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Crysis 2

I own the first Crysis but I never got very far with it.  The traditional question of “will it run Crysis” is the benchmark for how powerful a computer is for a good reason.  My computer could RUN Crysis but the frame rate and graphics setting were mid range at best.  To be honest though, and this will anger many an uber nerd, the lack of an excellent control scheme is what turned me off the most.  I’ll freely admit that maybe I’m just terrible, but managing the five or so state of suit powers never came that quickly to me.  Coupled with me being sad that I knew the game could look better and I just moved on.  Crysis 2 promised to solve both of those problems before I even purchased the game.  Early buzz had it as the best looking game ever released on a console.  And I’m intimately familiar with an Xbox 360 controller (not in the way you think, pervs).  Crysis 2 is not a perfect game by any means, but it’s a breath of fresh air in many ways amid the Call of Duty themed world we gamers live in now.  CoD is a fine game, but anybody looking for some variety in their gaming should think about Crysis 2.  The nanosuit gets a nomination for item of the year in gaming (I’m gonna have to write that down and have an award…).

The nanosuit is the most important part of Crysis from a gameplay and story perspective.  It’s what makes Crysis 2 a bit different from the aforementioned Call of Duty or even something like the Uncharted franchise.  The main character, named Alcatraz, acquires the suit and is quickly justified in his ability to murder everyone with ease.  The suit relies on a quickly recharging energy meter, which strikes a good balance of recharging very quickly but having  just enough of a delay that you can’t just chain together fantastic feats of awesome.  Basic abilities will consume energy, such as jumping, sprinting, sliding or kicking full size sedans at enemies.  Just tapping A, for example, will do a normal jump, while holding down will expend some energy and cause a much higher vault.  The real power of the nanosuits lies in the two different abilities that completely change how Alcatraz functions.  First and foremost is the cloaking ability.  Tapping the right bumper will make you 95 percent invisible.  A very close enemy who is facing you will eventually notice , but other than that a cloaked Alcatraz pretty much has a free reign of the battlefield as long as the cloak lasts.  It’s a great mechanic since the energy meter will constantly drain while in a cloaked state, as judging whether you can reach a position before running out of energy becomes second nature.   Being cloaked also lets stealth kills be performed from behind enemies, which result in a quick neck snapping or stab to the chest.  Doing so will reveal you for the few seconds it takes to complete the kill, so catching foes in out of line of sight of their cohorts also becomes an issue.  The other major check that makes cloaking not quite as overpowered as it may seem is that firing a weapon while cloaked will instantly take the energy meter to zero.  Learning to turn off cloak, peg somebody in the head before they can radio for help, then cloak again before anybody else noticed what happened never fails to be satisfying.

The sad thing is that both the humans and the aliens in this picture want to kill you.

Stealthing around is all well and good, but enemy AI in Crysis 2 is quite good.  Stealth is not always an option.  When full on gunfights break out, the other nanosuit ability comes into play, called armor mode.  Enabling this mode will also constantly drain your energy, as well as making any movement quite loud.  As the name implies, the benefit lies in the ability to absorb bullets.  Explosions that would normally kill you will instead only cause a chunk of your energy meter to go away.  Stealth and armor have been used in games before, but the brilliant part of Crysis 2 is how closely they interplay with the environment.

The controls play a big factor in this, with stealth and armor able to be instantly activated with one button press.  A well executed firefight will involve liberal use of both.  This is helped by the level design of Crysis 2, which is especially vertical.  There is almost always an alternate route than just straight into the enemy, which is the thing I appreciated about Crysis 2 the most.  Ledges or sewers are numerous in New York City (the game takes place there, we’ll get back to that) and they allow for excellent opportunities for flanking or even bypassing enemies entirely.  A common encounter could go something like this:

Graphics aren't everything, but these sure are something.

Approaching an enemy patrol, I would open my tactical visor and mark each enemy, enabling easy tracking during the course of the fight.  I’d usually stealth to start and try to plan an attack that would kill as many of the patrol as possible before they knew what was happening.  The best trick I pulled off was standing right behind an enemy with another only a few feet ahead, both with their back to me.  I lined up a head shot on the far enemy, decloaked and pulled the trigger, recloaked while the guy directly in front of me was still confused, and snapped his neck.  However, I was spotted by another patrolling duo.  Bullets were hitting me even as I was cloaked, which devastates your energy, so I unstealthed and used my remaining bar to sprint towards an overhang (you can sprint while in stealth or armor mode, but the double whammy on your energy bar makes it almost impossible for more than few seconds).  I jumped up and found myself face to face with an explosive barrel.  I slammed armor mode on with only about 30 percent of my energy left, just in time before the bullets from the patrol that had seen me found their way through the thin sheet metal of the ledge I was on and ignited the barrel.  The screen shook and smoke clouded my vision, but armor mode had made the lethal blast survivable.  I sat in the smoke for a few seconds, letting my energy recharge to full, then cloaked and made my way farther down the ledge towards another explosive barrel.  The two guys who had been shooting were coming to investigate the result of the explosion, but the smoke had left them unsure if I was dead.  In cloak mode I grabbed the second barrel, gauging the distance of the approaching enemies.  I threw the barrel which landed about a bit in front of them, but was on its side and rolling toward them.  I slammed armor mode back on to absorb any few shots they would manage to get off, then fired off a three shot burst into the barrel as it rolled in front of them.  The resulting explosion sent them flying backwards.  It’s these kinds of moment that showcases how good Crysis 2 can be.  That whole encounter could have been done totally in stealth if I had planned my sight lines better, I could have tried to snipe from my original entry point up a few floors in an office building, or I could have jumped from said office building in armor mode and landed hard enough to cause a crater, altering everybody in the vicinity to my presence and just going toe to toe in a more traditional fight.  Couple that with various scopes, silencers, and weapon attachments on each gun as well as different suit upgrades and there are a myriad of options for any combat encounter.  It keeps the game varied and encourages more than once trek through the campaign.

Cloak! CLOAK! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CLOAK!

I spend so much time on the nuts and bolts of the game because the story leaves something to be desired.  Set in New York City during an alien invasion, the silent main character Alcatraz is a marine sent in to rescue a specific scientist who may know something about the aliens.  Fighting a third-party mercenary group who have their own agenda and the aliens themselves form the bulk of the combat, but the overall story is hard to follow and pretty cliché.  There are some cool individual moments plot wise, but the overall story failed to maintain my interest.  The voice acting is also a bit…uneven.  Some of the time it’s just there but forgettable, but occasionally something somebody says was so ridiculous that it was laughable.

On the other hand, the EXPERIENCE of Crysis 2 is so good that I forgive the story and bad voice acting.  Sound design, such as weapons, the sounds the aliens and their technology make, or the suit’s robotic voice cues (best voice acting in the game!) are all top-notch.  The star of this entire show are the visuals.  I will always believe that gameplay trumps graphics, but here it feels good to get both.  Best looking game on consoles?  I think so.  Lighting effects in particular are stunning.  The game likes to transition you from dark moody buildings to the bright lights of NYC, both in the day and at night, and I always thought “woah!”  when these transitions happened.  The cut scenes, in particular one near the start of the game that showcases the nanosuit powers, are insanely detailed and good-looking.  Screen shots don’t do it justice, the smooth animations of all the character models and awesome motion blur effects are also better than I’ve seen in any other game.

I enjoyed my time spent in alien infested NYC.  The strength of Crysis 2 lies in each individual battle and discovering new ways to approach the situation.  The scenario I described earlier is just a small slice of the combat potential.  Any fan of shooters has to play Crysis 2 as soon as possible.  The only thing holding this game back from being truly awesome is the lackluster story and voice acting.  I love a good story in games more than anything.  But the small stories and scenarios the nanosuit abilities let the player create trump any plot misgivings.  That is all looks so good makes Crysis 2 one of the better shooters on this generation of consoles.

A quick note about the multiplayer:  Sadly, my internet has had issues, and I was unable to try the online portion of the game in time for this review.  From what I’ve read across these here internets, it follows a basic leveling scheme with unlocks, and stealth + sniping is really OP.  If I really dig into it I’ll post a comment, but consider this a single player review.

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2 Responses

  1. I’ve paid like no attention to this game since I’m still suffering from FPS burnout (stems back from Call of Duty 4). A buddy of mine was talking up this game the other day. The review makes it sound like Deus Ex with a mediocre story. Might be worth picking up when the price reduces a bit. Those graphics look amazing though!

  2. […] along when earlier this week I booted up Crysis 2′s online portion for the first time (zomg single player review here!).  I did the usual online shooter stuff like setting up my loadout, looking at potential […]

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