Monday, 25 April 2011 02:17

Crysis 2 (PS3, 2011)

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Overview


Nice suit.So, after Bulletstorm whetted my appetite for shooter games after awhile away, I went to my local GameStop looking for a new fix. Shooters – both first person and third – are a favorite game type of mine, because they really do more than any other game style to showcase the capabilities of a system. Modern shooters features fast action, multiple enemies moving around, explosions, complex geography setups, elaborate set pieces and of course have to deal with the unknown element of a human being holding a controller, so it’s really, really easy to screw up some portion of that delicate mixture and end up with a game flat like a bad soufflé. To that end, when I got to GameStop and realized that I was just in time for the release of Crysis 2, I thought that the sequel to the game that’s still used as the gold standard of video game and machine performance would be a good one to give a shot.

USA Info Japanese Info Image
Title Crysis 2
Dates 2011.03.22
Companies Crytek Frankfurt, Crytek UK
Creator Crytek
Genre FPS, Sci-Fi, War, Aliens, Action
Related Crysis

Review


Crysis 2 - Rating
  • Playability – 4.5
  • Graphics – 4.3
  • Story – 4.7
  • Sound – 3.8
  • Overall – 4.3

Crysis 2 opens on a squad of marines preparing for a covert underwater insertion to the quarantined New York from a Navy submarine, with your voiceless avatar “Alcatraz” recovering from the mother of all tequila hangovers while your squad mates discuss the upcoming mission. Seems you’re being sent in to extract a Dr. Nathan Gould from the city, who may have vital information about the disease that’s spreading like wildfire through the population. Before the op can begin, though, something hits the sub, causing a catastrophic blow-out. You and your team race to escape the rapidly sinking sub, and break surface, only to be cut down as something rises up out of the water and sprays the area with plasma blasts. Mortally wounded, Alcatraz floats slowly in to shore, and as oblivion begins to close in on him, sees a… humanoid something in a black suit shoot down the craft that destroyed the submarine with a heavy machine gun. This is Prophet, the main character from the first game, and the man Alcatraz’s team was sent to assist – it’s much to his dismay as he realizes that out of the entire squad, only the dying Alcatraz made it even that far. It’s still enough of a chance for him, though, as Prophet drags Alcatraz inland.

I never played the original Crysis – my old PC, well, just plain couldn’t handle the requirements demanded by it, so Crysis 2 is my first exposure to the universe, and early on I have to say that it’s a pretty good one.

The Good

  • The controls work great.

There are precisely two major camps when it comes to the controlling of a shooter game, those that use keyboards, and those that are deluded enough to believe console control pads come anything close to that precision. I land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – I can use a keyboard and a controller with roughly equal ease and skill, and generally don’t care which I’m using. With that said, I’m the first to admit that gamepads definitely trade a healthy serving of precision for usability on a console. However, Crysis 2’s gamepad controls are actually very nice and tight. Sometimes a shooter’s analog sticks can feel a bit loose and slow to react, but that’s not the case here. Beyond that, the other functionality of the suit is laid out pretty well, beyond that I’d have liked to see the shoulder buttons functions flipped so that the larger triggers fired/zoomed, rather than toggling stealth and armor mode as they do on the PS3. Swapping weapons, performing actions and so forth were responsive and intuitive, with my only real mental disconnect coming from the awkward – at least for my hands – placement of the left thumbstick, a problem which is Sony’s fault, not Crysis 2’s.

  • Strong storyline by award winning author.

Something that caught my attention early on is that the story for the second game was written by Richard Morgan, who I first discovered when a friend recommended that I check out Altered Carbon. While Crysis 2 is set in the immediate future rather than the distant, it was fun to recognize bits and pieces of his writing style play out through the course of the game. Morgan’s stories, generally, feature very good pacing and a good, even level of excitement that can be difficult to accomplish – and is ever so important when it comes to a video game’s plot. In Crysis 2’s case, that level approach to the story helped to smooth out the gameplay and avoid all but a couple low action points that I’d normally expect to experience in a shooter. You get a good sense that all the little threads and plot cues you run across as the game progresses are heading toward a well-founded conclusion. Most importantly, by the end of the game the big questions are answered, and the subplots have been resolved in order to leave us with a clean start for the inevitable sequel. I did think that parts of the ending were a bit abrupt – but for the most part it felt like a pause for breath before the next game. Contrast that to the horribly flagrant sequel-bait endings of Gears of War and Bulletstorm, both of which were done with abrupt, out of nowhere endings that made the games feel too short and horribly unresolved. To their credit, Epic did vastly better with Gears of War 2, but I trust I’ve made my point here. Crysis 2 feels complete, self-contained, and resolved while still respecting the longer storyline and game universe’s backstory, and in large part that’s thanks to Richard’s skill as an author.

  • Good balance between choice of weaponry and powers.

No shooter is complete without an assortment of weaponry, but Crysis 2 is one of those games that caters to those of us that like to have options as to how we play through the actual game. The gimmick of the Crysis series is the NanoSuit worn by the main characters. This suit grants the usual powered suit capabilities to the user: enhanced vision, tactical feedback, super strength, protection, stealth, etc. Beyond the basic abilities, you also can purchase three enhancements for each of the four areas of suit capabilities – vision, stealth, speed/power and armor. Only one enhancement can be active per capability at a time, but once the capability has been purchased you can change between them at any time. There’s a similar modification ability available for weapons as well – as you pick up things like silencers or under slung grenade launchers, they become unlocked, allowing you to change your weapon’s capabilities at will if you pick something up later that doesn’t come equipped with what you want. What this means in the long run is that if you want to go in, guns blazing, you can set the suit up to focus on protective ability and your weapons with extended clips and laser sights for shooting from the hip. On the other hand, maybe you want to go stealth with your suit deadening the sound of your footsteps and your weapons equipped with silencers and precision sights. It’s up to you, and the game is designed with the idea that everybody has a different play style.

  • It’s not too damn short!

I’ve been complaining a lot lately about the length of single-player games. Bulletstorm was disgustingly short, and other recent releases haven’t been much better either. However, that’s not a problem for Crysis 2 – in fact, I couldn’t finish it in a single sitting, for once. This is in no small part thanks again to Richard Morgan’s storytelling. The pacing he built into the storyline was reflected well into the game itself. More importantly, though, the individual stages are broken up in such a way that each feels comfortably paced and fulfilling. There’s an actual sense of accomplishment to clearing each stage, because each stage has multiple, clearly defined goals and often several sub-goals that help to keep you feeling like you’re getting something done. Sometimes the action is frantic, things are happening, and you’re reacting to an evolving situation – but that good, even pacing is there to ensure that it doesn’t become too overwhelming or, equally important, too underwhelming.

  • Solid, but not overwhelming graphics.

I have a feeling I’m going to get called on this one a bit, but what the hell: The graphics are pretty good. They’re not perfect – certainly they’re no comparison to those of the original Crysis, even taking into account that I was playing this on a console and not a PC. There are some texture glitches scattered around, some flickering, and a lot of jaggies in the PS3 version. However, with that said, Crysis 2 is definitely one of the best looking games out there, and most importantly they play well with the the setting itself. That’s it, there’s no real sugar coating to be done here. Crysis 2 looks very good. Not as good as its predecessor, but still very, very good.

The Bad

  • The AI is… iffy.

I’m not going to say that the enemy AI in Crysis 2 is bad, because for the most part, it makes for a challenging, but winnable experience if you put a little planning into your movements and equipment. However, there are some glaring defects – at least to me – to be found. First and foremost: when a sniper starts taking out your forces and you can’t figure out where they’re shooting from, it’s probably not a great idea to stand out in the open looking around. This is a long-standing problem with shooters, and I really expect better out of a triple-A title than for the enemy AI to run out to their recently fallen companion and then just stand there, out in the open. At the very least, I’d expect the AI to look for cover. Second: when I take out an enemy in stealth with a silenced pistol from around a corner, completely out of view of anything possibly in earshot, the responders should not walk straight to my position… even when I move intentionally away. The Ceph are especially bad about this. There are a couple other issues to be found, but those are the biggest two.

  • Why does everything I do break stealth?

Stealth mode is a great, great tool… so would somebody please explain why things like throwing a pebble or grenade break it? I mean, I can understand stealth failing when I unload with a heavy machine gun, but what about throwing a grenade is making stealth fail completely? Does the act of throwing somehow cause a Blue NanoScreen of Death in the suit’s systems? Is it related to the system fault caused by both placing a pack of C4 on something, AND pressing the button later – from across the map, far out of range of the explosion? I mean, we’re talking about a billion dollar suit which can maintain almost perfect optical camouflage when running at top speed carrying a heavy machine gun and jumping on top of things… but don’t you DARE toss that pebble you picked up back there to distract the enemy. Ok, speaking for a moment from the perspective of a programmer and game designer, I can understand why they wouldn’t want you to be able to stand out in the open tossing grenades without being detected – it’s game breaking. Still, something like that needs to at least be handwaved somewhere in the game.

  • Why can’t I throw things across the map?

Once again, Alcatraz is wearing a billion dollar super suit that can take depleted uranium shells without so much as a scratch, allows him to run at Autobahn speeds, kick cars around like they’re they’re empty tin cans… and yet he can’t toss a grenade or C4 pack or random chunk of stone more than about eight feet. Even when charging the suit in order to do so. I’m not asking to be able to really throw things all the way across the map, but at the very least I expect to be able to throw a more than healthy distance when I stand out in the open and hold down the charge button to do so. This one isn’t even handwavable, it’s supposed to be one of the special capabilities provided by the suit.

  • Sorting Algorithm of Weaponry

It’s not entirely unexpected that you’ll get more powerful weapons later on in a game, but the problem with Crysis 2 is that it takes way too long to get your first upgrade to your initial weapons – and by way too long, I mean after facing several enemies that tend to just shrug off clips worth of ammo from the weapons you do have. Of course, the Ceph tend to shrug off clips worth of ammo regardless, but the little popguns you’re stuck with for the first 2/5ths of the game just do NOT have the punch to take them out with a reasonable economy of ammo. For that matter, even the first set of upgrades you get are less than fully effective. No enemy considered a grunt should be able to take multiple grenade rounds to the face and just keep coming.

Your Mileage May Vary

  • Omni-sniping.

A good shooter generally has weapons that are either more or less accurate depending on what they are. As a rule, pistols are usually fairly accurate, though of course don’t have a lot of punch until you get up into the high caliber range. Shotguns are incredibly hard-hitting, but have horrible range. Automatic weapons fall somewhere in between. With all that in mind, could somebody please explain to me how I can headshot from extreme range with every weapon in the game except the shotgun? I wish I were kidding here. It’s not really a complaint, but they could have done with a bit less accuracy at range on some of the weapons, especially the heavy and medium machine guns. With proper control, it’s entirely possible to put every single round from a clip in either into a target across the map – for that matter, the medium machine gun has a frigging assault scope as an attachment.

  • Everybody SCREAM!

The Ceph frequently emit a really loud, annoying, high-pitched noise that I’m assuming is supposed to be an alert to their companions… It gets really old, really fast. It could just be me though. It could also be because fighting the Ceph compared to humans is rather like listening to classical music with the volume set to one, and then switching to death metal with the dial cranked all the way up to 15. With no prior warning.

  • Flagrant disregard for doing this shit.

You know what the problem with near-perfect stealth is? It makes it entirely too easy to bypass entire sections of the game, as long as you’re willing to be patient, move a little slow, and avoid the guards. Then again, that’s the player’s problem, not the designer’s per se.

  • I’d like some vibrant UI, with a little icon variety on the side.

For the most part, the HUD generated by the suit is pretty good, but it would have been nice if the highlight markers you can drop on enemies were both more visible overall, and differed from highlight markers placed on allies especially. Something in a red for enemies, blue for allies would be great. Maybe purple for Ceph? Whatever, but make it a lot less transparent too, like the objective markers. A way to unmark things would be nice too.

Overall


So, Crysis 2. A game not without problems, but unlike a lot of recent entries, one that’s not dominated by them. Much of my enjoyment came not from the solid, beautiful graphics and view of New York – albeit a sickly and rapidly deteriorating one – but from the extremely strong storyline written by Richard Morgan. Crytek was very, very smart, and molded the game around that story, rather than the usual route, which is to cut off the bits they don’t think they have time for. Many games, you can tell where parts were rushed to make a deadline – not here in Crysis 2. The game does not feel rushed at all, a truly rare event these days. You really do get a good sense of immersion from Crysis 2 because it’s a well crafted game – the city is faithfully recreated with solid graphics, the NPCs for the most part look and act human, and the sound effects are well crafted and used. There’s plenty of adrenaline-pumping moments, but while the action gets frantic at times, the pacing is steady, even, and well-reinforced by the storyline. While the game is linear, you’re allowed to tackle each situation in accordance to your preferences and tastes because of the flexibility of the weapons and the suit, and most importantly, the game is challenging, but not impossible. It’s not quite as pretty as its predecessor, but it’s close enough, and what it lacks in looks it makes up for with a solid all around platform for FPS gaming. A congratulations to Crytek for a very well put together game.

Additional Info

  • Writing: Groovy (+5)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Graphics: Groovy (+5)
  • Controls: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Groovy (+5)
  • Soundtrack: Groovy (+5)
  • Replay Value: Groovy (+5)

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