Crysis 2 Review
Crysis has finally arrived on consoles, albeit starting with the sequel to the game that had PC gamers asking computer store salespeople, "yeah, but will it run Crysis?" The good news is that the Xbox 360 does indeed run Crysis 2, and, in fact, it's easily one of the best looking games to ever appear on the console.
There were several things beyond the several generations ahead of the curve graphics that made Crysis notable on the PC, but the star of the show was the Nanosuit, and it's reprised its starring role in Crysis 2. The Nanosuit is the realization of every future soldier research program you have (and haven't) ever heard about; a full-body suit integrated into your nervous system that provides armor, super-powered strength and speed, and cloaking capabilities. Now a game in which you were an invisible and invincible soldier that ran around pounding in the heads of enemies wouldn't be much of a game, so the Nanosuit has a couple of shortcomings that keep you from simply running amuck. The first is that using the suit's powers drains it energy, and the more aggressively that you use those powers, the faster that energy drains. Powering off the suit's special features and resting for a few moments will allow your suit's power to recharge. It will take judicious power management to avoid finding yourself in the middle of the soup with your Nanosuit around your ankles, so to speak. The next restriction is that some powers are mutually exclusive, such as armor and stealth, and others put a serious strain on your available power when used in conjunction with each other – sprint at super speed while stealthed and you'll see your energy meter race into the red at super speed. Despite these limitations, the Nanosuit does indeed make you a super-soldier and not only does it make you feel like a one-man army or even a superhero, it gives you a lot of options in battle.
You can approach a battle stealthily, either up close and personal, making knife kills on soldiers who never even knew you were there, or using stealth to move between sniper positions as you pick off a squad one by one. Or you can use your speed and jumping abilities to flank a squad, enable your armor, and bring the fight to them. Or you can pull a Superman and use your power kick to send a taxi flying through the air to squish your foes. The game does a great job of keeping these options open to you, with levels designed to let you take your own approach rather than having to use the option predetermined for you by the level designers. As a side note to PC gamers who played the previous PC games, I have to point out that Crysis 2 will feel restricted in this regard compared to the prior games. The wide-open jungles of Crysis have been replaced by the constricted concrete jungle of Manhattan, and Crysis 2 doesn't have quite the same feeling of freedom.
Crysis 2's controls make it easy to switch between suit powers on the fly while still ensuring that weapon controls are fast and responsive (yes, in spite of the Nanosuit, Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter at heart). You can also customize and upgrade the suit powers, as well as your weapons, quickly and easily in real-time. Considering that the Crysis games have been purely PC-based up until now, developer Crytek has done an awesome job of translating the controls to a console controller without a hit of awkwardness or encumbrance.
As for the story, the game has you as a lone soldier trying to put the lid on the chaos in New York caused by a simultaneous deadly virus outbreak, alien invasion, and evil corporate army takeover that are somehow all connected. A story with this much going on will naturally feel convoluted at times and Crysis 2's story doesn't disappoint in this department. Outside of doing the bidding of a number of unseen masters your character isn't very engaged in the story, and as such you tend to feel more like a pawn watching events unfold (and doing a lot of killing in the mean time) than an active participant in the narrative.
Crysis 2's biggest faults come in the form of checkpoints, which are too far apart and not always placed at the best points in a mission, and objectives, which are not always clearly enough defined. Case in point for both of these is a mission that has you trying to make your way past a fortified checkpoint to steal a vehicle to use to smash through a wall. First of all the objective marker is placed on the wall that you need to destroy, and not the vehicle that you need to steal. Are you supposed to steal the semi down the road that's pointed right at the wall? No. One of the cars on the street? No. The tank that sits behind the checkpoint? Not only no, but it's apparently indestructible and can take you out in a shot or two, Nanosuit and all. Each failure trying to find the vehicle that you're supposed to steal sends you all the way back to the story event before the checkpoint assault, which means that you have to get passed the vanguard patrols and the fortified checkpoint all over again before you can search for the vehicle again. And that vehicle? Turns out that there is a gate tucked away in a back corner that leads to another area that has a tank hidden in it. This type of situation occurred on more than one occasion and each time it did I got quite sick of replaying the same stretch of gameplay over and again. I enjoy challenging gameplay, but not when the challenge is "guess the objective" with a penalty of being forced to do the same thing over and again.
Crysis 2 also comes with a full-featured multiplayer mode and, yes, you get to wear the Nanosuit in multiplayer … but so does everyone else. The Nanosuit's powers give you enough flexibility to choose your own style of play, and the more you play in that style the better you'll become because the Nanosuit's upgrade path is tied to the powers that you use in battle. Crysis 2's multiplayer mode includes most of the features that you find in modern shooters such as player levels, customizable kits, and upgrades, but it just doesn't have the same appeal as the single player game. Maybe it's that a game with Nanosuit-wearing combatants should have modes that are far more interesting than deathmatch and capture-the-flag variants. Maybe it's that all the game modes don't become available to you until you slug your way to level 39. Maybe it's that the game includes most of the features that you find in modern shooters and the novelty of the Nanosuit isn't enough alone to distinguish the multiplayer gameplay from most top-tier shooters you've seen in recent months. More than likely it's in a good part due to the fact that you don't feel like a super soldier in multiplayer like you do in single player. Whatever the exact reason, multiplayer gameplay in Crysis 2 is a fun diversion for a bit, but nothing so compelling that you'll be playing it for quite some time or to make the game recommendable for the multiplayer game alone.
Final Rating: 86%. It's about time console gamers got the chance to don the Nanosuit.