Maximum Review, engaged.
I must state upfront that I don't talk about the multiplayer, I did try it, but didn't have enough fun to stop me playing the campaign.
Crysis is a game that is perhaps more notorious for utter ridiculous hardware requirements rather than the actual content of the game. My biggest hurdle with the original game was the controls, they were needlessly complicated and made everything about the game far more frustrating than it needed to be. Crysis 2 tackles that issue head on and completely revamps the controls, no doubt the need for it to work on a gamepad being mandatory had a hand in that. As a result, Crysis 2 controls far better than its predecessor and lets you enjoy the fantastic shooter underneath all the great graphics.
When it comes to visuals, Crysis 2 is not the great leap forward that the original was back in 2007, but it is still an incredibly good looking game. The lighting is largely the reasons for this, it does go a bit over the top in places, in particular when you’re coming out of a building when the game throws immense bloom at you. The lighting gives everything a realistic look and really sells the setting of a real world city. There are the odd rough edges here and there and level of detail pop ins can get annoying, but they are very minor complaints overall.
If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, then you might want to catch up on the story because Crysis 2 makes no effort to clue in new players. The story isn’t grand enough that this is a huge problem, but it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with the basics before jumping in. The single player campaign’s length will differ dramatically depending on how you utilise the suits various abilities (which I’ll get to in a second), my first run clocked in at just under six hours on the normal difficulty setting.
As I said before, the controls in Crysis 2 are the best improvement from the original. Everything is mapped brilliantly to the controller; all it takes to do anything is the touch of a single button. The suit offers a wide variety of abilities, invisibility and armour are mapped to the bumpers, visor abilities to the d-pad and agility (sprint and jump) are passive abilities that use suit energy as you use them. This gives you a degree of control that is hard to convey in words, but it’s easily the game’s biggest strength.
The campaign is set entirely in New York City, which feels very linear in comparison to the jungle setting of the original. You still get to see plenty of stunning environments though, the sheer devastation conveyed in the set pieces is quite incredible and manages to nail the feel of an alien invasion actually happening. The linear design may be disappointing to some, but there’s always more than one way to handle any particular encounter. It’s a shame that there isn’t the option to discover these for yourself though, you now have a tactical visor that will highlight things like weapons, ammo and strategic approaches, you’re only forced to use it in a handful of encounters but there’s nothing to stop you using it all time, which gives you a significant advantage over your enemies.
The nano suit can also be upgraded, the alien enemies will drop nano catalyst which can be used to enhance the suit’s abilities. These are a great idea, but the system feels shockingly shallow, there are 4 separate ability trees and you can only have one ability per tree equipped at once. The main problem is that for three out of the four trees, the first ability you gain is hands down the best out of the lot and it’s the cheapest one to buy which essentially removes the motivation to fights the aliens. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it makes the game very easy in a lot of ways as you can skip encounters quite easily. These upgrades also carry over into higher modes, which is actually a good thing due to the lack of any real difficulty structure.
The core shooting in Crysis 2 is really nothing more than you’d expect from a first person shooter released in 2011. It’s certainly a cut above the run-of-the-mill crowd, the shooting is very responsive and the weapons are really satisfying to use. If there’s one bad thing about the shooting it’s that there’s not a whole lot of variety to the weapons. You have pistols, assault rifles, sub-machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and shotguns (which I didn’t use once in the whole game) all of which can be customised with attachments that you find throughout the game. Once you pick up a gun that has say, a reflex sight and a shotgun attachment, you permanently have those attachments whenever you pick up that weapon again. These also carry over into repeat play throughs just like the suit upgrades.
When playing on the higher difficulties, you appreciate all of these upgrades really fast. It’s disappointing that the game is as shallow as it is, when you consider how you progress through the game earning new weapons and suit upgrades, the only things your enemy gets are insane damage buffs. The A.I. on the enemies is pretty terrible also, they really don’t react well if you choose to hold up and take them out from the same position; they just move around randomly and often get stuck in animation loops when they come up against an object. Which as you can imagine, makes the game pretty easy, using the invisibility of the suit also makes it super easy to just skip entire battles or stealth kill your way through it. On the one hand, I’m tempted to criticise that aspect, but on the other you are doing exactly what you’re supposed to do and that is making use of the suits abilities as best you can. But it certainly feels a little cheap in some areas.
Crysis 2 feels like such a different game than its predecessor did, I only got about half way through the first game before the cumbersome controls broke the experience entirely. The fact that Crysis 2 handles that issue so well is what makes it such an improvement, but the style of the game is different. The first game offered a lot of freedom, whereas Crysis 2 only offers the illusion of freedom. That being said, it’s still a very entertaining shooter that embraces its unique gameplay mechanics and uses them to maximum effect.