Review: Crysis 2
Crysis 2 is the sequel to the amazing Crysis, and it had extremely high expectations to live up to and a lot of hype behind it. The only question is, did it live up to it?
- Worth The Time?Yes, but again mostly if you're after the multiplayer.
- Things LovedThe out-of-this-world visuals especially on the PC version of the game, 3D support, the fantastic action and cinematic moments, the amazing sound track, the Nanosuit, the engaging and surprisingly awesome multiplayer mode.
- Things HatedThe awkward and bad AI, the convoluted story, the repetitiveness, the Nanosuit upgrade system in the main campaign, some Nanosuit changes from the first game, the blatant lack of enemy types, the noticeably few context kill animations, the lack of space and openness in many levels in the main campaign, the bizarre technical bugs, the lack of environmental destructibility, the strange feature omissions from the PC version of the game.
- RecommendationFans of the first game will either love what's on offer here or resent it. However because of the disappointing aspects to Crysis 2, the multiplayer is perhaps where most of the enjoyment will be had, and Crysis 2 could be a worthy purchase for that if you're a big fan. Otherwise, wait for something better in the year.
- Name: Crysis 2
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
- Developer: Crytek
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: R317-350 (PC), R453-499 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PC, PS3
Crysis 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the 2007 hit Crysis and its 2008 parallel expansion Crysis Warhead. It has definitely been one of our most anticipated games so far this year, and we’ve had enormous expectations for it leading up to its release. Unfortunately, after giving the game a full playthrough, while I’ve walked away from it quite pleased, sadly there are many disappointing aspects to Crysis 2 that bring the entire game down, and made me also walk away with mostly mixed views. There’s a lot to love here and a great deal of pure quality to this game, but there is also a lot to be disappointed with, mostly with the single-player experience, and quite a bit to feel let down by overall.
Story wise, the game takes place three years after the events of the original, and is set in New York City, which has been evacuated due to being highly populated with aliens, known as the Ceph, and because of the large-scale outbreak of the “Manhattan” virus across the city, which is a deadly disease that causes complete cellular breakdown. In Crysis 2 you play the role of Force Recon Marine “Alcatraz”, a rather unfortunate soldier who is mortally wounded in an extraction mission when the submarine he’s in is attacked, leaving him washed up half-dead onshore. Alcatraz is soon found by Lawrence “Prophet” Barnes, an important character from the original game, who saves him and is left in a state of distress. You discover that Prophet himself is infected with the Manhatten virus and, left with no other choice, he gives Alcatraz his Nanosuit 2.0 and caps himself in the head so that the suit will no longer be bonded to him – however, not before telling the barely conscious Alcatraz that everything is now in his hands.
The premise of the plot is good enough to get things going, but once they do you’ll find that it’s not that easy to follow what’s going on in Crysis 2. It all seems rather convoluted, and things are mostly slow and muddled in the beginning until eventually they start coming together in a way that you can almost follow. The game even presents some twists and turns later down the line, and overall the better part of this game comes later. However, throughout the plot not much really gets explained, and bizarrely this includes relevant and important story details. While it is apparent that Crysis 2 opted to be more ambiguous in this regard, it still feels like cutscenes and explanatory moments were cut out from the game, leaving you scratching your head trying to figure out what’s actually going on. In the end though, the story does enough to carry the game through, and even though the ending sets up for a sequel, it at least delivers some closure and doesn’t feel like cheap stage-setting, which is what quite a number of games seem to have been doing as of late.
Crysis 2, as you’d expect from your experience with the first game, aims to offer a big playground with lots of diversity in your approach. However, because of the New York setting, the game has sacrificed pure space and openness for a more cinematic approach and a better visual spectacle. Unfortunately at times it makes the game feel like a linear shooter, but there is definitely enough freedom to be satisfied with in this regard. Crysis 2, just like its predecessor, is all about the Nanosuit, which is a special military gear that gives the user access to invisibility, super speed, power and armour. The catch is your energy bar, which governs your usage of these suit powers, and is drained as you use your abilities and recharged when you have a moment’s rest. But unlike the previous game, Strength and Speed are no longer separate toggles, but have now been integrated into the gameplay itself under a “Power” category. Logically, it seems a good change, but execution-wise, there are some serious eyebrow-raisers and some real disappointments.
In the first game activating the Speed power increased your base movement speed as well as your punching and action speed, and it made sprinting a brilliantly fast business. However in Crysis 2 there is none of that, and Speed has now been built into sprint, which is barely quick enough in the game to be anywhere near exhilarating. Instead sprinting – at a slow pace – drains your energy meter, and if your meter is depleted, you’ll be unable to run and will be left vulnerable to enemy fire while you try to walk away. A similar thing happened with Strength, where in the first game it made you jump extremely high and be able to send enemies skyward with single punches and impressively bring down entire structures by throwing people into them. In Crysis 2, by contrast, awkwardly holding the melee button activates a power punch that completely depletes your energy to do extremely high damage, but the effect on enemies is hardly sadistically satisfying, which is odd considering you can kick vehicles clean over, and there is barely anything in the environment that crashes and breaks, or even reacts, if you throw an enemy at full power, making it all feel underwhelming.
Effectively in Crysis 2, with the Nanosuit you have the familiar Armour mode, which makes you very resistant to damage, but the drawback is it makes you slower and drains your energy constantly. Then there is Invisibility, which is self-explanatory and always awesome, and the Power category. Actions such as sprinting, super jumping, sliding and powered up melee attacks all fit under this category, and all require energy to pull off. While Armour and Invisibility are really awesome and easy to use and enjoy, the Power category is perhaps where you’ll find yourself missing all that was in Crysis, because you simply just don’t feel as powerful an individual as you were in the original game. Yes it’s understandable, and commendable, that the Nanosuit system is more streamlined and easy to use in Crysis 2, but the fact is that you just felt like much more of a threat in the previous game, and it just doesn’t contain that creative flare that the first game had, where you were able to rapidly swap powers on the go, combining them all when needed.
Perhaps this all sounds like nitpicking, but the point is to put you into the right frame of mind for the game’s questionable gameplay choices. But before going further, let it be known that Crysis 2 is great fun when it gets rolling, and the gameplay really is exciting, free-flowing and enjoyable, especially with its fantastic adrenaline-pumping action and precise controls. The suit powers, diversity, great variety in weaponry and level design really paves way to an engrossing experience, and it’s in this that Crysis 2 performs. With the use of invisibility and the new stealth kills, on-the-go weapon customisation, Nanovision (which is really just Thermal vision) and your tactical visor which shows important objects in the environments, enemies and points of interest and allows you to highlight them, the game opens up a tactical perspective to the player, which is fun to explore alongside your run and gun rambo and demolition antics. Once you get into the game and things begin to open up, it does get better and you’ll enjoy what’s on offer, but the reality is that, as a huge fan of the first game, I was left disappointed by some of the many changes made to the Nanosuit powers, a lot of which seem to have decreased your individual power from the first game to now.
Structure-wise, you’ll mostly move from point A to B going about that journey in your own way. You can scale rooftops, flat out run to your objective, hop into vehicles you come across or get there without being detected – it’s up to you. On the way you’ll encounter military soldiers and, when you find them, the Ceph. The soldiers are just grunts who attack you in numbers and are there to mess with and kill, while the Ceph are the faster, stronger and more resistant enemies who avoid gunfire, run on walls, knock you off your feet and cause you noticeable amounts of trouble. Like practically all enemies in the game though, killing them unfortunately provides little challenge unless you’re attacked by a sizable army, but for every Ceph you kill you are rewarded with Nano-Catalyst, which is effectively experience points you can use to purchase upgrades for your Nanosuit, and here’s where things get even more bizarre, as the suit upgrades are perhaps one of the most questionable aspects of the game. While the Nanosuit upgrade system is quite a nice touch and helps to illustrate player power progression, the way it works is just odd to say the least.
There are four categories, namely Visor, Amour, Power and Stealth, and each category has a few upgrades to purchase. Sounds good so far, right? Here’s the puzzling part. While you’re free to purchase all these upgrades, a bunch of which are very costly, you are only able to equip one upgrade at a time from each category. What’s mind boggling about this is that practically all of the upgrades function as isolated enhancements, and many of the abilities in the categories work together perfectly, but you can’t have them both equipped at the same time. To name examples, the Air Stomp ability allows you to slam the ground creating a small shockwave to dispatch enemies, and it’s in the Power category alongside an upgrade called Air Friction, which allows you to better maneuver yourself in the air. Doesn’t that sound like a good combination, logically? Yet you can’t have both equipped at once since they’re in the same category. Another example is the Visor upgrade that allows you to see cloaked enemies more clearly (it costs a fortune), which would work perfectly with the other visor upgrade that alerts you when enemies are near to you, but again, same category means you can’t have both activated at the same time. It just makes you wonder why you’re inexplicably limited in this way.
Diversity, a large open playing field and the pure power at your disposal was what made Crysis such a unique, exhilarating and amazing experience. Crysis 2 doesn’t feel nearly as open and large-scaled as its predecessor, in fact it feels restricted, you don’t feel as powerful, and the game seems to have gone down the more generic path with its design, but fortunately gameplay wise it’s still Crysis and it still carries that unique flare. Oddly though, there are blatant flaws in the gameplay that just continue to bring everything down. The enemies you face, for example, in Crysis 2 are powered by questionable AI at best, and act very stupid, rush you in groups, get stuck on walls – especially the human opponents – and rarely show signs of actual intelligence. What makes this worse is that there are, literally, only a handful of different enemy types in the game, the majority of which are just various types of foot soldiers. This makes the single-player slaughter get quite repetitive and redundant speedily, especially since there are armies to face quite often.
Sadly, this repetitive slaughter and redundant rush of enemies is exactly what most of the first half of the game is made up of. Things really do pick up and become much more exciting the second half, even bordering on epic proportions, but by then you’ve exhausted the gameplay and variety, and it’s only the plot and cinematic set pieces that can carry the game from there. Reflecting now, after all the negative things I’ve said about the game, you must be wondering where the actual good is. But that’s just it. The single-player is what I’ve been talking about, which is in too many ways just inferior to Crysis, and the shocking reality is that while Crysis 2 does have a solid and enjoyable, if not shaky, campaign mode, without its great multiplayer mode to save the day it wouldn’t really be as decent a game, but probably a mediocre one, and that’s a real shocker. The point of Crysis is supposed to be to feel like a powerful super soldier, but sadly Crysis 2 doesn’t always capture that feeling, especially not as much as the first game managed to do.
Graphically it hardly needs to be said that Crysis 2 is gorgeous, and purely incredible, presenting itself as one of the best looking games of all time – possibly even as the most impressive visual spectacle on the PC to date. The level of detail is beyond breathtaking, the lighting is unbelievable, the special effects are jaw-dropping and the cinematic presentation is astounding, especially when entire structures collapse and when things explode and get crazy, showcasing the phenomenal physics the game features. Unfortunately the impressive physics is mostly shown during cinematic moments, and not constantly in the gameplay like in Crysis. Graphics-wise Crysis 2 is best represented on the PC version, and the Xbox360 and PS3 versions, by contrast, don’t look as impressive overall, but they’re of course still darn good visually, amongst the best on the platforms. Crysis 2’s performance though is absolutely world class, and it runs fantastically on all platforms, even smoothly on a lower end PC, and still manages to look pretty amazing doing that.
However, PC gamers will surely be angry and baffled at the bizarre technical omissions made, such as the expected in-depth menu option to tweak the graphics as you’d want to, the developer console and, very surprisingly, the ability to quick save, which has been replaced by an overly annoying checkpoint system that gaps progress, making your desire to experiment with gameplay and your own curiousity cautioned out of fear of losing substantial progress as a result of death. It’s puzzling why these are not featured in the game, since they were there in the previous games, and Crysis is primarily meant to be a PC game. Other disappointments in the game include a lack of environmental destructibility, which again the first game had a great deal of as it was everywhere in the game and gameplay, some visual bugs that are quite noticeable, but are not game-breaking, like ragdoll physics spasmodic glitches, and the fact that Crysis 2 for PC only supports DirectX 9, and no further. That last one is quite a downer, and again it’s just a puzzler.
Also worthy of a mention is the game’s awesome musical scores and sound tracks, which really get you into the game and make things seem more epic. The sound effects play their part extremely well too, and if you have a great sound system setup you’re definitely in for a treat when locked in a chaotic gun fight. Then there is the 3D offering, which I tested out on the PlayStation 3. The 3D is not “in-your-face” and overdone, but rather finds a great balance, in that it’s just subtle enough and noticeable enough to have a fantastic cinematic effect. It highlights the more gorgeous aspects of the visuals, but honestly you won’t be missing all that much if you can’t play the game in 3D, because it doesn’t significantly improve the visuals or make things a whole lot better, but rather makes the experience more cinematic.
Multiplayer is actually the best part of this game, and it certainly will extend this game’s lifespan significantly if you really get into it. It feels like inspiration was taken from Call of Duty, and this is evident in your rank and upgrades progression, class customisation and weapon unlocks. But when it comes to gameplay, this is pure Crysis, and it’s hellishly good fun. All players have access to the standard Nanosuit abilities, such as Armour and Invisibility, in addition to the class, weapons and perks they assign to themselves. This is where Crysis 2’s multiplayer really shines, because the Nanosuit and individual player style really makes the online very unpredictable and constantly exciting. It’s safe to say that there is almost never a dull moment, and the maps are really designed well enough to give you exactly the kind of battlefield you’ll need for this game. It’s easy to get into and have fun almost immediately, even if you aren’t doing too well.
But that said, after spending quite some time with the multiplayer it’s evident that there are some questionable balance issues in the game. For perhaps a really big example, Cloak, Sniper Rifles and Nanovision combos are quite hectic, as they’re very often used and overly effective. Also, the online only supports up to 16 players, which doesn’t feel problematic when locked in combat, but when playing on PC you do feel as though there could be a higher player count, although admittedly because of the Nanosuit it seems that too many players would ruin the experience and things would be too chaotic and uncontrollable. But for these reasons it’s hard to say whether Crysis 2 will be a short surviving multiplayer community or one that will really last, but only time will tell that. As it is right now, it’s enjoyable and different enough to be a hit, or at the very least a solid distraction, and it really is a great deal of fun. There is a lot to get into, and a significant amount of content, all streamlined and nicely presented to you through the Call of Duty style progression system.
In conclusion Crysis 2 is a great step up from its predecessor in some ways, but in more ways it’s also a very disappointing step down. The single player is largely hit and miss, while the multiplayer is surprisingly good, and will keep you entertained if you get into it. One thing for sure is that you’re either going to love what’s on offer here or downright resent it, and it’s a sad thing to consider that fans are likely to feel the latter, and this is mostly caused by misdirected effort and bad design and gameplay decisions. All in all, Crysis 2 is a decent enough game in its entirety, but unfortunately it’s also a disappointing one that could have been a lot better.