have been a more proactive part of the gameplay does offer a greater level of immersion into the game world, adding another slice of detail to canvas. If you want to throw empty pizza boxes or pot plants at enemies… well you can.
The city of New York has been captured very well with its skyscraper dominant skyline filled with plumes of smoke and dust from the disaster. You’re constantly reminded of where you are with things like yellow cabs and key landmarks such as City Hall, Washington Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. There’s an impressive sense of scale and if you look to the skies you’ll feel the enclosed nature of the city ever present. Not content with offering a ride through the decaying breezy city streets, the game throws more varied locales at you throughout the story, keeping events fresh and leaving you wanting more but also making exploration an engaging affair. For owners of 3D TVs there’s a 3D option which offers an even greater level of depth to the game world without sacrificing too much of the visual quality. The 3D is definitely up there with the best and although offers no in your face effects, does provide a subtle layer of depth that is unobtrusive and natural looking.
Sadly for all of Crysis 2’s glamorous splendour it accomplishes with its graphical finesse there are some negatives, such as the already mentioned AI issues, however there are more noticeable occurrences which need to be mentioned. Despite installation to hard drive there are moments where textures and objects don’t load quick enough and can be seen loading which is bearable but can be off-putting. You’ll also notice some dips in frame rate as the action intensifies with numerous enemies shooting at you and explosions going off. Again these are passable but do blot what is a fairly flawlessly presented game.
The audio isn’t so great in comparison to the visuals and although there’s the usual assortment of sound effects you come to expect from a shooter, there’s a reliance too much on the music to fill the void of the aural space. That said, the music is climatic, eventful and a driving force behind many of the scripted moments you’ll encounter, yet at the same time it drains any essence of ambience which you’ll only notice if you hit the mute button.
The voice overs are standard fare offering regulated performances that neither provide likeability to any characters or depth. This is perhaps the responsibility of the script, but because your spending a lot of time in solitary bliss you do notice the expected acting a bit more readily. Your nano suit however becomes a part of you and forcible places its robotic talk on you whether you like it or not. You’ll probably hear “Maximum Armour”, or “Cloak Engaged” hundreds of times before you finish the story, so get used to it as it’s either very cool or horribly grating – you’ll have to decide yourself which it is.
With a strong single player campaign offering way over average gameplay hours, and the option for replay with different results there’s a lot to be excited for if you’re the lone gamer. Sadly the buck stops with the single player campaign with no additional gameplay modes which would have suited the style here. However, you’ll be offered a roller coaster ride through New York City which although has its highs and lows, does a superfluous job of keeping you hooked. There’s an element of exploration for collectibles which should keep you going back for a replay mission and there’s also the added difficulty of choosing a tougher game setting to test your resolve. The biggest draw is perhaps replaying missions going for pure stealth where possible and making a concerted effort to stay hidden through the more intense moments whilst picking foes off one by one or even ignoring enemies entirely. It changes the scope of the gameplay and makes for a more varied experience to just being an uber powerful super soldier.
For gamers into online gaming they’ll find a comprehensive multiplayer mode which offers familiar mechanics interspersed with its own tincture. Again there’s a few lacking features which would have added greatly such as community options like file sharing replays, bots, and more varied playlists. During combative play the Nanosuit provides a huge role in how you play using the same stealth and armour capabilities lifted from the single player. Matches play out in a similar fashion to what you’re perhaps used to, but the inclusion of the stealth makes for a sneakier tactical game all round on the varied maps that mirror the decaying city of New York from the story. There’s a levelling up progression which seems to be the standard now for first person shooters, and with a lot to work towards you’ll find solace in playing over and over to level up eventually. It’s a good and very contemporary hook and like other games which use the same, is every bit as engrossing and gives purpose to playing the same routines over and over for hours on end. In terms of accessibility there is a bit of learning required beyond the layouts of the maps, and with the suit being a crucial part of gameplay, mastery of it is something that all players need to adhere to which sadly hampers any ‘pick up and play’ needs.
Crysis 2 delivers some impressive gameplay moments, offering frantic shoot-outs aplenty against human and non human foes, energetic stealth elements amidst the slower paced sneaking making for a comprehensive melting pot of styles which can be utilized at any time during play. It’s an impressive feat, not so much including these options, but more in the way they are conducive to the gameplay style of the player. In a game which pampers the whims of its audience so effortlessly whilst chucking whimsical challenges to test ones fervour of skills there’s simply a lot to be drawn from what’s on offer. Graphics aside there’s a great game on offer which is hard to fault by today’s standards simply because everything it purports to do is accomplished with such confidence and vigour. Sure there are some graphical hiccups which tarnish what could have been a perfect visual experience, but on the whole, Crytek have delivered a masterpiece which will no doubt crown them as console developer gods amongst the eyes of gamers who feel let down by the same regurgitated experiences we’ve seen for years. In such a crowded genre and one where nothing is ever original, Crysis 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel and is perhaps lacking in some modern extras but does offer a compelling journey that’s both stunning to look at and a marvellous joy to play.