One thing that has always bothered me about the modern military FPS’ is that it singles out the character you play as too much. An example of this can be found in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, in which you take on the role of Private Ramirez (a private, mind you) and proceed to take back DC while your squad mates sit back and watch. The problem I have is that there is nothing special about Ramirez, except that he only needs a few seconds to heal from bullet wounds, and that makes some of the missions he pulls off hard to believe. This is why I like games like Halo, Half Life, Batman: AA, and Crysis, because the hero’s awesomeness can be explained away with science. It might just be me, but knowing that I can take a bullet to the chest because I am wearing a hyper-advanced battle suit is far better (and more “realistic”) than being able to take a bullet because the game would be extremely hard if you couldn’t. Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man,” and when it comes to video games (Crysis especially) there is no better motto; enough babbling though, on to the review.
Crysis 2 takes place three years after the events on the Lingshan Islands; the alien race known as the “Ceph” have come to New York and they brought their virus with them. You play as a marine named Alcatraz whose squad has been tasked with extracting Doctor Nathan Gould (who has info on how to fight the Ceph) from the hostile and virus-ridden city. Things quickly go south for the marines though and most of them are wiped out. Except, that is, for Alcatraz who is rescued by “Prophet” – one of the nanosuit wearing delta force officers from the previous game. To save Alcatraz (who was badly mangled before being rescued) and see the mission completed, a weak and terminally infected Prophet puts the suit on the marine and severs his link to it via a bullet to the head. With the suit keeping him alive and providing him with an array of abilities, Alcatraz continues his mission to extract the doctor, but there is a drawback to the new upgrade. Prophet was running from CELL (the corporation responsible for nanosuit technology) who will stop at nothing to get their suit back.
Crytek has put a lot of effort into Crysis 2’s story, and it shows. One aspect I really liked was that through the different climactic arcs the story reminded you that Alcatraz was human. The suit would malfunction from time to time, and without its support, he could barely walk. I also enjoyed the cast of characters that you meet throughout the game. Such as Prophet, who, for a character that dies in the first few minutes, has a large impact on the story. Other characters like Dominic Lockhart and Jacob Hargreave also play exceptional bad guys in very different ways, and Tara Strickland and Nathan Gould reminded me of Alyx and Eli Vance from the Half Life series. Finally, I want to mention the length of the campaign, which is a comfortable ten hour experience.
Gameplay has been streamlined this time around and generally made to be more playable with a controller. Armor effects like max strength and speed are automatic and stealth overhauls have been made that generally make it more fun to sneak around and pick off bad guys, as opposed to charging in head first with max armor activated. There is also the addition of suit upgrades that augment the suit’s abilities. These upgrades are very much akin to Call of Duty “perks” and can be swapped out to cater to a gamer’s specific play style.
In terms of graphics, Crysis 2 is the best-looking game I have ever seen. CryEngine 3 is not only more powerful than its predecessor; it has been streamlined so that the Xbox’s hardware can handle the game’s huge and extremely detailed environments with no trouble.
The entire time I played the multiplayer (around ten hours) I flip-flopped between hating it and loving it, but I’ve decided that it is one of the better aspects of the game. Like all the other multiplayers these days, Crysis 2 features a level system that allows players to unlock and purchase weapons, attachments, and suit upgrades. Online matches also feature a set 3, 5, and 7 killstreak setup that reward players with UAVs, orbital strikes, and Ceph gunships. What I like most about the online experience is that it rewards players who use team tactics and precision shooting, and punishes the lone wolves – “going it alone” will almost guarantee you a 1/1 k/d ratio. Another gameplay addition I like is the dog tag system, which discourages camping by forcing players to retrieve tags from downed opponents in order for the kill to count towards a killstreak. My main complaint about the online system is the lag, which caused just enough of a delay that I would often die even though I had made it to cover.
Knowing the thoughts and motivations of a story’s protagonist is vital to caring about their story, and that is why I always take issue with the silent protagonist in video games. Especially when it comes to Alcatraz, who is a normal person that is given something incredible, unbelievable in fact, and told to complete a series of impossible feats by people he does not know.
From a technical standpoint, there are some enemy AI issues. Most of the time the AI reacted perfectly and would hide/shoot from cover and even flank me. However, about every tenth or fifteenth encounter, I would see one of the enemy AI either run continually into a wall or completely forget that I was there.
Crytek took what they achieved in the original Crysis and made it better, bigger, and more beautiful, and though there are a few technical issues as far as lag and AI are concerned, Crysis 2 is the best FPS to come out so far this year. Here’s to hoping we won’t have to wait another three and half years to see the final chapter in the trilogy.