Platforms: PlayStation 3 (tested), Xbox 360, PC
Classification: R16 - contains violence and offensive language
Crysis. The game has become something of an unofficial benchmark for gaming PCs. The very name conjures up images of smoke billowing from any computers trying to run it with all the settings on full, and not undeservedly so.
So it’s safe to say that anyone who plays Crysis 2 will expect nothing less than a visual feast. But is there anything more people should expect than just eye candy?
So let's get that out of the way first. Yes, Crysis 2 is a fantastically good-looking game. It looks great, even on the lowest settings (on PC, that is), and with the exception of some slowdown in effects-heavy sections, runs smoothly on consoles.
Yes, consoles. Crysis 2 isn't a PC-exclusive like its predecessor (indeed, we received a PS3 copy for review). In some ways it shows, with the PC version at release featuring a "push start to continue” screen, and the atrociously idiosyncratic settings of "Gamer,” "Professional,” and "Hardcore” in place of a proper graphics-configuration screen. The start screen has been patched out, and the video settings are now "High,” "Very High,” and "Extreme,” with any graphics-settings customisation still requiring a third-party tool. Huzzah.
It’s a relatively small thing to complain about, but it sets the tone for the game itself; Crysis 2 is a game that starts off on the wrong foot, and mostly goes downhill from there.
The campaign puts you in the soon-to-be-armour-plated boots of Alcatraz, a voiceless, faceless blank slate who might as well just be the suit itself. The game implies that, and while it’s a neat take on the super soldier genre, it’s not enough to make up for the majority of the single-player game.
The first level also introduces a worrying trend: Far too many levels begin and end with the player character being knocked out, disabled, hit by a massive wave or explosion, or otherwise made to black out before the transition to the next level.
This loss of control also extends to extended scenes in which plot is delivered while the player stands about like a billion-dollar statue. In fairness, scenes like this are sometimes necessary to create a story, but again, they happen far too often.
The cast of characters is filled with wooden stereotypes. This isn't too bad in a shooter, but leads to a fair amount of eye-rolling.
But what's really terrible about Crysis 2 isn't the story or the "consolisation”, it’s the AI and level design.
The fundamentals of Crysis 2 are honestly really solid. The nanosuit feels powerful and is simply fun to play about in; the weapons are generally enjoyable, and the ability to swap out modifications on the fly is fun.
Simply put, though, the AI is absolutely atrocious. In a game that encourages stealth (even in armour mode, the nanosuit can't stand up to too much fire), the enemies are completely and utterly incapable of dealing with stealth.
The moment the player picks up a silenced weapon, the game begins to fall apart at the seams. Cloaking essentially turns the enemies into vegetables – ostentatiously highly-trained soldiers will simply not react at all to their comrades being shot in the head by an invisible assailant. They barely ever think to use cover; they are content to watch placidly as stray bullets kick up dust right in front of their faces; and they hardly ever attempt to fan out and search for the player, instead opting to huddle together close to explosive barrels.
Conversely, the moment the player decloaks, they suddenly have the eyesight of eagles with telescopes. If your cover allows a sliver of your head or boots to be exposed, literally every enemy in the area will immediately open fire with perfect reflexes.
Annoyingly, this also extends to the "stealth kills.” Sneaking up on an enemy while cloaked (again, dead easy) will bring up an invitingly large prompt to perform a melee stealth kill. Presumably for multiplayer balance, this necessitates partially decloaking while your character takes a moment to break your enemy's neck, or hold a knife in its throat for a pointlessly long time.
Naturally, everything within a kilometre will immediately open fire. However, firing a silenced weapon will not decloak the player, rendering this feature less than useless!
This makes it exceptionally easy to clear an entire area of enemies, and after the initial novelty wears off, it’s not much fun at all. However, this does show and prove that enemies (even entire vehicles) spawn in the moment the player reaches an objective waypoint.
For the most part, the level design is terribly linear, even though most of it takes place in a city! Even when the game does open up, there's still generally only one exit point to any given area. This is a step back from the first Crysis and its free roaming. However, in fairness, a tropical island is much easier to create open environments for than a detailed city.
The rate at which players are given new weapons is also awfully slow. Players are teased with promises of microwave cannons and other exotic weapons in the loading screens, but I can count the appearances of exotic weapons on one hand. The introduction of more mundane but no less useful weapons such as a revolver or a light SMG takes place in the last third of the game!
What's really painful about the level design, though, is that some of the later levels are just so good! After slogging through five of the six hours Crysis 2 generally serves up, players are treated to some utterly amazing and absolutely awesome levels, scenery, and concepts that just didn't show up before.
That doesn't excuse the abysmal AI and otherwise terrible level design, however. The campaign is absolutely not worth buying Crysis 2 for.
So what about the multiplayer?
Unfortunately, I was unable to join any multiplayer games over PSN [Editor’s note: unidentified technical difficulties prevented Ryan from playing]. However, I was able to play the Crysis 2 multiplayer demo early last month on the PC. From what I could see, it is much like Call of Duty – players unlock various nanosuit modules ("perks”) which can be individually levelled up, and customise weapons with upgrade points earned from completing challenges with them. The addition of the nanosuit and all the cloaking, super jumping, and other moderately super-powered fun it entails helps keep the multiplayer fun.
If you're looking for a multiplayer shooter in the same vein as Call of Duty, Crysis 2 appears to be reasonably solid in that regard. However, I must remind you again that this is based off a multiplayer demo from over a month ago, and I cannot speak for the final game. As such, the score below is solely attributed to the single-player game.
All in all, Crysis 2's single-player component is disappointing. It delivers on the visuals, but almost everything else is lacking. It’s a shameful waste of potential that only comes close to being great a small handful of times.
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Final Score: 6.5/10