In a gaming world where warfare is modern and Ops are black, Crysis 2 comes as surprise in the first person shooter genre. Not only does it buck common trends festering in many, if not all, shooters these days, it has a solid gameplay foundation to hold its super powered self up with the big boys. It may not be a complete revolution of the genre but it is different enough to deserve a look.
If you read back last paragraph, you’ll notice I said Crysis 2 “bucks common trends” of first person shooters. Unfortunately the story, story telling, and characters are not among the differences. Your main character is called Alcatraz and he wears the fabled Nanosuit given to him by the dying protagonist of the first game, Prophet. Straight from the box of clichés, squid-like aliens called “Cephs” have invaded Earth during, or causing, a viral outbreak amongst the poor humans. Does it sound interesting? Maybe, but it isn’t gripping, mainly because it isn’t presented in any way to make you actually give a damn.
Characters almost solely communicate to you by screaming at you while a static, green picture of their face sits in the top left corner of the screen during gameplay. By the time you meet them through your travels in New York City, they only babble and do more screaming, only this time to your face. When they incoherently babble, it goes on for a long time so all of it is rushed because so much information is being squeezed into a couple minutes of “story time.” All of the multiple characters fall back on this method so everyone comes off as a jackass and someone not worth getting attached to.
I guess the Nanosuit must require a sacrifice of your larynx because Alcatraz is a complete mute. This can be done well in a few games, but Crysis 2 is not one of them. A part of the reason of why the conversations are so long-winded is because your character never has a response. This can get a bit ludicrous because for the early couple hours, because you are referred to as “Prophet,” Crysis 1‘s main character. It required the sort of suspending my disbelief that didn’t seem feasible here as anyone else would have plainly stated that “Prophet” wasn’t his name. All of this comes together leaving the whole narrative package lacking any sort of good impression.
The story isn’t as good as I would have hoped so it is a good that Crysis 2‘s savior is the act of lining up cross-hairs and pulling the trigger. That is, if that is how you’d choose to play Crysis 2. The game’s shining quality lies within the options presented to tackle any specific combat arena. Arena is a fitting word as enemies are usually in a vast, but not too big, open field for you to do some killing or sneaking. The Nanosuit is outfitted for this killing and sneaking with powers like invisibility to help with the stealth kills, super armor to absorb bullets for your inner Rambo, and agility to out maneuver the chumps with no powers. When you get dropped into a combat scenario, your talking suit advises you to take the time to assess the situation and devise a combat plan. From there it is up to you to decide what to do, be it sneak around for some stealth kills or to go balls out with a properly outfitted machine gun. Playing as one extreme or the other is fun, but mixing them is where the fun ramps up. Starting out with stealth and snapping a few necks (if you can get the stingy stealth kill prompt to pop up) contrasts nicely with saying “Screw it!” by throwing on maximum armor and ripping off the nearest turret and using it for a mini-gun to lay waste.
The lone shooting in the spacious locales sets this game’s pace apart from most any other game, and I love it for that, but when it gives you allies in a battlefield is when the game loses some shine. Firing the gun still feels fine, but it can feel like the game is being made more generic for it. Since you are usually lone wolfing some areas, you feel important and badass because you are being feared and shot at. When a dozen military allies are with you, dying in your wake, you can feel like you are just blending in with the normal crowd. I don’t want to blend, dammit, I have a damn super suit. Crowded battles aren’t bad because the core shooting is solid, but they aren’t my favorite because they throw out the unique strengths of this title.
Humans and aliens are your foes and both do a good job of counteracting your super suit throughout the ten or so hour campaign. They guys aren’t idiots, and while they may get stuck and jitter in level geometry from time to time, they have pretty good AI. They’ll hunt in packs, go to your last known position, and can see you if you are close enough while invisible. Invisibility definitely helps in your stealthy endeavors but they act realistically (if these sorts of things existed anyway) with the presence of a cloaked hunter. They don’t have that “fog” in front of them so they can spot you from pretty far away and when they do, they try their best to kill you. Even though your singular strength is unmatched for most of the game, they can take you down if you get overwhelmed so using your brain and suit’s powers (all regulated by a meter) is vital for survival, especially on harder difficulties. Dying is a nuisance since checkpoints are far apart, so the game forces you to be thoughtful with your moves. A wise tactic I picked up is getting out of sight, going invisible, and relocating as they will try to find you. AI needs to be strong in a title like this and all of the soldiers and aliens seem to have at least graduated high school.
The original Crysis was widely accepted for the graphical power it exhibited. That was then. Crysis 2 is in the now, and it looks pretty damn good. My mind wasn’t blown to an Uncharted 2 or God of War III level but everything shows off better than average environments, textures, and lighting. I wasn’t even playing on some sort of super computer (or a computer at all) that powers the world economy to notice the clean, brilliant graphics. I only wish the HUD wasn’t so intrusive so I could admire the graphics a bit more. I turn off the HUD in games like Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Killzone 3 to have the game’s beauty reel me in rather than numbers and health meters. Even with this slight complaint, this game still looks better than most while not mind-exploding like the first one way back in 2007.
Even though I’m little more than a meat shield in most online shooters, I still enjoyed my time in the online mode. Perks, killstreaks, and leveling are all present and provide incentive to keep playing. Minor tweaks are made to formula, like suit power ups and dog tags, but if you’ve played any online shooter within the last four years, you will know what to expect. Like single player, the suit’s powers carry over to help differ this from the crowd. Being invisible, armoring up, and leaping high give it the slight edge and are just as fun to pull off online.
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Crysis 2. First person shooters have fallen into a creative rut and sticking out didn’t seem like something this game could pull off. Shooting feels familiar but certain aspects draw it just enough away from the norm to appreciate it. Sometimes all you need to stick out in a crowd of suit and ties is a funky, maybe super powered, suit.
+Nice, beautiful graphics
+Suit is a blast to play around with
+Upgrades to suit and guns further encourage choice
+Open, non-linear environments to kill in
+Smart enemy AI
-Bad story and characters
-Stealth kill prompt is finicky
-Starts a bit slow
-Some checkpoints are far between
Final Score: 8.5/10