Review by sein

"Crysis 2: much more than just a pretty face"

Crysis 2 is a first person shooter that manages to significantly distinguish itself from the rest of the lot in several ways. It's also a very very pretty game. I'm inclined to agree with the popular opinion that Crysis 2 is the best looking console game to date. It's bursting with visual flair, occasionally extreme game play situations and dramatic music that present a rather generic story of an alien take over of a large metropolis that's been told a multitude of times (often better and with only a fraction of the resources) yet manages to stay compelling.

It doesn't play half bad either. In no small part thanks to a not-so-gimmicky nanosuit that the protagonist dons, and how it's various functions are implemented seamlessly into the game play. With it the player is given many of the extraordinary abilities one would expect a power suit of this sort to grant (i.e. enhanced strength, speed/agility, resilience to damage, regenerative healing, enhanced vision etc.) That said, my compulsion to act and feel like a bad-ass super soldier at the get go (which was further fed by a neat little intro-CGI movie that seems to over exaggerate the nanosuit's toughness), was staved quite quickly. That is once the reality sunk in of just how limited the suits capabilities actually are. If you're expecting to be able to jump multiple stories high, pick up vehicles and throw them dozens of feet, or be a veritable walking tank, then expect to be disappointed. The reality is that the abilities granted by the nanosuit (except for the ability to kick vehicles around and cloak) are not so different from the default abilities generally synonymous with not just first-person shooters but action games in general. A large majority of the ones I've played, by default, have inexplicably (and usually without explanation) allowed the ability to jump higher than should be realistically possible for a human, withstand a multitude of bullets before dying, or regenerate health automatically without the need for health items (‘cough' F.E.A.R.). In this regard, the nanosuit practically breaks down each one of these normally unexplained abilities and provides a logical reason for them. My point is that I never truly felt like my character was that powerful but rather just barely had a significant edge over the enemy. Even with the cool armor ability (which allows for increased resistance to bullets and explosions) nanosuit equipped Alcatraz (our protagonist) didn't seem that much more resilient to damage than many of the regular human characters I've played in other shooters. More often than not death can and will come quickly if you don't act fast enough. On top of that the intricate graphical realizations of the suits powers (via some impressive CGI, and a talking HUD ) and the scientific explanations behind them are impressive, yet still feel like fluff (albeit very impressive fluff).

The single most redeeming function of the suit that changes the name of the game is the cloaking ability. This is the primary element that keeps Crysis 2 from devolving into your typical run-and-gun fps. It's your ability to cloak at will (and for an increasingly significant amount of time as you gain a couple of key upgrades) that allows you to truly tackle almost every combat situation in a variety of ways. It is made very clear from the start via tactical options present on your HUD, and nice wide open arena-like venues (some with multiple paths) that you are given multiple ways to approach most combat situations; whether it be via stealth, straight on assaults, taking advantage of flanking positions, or using various strategically placed weapons/vehicles/turrets. Yet, it quickly becomes apparent (especially in later parts of the game) that none of these tactical options would be nearly as viable if it weren't for the ability to cloak. To further give the game its edge (and even further distinction from typical FPS) is the necessity for strategic and conservative usage of your nanosuit powers. This is primarily due to a significantly limited and self-replenishing power reserve (represented by a power meter on your HUD). Practically every action that doesn't involve basic movement drains your nanosuit power meter, even sprinting. In addition, using powers simultaneously, like sprinting while cloaked, will drain it even quicker. Move slowly (or better yet crouch and move) and it depletes significantly slower. This in itself is obviously a balancing factor to keep the player from being too powerful and it works quite well, and rarely feels like a blatant handicap. After I got the hang of it, taking a group of enemies out by tactfully cloaking , coming out of cloak to pick off an enemy with my sniper rifle or melee attack then, shifting back into cloak before the enemy could pinpoint me was always satisfying and exhilarating. It's during these moments that I truly felt like a certified badass.

Even when combat turns into your basic fire fight or fight and flight gunplay it's still enhanced with much strategy thanks to the armor/fight/flee/cover/cloak mechanic. Not to mention a decent enemy A.I. An A.I. that will stalk you when you're cloaked if it thinks it saw you, has a feeling of your general location, and/or attempts to flank you and flush you out in fire fights. The level of the enemy's awareness of your presence is easily monitored via an awareness meter. Overall, combat proved to be a nice little ballet which was only tainted occasionally when I would turn a corner or look through my scope and see an enemy twitching like the game was about to crash. As if it couldn't make up its mind where it wanted to go, or was trying to walk in a sort of 0 degree circle. When this would occur I would promptly end their suffering to avoid the ugliness of an otherwise polished combat experience. Yeah, so the A.I. can be glitchy at times, blatantly so. It's a wonder how this got past the testers but it's a minor issue and didn't significantly tarnish the experience for me. The assortment of weapons is pretty basic, including variations of handguns, machine guns, shotguns, rocket/grenade launchers, sniper-rifles, with a couple of miscellaneous weapon types thrown into the mix. To add a little variety almost every weapon has a set number of modifications like silencers, grenade launcher/shotgun attachments, scopes, etc. that you can find. These can be switched around to increase their effectiveness for a variety of situations.

My only complaint in regards to the weapons actually rolls over to my one general complaint involving the graphics, and it's a nit-picky one. As expected enemies will fly into the air when killed with explosive weapons, and get thrown back by a shotgun blast up close. However, except for maybe more blood/alien goo, a significant graphical variance in the effect of weapon force on enemies is minimal. This includes headshots, and alien enemies seem to have one preset death animation each (not including those by stealth melee kills). In addition, when enemies die they sort of fuse into the environment. So set off a grenade next to one of them and nothing happens, or shoot their lifeless body and the bullets go through and hit the ground or nothing at all. If there's one thing games like HALO, F.E.A.R, The Darkness, and BioShock have proven, it is that the fun of killing an enemy can be significantly varied (and thus more satisfactory....at least for me), and a dynamic physics engine that allows deceased enemies bodies to react to the battlefield even after they're already dead just makes the fun of battle more visceral. The icing on the cake would have been graphic damage to varying body parts or at least when pulling off a head shot. I know that being critical about this may seem morbid of me and is of insignificant consequence as far as the game play goes. However it is significant for me, and tends to make the gunplay and environments seem a little static.

Nitpicking aside the game is gorgeous. Lighting effects abound are remarkable and compliment the vast shadows cast by the trees and buildings of the concrete jungle that is the New York City landscape you'll be fighting in and underneath the entire span of the game. The detail and obvious time put into the number of randomly placed items like flyers, garbage bags, etc. littered throughout the environments is at times impressive. Much of it can even be picked up and tossed, which however doesn't serve any practical purpose. Still it's nice to know it's not all fused into the environment. New York City in its ravaged demilitarized/alien occupied form is also represented quite impressively. Overall, environments and locales are fresh and varied enough to keep from being boring and blending together. Texture work is good, especially on NPC's, enemies, and weapons, and are only contrasted by some not so detailed textures in the environment and the ‘'fuzzy'' shadows cast by most objects. I guess these could be possible signs of some of the shortcuts developers had to take in order to push this level of graphical power out of a console. Still unless you get really close you won't notice (if you even care for that matter) because it all looks pretty regardless. Explosion effects are nice, probably some of the best I've seen in a game. Everything ran quite smoothly for me, with only some noticeable drops in the frame rate when things got really crazy. Enemy design is pretty generic though, soldiers and mercenaries look as they should (not much variety can be had there) but the alien design is a bit of a disappointment. One alien enemy type in particular looks like it was ripped straight from the Halo series. There are a couple of exceptions (my favorite being the oversized ED-209-like alien walker), but to me they came across as your typical xenomorphs in armor. Not to say they aren't well animated and detailed but they are very forgettable.

As I mentioned before, the plot and setting on a base level are pretty generic. However, things stay interesting, thanks to the beautiful graphics, the nanosuit factor, dramatic music (that seems to make everything that happens while its playing seem important), the mystery surrounding the nanosuit (as it is slowly revealed via comm. transmissions while on the field, and the many convoluted memory flash backs), and the overlapping conflict surrounding the alien aggressors and the other factions involved. There are a couple of twists (one I saw coming the other not so much). The single player campaign took me close to 13 hours to complete. However, I died often, explored the environments thoroughly and found myself purposely replaying checkpoints just to tackle a particular enemy encounter a different way. After I beat the main game on normal mode, I played it through on hard mode. Thus there was a moderate level of replay value to be had. Even more if one wants to find all of the collectibles which unlock your typical art/movie galleries.

Crysis 2 is one of the most worthwhile FPS games to come out this year. I paid near full price for it and am satisfied. I came for the hype and eye candy and stayed for the unique and satisfying game play, even multiplayer (a rarity for me). Crysis 2 is worth a go for anyone who considers them self to be, at the least, a casual first person shooter enthusiast.

Multiplayer

This review (and score) is based primarily on the single player campaign. The relatively short time I've spent in multiplayer (roughly 5 hours total) is only enough to form a base opinion, not a solid one. Truth-be-told my interest in the online competitive fps multiplayer experience in general is very limited. However, there is no doubt I will give Crysis 2's another go in the near future. This is mainly due to a unique multiplayer experience which is in no small part thanks to the nanosuit. It appeals to someone like me who has very little interest in the standard fps competitive multiplayer format (i.e. Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc.) These are the main pros and cons that stood out for me.

Pros:

-Suit powers (even cloaking) can be used in multiplayer, which keeps this from being like your typical Call of Duty type fps multiplayer experience. The standard leveling/perk system found in many fps is present, but many upgrades apply to improving your suit abilities, which made them, feel less like filler to me. I also like how the effectiveness of some upgrades/abilities is relative to the other players' suits and the upgrades/abilities they've gotten. It's hard to put into words why, but having these perks/upgrades set within the context of the nanosuit(s) makes them feel logical (compared to other games of the like) and thus more inspired me to grind to the next level.

-Levels are roomy and multi-leveled which compensate for the suit powers well, and help dilute that ‘'fighting in an arena'' feel that I dislike about these type of games. The combination of these two elements kept things very unpredictable and I felt as a non competitive-multiplayer-fps-regular allowed me to be on equal footing with those that were more experienced in this regard. To say the least things often got very exciting.

Cons:

-I occasionally experienced significant lag, and less occasionally got dropped from games. It wasn't enough to ruin the experience yet occurred more often than in most other games.

-Hit detection seemed off at times leading to some very frustrating deaths. For example, I would be standing right in front of another player unloading my weapon, and nothing, yet they fired what seemed like a only a few times and I would die. The replay camera, showed otherwise however as they apparently shot at me way more than I saw. I'll be the first to admit that compared to many my skills during multiplayer, may be sub-par (average at best), but this apparently also was due to the lag. Overall not the smoothest online experience I've had.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/01/11

Game Release: Crysis 2 (US, 03/22/11)


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