When Crysis debuted some years back at the Electronic Entertainment Expo everyone went ga-ga over the sheer visual depth that was achieved. Prior to the sequel hitting there were still some high-end computers that couldn't run that baby.
So, color us skeptical when the Crysis 2 was announced for consoles. As most people on the PC would tell you that there isn't a snowball's chance in hell a game that has upped the ante on visuals could ever run smoothly on a console.
Guess what? That snowball is surviving pretty well in that hot weather.
Set three years after the first game, you take control of Alcatraz who is a Force Recon Marine. The setting is New York City and Alcatraz must fight his way through not only the forces set up by mankind, but also go head-to-head with an infestation of aliens. Armed with a new nanosuit and constantly running into weapons that Alcatraz can customize, there's plenty of survival/destruction to be had in this sequel.
The first thing you'll notice about this game is the amount of detail and depth that has been placed visually into it. When you reach the downtown area of New York City for the first time your eyes will be absolutely flabbergasted by how visually immersive the game becomes. You'll feel like you're looking at the actual city crumbling away around you. You'll find massive amounts of destroyed streets, buildings and vehicles that are so rich in texture and detail that you'll be blown away. This is the best looking game that I've seen on a console to date and one that is just flooded with intricate, painstaking detail. For example, when you reach the Wall Street area in the game you're going to find giant holes where alien ships have embedded into the ground. When you see water pouring from an open tunnel and collecting in these holes you'll be wowed with how the water effects react to your player. More importantly, when you look closely at the burned and broken roads around you in this massive hole you'll find little parts that are repeating. Crytek simply knocked the visuals out of the park with this game, and that's just the environment.
The details of the characters around you, including the aliens, is just as flawless as the environment. For example, if you shoot one of the alien soldiers in the head enough times you'll find that their metal helmets will flip off accordingly to reveal their 'squid' like face, which is gonna be pretty pissed you shot its helmet off. Turning back to Alcatraz, when you see the details on the weapons you hold or the proper shadowing from your character as you power jump from area to area, you're simply going to be wowed.
Again, I've never seen a more beautiful game on a console in my life. It will take years, possibly even the next generation of consoles, before this is trumped. So, in long, everything you heard about Crysis 2 in terms of presentation is true. Rest assured that you're getting the visual thrillride that you thought you would be getting. Watch out PC folk, consoles are getting dangerously close to matching your visuals (okay, slight exaggeration, but it's fun to dream).
Pretty aside, what about the actual gameplay? Starting with the campaign mode, you're going to find a very intense story waiting for you. Now, I will acknowledge that this isn't the Call of Duty type story that keeps pushing you on the back and yelling, "KEEP MOVING!", but this story progresses well, even if it moves an inch at a time. The alarming thing is that most people who own a console are probably CoD fans. For those CoD fans seeing Crysis 2 as some run through it with the guns blazing type of game then you're going to be sorely mistaken/disappointed. You can't simply grab a gun and start shooting senselessly. You won't find many patterns to the A.I. to keep you from being challenged. This campaign mode in Crysis 2 is far from an afterthought, which is extremely refreshing when it comes to FPS games these days. You will get a solid story that makes you think as you go through it. You will have to stop and go, sometimes hide to think things through clearly before popping up again. There are going to be some levels where you'll sit back and kill enemies before you jump down into their trenches. This game requires restraint, intelligence and mental endurance (yes, I'm serious about that one). The campaign mode is the type of game where you'll want to reach a checkpoint and relax a bit before moving forward; it's that type of game.
This reviewer is very pleased that Crytek didn't crap out a campaign mode so they can focus mostly on multiplayer. The campaign mode will take some time to get through and it provides some replay value along the way. Hell, customizing your weapons in campaign mode is enough incentive to go back and travel through an alien infested NYC again. To add even more incentive to this you also get small goodies you can pick up that unlock rewards and achievements along the way. This is on top of the already intense action going on in the game.
With that said, the campaign mode also features very sharp A.I. that will frustrate you to death, depending your level of difficulty of course. I played on 'normal' the entire game and found some pretty neat things going on with my enemies. First, the enemies don't like being shot, but hey who does?!When you go head-on with soldiers or aliens and you have that 'clear shot' on them, if you hit them and they don't die then they will find cover. Seeing it for the first time was rather amusing, as I shot a soldier in the arm and he proceeded to find cover away from me. It doesn't happen a lot in first-person shooters, at least on the console side, so it was neat to see the computer react the way it did. On top of this there were moments where the computer realized it wasn't in the best position in a firefight, so it proceeded to change positions, as I was firing. That is impressive because it will make the gamer work a lot harder to get the kill. You're not simply firing into a repetitive enemy that keeps showing up at the same damn place all the time (Call of Duty: Black Ops devs write this down), you're being required to think and correct your accuracy on the fly. I read a review from a huge site (that will go unnamed) and they complained about the A.I., but I honestly can't understand it after playing this game since Monday. I have no clue what the hell game they were playing, but it certainly wasn't this one.
Anyway, the A.I. is incredible in Crysis 2, but it does have its imperfections. There were about two incidents where aliens were freaking out and running around in the same movement pattern. It didn't happen a lot, but it did happen. I couldn't trigger the alien to stop it until I crossed a certain place (the trigger point, imagine that name) and once I did it attacked me. I would have liked to shoot it from afar, but that regretfully wasn't a possibility. It was a rare occurrence, but it was a little annoying.
Moving on, let's talk weapons.
You have gobs and gobs of weapons to choose from. Before you even start customizing your weapons, you will have 22 different types of ways to kick the crap out of your opposition. Ranging from small handguns like the M12 Nova all the way up to a really nasty 8 missile burst weapon called the swarmer (that thing is badass and a half). You will never be bored with what you find and the weapon distribution and ammo points are a plenty. You won't have to worry about getting 'Resident Evil'd' when it comes to running out weaponry goods. For example, there is a point in the game where you run into a massive amount of aliens in the Wall Street district and you are provided with cases and cases of ammo and grenades to use. While you still want to make sure that you maintain a safe amount of usage with your weapons (the ammo will run out eventually), there's still enough here to do some damage without too much worry of getting stuck with a crappy handgun. I'm highly impressed with Crytek's balanced ammo collection as you proceed through levels. This keeps the game moving and keeps the player less frustrated.
So what about the nanosuit's weapons? Well, you get a nice variety of that as well. The suit's main four capabilities are as follows:
- Armor: Having a little extra protection goes a long way (twss). The nanosuit's armor capabilities give you extra protection when you're up against the wall with enemies. There will be times later in the game where you simply will have to fight your way out of a situation and having that armor allows you more time to kick some ass.
- Power: For me this was the most difficult to use because having played so many FPS titles in my long lifetime I always use gun, knife and resort to fist lasts (if that option is there). With this ability you're able to basically ground-pound, kick over large objects and just make possibly the most unfair fist fight in history. If you can get use to this part of the suit then you're a better person than me. It's cool when you can see it in action, though.
- Tactical: You get different ways to use the suit with tactical. For example, you can turn on a heat sensor mode to detect body heat in the middle of a hard-to-see area with tactical. It's basically a visual enhancement of some sort that helps you make it through tactical situations.
- Stealth: You'll use this a lot because it will not only save your life, but it will also provide a fun way to sneak up on people and take them out ninja style.
These are the four main capabilities, with more upgrades and unlockables for the nanosuit available with the collection of nano catalyst from dead aliens. So, if you see a swarm of silver bugs hovering over the body of a dead alien, collect them. It's an interesting method of encouraging players to kick some ass and to help them make their gaming experience more complex. I like the idea and it works well for Crysis 2.
So are there any downers to this game? They are few and far between, but if I had to complain about the campaign mode it would about needing more enemies to contend with. With such a massive game there should be a large variety of enemies that you constantly run into. After a while the enemies become easy prey, which is something I ran into somewhere in the middle of the game. I understood where I needed to shoot aliens to kill them the quickest (most need some head trauma), which makes it a tiny bit repetitive in some areas. The visuals will steal your attention away from this being an issue, but somewhere along the way you'll still become aware of it.
Now, with that said Crytek does a great job of balancing out the swarm of enemies and actually does a fantastic job of focusing on the task at hand. For example, there is a moment in the game where you have to go to three different points of an alien device (upward spiraling columns) that has dug into NYC pretty tightly. You have to knock out certain points with your fist until the entire thing is dealt with. Along the way you get the same variety of enemies (mostly alien with a giant Ceph Heavy unit waiting by the device), which is repetitive. Crytek puts more emphasis on the goal than on killing the enemies, which will completely turn your focus away from the repetition. It's subtle and amazing to see in action, and for the most part you won't be bothered by the reoccurring killers.
So is the campaign mode a fantastic ride? God yes it is. I had to play this game in small spurts to keep my weak heart from stressing. Having seen enough horror films and enough 'alien invading' stories, I knew going in that it was going to be a rough, yet fun ride. If you normally buy games like this for the multiplayer I whole-heartedly urge you to dive into the campaign mode. The sheer depth of the visuals you get from Crytek's development team will make the trip more than worth it. There's so much to see and so much to do on Alcatraz's journey with the nanosuit that you'll be engrossed with this nearly perfect experience. I won't reveal the hours on this game, as I'm adopting a new rule in my reviewing to ignore that portion. This doesn't mean that this game lasts an hour or 20, rather I feel like FPS games should be judged on the player's emotional connection with the adventure instead of how many hours the adventure lasts. It's okay to enjoy a game without looking at your watch. People use to do that all the time when arcades ruled the earth (and they did at one point, ya n00bs).The game is fun from beginning to end and it will make you want to return to try different ways of winning it. You'll want to return to this adventure again once your reach the end of the journey, if not only to unlock all the achievements (and there are boatload of them).
With all this said, what about the multiplayer mode (you didn't think we were going to get to it)? Starting with the maps, you get 12 places to team up and kick the crap out of people. Some of these places are really spread out and clever and some seem like they were made for kids needing non-stop action/killing. For example, the best map I have seen so far with this game is one featured in the demo; the Skyline. I feel like the multiple layers from the glasshouse to the greenhouses offer enough variety and balance to make for a good killing field. I know I played the hell out of this demo when it first came out and loved it, and the love continues. Having gotten to level 7 before this review went up, I have seen many different places, but this one still is my favorite.
Now, the worst of the bunch (in my opinion) has to be Pier 17. You're basically playing on this 3-4 level map that is rectangular. You're in a constant shooting battle with the opposition and there are little places to sit down and recharge your nanosuit capabilities. It's an uncomfortable environment that was built for the CoD player in mind. If you can run around killing every little you can find then you're going to be comfortable with this map. It is constrained and offers very little variety when it comes to taking out your enemy. Most young folk will probably disagree with that assessment, but my opinion is that it just isn't good for strategy type folks (like myself).
Anyway, from Ellis Island to a lighthouse, you'll find plenty of good places to declare your badassness online (and the DLC maps are nice, too).
As for leveling and upgrading, you've got four weapon classes to choose from (assault, sniper, scout and gunner) and five custom slots to play with (nothing like branching out and showing your creative killing independence). This isn't very uncommon, especially for anyone who loves Black Ops. What starts to separate Crysis 2 from Black Ops is enhancements you get as you go. Now, before I get nasty messages defending the almighty CoD when it comes to upgrading and extras, please keep in mind that some things with CoD that you 'earn' are just complete garbage. With that said, you get multiple options for your nanosuit as you level up through the ranks. For example, you get several different armor modules to choose from as you earn XP for killing the opposition. They can range from having more prominent bullet tracers to find your enemies to something called nano recharge, which charges your health quickly after taking damage. These little perks diversify the gameplay online and help you to survive when that 10-year old tries to take you out with a sniper rifle. Anyway, each nanosuit capability (stealth, power, etc.) has these type of upgrades available for you to pick up as you level up.
In addition to these upgrades, you can also upgrade and customize your weapons (though not as deep as Black Ops) and you can earn bonuses by collecting dog tags from opponents. For example, when you take down an opponent you'll find a nice little shining light appear near their body. You simply walk over it and collect it. The more you collect the more you can do things to help your team. You'll be able to do things like activate a radar jammer on the other team (that really sucks if it happens to you, as you literally will have no idea where the enemy is at) or activate something called maximum nanosuit, which gives you unlimited suit energy for a period of time (really nice, especially towards the end of a mission).
Speaking of missions, you get six different game modes to choose from (Team Instant Action, Instant Action, Crash Site (not a favorite of mine), Capture the Relay, Extraction and Assault), but most will just go into a quick, instant action match with teams. I know that out of all the modes I was more fascinated with the team instant action than anything else. I tried Crash Site with the demo and just wasn't interested, but honestly it's to each their own.
Running along side of the modes there are eight different ways to modify the online games, which allow you to basically put restrictions on who can join and how a game can be played. For instance, you get make a game a 'beginner's playground', which restricts access to players of rank 10 or below only. This particularly modifier will help people get into the groove of Crysis 2 online before they get their (bleeps) handed to them. Seriously speaking, it helps make the game a less frustrating experience for beginners, which is a great thing these days.
So are there other things to the online gameplay? You do get tiered assessments, which is nice. You have a nice amount of ranks to set a goal to and there's plenty of reason to keep playing it. For me, I think the gameplay isn't as instantly addictive as Black Ops, but it slowly becomes addictive once you get use to the extra abilities and strategies formed by having the nanosuit. Having the ability to turn on armor or go stealth is something I just wasn't use to in a first-person shooter. Now, it's fun and exciting once I got use to the process and understood what type of strategy needed to be involved during battle. The nanosuit and customization adds a fun tier to the online gameplay that keeps you wanting more. The more you fight then the more you upgrade and the more you get to take out people easier. It's fun and encouraging with these 'extras', which is why Black Ops was fun when it first arrived.
For those looking for a better online experience than Black Ops you might be disappointed... right now. I would say that Crysis 2 is on par with where Black Ops started, but CoD is leading the pack thanks to some fun DLC just released by Activision. If Crytek keeps popping out new DLC for multiplayer and starts refining and adding some incredibly deep maps and options then Black Ops might have a run for its money, at least in terms of online entertainment. For now, appreciate what Crytek has created and enjoy the wonderful, intense online gameplay that it offers in Crysis 2.
It's really quite a blast once you get into it.