When it was announced that Crysis 2, the follow-up to the 2007 PC exclusive, would also come to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, many PC gamers immediately started worrying about how multiplatform development would effect the PC version of the game. The original Crysis still serves as a benchmarking tool for PC gamers due to its fantastic graphics and steep system requirements. The dynamic, open-ended gameplay, however, was even more impressive than the technology behind it. Knowing that the consoles couldn't possibly render the huge environments of Crysis, PC gamers feared not only that the technology would take a step backwards, but that the open-ended design would also be cut in favour of a more console-friendly approach.
Now that Crysis 2 has been released, it can be concluded that all of these fears were just: Crysis 2 underwent a pretty drastic transformation to make the game more console-friendly, a metamorphosis that influenced both the cosmetic aspects of the game and its core design. Despite these changes, though, Crysis 2 turned out a quality shooter that shouldn't be missed by fans of the genre, even if it does take the franchise into a radically different direction.
Set in 2023 during an alien invasion, Crysis 2 exchanges the tropical jungle environment of the first Crysis for a post-apocalyptic rendition of the huge urban jungle that is New York City. Fortunately, the game doesn't feature the colourless grittiness you normally see in games with metropolitan settings. As soon as you start exploring Crytek's interpretation of the Big Apple, you'll notice the huge variety in environments and colours, as well as many details that aid in bringing the proclaimed 'capital of the world' to life better than ever in a video game. The setting is made even more convincing by the game's graphics, which are simply fantastic once again. The environments are generally sharp and detailed, and the scripted events are more amazing than ever: whether it's skyscrapers crumbling, bridges collapsing or alien ships dropping troops, it really feels like the world is ending and you're right in the middle of it.
Despite the game undisputedly looking impressive, though, they aren't up to par with the visuals of the first game. Especially larger environments occasionally lose sharpness, and low-res textures are more commonly encountered than in the first Crysis. On a more positive note, Crysis 2 does run smoothly even during intense battles with lots of AI and explosions. There are three graphics settings: high, very high and extreme. It isn't yet possible to adjust the quality of specific aspects of the visuals (shadows, textures, antialiasing, etc.), but you needn't worry about that if your computer was able to run Crysis, as it'll run Crysis 2 at the highest settings much more easily.
And Crysis 2 ought to run well because the game's new direction is a considerably more linear one. You are often forced to blast your way through set paths with a start and a finish, although there are still open areas which give you more freedom in deciding how to tackle the combat situation at hand. There's even a TAC assessment that displays tactical possibilities and other points of interest (such as ammo caches) on your screen, allowing for quick tactical decisions without the need of a careful scan of the battlefield. While this does promote the pace of the game, even the open-ended situations often feel a bit prebaked and restrictive, seeing as the possibilities are limited and careful preparation isn't really rewarded.
The combat itself is extremely satisfying. With an enhanced version of the Nanosuit, the gameplay of Crysis 2 makes it more fun than ever to experiment with the functions of this supersoldier armour. Cloaking is back, and with the newly added silent kills, which allow you to sneak up behind an enemy and dispose of him silently, stealth gameplay in Crysis 2 is surprisingly deep. Meanwhile, armour mode now effectively stops enemy bullets, allowing you to take on massive enemies without risking life and limb right away, while the all-new Nanovision allows you to detect heat sources in dark environments. With the more fluid switching between suit functions and the numerous upgrades that are available for it, the Nanosuit is a central part of the gameplay more than ever, making for a unique and mature shooting experience that does not feel gimmicky in any way.
Unfortunately, the AI comes across as less polished. While making for generally challenging adversaries, they will often get stuck behind objects, fail to react to your presence, or repeat the same line endlessly, making them look more stupid than they actually are. The aliens you fight in the second half of the campaign are a bit smarter than the humans you mainly fight in the opening missions. But not too long ago, Crytek promised us the best AI in a shooter to date and they certainly failed to deliver in this respect.
What Crytek did deliver, though, is one of the most magnificently designed linear FPS experiences of the past few years. Each level has excellent pacing, with the action building up logically and each chapter ending when it feels natural. Stealth sequences are often followed by intense combat scenes while the well-timed storytelling provides every level with a clear direction. And even if the single player mode lasts over 10 hours, there are virtually no weak, dull or otherwise uninteresting moments, which is an amazing, possibly even unique achievement for a linear first person shooter. In any case, Crysis 2 provides the most well-paced and well-directed campaign of its kind since the original F.E.A.R. from 2005.
This doesn't mean there aren't some drawbacks, though. Probably as a result of the multiplatform development cycle, some useful features, such as lean and prone, have been omitted from Crysis 2. To those who have experience with the series, the most obvious shortcoming will be the absence of quicksave, as Crysis 2 only allows you to save your game through checkpoints. Some might say this makes the game more challenging, as you will think more carefully about your actions. But all too often, you will refrain from opting for creative combat manoeuvers because you just don't want to risk losing 10 minutes of gameplay due to a silly mistake. This might not have been such a big problem if some of the checkpoints weren't so insanely far apart, but adding a quicksave function would still have saved a lot of frustration and it would have encouraged players to take better advantage of the possibilities of the gameplay.
Let there be no mistake, though, that Crysis 2 still features one of the strongest linear first person shooter campaigns of the past few years. And when eventually you do grow bored of it, there is always the multiplayer component to occupy yourself with. The multiplayer is pretty conventional, with the game types all varying on the familiar deathmatch, capture and king-of-the-hill modes. But with some good, compact levels and of course the Nanosuit functions, Crysis 2 does just enough to find a niche in which it can grow as a multiplayer mainstay for at least the rest of the year. It is disappointing that the power struggle mode and the large maps haven't carried over from Crysis Wars, but it probably wouldn't have fit within the more conventional direction that Crysis 2 has undeniably headed in.
While Crysis 2 takes a radically different approach than the original Crysis and the Warhead expansion, Crytek has delivered yet another remarkable first person shooter that has both beauty and brains. The fleshed out Nanosuit makes for impressive stealth sequences that keep in tact a lot of the freedom that made the series famous, even if the level design is considerably more linear. Meanwhile, the sense of drama, marvellous pacing and non-stop action make the Crysis 2 campaign an outstanding single player experience with very few, if any weak moments.
In the end, the fears of the PC gamers appeared to be just in that Crysis 2 has conceded considerably to cater to a console crowd, but the result is not bad at all. Crysis 2 may not be the masterpiece that the 2007 original was, but Crytek proves that it is still at the top of its game, and shows developers of linear shooting games how it's done.
Jesse Dolman, NoobFeed.