Crysis 2 (Single-player) Review

The sequel to the computer-owning Crysis of 2007, Crytek has followed that graphical masterpiece with Crysis 2. No longer limited to the PC, Crysis 2 deviates from many of the core traits that made the original so memorable. Gone are the advanced graphics options, the lush, open jungles, and much of the sandbox-style gameplay of the original. Crysis 2 streamlines the experience, tossing the main character Alcatraz into the spacious yet still confined streets of New York City.

Setting

Taking place four years after the events of the original Crysis, the population of New York City is being infected by alien spores. The player is cast as a U.S. marine as part of a squad being sent to find one Dr. Nathan Gould to help contain the crisis. Nothing goes as planned, however, as the vessel is sunk and Alcatraz washes up on the shore of the Hudson River. A sequence of events leads to Alcatraz becoming the owner of one of the nanosuits from the original Crysis and being the only marine left to find Gould.

Your average city street. Note those side streets are dead ends.

While the entire game takes place in the New York City area, the stages manage to remain varied. Various sequences include streets, overpasses, train tunnels, rooftops, and a high-security compound. Unfortunately, most of these settings do not allow for the tactical freedom provided by the open jungle of the original Crysis. City streets and tunnels, while larger than one might expect, still focus the direction of travel and block off many opportunities for cloaking around enemies and sneaking to tactical positions before ambushing various foes. The second half of the game provides more open spaces, including the above mentioned compound, that allow equally for stealthy assassinations or run-and-gun heroics; however, it does not compare to the sandbox feel of the original.

Environments are well-done, with the graphical excellence expected of the series. Voice acting is also surprisingly good, with most characters voiced to fit somewhat stereotypical archetypes (such as the military commander expecting to be obeyed immediately). There are also many nice environmental touches that show attention to detail; many common objects are usable (such as monitors and water coolers), toll booths reward the player with a speeding ticket when passed through while sprinting, and in one case a metal detector sounds when entered. Lighting is also superb; shadow effects are well done in most cases. Rumor has it that there is a DX11 patch coming soon to the PC that should also unlock a menu for advanced graphics settings, further improving the already great visuals.

That little bug on the right cast that huge shadow on the left.

There are a few quirks, however. Entering cloaking mode inexplicably reduces the volume of ambient sounds (very noticeable in high volume areas, such as a generator room). Manually adjusting the field of view on the PC version causes wall clipping more quickly than it should. In some cases the output of sound from a particular location (such as a person speaking) would wobble between ears of the headset instead of gradually fading between them, as if the game couldn’t reliably determine the direction from which it was coming. These issues are relatively minor and neither detract from gameplay nor reduce the impressiveness of most of the visuals.

On top of visual quirks, Crysis 2 has a campaign that feels like a generic modern shooter with a Crysis theme textured on top. Often between stages Alcatraz will inexplicably travel blocks across the city to a completely different area. The original Crysis either made the player walk or provided story-driven reasons for travel (such as helicopter transport). On top of that, Alcatraz seems to follow orders from anyone communicating over the radio. With a little bit of polish, it would be plausible that Alcatraz had no choice but to do anything he could to stop the aliens; instead, it seems like the story just changes direction with the bare minimum required of a plot hook. In addition, the game unfortunately follows the trend of the modern shooters (including the original Crysis) in being far too short; my final playtime clocked in at seven hours one minute.

Crysis 2 Playtime

This is far too short for an awesome game.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Crysis 2 has remained more or less in-tact from the original, becoming a bit more streamlined in the process. Strength and speed modes need no longer be manually selected; there is now a sprint button that uses energy for speed. Likewise, pressing and holding the appropriate buttons (jump, melee attacks) applies strength to their effects. Conversely, armor mode is no longer a passive default setting. Armor mode must now be manually activated and drains energy while it is active; the same process applies to cloaking.

Crysis 2 also introduces a rudimentary cover system. When crouching behind a barrier or standing near a corner, Alcatraz will (sometimes) automatically take cover. When behind cover, the aim button (Mouse 2 on PC) causes Alcatraz to lean around (or above) cover. Unfortunately, it is not always apparent that cover has been taken until Alcatraz will not move out of cover without purposefully backing away. Attempting to strafe around the corner leaves the player rooted in place leaning.

Nanosuit upgrades

Crysis 2 introduces an in-game currency (nano catalyst) that allow the purchase of upgrade modules for the nanosuit. These modules have a wide variety of effects, ranging from reducing the energy required for specific suit functions (mobility, cloak, armor) to providing visual tactical information (the ability to see enemy routes, the ability to see tracers from weapons fire) and granting access to additional abilities (a ground pound ability usable while midair). This currency works very well, and even the cheaper upgrades are extremely useful. Useful enough, in fact, that the later upgrades often feel lackluster considering their cost.

On the PC version of Crysis 2 there is also a significant bug present with nano catalyst: seemingly at random they will either not be accumulated or will be reset to zero. This can cause great frustration when trying to save up to 16000 catalyst for the largest upgrade, and will presumably be fixed in an upcoming patch.

Module upgrades - note that all of my catalyst is gone.

Weapons

Crysis 2 has an excellent assortment of weapons, including multiple pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, a sniper rifle, a grenade launcher, and a machine gun. Unlike the original Crysis, however, ammunition is plentiful for any weapon. Because the main enemies are aliens that don’t fight with conventional weapons for much of the game, crates that refill generic ammunition and grenades abound. This often leads to picking the best weapons available and using them throughout almost the entire game; no longer must the powerful sniper rifles be discarded due to a lack of ammo.

Generic ammo crate.

Often overlooked in the original Crysis, the melee attack is a legitimate weapon in Crysis 2. Simply hold the melee attack button to execute a powerful attack fueled by the nanosuit’s strength that often fells enemies in a single strike. There is neither switching to a melee weapon nor activating strength mode required; simply press the melee attack button or hold it for the power attack. While ineffective against heavies, this attack is very useful against lesser aliens and the human foes that make up the majority of enemies, and should be frequently used in close combat opportunities.

In Crysis 2, some issues exist with mechanics involving weapons. One problem that was encountered throughout the game was the inability to melee, usually after reloading a game after death. There was simply no response to pressing the melee button, and the game would just randomly start allowing it again after a period of time. This made subsequent deaths more likely, particularly if close-combat tactics were employed without realizing this limitation. Another frustration is the inability to switch weapons during semi-scripted sequences (such as when the screen is displaying “Press ‘F’ to look” yet character control is retained). While this may seem trivial, some of these sequences precluded some of the more difficult encounters, and this time could be better spent switching weapons and collecting ammo.

Difficulty

Due in part to (presumably) the release of the game on consoles as well as the ammo crates noted above, Crysis 2 is a fairly easy first-person shooter experience on the PC. Aliens and humans alike fall victim to headshots very quickly, particularly if executed via the sniper rifle. A near-limitless supply of ammo that can one-shot most generic enemies (some heavier enemies pose a bit more of a challenge) leads to simply rushing through fights instead of picking apart tactical opportunities.

That guy just got one shot.

That guy just got one shot.

The latter half of the game provides a bit more of a challenge, pitting the player against more enemies with some sort of red shielding and heavy bad guys much more frequently. These enemies, particularly in large groups, do an excellent job of pinning Alcatraz down, making it difficult to pick off the smaller aliens behind cover. Besides the inclusion of a couple of large mechanical enemies called pingers (similar to Star Wars AT-STs), Crysis 2 has no more difficult enemies and no real boss fights. Also included in the game are a couple of trivially easy button-press sequences (press ‘F’ to catch Alcatraz from falling off a ramp, then press ‘W’ or ‘Mouse 1’ or ‘Mouse 2’ to crawl, etc.) that feel designed for a console audience yet seem utterly pointless except to catch the player napping. Overall, the normal difficulty of this game feels toned down to appeal to a broader audience.

Final Thoughts

After the technological marvel that was the original Crysis, the sequel ended up being a bit of a let-down. PC gamers, upon whom the series was built, were put second place to console gamers with a streamlined, easier experience with a generic campaign reminiscent of many modern shooters. Crysis 2 also suffers from more than its share of frustrating bugs that can cause issues in combat as well as lost currency. Despite these flaws, however, the nanosuit remains as fun to manipulate as ever and the FPS mechanics of the game are solid enough to complement the game’s visuals.

Overall, I would rate the game a 7.9; it solidly stands on its own, but the alienation of PC gamers as well as the limited improvements (and, in some ways, detractions) from the original cause it to lose much of the appeal it could have had.

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