Todays’ first-person shooters usually fall into two broad categories. You have the Call Of Duty wannabes trying to take the place of your “to-go” online shooter, complete with embarrassingly short single-player campaigns. The few which actually try to cater to the single-player crowd pack in tacked on multiplayer modes that no one plays. Crysis 2, however, manages to hit a sweet spot, offering a meaty single-player campaign, which is twice as long as most other first-person shooters, and a buggy but rather enjoyable multiplayer mode. It also manages to live up to the standards set by its predecessors, while offering gameplay that’s familiar, but different enough to distinguish itself from them.
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Moving away from the natural environments of Crytek’s previous games, Crysis 2 takes place entirely in New York City during a massive alien invasion. As expected, it’s pretty chaotic; towering skyscrapers come crumbling down in clouds of smoke and dust, freeways are devastated by earthquakes right under your feet, and ominous alien structures regularly appear throughout the city. The level of destruction gets worse as the invasion progresses and Crytek does a brilliant job of putting you right in the middle of it all.
There’s usually always something happening in the distance while you are trying to complete the next mission objective, making you feel like you’re part of a much larger conflict. Military helicopters engage alien craft in the sky, hapless soldiers and mercenaries fight off alien infantry units, and paranoid conspiracy theorists babble over radio. There are times when the game prompts you to use a “look something awesome is happening over there” key, but for the most part, the first-person experience is spot on and almost everything in the game, including some brilliant scripted scenes, happen from your viewpoint.
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You play as Alcatraz, a standard issue army grunt who is reluctantly given control of the nano suit, an adaptive combat suit capable of turning an ordinary soldier into a super-soldier. The story takes a while to get going, but surprisingly, is better than I expected. However, characterization isn’t exactly Crysis 2’s strongest point. Alcatraz is just another mute protagonist who keeps getting ordered around by others throughout the game. In fact, he is nothing more than just a random guy who gets to pilot the nano suit, which ironically has more personality than any character in the game. The nano suit was a valuable tool in the first Crysis, but here it is the game’s core. You can even argue that it is the chief protagonist of the game as the plot and the gameplay both revolve around it.
There are subtle changes to the way the suit handles compared to the previous Crysis games. All of the suit’s abilities depend on a constantly recharging energy meter. However, the power mode is always on by default so you can sprint and power jump without having to activate it manually. The cloak and armour modes return and are essentially the bread and butter of Crysis 2’s gameplay. Cloak allows you to be invisible to enemies as long as you have energy reserves, while armour makes your temporarily resistant to damage. Much of the gameplay revolves around balancing energy levels with the abilities. Although you can always resort to conventional running and gunning using the highly customizable and extremely satisfying weaponry, it’s not always advisable. Enemies can call in for backup, making encounters longer and tedious.
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While Crysis 2 isn’t as open ended as the original game, it still gives you enough room to breathe. The levels are linear, but there are always plenty of ways to engage enemies or even avoid them altogether. A handy visor makes it easy to scan a combat zone for tactical options, mark weapon caches and identify enemies. It always helps to survey an area before jumping into combat, especially on harder difficulties. You can unlock various upgrades for the nano suit by collecting nano catalysts left behind by dead aliens. There’s also the Predator-like nano vision mode, which can be used to detect threats under low visibility conditions using heat signatures. So overall, there are quite a few tweaks and improvements to the way the game plays, but don’t expect the level of freedom offered by the original Crysis. Vehicles are also downplayed this time and are only useful when the game requires you to use them.
The biggest step back comes in the form of enemy AI. You’ll fight both human paramilitary forces as well as the alien invaders, but the AI for both is half-cooked. Enemy soldiers running into obstacles and getting stuck, failing to recognize enemies, and at worst, committing suicide with misplaced grenades is fairly common. Also it’s rather embarrassing to see battle-hardened mercs showing concern over a sniped comrade and coming out in the open to check on them only to get shot in the head themselves. After setting a high bar for enemy AI with the original Far Cry and Crysis, it’s somewhat of a disappointment. However, I must say that it doesn’t really break the game. It still remains suitably challenging and fighting the various types of alien invaders is a blast. I must also warn some folks that Crysis 2 is a bit of a slow burner and takes a good while to actually get going, but once it does, it doesn’t let up. So don’t expect it to win you over in the first few levels itself.
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It may not come as a surprise, but Crysis 2 is one of the best looking games in recent times. It’ll probably not leave you with the same reaction as the first time you saw day break in the original Crysis, but it’s still a very beautiful game. NYC looks amazing, especially the way sunlight bounces off the gleaming skyscrapers. The night levels are particularly impressive and even the interiors are packed with detail. Although you may come across some low resolution textures here and there, the level of visual polish is something that’s normally not seen in many games. Even minor effects such as the way suit abilities are represented and the way your HUD goes bonkers whenever you get knocked over go a long way in creating a believable environment. The sound also deserves special mention; the guns sound satisfyingly loud and the thumping orchestral score complements some of the epic sections of the game perfectly.
Multi-player review by Abhisheik Dahiya
Multiplayer is probably the best evolution of Call of Duty’s gameplay I have seen yet. While it does do a lot of things that Call of Duty does (perks, loadouts, killstreaks, etc), it also puts its own unique spin on it, so it never actually feels like a cheap clone. The fact that the game requires you to constantly juggle the cloak, armour and sprint powers while keeping an eye on your suit energy gives it a tactical nature of its own. And I absolutely love the fact that you actually have to pick up dog tags from dead enemies to use your kill streaks. Such a small change actually makes the entire game flow wonderfully and does a lot to minimize camping. To that mixture, add some wonderfully designed maps (which are admittedly ripped from the single player levels), and you have the recipe for possibly the surprise multiplayer hit of the year.
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But all of that comes with a few issues. For one, cheating is quite common on the PC version. Crytek shipped the retail game with very little in the form of anti-cheat measures. Worse, two weeks after release, neither of the updates has done anything to combat cheaters. On the PC, unless you play as a squad, the game doesn’t really prioritize playing with friends, so despite joining a game with your buddies, you will often end up on opposing sides. The game also suffers from some pretty bizarre hit detection. This isn’t an issue most of the time, but every now and then it does crop up and can be quite frustrating. But despite all that, I have sunk about 10 hours into the multi-player and am still hungry for more. That should tell you that the multiplayer is almost worth the price of admission alone.
In a year that seems to be packed with quality shooters, Crysis 2 manages to stand out among the crowd with its extremely entertaining single player campaign and enjoyable multiplayer modes. There are a few niggling issues with the multiplayer that need to be ironed out and the single-player AI falters at times, but overall, it’s a solid package that should please most FPS fans. It doesn’t really break new ground, but what it does, it does rather well. And did I mention it looks really good?