Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crysis 2 Review

Possibly the most visually impressive game you'll play this year.

By Jose Otero   03/22/2011

Originally a PC-only game, Crysis set high expectations for future games in the series by providing a flexible empowering experience. Though it seemed unlikely an equally impressive follow-up could be created on console, developer Crytek has delivered a sequel that captures many ideas of the original game, and implements a few new ones as well. But most importantly, Crysis 2 is just as visually impressive as its predecessor, even on PS3 and 360.
As hyped as the original game was, playing it is not a prerequisite for enjoying Crysis 2. Most of the controls have been changed completely, and this new chapter in the Crysis trilogy introduces a new protagonist (while short recaps fill in any story gaps you might've missed). None of those revisions, however, disrupt the creative gameplay moments or lush environment design that made so many people fall in love with Crysis.The biggest change from Crysis to Crysis 2 are the controls; more specifically the tailoring of every action in the game to craft a simpler, console-friendly setup. The previous game implemented a control wheel to let you quickly switch between the parameters of Stealth, Power, Speed, and Armor in your Nanosuit -- a powerful piece of combat armor designed to help you develop your own play style and creatively dispatch enemies. Although this worked great on PC, it was scrapped and retooled for the sequel.
Everything you do is now mapped to the controller, and switching between suit abilities is no longer required because the armor abilities are automated. Clicking the Left stick makes you sprint, but also automatically engages maximum speed, something you previously had to activate separately. Clicking Right stick deploys a quick melee strike, but clicking and holding it will charge up your attack for more powerful punches or car kicks. Stealth and armor functions are now bound to the bumper buttons 360 (or triggers on PS3) and there are two new options: Nanovision, which helps you spot trouble in low-light conditions, and the Tactical Visor. The Visor works like a pair of binoculars, but it also allows you to zoom in and out to highlight and locate enemy units, armor resupply locations, and other tools you'll use within the game. Anything you see in the Tactical mode can be marked, making it easier to find, and the game clues you in with an auditory cue when you need to scan the area before proceeding.
The new simplified controls of Crysis 2 are an elegant solution to the slightly complex setup of the first game, and surprisingly nothing is lost in the transition. Instead, the streamlined features of the Nanosuit make more sense, and every suit ability is conveniently tied to offensive/defensive options making Crysis 2 much easier to pick up and play. You might argue that the previous PC controls cultivated more creativity in battle, but the combat sandbox in the sequel still offers plenty of impressive moments.

And having so many tactical options at your disposal is one of the things that separates Crysis 2 from the many other shooters on the market. Unlike most titles in the genre that funnel you down a rabbit hole of close-quarters, scripted combat experiences, Crysis 2 frames everything in an action movie-style lens while still encouraging you to play the game your own way. Stealthy types can sneak around and create diversions, stalking enemies and luring them into different situations, while more impatient types can run around and tackle obstacles head on. In Crysis 2 enemies are dumped into an urban playground, and pretty much any way you want to engage them is a viable choice.
This illusion doesn't hold up well indoors or in some of the more linear parts of the game, but when Crysis 2 opens up there's this process of discovery that's truly impressive. I played through levels multiple times and still found new pathways and tactical options I hadn't noticed before.Visually, Cyrsis 2 still manages to show improvement as well. The setting shifts to the urban jungle of an abandoned New York City. A viral outbreak and alien invasion have turned the island of Manhattan into a crippled warzone, with trees that sway in the breeze and far off buildings that crumble during earthquakes. Switching locations does have its downside, though -- the environments aren't quite as destructible as the locations in the original game.
Still, it's hard not be impressed by the visual detail, and most of the settings are based off of actual locations in downtown Manhattan. You'll cruise along familiar areas like the FDR Drive, or stomp around the financial district and other tourist hot-spots battling your pursuers. Taking place on an island jungle made the original Crysis the console equivalent of the movie Predator. The sequel's change of setting follows Predator's example, but Crysis 2 never follows the downward spiral ofPredator 2, even if the impressive A.I. occasionally goes brain dead.The A.I in Crysis 2 is at its best when you're facing human soldiers. While it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that you'll eventually fight aliens as well, and that they're closer to your equal in combat abilities, they just aren't as fun to fight. The C.E.L.L. Soldiers bark commands back and forth and relay your position during combat, reacting to your actions, calling in reinforcements, and seeking cover. Occasionally you'll find one or two soldiers sitting in the corner awkwardly unsure of what to do, or just walking forward aimlessly into a wall, but not too often. The aliens (called Ceph) are much more challenging, but they don't sell the A.I. of Crysis 2 as well. They're just as reactive and also call in assistance, but they're just not as fun to vex with your Nanosuit abilities. More powerful, yes, but most of the time they just blindly charge forward and soak up bullet damage like a sponge.
Multiplayer in Crysis 2 receives a huge upgrade with player progression along the lines of Call of Duty. You can unlock and customize different weapon loadouts and suit modules (a la Call of Duty's perks), and a you unlock more modules, weapons, and attachments as you level up your character in multiplayer. Each round earns you experience across six game modes (mostly variants of Team Deathmatch, Capture and Hold, and CTF), and while you can't visually customize your Crysis 2 Nanosuit, you can set it up to play very differently from your competitors. If you're a fan of Call of Duty multiplayer, you won't be disappointed here.Crysis 2 is a beautifully realized game that delivers impressive environments, simplified controls, and a plethora of tactical combat options. The game empowers you to make gameplay choices that complement your play style both in single- and mulitplayer. Unfortunately the visually strong presentation and gameplay can't hide the mediocre setup for Crysis 3; for most of the game you play a silent protagonist who goes from mission to mission, following instructions as ordered. Then, when you reach the end of the campaign your character suddenly starts talking and you learn that this entire conflict is just a small part of something much bigger. Acid-trip style memories, reflections, and final recaps try to tie the plot together, but it still leaves you feeling a bit unfulfilled with just a flat, to-be-continued cliffhanger. But the ride there is still thrilling, even if the payoff is mediocre. Yet despite any story hiccups, I can't stress how incredible it all looks.

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