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Crysis 2 Review

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  • X360

It might not feel as special as its predecessor, but Crysis 2 is still a high-quality shooter, both alone or in multiplayer.

Crysis 2 doesn't lean too heavily on iconic NYC imagery, but yeah, the statue's in there.
Considering the company's past work, it's easy to be a little concerned about the direction Crytek's taking with Crysis 2. It's a game that's being released simultaneously on PC and consoles, shaking the folks that still think of the first game as a benchmark for technical graphics in modern video games. It loses the jungle setting for New York City and it ditches Koreans entirely, instead focusing more on the aliens that were widely thought to have been the weak part of the original Crysis. It also carries a heavier focus on multiplayer, with options and character progression that lift directly from the Call of Duty style that's become so popular over the last few years. If I had to guess, I'd say that there will be some Crysis purists that won't be able to come to terms with Crysis 2, and that's a real shame, because it takes some interesting turns along the way that help set it apart from the typical multiplayer shooter that seems to get released every few months.

There's a lot going on in Crysis 2's campaign, which takes the action into New York City. You begin the game as a normal US Marine named Alcatraz, who is deployed via sub to help out Prophet, the nanosuited team leader from the previous game. The sub insertion goes completely off the rails before the opening credits roll, and without getting too into the specifics, you quickly find yourself in a nanosuit of your own with the initial mission of extracting a doctor with vital research that will hopefully help stop the invasion of squid-like aliens that's currently tearing the city apart and infesting its inhabitants with spores. Along the way, much of the tension comes from a struggle between the Marines that seem to be there primarily to get as many uninfected civilians out of there as possible and a PMC called CELL, which seems almost singularly focused on taking you down. Then there's a further struggle inside of CELL between the head of the PMC's military arm that wants to murder you (to be fair, you do spend a large part of the game mowing down his men as if they were paper dolls) and the intelligence-focused special advisor who wants to obey the PMC's largest shareholder's demands to bring you back alive. The political intrigue isn't especially entertaining, and a lot of the drama emanates from watching or hearing about these bureaucrats and businessmen as they bicker with each other about the best way to handle the ongoing invasion.

That's not to say that the story is completely empty, but it means that the story doesn't start to reveal interesting things about the true state of things in this universe until the game is nearly complete, and even then, it isn't the easiest thing in the world to follow. Also, you should probably know that the game doesn't set up these characters or factions very well at all, and many of them are either key figures or directly related to key figures from the first Crysis... which didn't exactly have the most cohesive or interesting story in the world, either. Considering the way Crysis 2 leans on its past and the fact that console-only players haven't had a chance to play a Crysis game yet, it's surprising that there isn't some sort of "the story so far" introduction to help bring players up to speed on what Crysis is all about. But even if you remember what went down back on the Lingshan Islands, the plot of Crysis 2 isn't its strongest suit.

Unsurprisingly, Crysis 2's strongest suit is its suit. The powered armor you wear while playing the game grants you abilities that make you much more powerful than the average Marine. Alcatraz's suit is easy to use with its streamlined functions. You use the shoulder buttons on the controller to turn on either maximum armor or a Predator-style cloak. Neither mode is perfect and they only last until your suit energy runs out, at which point you'd be wise to take cover for a few seconds and let your power recharge. Armor lets you turn your current energy level into additional health, which will absorb the first few bullets, giving you more time to return fire. The cloak turns Crysis 2 into a stealth game. Since it doesn't make you completely invisible, enemies will still spot you if they get up close and look directly at you. So it's best to turn on the cloak, get behind a lone enemy, and stick him with your blade. But moving around drains energy faster than sitting still, so you'll usually need to find safe spots every 30 to 60 seconds to decloak and recover power before recloaking and moving forward. Also, any sort of gunfire or grenade tossing totally drains your energy and decloaks you, giving you an incentive to manually decloak (or perhaps switch over to armor mode) just before opening fire. The game is surprisingly good at making both abilities feel powerful without completely breaking the game, and the larger enemies you face later on, though not all that fun to fight, at least give you some targets that can't just be wiped out with one stealth melee attack.

In addition to turning on these two powers, there are also additional moves you can perform, each with their own energy cost. Running, for example, drains your meter. So does holding down the jump button, which gives you a power jump, or holding your breath while aiming down the sights of a sniper rifle. You can also power-up melee attacks to kick over portable toilets, and so on. There's also a visor mode that gives you a tactical assessment of the surrounding area. The game actually actively recommends that you pop into the visor every time you stumble onto a camp or other open, enemy-filled area. These are the parts that are most reminiscent of the previous Crysis, and you can tag enemies to get a constant view of where they are at any given time, making them easier to sneak up on. The game also highlights points of tactical interest, like spots to reload, good spots to snipe from, ledges that can be climbed, and so on. In a way, highlighting these points of interest feels like a bit much, like it's telling you the three different ways to approach any given situation. In practice, I mostly got into stabbing guys or, once that became repetitive, just cloaking and slipping past the entire encounter without firing a shot. Though you'll have to stop and recharge your energy pretty often through the beginning of the game, an upgrade system removes a lot of the game's stealth-based tension.

When you bring down aliens, a currency pops out of them that you can spend on suit upgrades. There are four sets of upgrades with three upgrades each, and you can only enable one upgrade per set. These do things like give you an air stomp, permitting crushing airborne attacks. But the most useful ones I selected made the suit's energy recharge more quickly and drain more slowly in stealth mode. With these on, you can hide for much longer, making it a lot easier to completely skip encounters, if that's your thing. Of course, you can't really run through these areas, so taking the slow approach to alien murdering got my playtime up to around eight hours on the default difficulty setting. If you take a more direct approach, I suspect that number could drop by a third or more. As in the previous games, weapons can be modified with different attachments, allowing you to add silencers, underbarrel shotguns, laser sights, and other items to your guns. Also, it might please you to know that any suit or weapon upgrades you unlock stick with you in subsequent playthroughs, so if you want to to tackle the hardest setting, you can lighten the load a bit by unlocking all of that stuff first on an easier difficulty.

The design of Crysis 2's campaign gives you the opportunity to play around with your enemies, if you like, but the game also has its tight corridor moments. At times, the levels feel like they're jerking back and forth between the small hallways and funnels of a Call of Duty game and the open areas of the first Crysis. It can make the action feel a bit disjointed.

Taking the nanosuit into an online match is surprisingly thrilling. Maybe I'm just surprised because the series' previous attempt was a dud, but Crysis 2's multiplayer effectively marries the power of your suit to the standard modes and styles of the recent Call of Duty games. You'll play modes like team deathmatch, capture the flag, and capture-and-hold variants, but a lot of it is freshened up by the ability to slap on your extra armor at the first sight or trouble or stalk around with your cloak running, hoping that it works on human players as well as it does against the AI (it doesn't). You'll also enable perks that fit into each of the three suit states, letting you don more powerful armor when your armor mode is enabled, giving you that same air stomp, settling down the recoil on your weapons, and so on. Also, the game handles the unlocking of those items in a smart way by breaking the experience points that you earn up across the armor, stealth and power (which is their name for the default state). As you level up stealth and complete challenges related to your currently equipped stealth perk, you'll earn bonuses and unlock more stealth options. Same deal for the other two modes.

The game also has killstreak bonuses in the classic form, granting you a support power like "maximum radar" for staying alive while downing the enemy repeatedly. The catch is that your kills only count toward that streak if you collect the dog tags that fall out of the enemies you kill. You can't steal other dog tags--they only appear when you get the kill--but it means you have to get out there and risk your neck to get those bonuses, by default. If you're a sniper that needs to stay out of the fray, or if you're far too lazy to retrieve those tags, one of the later perks you can unlock automatically collects tags for you. It's an interesting twist on the normal way first-person shooters are being built these days. Weapon attachments are unlocked in a similar way.

Speaking of unlocking, the big downside of Crysis 2's multiplayer is that it's very slow to open up to you. On one hand, it's probably for the best that you don't get into any of the teamwork-focused objective modes until you've spent a lot of time getting used to the way the suit works in simple team deathmatch games, but it'll still take hours before you get access to every ranked playlist. If you're playing with friends, you can always set up a private game and do whatever you like.

When Crysis was first released, it was one of those graphical wonders that could only be done on the PC--but not your PC. As time went on and more powerful parts became more widely available, running Crysis on its highest settings became trivial... but it was still pretty cool to see. It was a showpiece, even if you didn't especially like the game built into all of those great-looking trees. The sequel has been simultaneously released on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. As of this writing, I've only seen it on the 360. It looks fine, for the most part, with an unsteady frame rate being its most damning visual issue. The game gets choppy in some cases, whether you're playing alone or online. The game's best visual trick is light bloom, which makes the indoor-to-outdoor transitions look nice, but the game also does this a few different times, with each subsequent use of the trick being less and less impressive. Also, it's easy to see the level of detail popping back and forth between low and high textures, and some objects, like bushes or small posts, completely disappear if you get far enough away from them. In a game with cloaking, where you're constantly watching for another player to decloak in front of you, the vanishing objects get a little more aggravating than it would be in most other games. But that definitely doesn't mean that Crysis 2 looks terrible. Artistically, it's really nice, with good-looking environments and decent, albeit repetitive enemies. The lighting and shadows are well-done, also. But if you're coming to Crysis 2 expecting Crytek to raise the bar and blow you away all over again, you might be disappointed with the way the console versions perform.

Crysis 2's main theme is great, but most of the other music is pretty forgettable. Actually, I found most of the game's audio to be a little lackluster. The weapons lack any real punch, and though your human enemies have a variety of things to say, the aliens repeatedly hiss at you in a way that gets old quickly. Also, a lot of the dialogue throughout the story is delivered with odd inflections and accents that don't always fit the world. It's not quite to the level of Heavy Rain's stilted delivery, but it stuck out in multiple spots.

Crysis 2 is dragged down a bit by a lot of relatively minor issues, but the suit really saves it, making the action a lot more entertaining than it would be otherwise. I only felt the need to spend time picking apart the graphics in this review because of what the first Crysis represents--I figure that it's pretty likely that you'll want to know how this game stacks up to the open-world and high-tech legacy of its predecessor. Direct comparisons might not be terribly favorable if you hold the first game in high regard, but when removed from that context, there are a lot of great moments in Crysis 2. The suit abilities are easy and powerful, giving you just enough variety to let you deal with encounters in multiple ways. And though you'll recognize large parts of its multiplayer design and gameplay from, well, every other shooter released over the last three years, the suit abilities add enough of a new wrinkle to make Crysis 2 stand out in an incredibly crowded field. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
143 Comments
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Posted by monkyofdoom

Wow surprised at 4 stars for this.

Posted by RanchLizard

Thanks for the review, Jeff!

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Nice review, as always!

Posted by CaLe

I have it installing to my 360 right this moment. I just hope it's better than Homefront. I really enjoyed Richard Morgan's books so hopefully some of his work shows through in the game.

Posted by NumbThumb

Hmmm, not sure I'm sold on this now. Decisions, Decisions...

Posted by DeeGee

I was expecting three stars, so it's nice that I can be surprised.

Online
Posted by EgoCheck616

I have a PS3, but I'll wait to buy this until I build my new PC in June.
Great review.

Posted by JacDG

So Jeff, what do you REALLY think about this game? Just kidding, good review.
 
Anyway, it looks like something I might pick up tomorrow after school, even though I promised myself not to buy more than 5-6 games this year, the gamer and impulsive buyer in me is probably going to win..... again! I'm just worried that I might get sick of first person shooters, because I love the genre, but with me buying around two-three games FPS's a year, well I might get sick of them fast since they account for about 70% of my gaming time.

Posted by alternate

wow, scooped a lot of the big sites with an early review for a change.  Did they actually send you review code before the day of release this time ;-)

Posted by Jeffsekai

Awesome review, downloading Crysis 2 now CANT WAIT!!!! D:

Posted by RampageAssassin

I'm definitely picking this up on launch. Hopefully it's this weeks TNT.

Posted by Underachiever007

Called it.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

I kind of wish there would be a PC review. Much like with Bulletstorm, I feel like this game needs to be played on a PC. In the demo, Crysis 2 felt amazing on PC. It was quick, smooth, and precise. On 360, it was slow, unresponsive, and laggy as all hell. And it looks down right amazing at the maximum settings, but the 360 just looks "pretty good".

Edited by Seppli

How's the singleplayer level design? Mostly sandbox environments or predominantly corridor shooter-style maps?
 

 
The design of Crysis 2's campaign gives you the opportunity to play around with your enemies, if you like, but the game also has its tight corridor moments. At times, the levels feel like they're jerking back and forth between the small hallways and funnels of a Call of Duty game and the open areas of the first Crysis. It can make the action feel a bit disjointed.

Found it!
Posted by MachoFantastico

Hmm, might check out the PC version. The original games were fancy looking for sure, but rather dull games to play.

Posted by AuthenticM

I've never played the original Crysis, but my good friend has played both of them, and he says the level of improvement between the two games is very similar to the leap between Mass Effect 1 and 2. 
 
Also, I've seen the game on my friend's PC, completely max out, and it looks fucking insane. You should check it out Jeff.

Posted by notha

great news, was hoping this wouldn't suck

Posted by jozzy

Quicklook of the single player?

Edited by 01001011

Looks Good, not something I'll be buying for a console though.  

Edited by PhanThomas

Hmm, I am suprised about that "choppy framerate" bit. I have seen the game at my friends (he got an early copy) and it ran smoothly throughout. Suprisingly smooth!  So smooth that I wanted to cancel my PC-Pre-order. But I didn't ;-)
 
Also I think the weapon sounds are a thing of taste, because I really think they are powerful sounding.

Posted by MaFoLu

Still can't decide whether to pick this up...

Posted by chibacityblues

I had a lot of fun in the PC multiplayer beta. It ran great on my middle class pc (2x 3.6 ghz c2d, 4 gb ram, hd5850) and looked quite nice though not as good as C1 on my system.  
 
I just ordered it  - got it for just  £22.99 ($37.66).  

Posted by MysteriousBob

Huh? I didn't even know it was due to be released soon. Whatever. Its just a masturbatory aid for graphics fetishists.

Posted by RobertOrri

And all this time I thought Jeff was upgrading his PC to secretly play Crysis 2 on it...

Posted by Banzai_NL

Was hoping you had checked out the PC version too, at least for comparison sake. Sure, it's a safe bet that it'll look better but I would have loved some comparisons.

Posted by Seraphim84

Wow, this is a long review.  Glad to hear they didn't gimp the game and actually gave it some proper attention.

Posted by SomeDeliCook

I'll be honest, I checked out the leaked beta for this game. I never got into the first Crysis. I didn't even beat the demo. 10 minutes in I quit, uninstalled, and never thought about getting a Crysis game since. 
 
However, when I tried the leaked beta, after one hour, I uninstalled it, and decided to put down a pre order. The multiplayer demo completely put me off, but the single player seems really interesting to me. Picking this game up in an hour, can't wait to get off work tonight to actually play it.

Posted by Sin4profit

still on the fence with this game. i probably would have gotten it if it wasn't for the weird black screen i get when loading into the demo. 
Hope to see a quick look.

Posted by OtakuGamer

Please show us a quicklook this week, from the demo i was not impressed...at all. 

Posted by Animasta
@MysteriousBob said:
" Huh? I didn't even know it was due to be released soon. Whatever. Its just a masturbatory aid for graphics fetishists. "
it doesn't even look as good as crysis 1 does so I doubt it.
 
That's what Metro 2033 is for
Posted by Kinoro

This review doesn't address my main concern about this game.
There is no mention of how long/short it is. :(

Posted by Panpipe

 The game's best visual trick is light bloom, which makes the indoor-to-outdoor transitions look nice, but the game also does this a few different times, with each subsequent use of the trick being less and less impressive.


Nerd... anal... tendencies... over..taking.... 
 
UH. Isn't that HDR (High Dynamic Range) which is very similar to light bloom, but not the same? At least, that's what Valve have told me.
Edited by bybeach

Alright. first of all, I wish Jeff had played this on a PC. Right now I am playing Warhead on the PC and it is truly becoming that beautiful game they said it was,... That is, on the new machine I built. Pretty much like jeff's new Pc but a bit more. Does Crysis 2 equal the earlier Pc experiences, and they scaled between the now getting a bit long in the tooth Consoles and Computer? When Jeff speaks of using shoulder buttons....I just don't know. But I am pleased all can play this game I guess, and I would play on console definitely, if I had to. Right now I have it downloading from Steam.  
 
 concerning the story and background;They had to draw heavily from the older games for continuity, and although the aliens were by what he says were considered a weak point. I'm am so relieved we are not fighting Koreans and In NEW YORK F***ING CITY! Gawd, if stuff has to happen like that outside of the run of the mill MP pl. seem to hunger for these days, do Freedom fighters 2. Been some decent threads about just that recently. 
 
I'm glad the game reviewed well. I hope the suit functions are fully expressed as Jeff says, and are not dumbed down for button access too much. I think Full Armor was the default position solely. I am mildly surprised, but not really more, the numerical score was 4 out of 5, and more relieved I'm not reading  the MP carrying it primarily.. And thank you Jeff for getting this review out. Despite what I said at the beginning of my post, it is interesting to see how this game does on Consoles. But i suspect on the tech side side it will show much more depth then the limits of years ago, and if it is supporting a good game, then Crysis 2 will rock.
Online
Posted by LackingSaint

Wait isn't that the same headerquote as Bioshock 2's? 
 
Haha, in all seriousness that was a great review Jeff. While I don't plan on getting Crysis 2 right now you've certainly convinced me to maybe check it out later down the line.

Posted by Plasticpals

Would have preferred a video review.  You guys don't do enough of those.

Posted by Monk

A bit Wall-of-Text there. I should play the PC Demo and see its performance otherwise the Xbox version.

Posted by cwdawg1224

Where's the map editor we were promised?!

Posted by HydraHam

I wish Crysis had a COOP mode, i don't really care for competitive MP but i hear its 10-12 hours to beat, which is 2x longer than homefront *shrug* i dug the SP but what a waste of 65 bucks.
 
About to goto evilstop and trade DA2, Bulletstorm and Homefront.

Posted by Rastapasta

well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox?

Posted by Crono
@bybeach
 
Yeah I am not sure why Jeff is grading the graphics against the original Crysis based on a console experience. Furthermore I am not sure why Jeff didn't review the game on his brand new PC. This would make for a great benchmarking game.  Anyway, aside from the apples to oranges comparison of graphics, I thought the review was very fair and honest. I still don't know if I will be purchasing this game, though. The demo ran fine for me so I know my PC can handle the game, but I want the multiplayer component to have staying power if I get into it and I'm just curious if the game will have that or not.
Edited by MysteriousBob
@Rastapasta said:

" well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox? "

omg console games r 4 kids 
 
this runs great on my Nvidia 50000 Xforce walletbuster 5.0 
250 FPS max settings u noobs cant compare
Posted by kitsune_conundrum
@MysteriousBob said:
" @Rastapasta said:

" well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox? "

omg console games r 4 kids  this runs great on my Nvidia 50000 Xforce walletbuster 5.0 250 FPS max settings u noobs cant compare "
oh the irony.
Posted by StingingVelvet

Great review Jeff, thanks.
 
Hoping to see a PC quicklook on this one.

Posted by CaLe

Just got through with the intro and first few mins. First impressions are that this game is very slick. The engine is solid (and beautiful) and the story setup is better than I expected.

Posted by ShaggE
@kitsune_conundrum said:
" @MysteriousBob said:
" @Rastapasta said:

" well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox? "

omg console games r 4 kids  this runs great on my Nvidia 50000 Xforce walletbuster 5.0 250 FPS max settings u noobs cant compare "
oh the irony. "
He's not being serious. 
Posted by buft
@Kinoro said:
" This review doesn't address my main concern about this game. There is no mention of how long/short it is. :( "
in the review it says " you can't really run through these areas, so taking the slow approach to alien murdering got my playtime up to around eight hours on the default difficulty setting" though i personally heard a few people say it took them closer to ten, hope this helps.
Posted by The_Laughing_Man

Waiting for my copy to be delivered as I type. 

Edited by Underachiever007
@kitsune_conundrum said:

" @MysteriousBob said:

" @Rastapasta said:

" well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox? "

omg console games r 4 kids  this runs great on my Nvidia 50000 Xforce walletbuster 5.0 250 FPS max settings u noobs cant compare "
oh the irony. "
He's not serious.
Posted by Tordah

Sounds pretty good. I hope there will be a PC quick look of the single player campaign.

Edited by wolf_blitzer85
@Underachiever007 said:

" @kitsune_conundrum said:

" @MysteriousBob said:

" @Rastapasta said:

" well I'm sold, now... PC or xbox? "

omg console games r 4 kids  this runs great on my Nvidia 50000 Xforce walletbuster 5.0 250 FPS max settings u noobs cant compare "
oh the irony. "
He's not serious. "
Hence the irony. A console fanboy spewing childish things while trying to make a stab at how passionate/crazy PC gamers are about settings or whatever. You know the same thing that happens in any topic or review that remotely has to do with PC.
 
Also interesting review. I am kind of worried about how the game presents the "open worldish" part of the game to you by literally highlighting what you can do, but I always liked how the game felt. Hopefully it's still satisfying shooting dudes, and as long as I can feel like an unstoppable war machine, then I'm down.
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