Crysis 2 is a masterpiece. You will immediately be floored by the earth-shattering graphics but you will stay for the uniqueness and variety of the gameplay. You will be utterly sucked into a world that is bleak, desperate and intriguing, with a story that is both ever present and exquisitely told. The singleplayer of Crysis 2 sits head and shoulders above most modern FPS’s, which is quite impressive considering it’s about twice to three times as long (depending on how you play). Is it perfect? No. In fact there are just a few glitches that hold it back from being 100 percent technically sound, but after you finish wiping the drool from your chin from the gorgeous lighting, get your mind right again from the dynamic story, and relish in the glory of the victory over your fallen, formidable foes, you won’t much mind the few blemishes on what is, for me, one of the best games to graze the console-space in years.
First things first: the story. You don’t need to have played Crysis 1 or Warhead to appreciate the story of Crysis 2, I am a witness to that. The entirety of Crysis 2 is set in a fictional New York in the year 2024 (so things aren’t too different from now).”I really don’t want to spoil too much because everything is so well told, so I’ll try to give a brief overview of some basic elements of it: You play as a marine named Alcatraz. You don’t start off with the Nanosuit (the bad-A super armor that is shown on the box). You come in possession of it before you ever take your first shot at an enemy though, via a rather sad event. Not too long after you begin your journey you bare witness to an unknown virus that has spread around New York. The virus is brutal, it seems to eat away at a person literally from the inside out such that many civilians that you find are in pools of their own blood and insides and their bodies look like they’re decomposing while they’re still alive and full of blood. The city has been quarantined by some not-so-swell PMC guys, named CELL, that also happen to want you dead.
Later on you will encounter the aliens called Ceph (who thankfully don’t speak in magically perfect english). Before you know it, you will find yourself in the middle of a triangle of death between the CELL and Ceph. Your goal ends up being to try and stop the virus, which the game very cleverly and intuitively designed as a mission only you and you alone could complete. Whereas many games have you as a health regenerating human being (which is completely unrealistic, but works out nicely for games) Crysis 2 actually give you a reason to feel like a pseudo one-man army. Even you playing as a silent protagonist has an ingenious story element behind it that is accounted for. Alcatraz’s and the Nanosuit’s (because the Suit is part organic) journey is one of intrigue, action, deception and hope with every stunning set piece told all from a masterful first-perosn point of view – it’s also one of empowerment, because I have never felt more powerful in a shooter than whilst in Crysis 2’s ever evolving Nanosuit. But this is a topic to be discussed around gameplay.
The gameplay in Crysis 2 is rooted and grounded around the Nanosuit and its three main modes – Stealth, Armor, and Strength. Stealth mode lets players activate a cloak that turns themselves and weapons almost completely invisible. If in stealth mode and very close to and behind an enemy, you can do these awesome looking stealth kills on both human and alien enemies. At range you are impossible to see, but if you get too close to an enemy, he can hear your footsteps (that are muffled in cloak mode) or see your shadow/silhouette if you hover right in front of him at point blank range (like a numbskull). If you are spotted with cloak on, enemies will begin peppering your area with shots, hoping to hit you, you are still invisible after all, and they can just barely see you. If, however, you shoot while still cloaked, all your energy is drained immediately, leaving you vulnerable, but more on that in a minute. Armor mode basically turns you into a walking tank (seriously, just grab a rocket or grenade launcher and you will be). It’s the shell your Suit creates conforms to the Suit’s mold and is strong enough to absorb multiple grenade blast, direct hits with a rocket launcher and numerous small arms fire (you can still shoot in armor mode without penalty). It can even absorb the shock of a fall from a dozens stories(off, say, a tall building, of which New York has many). Which brings us to Strength mode. Strength covers a broad range of actions such as super-jumping, falling from great heights of which you often can/will, sprinting (come on you’re in a huge piece of armor, getting around has got to take take energy from somewhere), and sliding (pro tip: You can still shoot and melee while jumping great heights, falling and sliding.
So with all those cool powers, there needs to be some way to keep them in check, less there be no challenge. Therefore, all the powers of the Suit are governed by an energy meter that is displayed on screen. Depending on the action, energy is drained from the suit faster or slower. For example, being clocked steadily drains energy whereas moving and sprinting while cloaked drain energy significantly faster. Or, each shot taken in Armor mode drains some energy whereas being blasted by an explosive drains much more energy. The well isn’t very deep for your energy reserves, yet the suit powers are crucial to survival especially on the higher difficulties. The result is a brilliant balance of counting your ammo and your suit powers equally.
Gunplay feels punchy and controls are very tight. You can use the visor on your Suit to tag enemies through walls and locate ammo caches from CELL and find all the good weapons in an environment before ever engaging your targets. Common sense tells you that it’s best to survey any area from an elevated position, and Crytek has ensured there are typically a few available at any given moment. This lets you really plan your attack like few other shooters allow. The first time you attach a silencer to a sniper rifle, take out a guy manning a heavy machine gun emplacement, cloak, drop down from your elevated perch and stealth assassinate some poor lone sap by covering his mouth while you lodge your knife in his chest, re-cloak, avoid the enemy patrol that has noticed their man down, then go into a slide and shotgun the one guy that has noticed you, go rip the heavy machine gun off its emplacement, decimate the remaining enemies whilst in Armor mode before they can regroup, then finish everything off by attaching C4 to a car and kicking it into the enemy humvee that is desperately trying to machine gun you down before you regenerate your energy levels and blow him, the humvee and the car sky high with a screen red with your blood. That scenario can literally be reenacted to a tee in the game, and it will be even better than it sounds.
A few more gameplay caveats are that almost every weapon has multiple attachments that can be equipped on it at once. Attachments are found throughout the game by finding upgraded versions of the weapons and picking them up. Once you’ve found an attachment, you have it forever, regardless of whether you drop that initial weapon that had the new attachment on it. To equip different attachments, all you do is hold down the “select/back” buttons on their respective controllers to hold the weapon out in front of you and see it from the side. Then you use the face buttons to cycle through various attachments based on where they go on the gun. This includes things like various scopes, silencers, grenade launchers, and extended magazines. The Nanosuit can also be upgraded in a manner similar to the weapons with Nanocatalyst points that are extracted from dead alien foes. Instead of holding out the gun in front of you, you hold out your hand and as you cycle through each upgrade, your fingers twitch in response to your button inputs. The menus are presented so well in game, that you will hardly ever feel like you still aren’t in the experience. Crysis 2 just simply oozes with tactical options in everything from the environment to the weapons. But what good are all those options with no reason to use them? It is good then that the AI, both human and alien normally give you plenty.
Enemy AI has a lots of space to negotiate, much more so than most FPS’s. But they do so with deadly efficiency, especially on the higher difficulties. They react quicker and quicker as you raise the difficulty as well. If you kill their guy in one area, they will come investigate, and if they spot you and you cloak while still in the open, they will continue firing on your position, albeit with less accuracy, still trying to hit you. This remains true for both human and alien AI. The aliens however are far less afraid of you and some of the advanced type will rush you because their most devastating attack is a melee knife they have on their wrist. They will literally pounce on you and push you down while they bounce all around the environment. Nevertheless, the AI if far from perfect. Sometimes, it fails to work at all. Enemies may sit out in the open and walk into a wall or into each other (especially the human enemies). It is not all that common, but when it happens, it is extremely obvious that someone forgot to turn on their AI protocols. But those bugs don’t keep the overall AI from being a more than competent and challenging enemy to face throughout that will pursue you around the large environments with generally great accuracy and believability.
Crysis 2’s levels are in general far more open than most FPS’s. Though you are always being pushed toward a certain objective, environments are the true epitome of sandboxes and are open and traversable both vertically and horizontally, you can even go into many structures. If you’ve played Halo Reach, than you will have an idea, but most areas are much bigger than many areas in Reach. You will have whole blocks in which confrontations are fought, and you may start a firefight on one end just to flank around from the side or even complete opposite end of an area attacking your enemy from every strategic point you can. In short, Crysis 2 may be a linear shooter, but it’s certainly doesn’t force you to feel like you’re in a tunnel and at points feels like it could be an open world experience and everything would still feel just as driven and a part of the game. In that sense, if you have played Far Cry 2 and experienced its level of openness and saw how taking stock of an area and enemy patrols can pay off rather than just going in guns blazing and with no back up plan, you can get a true understanding of the greatness of Crysis 2 because, while not open world like Far Cry 2, it still feels like it.
Crysis 2 is the most photorealistic game I have ever played. I’m not saying it’s the best looking game, but it is the one that is the most true to real life that I have ever seen. The lighting is the star of the show and really takes the cake here. While textures are fantastic overall, there are a few muddy ones here and there and they look really out of place given how utterly spectacular the game looks in most places. But again, the lighting never fails to be awe-inspiring. Whether you are taking in the literally blinding sun as you emerge from a dark space or are admiring the warm glow of the light from your grenade launcher (the L-Tag), there is truly nothing like it. The way light reflects off things like skyscrapers made out of 100’s of glass windows vs how it shines off of concrete or the metal of a car, it is by far the most advance lighting engine I’ve ever seen in a game. The vegetation looks stunningly real as well. Things often are destroyed in Crysis 2 and boy oh boy do you start to look forward to it. That is, the level of detail when bridges collapse or chunks of building are devastated under the weight of war is incredibly convincing.
The the visuals do falter in a few places, and it really hurts because of how good everything around them look. At the forefront of this is much of the text on buildings, keypads, stone and some signs is illegible because of it being muddy, though not necessarily pixilated (except for keypads!). It may sound like nitpicking, but games on the PS3 have achieved this level of detail perfectly (ala Killzone 3 where every single piece of text I was crystal clear and consistent with everything else). Cars are not all that detailed out of sunlight either (and there are a lot of cars, which can be kicked to crush enemies – it’s awesome).
Character models, especially the clothing of human enemies and allies don’t look phenomenal either. The Ceph, however, look fantastic and are truly unique looking aliens to fight. Animations are great overall, but pale in comparison to the Uncharted series (but that’s almost comparing apples to oranges). Just someone like your characters hands are so meticulously detailed and good looking that you will find yourself glossing over them fairly often and noting how awesome they look. Though it is not an entirely consistent overall package, the majority remained very strong throughout, even though Killzone 3 and Uncharted 2 have maintained their very high level of detail in seemingly ever single area as oppose to Crysis 2, which does not. That said, it is still the most photo-realistic game I have ever seen.
Sound is wonderful through and through. The weapons themselves have a good “clacka clacka” sound to them, basically they sound cool. However, they could use more bass to compete with the best of the best. The directional audio is superb from everything from voices to footsteps, even distance gunfire and helicopters that are in the background can be heard in their proper direction and with the appropriate levels sound to accompany their distance from the player. The sound of the player’s footsteps make you feel like you are wearing heavy armor, especially in armor mode. Voice acting is generally well done, but there is one oddity with it – it would seem that Crytek only chose/employed the same guy to do the voices for every black guy in the game, except for maybe Prophet, a crucial character whom I won’t say much about, save for your Nanosuit, belonged to him at some point. Anyway, it is extremely noticeable because the voice actors voice, while good and convincing, is very distinguishable. Therefore, it sucks you out of the experience when you hear his voice an hour after you are certain that you just killed that same guy, then again several hours later. But it’s still a small thing. The music in Crysis 2 is nothing short of astounding as well, standing with the best in the business – it never fails to chime in at just the right time with the perfect tune to match whatever is happening on screen.
To round things out very nicely, Crytek has delivered one of the strongest new multiplayer (mp) suites around. For me, the mp in Crysis 2 is fantastic because its an experience that you can’t get elsewhere, all the Nanosuit powers are present in the mp space as well. Cloaking and stealth killing someone is just as viable an option as in singleplayer, while putting on armor can be used just as liberally. Managing your suits energy levels is still just as important as keeping an enemy in your crosshairs. The vertical gameplay is most certainly there as well, with people often taking to a higher vantage point as either a means to get the drop on their foes, or equally going to a lower altitude to escape from enemy fire. The most impressive thing about all of this is that it actually works. Not in a technical since, but rather it all feels very balanced for the most part. For example, if you are cloaked and get shot it seems to do about double or triple the amount of damage as usual. Similarly, armor mode doesn’t let you absorb anywhere near as many shots as in sp, but it can still save you from a grenade or long fall. And, if you put it on as you are already getting shot, be prepared to lul yourself into a false sense of security, as it takes a second to activate, so it won’t work while getting shot, basically.
The mp has the usual standards from most FPS’s with online play – perks (in the form of suit upgrades), weapon unlocks as you progress in rank, weapon attachment unlocks as you use a weapon more, and so on). There are a few issue with the mp though, namely meleeing. The amount of hits doesn’t seem consistent. Now granted, if someone has on armor mode, they seem to be able to take an extra hit or two, but that is a big problem when you are sitting there trying to have a boxing match, essentially, with another player and kill him before his teammates spot and kill you. There are a few other inconsistencies regarding armor mode and when it doesn’t work, and they seem more glitch than game design. Overall, my abundant time with the mp has been a smooth one. The gameplay is like a mixture of Halo: Reach and Call of Duty and you can’t go wrong there.
To summarize, Crysis 2 is a mind blowing experience. If you are tired of tunnel shooters that don’t let you have freedom of movement, or if you just like having tactical options and customizations, Crysis 2 is probably the game for you. In spite of having a few minor issues here and there, the overall package is remarkable with its photorealistic graphics and unreal (or rather extremely real) lighting effects. The singeplayer is a wonderful length compared to the 6-8 hour campaigns most FPS’s offer. I finished the campaign a bit over 15 hours on my first play-through on the Veteran difficulty. Crytek smartly lets you keep all your suit upgrades and weapon attachments through new playthroughs on any difficulty. There may be a Crysis going on in New York, but it’ll feel more like a gaming miracle because Crytek will have all your senses weeping with joy while playing through the new gaming Goliath that is Crysis 2.
Review Score: 9.5
Editors Note: Though I have not seen the final version of the 360 in person, it is the opinion of the leading editor here at GameInsider and editors of other credible sites, such as IGN, that the 360 version of Crysis 2 has noticibly better lighting than the PS3 version. However, this site holds that the performance of the PS3 version is more stable than the 360, such that textures do not need to constantly load in front of you. The difference in visuals has been labelled as only having a .3/10 difference. This review is based on a play-through of the PS3 version of the game.