The original Crysis for PC was a bit of an enigma back in 2007. Crytek set a new standard in visuals, but few people had hardware that even came close to running it properly — myself included. So when it was announced that the first true sequel in the trilogy would also be making its console debut, skepticism in the gaming community ran rampant. How could a sequel to Crysis possibly live up to technical expectations on consoles in the 5th and 6th years of their life span?
Crysis 2, as reviewed on Xbox 360, throws players into the fight fairly quickly with very little back story. Having never played the original I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. New York has been ravaged from all sides. Martial Law is in effect, half the city has been wiped out by a strange virus, and squads of high tech soldiers roam the streets. This is all topped off with evidence that a full on alien infestation is attacking the Big Apple.
Players take on the role of Alcatraz; a man who unwillingly inherits the semi-living Nanosuit which saves his life but also burdens him with saving everything and everyone. At first glance the premise isn’t overly epic when compared to standard first person shooter fare, but give it time and the story evolves into an elevated story of conspiracy, war and greed.
Story aside, what really puts Crysis 2 on the map is the sleek Nanosuit armor. The Nanosuit has three modes of ability: Stealth, Strength, and Armor. Stealth is very similar to the light bending camouflage of the Predator, creating near-invisibility. Strength allows Alcatraz to melee harder; move faster and jumper higher; while Armor maximizes how much damage the Nanosuit can endure. All those modes must be strategically balanced as they rapidly drain the Nanosuit’s power and can only be used for a limited duration.
Crysis 2 comes together effectively via developer Crytek’s pairing of this Nanosuit and its abilities, and the mini-sandbox approach to the environments. Do you “Armor” up and jump into the fray guns blazing or do you go into for the stealth kill moving from rooftop to rooftop like a silent killer? Every encounter can be unique as Crysis 2 rarely takes the game play and funnels it into narrow streets and hallways. Each area often has several routes from entering ransacked businesses, to alleys and streets, to rooftops and ledges. Power-kick a car across the street, or jump from a three-story building and literally crush enemies beneath your feet. Each strategic strike can be a calculated attack and offers a ton of varied replay value, and let’s be honest; some of the stuff you can pull off is just plain cool.
But how does all this Nanosuit action look? Is Crysis 2 the console king it terms of visuals? While I’m hard pressed to think of an Xbox 360 title that looks better then Crysis 2, I’m not sure I’m willing to bait an endless fanboy onslaught and declare this is the BEST looking console title ever. Light cascades through the streets of New York and really is a masterpiece of technical effort. Words can barely describe the way the light filters through dust, and debris, with absolutely perfect shadows being cast. Play the game for 5 minutes and it’s easy to spot what anyone who has already played the game is gushing about. Environments have a great amount of destructible elements which add to the chaos of battle. Having glass shatter out of windows above as you Nanosuit power-throw an enemy across the street while having bullets break apart the concrete barrier at your feet is a goose bump experience. Throw in huge sections of freeway overpasses breaking apart before your eyes and skyscrapers collapsing in the distance, and you’re in for one visceral experience. The audio caps off everything with spot on sound effects, gunshot echoes in the streets, deep booming explosions and a well done soundtrack which you unlock a lot of during your play through.
By now Crysis 2 is sounding like a masterpiece, and it is for the most part. But one glaring issue is the hit-and-miss AI. The AI is amazing 90% of the time which is why the glitches seem so distracting and obvious when they occur. Enemies will take cover, try to flank and even call for support if you don’t take them out fast enough. This all contributes to some very intense firefights.
However when the AI collapses, it’s atrocious. Performing a stealth kill on an enemy who is standing right beside a fellow merc with zero reaction is a very common occurrence. I managed to take out 3 soldiers in the same room without any of them taking notice. These inconsistencies eject the player from being immersed in the experience. The AI issues aren’t constant, but add the enemies who give up pursuit because you simply went around a corner or the random ones shooting at nothing and it becomes more noticeable with each level. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but I found fewer AI problems when the game was played on the higher difficult settings.
Crysis 2 delivers on consoles. It offers fresh concepts to the oversaturated shooter genre with its large environments and variety the Nanosuit offers to exploration and combat. The story is interesting and offers a longer campaign experience than other high profile shooters of recent months at 8-hours plus. The audio and visual presentation is absolutely stunning and must be seen to be believed. There are a few hiccups with AI that can be distracting, but the experience remains intact. Crysis 2 stands proud and quite easily with the top tier shooters of this generation.
– Jason Krahn