Crysis 2 review.
Crytek's debut on the consoles leaves the PC fanbase unharmed and provides a cool experience for all players, no matter what platform.
Crysis 2 is a very strange game. The moment I started playing the campaign, I wanted to nitpick the hell out of it. I'm a huge fan of the original Crysis games for the freedom they provided. Every encounter could be approached differently, even in the more linear levels- the nanosuit allowed you to either go in guns blazing, or to kill everyone in stealth using cloak mode. Plus, you could perform other crazy tricks using strength and speed modes, and exploration was a big part of some of the levels. While the sequel certainly doesn't retain all of that freedom, it doesn't really matter.
Basically, it works like this- you step into a huge arena, filled with various equipment and booby traps you can set or use on your enemies, as well as suggestions to avoid more dangerous areas. These are called "tactical options" and the game will prompt you to go into your visor mode (the equivalent of the binoculars in the previous games) and mark them and/or analyze them and come up with a strategy you like. While this is a great concept and the implementation isn't bad either, it has a few flaws. One, what's the point of asking you to mark them instead of just showing them on the screen instantly? Two, sometimes you're asked to look at these while in the middle of a firefight, so what's the point? I'm too busy shooting stuff. Anyhow, these tactical options are a pretty nice way of telling you where stuff is and making each encounter unique and more enjoyable.
The levels themselves are more streamlined than the most sandboxy moments of Crysis, however they very rarely get as linear as, let's say, the alien ship from the original game. It's hard to define that golden medium Crytek has achieved, but I often found myself a bit lost in most of the levels. No kidding. On subsequent playthroughs, you'll encounter passageways that you never thought were there, jump over buildings you previously thought were invisible walls, and so on. It can be quite surprising. It's more like Deus Ex linear (at least in terms of individual levels) than Call of Duty linear, if you know what I mean. I loved the usage of New York as the setting- you visit many of the Big Apples landmarks, and the jibber-jabber about the new "concrete jungle" in a Crytek game now makes sense.
Let's talk about suit modes. The original had four- armor, strength, speed and cloak. Armor was your "neutral" mode- you regained suit energy if you weren't getting shot, and it basically acted as a second health bar. The sequel only has three, and only REALLY has two. You've got armor, power and cloak modes. Power is the new "neutral" mode, and it's basically a combination of strength and speed modes. Those two modes have been completely contextualized. For example, if you lightly tap the jump button, you'll perform a small jump. If you hold it down for a bit, you'll jump higher, but it'll drain some of your suit juice. Sprinting always requires energy, which is unthinkable in Crysis 1, since sprinting ensured a safe and quick way out of danger. Here, it's just fine, since the maps are smaller. The only two modes you'll have to manage yourself are cloak and armor. They are mostly unchanged. You don't reload or walk as fast with A completely new thing is the ability to upgrade your nanosuit using alien juice, which you'll collect from defeated Ceph. You can still mod your weapons with various add ons, although there are some strange limitations in the campaign- I could put a silencer on my Grendel in multiplayer, but couldn't do the same in the campaign. Why not?
Story is surprisingly strong in Crysis 2. The disappointing thing is the fact that there are almost no returning characters from Crysis 1 and Warhead, not even cameos. The ones that do return are quite important to the plot, though. I don't think anyone expected anything from the storyline, but hiring a professional writer (Richard K. Morgan) was the right thing to do. It touches on familiar sci-fi themes, and is overall pretty cool, don't want to spoil anything. It's a shame that it feels more like a reboot than a continuation, though.
Every modern FPS has a multiplayer with persistent stat tracking and unlocks, and Crysis 2 is no different. Long story short- it's a CoD clone. There are six modes available, strangely some of them must be unlocked through leveling up. The list is pretty standard- TDM, crash site (equivalent of headquarters in CoD), standard FFA deathmatch (very strange), and a few variations of capture the flag. The PC version has dedicated servers, however the game still insists on putting you into very console-esque lobbies and as such you vote on one of two maps randomly chosen by the game. There's 50 levels, supposedly an equivalent of "prestige" from CoD, weapons and attachments to unlock, 3 perks, need I say more? Actually, the nanosuit is a big part of the multiplayer. It's probably the only thing that makes Crysis 2 stand out in the MP department. You can use both cloak and armor modes, especially the first one seems controversial. Perks are divided up into 3 categories, each falls into every suit mode. You also level up each suit mode separately, and that determines how many and which perks you can unlock. Killstreaks aren't customizable, instead they're map dependent, meaning some maps will give you those awesome offensive rewards, and others will give you garbage like a nanosuit disrupter for 5 kills. A very strange conceptual choice, but I guess they were trying to stand out. You also need to physically collect dog tags of killed players to gain the killstreak (there is a perk that auto-collects them for you), which discourages campers and snipers, but really makes those playstyles invalid, and that's not good when we're talking about a game that's supposed to give you freedom. Oh, and by the way- guess who made the multiplayer mode? Crytek UK, previously known as Free Radical Design, the makers of... Haze. Yeah.
There's some weird stuff about the PC version of the game. You can't manually adjust each setting, instead you're given 3 presets along with resolution and v-sync settings. There is a mod that allows you to change everything individually, but it's sad that Crytek didn't include it in the full game. There is no DX11 support, not even DX10 support, which was present in Crysis 1, day 1, and that was 3.5 years ago. Still, the game looks great, and runs great on the same rig I built when Crysis 1 was the shit. The sequel probably looks better than the original, although it's certainly not the breakthrough that it's predecessor was. The console versions, however, prove that technical limitations ridiculed by console fanboys to this day are the exact reason you won't see such great graphics on your 360 or PS3. I played a bit of the PS3 version, and the framerate was inconsistent, graphics smudgy, and the UI was of odd proportions. Once again, the PC is the real deal for a Crytek game.
Overall, I'd recommend Crysis 2. The singleplayer took me about 7 hours to complete, and it offers tons of replay value, simply because it's fun. There's a ton of collectibles to hunt down as well, for all your achievement needs. The online is also nice, but only if you treat it as a nice bonus. And finally, I have to say this- although I enjoy Crysis 2 immensely, there's a part of me that wishes Crytek never made the changes they did. I would really love a return to the very style of the original Crysis, and a return to the tropical jungle.