There have been few games with as big an impact as Crysis. Billed as the game that would not be properly playable until years after its release, it’s a benchmarking tool we still use to this day. And while it didn’t offer the most unique gameplay, it at least delivered a truly open world shooter in a truly lush and destructible environment.
Which, we’re sad to say, does not work as descrption of Crysis 2. It is linear, lacking in anything unique, and it is no way the PC-pushing game that we’d been hoping for. We’re not saying it’s bad... but it’s far from an ideal PC experience.
What has New York ever done?
We will say one thing for the game – it’s got a brutal setup. New York’s the site of a stealthy alien invasion by way of a curious plague that’s afflicting residents, and it’s your job to go into a closed off New York and rescue the only scientist that can save the day. You start out as a grunt, but along the way you get upgraded to a nanosuit soldier, shot at by aliens and humans alike, and knocked out an awful lot.
You’ll also get to see a lot of 9/11-esque shots of collapsing buildings, which probably tug on the heartstrings of gung-ho Americans a lot more than local gamers. Nonetheless, CryEngine 3 does deliver a pretty convincing dust cloud, so more power to the devs.
Crytek made a lot of noise about calling New York the urban jungle during the game’s pre-release hype-phase, and the company’s half delivered on that. It’s really only hurt by comparison to, of all things, the first Crysis – which delivered an actual jungle – that Crysis 2 starts to look run of the mill linear. Crysis may not have been perfect, as we’ve noted, but it’s true 360 degrees of openness delivered some great gaming moments that resonate with us today – and they’re moments that only we are going to have experienced.
Crysis 2, on the other hand, funnels you into seemingly open environments which are fun enough, but not really open, either. These encounters can be a lot of fun, don’t get us wrong, but they’ll never deliver the some unique kick from the game’s predecessor.
However, there’s more to the game than the setting. The real star is arguably the Nanosuit you wear, which delivers superspeed, the strength to leap vast distances, boosted armour, and stealth capabilities. Matched with your choice of effective weaponry (and Crysis 2 may well boast the single most satisfying shotgun in all of gaming), the way you employ your suit, and how you tackle each encounter, does deliver a lot of freedom. However, it also holds your hand, pointing out to you tactical options in each phase of the game. EA may promise that you can be the weapon, but you never feel as bad-arse as you do in the first game.
And here’s where we whine about the consolification of PC games. It’s a familiar refrain, but it’s rarely been stated just how much impact the limited console architecture has on game design as when Cevat Yerli spoke about the topic just prior to the release of Crysis (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVsT4D2_VTI). You can watch it, but the gist is this – there’s simply not enough RAM to deliver an open world like Crysis – you have to stream the levels.
When you understand this, you understand why Crysis 2 has moved to an urban setting, and you understand so many of the decisions that have influenced the game’s story. By having a viral contagion, you can justify having entire streets blocked off by roadblocks and checkpoints. It all channels the action into paths that force you to take a certain amount of time; enough time for the next bit of open encounter area to load.
The urban environment also means you can justify having far less destructible terrain, and makes it far more easier to set up for scripted events along game checkpoints you know players are going to have to pass. It is an absolutely sensible developer shortcut, but it’s also what stops Crysis 2 from being half as good as a dedicated PC title.
And don’t get us started on the strange graphics setup the game boasts – you can pretty much only choose from Gamer, Advanced and Hardcore, which is... lame. In the extreme. Combine that with some serious issues with ATI Crossfire, which cause image flickering that makes the game almost unplayable (a patch is coming), and our review experience was a touch meh. We have played the game on single-card setups, and it looks fine though. Not as good as the original, though, it must be said.
The nanosuit features heavily in the game’s CoD-inspired multiplayer, too. For some, this is a real winner, but for us, it simply acerbates what is becoming a recurring issue in games on any platform – spawning. Modern Warfare 2 featured some truly horrendous spawn issues, and even our favourite Bad Company 2 can have some spawn problems, but combine bad spawn locations with the ability to cloak and you have a singularly frustrating experience.
Get around that, and there’s a range of hooks – there are classes to customise, suit powers to play with, and weapons to unlock. It’s a rich experience, but an at times uneven one given how many different tactics and abilities can come into play even in the one session.
And that’s a statement that pretty much sums up the game. It’s not bad, but nor is it going to stop us from playing Bad Company 2 any time soon.