The first-person shooter genre has become the most prevalent type of game this generation, and every month we see a new crop of FPS games hit the shelves. While it is easy for most to get lost in the shuffle, certain games sail in on waves of expectation. Crysis 2 is the perfect example. The original game is still regarded as one of the best looking games around, even if the majority of people can’t run it on the highest settings. Crysis 2 is an attempt by Crytek to bring a similar overload to consoles, as well as expand the market for the Crysis franchise. While the attempt was certainly noble, what we see on screen fails to live up to any of the expectations.
For those that missed out on the first Crysis, the opening sequence of Cyrisis 2 helps to fill in a few of the gaps. An alien virus has ravaged the population of New York City, leading to massive riots and the eventual shut down of the city. Government agents are overrun and mercenary group the Cell is called in to help keep the peace. This alien virus acts as a harbinger for the extraterrestrial interlopers known as the Ceph (yes, as in cephalopod) who begin to wreak havoc throughout the city. We aren’t really told how or when the Ceph show up on Earth, but they do, and it has something to do with the events of the first Crysis. You play as Alcatraz, an Army Ranger called in to help with medical evacuations. When things go awry, you are saved by a mysterious creature known as Prophet. When you wake up, you are covered in Prophets “nanosuit” and told to continue his mission. After that, you take control of the newly fashioned Alcatraz and begin your trek through the ruins of New York.
The ruined city and the suit you inhabit are really the most incredible parts of Crysis. While the mechanics of shooting hardly vary from any other FPS, the installation of the suit set Crysis 2 apart from all the rest. Instead of depending on weapon menus and equipment screens, the entire game takes place through the suit. All weapon customization and all suit upgrades are done in game, and attempting to tinker during combat seldom leads to desirable results. Lifting your gun towards you shows you the options of sights, load outs and equipment, while your left hand pulls up suit specs, allowing you to choose upgrades to the suits different abilities. These abilities come in three modes: stealth, strength and armor. The stealth mode makes you nearly invisible to enemies, strength allows for massive jumps as well as the ability to kick cars and various objects in the environment at enemies, and armor makes you nearly impossible to kill. Each encounter will provide you with various ways to use the abilities and allows you to tailor your own game experience to what you find exciting.
Working in conjunction with the suits abilities are the massive sandboxes you are given to destroy and traverse. There is a good deal of openness to the areas of Crysis 2. There are certainly boundaries, but there are wrecked buildings to explore, tunnels to navigate, and typically three or four ways to stalk and destroy your enemies. Playing through certain sections after being killed caused me to explore entirely new avenues and new strategies. And you will be replaying sections a lot given the horrible spacing of checkpoints. Despite that, the ability to try new tactics made each pass enjoyable. I tended to default to stealth mode, but finding a way to balance the three usually yields the best results. The constant ability to change strategies keeps Crysis 2 from feeling like a repear of every other FPS we’ve played this generation.
Even with the incredible suit abilities and the vast environments, Crysis 2 manages to fall apart in the details. The game was touted to be the best looking game we’ve seen on console, yet what showed up on my screen looked like it was three or four years old. Polygons looked jumbled, pop-in was worse than any game I’ve ever seen, and the textures on every piece of the environment looked either smooth and flat all across or like an MS Paint drawing. The character movements look stilted and blocky, and the facial expressions were flat and expressionless. Nothing you do seems to effect the environment either. Water makes contact with a visible barrier between it and the object it hits, gunshots so damage to some parts of the environment, but not others, and environmental dangers like fire look laughable. Add to that the erratic popping of enemies (they seem to teleport a few feet forward, only to pop back to their original spot) and their tendency to clip through objects and become stuck in them, and you have a game that looks and acts years behind. Now, game play should always trump graphics, but when a game is building itself up as the new standard for graphics, they set themselves up to be judged by their own standards. (Note: these issue mainly plagued the PS3 version of the game. The 360 version suffered all of the same bugs, but had noticeably better textures.)
The AI for Crysis 2 also leaves something to be desired. At times enemies act real, and are often far too smart, which adds a great deal of fun and difficulty. Yet other times they walk in circles, bump into walls or set pieces, and may not see you if you walk up in front of them. Other times they seem to know your every move, making the game ridiculously inconsistent. While it never becomes game breaking, you often clear an area and feel like you’ve cheated.
Where Crysis and Crysis 2 are most similar is in the incoherent plot. As an admitted alien junkie, it doesn’t take much to entice me when you feature an alien invasion. Yet, at no point during Crysis 2 do you really understand what’s happening. You begin by fighting off Cell operatives in order to rescue a Doctor Gould. Then, with no real introduction, the Ceph show up and you begin to fight them, but only occasionally. About 5 hours into the game, the game throws you full bore against the Ceph on a mission to save humanity. Or something. At that point the game becomes almost entirely different. Characters are introduced to follow you and assist you, only to be taken away again shortly after you meet them. Missions are given, but never really explained or outlined, and a steady stream of new people start giving you orders and offering you vague clues by hacking into your suits radio. Apparently the inventors of the suit forgot to block the number. While hidden emails that can be collected help fill in the gaps, there really is no cohesion to Crysis 2, which makes the incredible feats you are able to do with your suit feel somewhat empty and pointless. While it was great to see an FPS title with a solid 8-10 hour campaign, the justification for it seemed so strange that towards the end I just wanted it to be over.
As with all FPS games, Crysis 2 features online multiplayer. The modes are similar to every other game, death match, free for all, cooperative and all the other staples make an appearance. What sets Crysis 2 apart is the addition of the suit abilities. All of the abilities given to you in game are featured in the multiplayer. Being able to be invisible with a sniper rifle may sound unfair, but the level design helps to prevent too much imbalance. As you play, you earn experience and level up, earning yourself more perks and abilities as time goes on. The suit abilities make for a lot of fun and frustration, but the structure of the game still seems broken. The game doesn’t flow quiet as smoothly as other multiplayers, and the glitches apparent in the game also pop up in the multiplayer. Hopefully, Crytek will patch the more frustrating parts and the game can develop a loyal following.
At the end of the day, Crysis 2 seems more about the potential than the actual product. Crytek added in many new features into a sagging genre that kept me riveted when it worked correctly. It’s great to see companies breaking out of the mold and trying new things, because we really do need it. However, the terribly underwhelming graphics, vapid plot and technical missteps made the experience ultimately disappointing.
|Exciting new game play mechanics, long single player campaign||Incoherent plot, far too many technical glitches|