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Developer: Crytek / Publisher: EA / ESRB: Mature (Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99
Hi, I’m Rob Smith, and this is the videogame review of Crysis 2. You may not be too familiar with the original since it pushed the highest-end PCs beyond breaking point, limiting the number of potential players in the process. But Crytek has crunched and cajoled the outstanding visuals that caused PCs to wilt under the power on to your favorite console, and in the process delivered the standout shooter of the year. Yeah, you heard that right; the reasons why are right ahead.
If the story of Crysis 2 is a continuation of the original, you have to be a hardcore fan to recognize it. What you need to know is that in the move to New York this near-future shooter becomes more grounded; the setting, in fact, is as much a character in this plot as you are. Playing some dude called Alcatraz–but thought to be an almost mythical warrior named Prophet–you acquire the Nanosuit that, such is its power, instantly transforms you into the Earth’s savior. From what? Well, it’s a mix of rogue enemy marines and the Ceph alien infestation.
New York has been ravaged by a disease that has debilitated most of the population. This is no zombie apocalypse, but the story does involve a dormant alien species now awakened. It’s actually pretty entertaining, enough to compel you through the eight to 10 hours of single-player campaign.
This isn’t Crytek’s first outing in the shooter genre, and it shows. Honestly, the developers have thrown every element you could imagine into this mix. The enemies–both the marines and the aliens–expertly use the environment for cover and will move to flank you given the opportunity. Many encounters are large set-piece showdowns with multiple waves of enemies emerging from various spots on the map, which means you have to keep moving and be aware of your environment. To help that your Nanosuit can provide a tactical overlay of important points like caches of ammo, potential dangers like an “Avoid” icon over where an alien Heavy is patrolling, and even routes to flank or stealth past encounters.
But the suit’s most useful abilities are the armor and stealth. You can have one or the other active at any time, which drains power from the suit. So if you’re stealthing through an area, for instance, you need to find cover as the power drains to remain hidden. Sneak behind the marines and even some of the aliens and you can perform a swift, silent execution. Some of the bigger Ceph will charge your position when they spot you. In those cases, hit the armor power-up to go toe-to-toe, and you can even grab at the aliens and then throw them at walls for a quick kill.
The controls are familiar, though given the amount of actions available, you may fumble through some of the selections in the madness of some battles. For example, you need to double-tap Y to access grenades, which is not the most intuitive. Along the way you also collect the “essence” of killed aliens as the currency you use to upgrade the Nanosuit. It’s almost like an option too many, to the point that come the end of the game I realized I’d not even bothered to use those points on upgrades.
But Crysis 2 is an intense shooter experience. There are moments in vehicles, epic showdowns with mech-like aliens that require several RPG shells to take down (or getting close enough to lay C4 under its legs), sneak and stealth moments, tactical battlefield assessments, and tons and tons of gunplay both in the open, from behind cover, sniping from distance, or blasting with a shotgun up close. And it all looks amazing.
No surprise that Crysis 2 looks fantastic. Crytek’s engine crammed on to consoles is not perfect, however. You’ll notice quite a bit of texture pop-in, which was occasionally distracting, but once loaded every area looks spectacular. Some locations get reused, but such is the scale of the environments, the detail on every surface, and the madness of the firefights it never gets dull.
Special effects such as the cloaking on some creatures and the fire in a burning building (that you can survive because of the Nanosuit) similarly look amazing. Plus, you can view it all in 3D if you’re so powered. The PC version (that we saw played across three monitors) is absolutely incredible, the new benchmark in game graphics, and the fact it works so effectively on consoles is pretty staggering.
Crysis 2 features a pretty robust suite of multiplayer modes, and the use of the Nanosuit does provide a different flavor to the action compared to the many other shooters dominating online play. Though you can choose to play as one of four class types and equip them how you choose, the use of the armor and stealth abilities of the suit make every class a potential sneak or tank. The modes, like Capture the Relay and Extraction follow familiar formats of location protection, but the most original new mode is Assault.
In this mode one side has the use of the Nanosuit but is equipped with just a pistol. They have to infiltrate a building and capture terminals while the other team defends but without suits and using a laser-sighted weapon, which means the infiltrating team can spot where they are aiming. This is a one-life and your done mode and played out with some pretty tense cat-and-mouse tactics.
As is the vogue, you also earn awards every game for kills, deaths, use of stealth, and seemingly hundreds of other in-game events.
Crysis 2 really feels like the kitchen sink of recent shooters: compelling single-player, interesting multiplayer modes, vehicles, myriad weapons, and the Nanosuit. Plus 3D, stealth kills, grabbing and throwing enemies, sprinting and sliding, using cover, and facing enemies using highly effective AI routines to keep every encounter fresh: It’s all here, every check box of the genre ticked. But this kitchen sink is 24-carat gold plated. Each of those individual elements is expertly executed. It all makes Crysis 2 a complete shooter experience, and one of the best games of the year so far.