Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Crysis 2

Post-Launch Review
Crysis 2: Maximum Edition
Developer: Crytek
Released: March 2011


Three years after the events of the first Crysis, New York City has been hit with an alien plague and now a full invasion. You are a marine named Alcatraz, part of a force recon team to extract Dr. Gould, who may have vital information on the alien forces. Your squad is wiped out by an alien gunship, and your life is saved by Prophet, survivor of the original incident. He gives you his nanosuit with the instruction to find Gould. You'll face both aliens and a renegade private military intent on destroying the nanosuit in your mission to save the city.

At Launch

Crysis 2 was well received, with reviews averaging 85%. Critics loved the new setting and the streamlined nanosuit, as well as the graphics and art direction. Some reviewers were disappointed that Crysis 2 abandons the open worlds Crytek is known for in favour of a more scripted and linear story. Many PC players were disappointed with the initial scarcity of graphics settings and lack of DX10 or 11 support.

Post Launch

Two DLC packs, Retaliation and Decimation, add a total of nine maps and two weapons to the game's multiplayer.
A free update for the PC version added more graphics settings, high-res textures, and a DX11 upgrade.
The Maximum Edition includes all in-game pre-order content as well as both map packs.

The Good

I've read complaints that the visuals in Crysis 2 didn't live up to the expectations people had after the first game. Well, let me just say that that statement is ridiculous if you're playing with the amped-up PC graphics provided after launch. The DX11 features and high-res textures make the game look fantastic. Lighting and particle effects are great, and the environments are crazy detailed. Character animation is a little weak, but not that bad overall. My only regret is that my monitor is 1366x768.
Streamlined Suit
In the first Crysis, swapping between suit modes was a little unwieldly, with a radial menu to fiddle with. But here, it's wonderfully smooth: you've got a button for stealth mode and a button for armour mode, while strength and speed modes are integrated as omnipresent sprint and press-and-hold on your melee, jump, and use buttons. As a result, movement is vastly improved. You can, for example, enter stealth, sprint across the battlefield, leap off a building, swap to armour as you're falling to negate fall damage, and blast your way through a squad of enemies with something like 4 or 5 button presses. You could technically do this in the first game, but swapping modes was awkward, required more presses, and you had to drop stealth to do big jumps or move quickly. It's much better here, and way more fun.
Fluid Gameplay
Crysis 2's gameplay might be some of the best I've ever seen in an FPS, for a couple of reasons. Above I mentioned how awesome it is to pull off all kinds of crazy moves and combos, but the nanosuit and weapon attachments allow you to pick your playstyle and alter it on the fly. You can use armour to mount a head-on assault and play it as a straight-up action-packed shooter. You can use stealth to assassinate enemies one by one without raising an alarm. You can mix the two, setting traps in stealth and then triggering them and opening fire for a multi-pronged attack. I don't really like pure stealth games, but I found myself relying very heavily on the suit's cloak, and doing melee assassinations from behind or setting my assault rifle to single-fire with a silencer for stealth headshots and an underslung shotgun attachment for emergencies. If I get detected, though, I don't just die or lose like in many stealth games - I switch to armour and blow away the enemies that spotted me before slipping back into stealth. Of course there are consequences for being spotted - enemies will be more vigilant and often call in reinforcements. But it's nice to be able to adapt your approach as the situation demands.
Energy Management
It might sound like the nanosuit allows you to get away with anything. That's not the case. All of your sciencey superpowers rely on your suit's energy reserve. When you stop drawing energy - whether you've run out or turned off an armour mode - it regenerates after a short delay. You're very vulnerable when your energy is empty, so while you can absorb the firepower of a small army in armour mode, if you run out of energy in the middle of that small army, you're toast. Armour isn't always a reliable backup if your stealth approach gets detected, either, because stealth drains energy. So you have to manage your energy reserves carefully.
Some Good Twists
The story is surprisingly strong. Some might disagree with me, but I enjoyed all the sci-fi touches. For example, the ridiculously advanced and adaptable nanosuit is learning how to interact with and defeat the alien plague, all on its own, so much of your time is spent gathering data and processing to help things along. Which is more interesting than it sounds, I promise. Also, the aliens are constantly referred to as cephalopods, or "ceph" for short, because of their octopus-like form. The humanoid shapes are actually due to robotic exoskeletons. At one point there's a relatively minor line that makes a reference to the ceph as the planet's original occupants - what actually happened is that a race of octopus-like creatures evolved intelligence first and left some major tech buried underground when they left the planet... and now they're back. Read up on cephalopod intelligence if that sounds unbelievable; they're actually rather clever animals, and this is reasonably plausible.
Nerdiness aside, I do wish that the game allowed you a bit more room to explore some of the conflict. There are bits where various people want you to do different things, but you don't get to choose - the game chooses for you. One part that stuck out to me was where one person begged me to go back into the city and help defeat the aliens at their source and stop the entire invasion, but for some reason it was more important for me to help a handful of civilians out of the city.
Recommend Tac Assessment
One of the things I really liked about the first game is also present here. There's a good emphasis on using the suit's visor to scout out a location for a tactical assessment before you dive in. If you take the time to scope things out, you can tag enemies and strategic locations so that they'll appear on your HUD at all times. It's great for keeping track of enemies, but it does have a limited detection range, so you can miss enemies who are far away or who join the fight halfway through. It's an interesting way to encourage tactics and broad use of your suit abilities.

The Neutral

Much of the music is intended to be creepy and nerve-wracking. It does a great job at that. But I hate hearing it at the main menu, it's just weird and I don't like it.

Tried it out a bit, thought it was OK. I liked it more than most military-styled games because of the nanosuit powers, and the fact that all the perks are different upgrades to suit abilities or new powers. That's cool. I don't like the focus on very short engagements, but the nanosuit powers and plentiful cover allow an aware player to have a lot of control and awareness if you play well.
Not a very high population, but I was easily able to find a couple of servers with good latency. Took me all of five seconds.
Closed Environments
The first Crysis offers a bit more freedom than the second. In the first game, many of your missions give you an objective and let you approach it in whatever way you want, with massive open environments. I guess, to put things simply, Crysis 2 gives you a lot of freedom in how you approach each scenario, but Crysis also allowed you to choose which scenarios you approached. Though to be fair, that level of freedom was mainly limited to the first half of the first game, not the whole thing.
This isn't necessarily good or bad, but it is a shift worth noting.
Empty City
Considering that the game takes place in New York, there are surprisingly few people around. I mean, yes, the city was hit by an alien plague and there's an invasion with explosions everywhere, but you'd think there'd be panic in the streets or something. Instead there are just a few sick people in the underground areas. Even in a segment where the military is evacuating civilians you only see maybe twenty or thirty of them. I thought there'd be more people to evacuate than that. I guess they evacuated the majority of the population when the plague hit, but that seems like a great way to spread the disease more quickly.

The Bad

Missing Context
As you start the game, there's a massive disconnect as to how Crysis and Crysis 2 tie together. There's one character who carries over - Prophet - but let's just say he's not a great source of information. You're just dropped right into an alien invasion of New York with no intro and no background. Much of the context gets filled in as the game goes on, but it's a little hard to connect or get your bearings with the lack of any sort of intro. Imagine if you watched Star Wars IV and V, and Return of the Jedi started with the attack on the second Death Star. The confusion over why there's another Death Star and how the Rebels learned of it and what the strike team is doing on Endor are explained, but you'd have a big WTF to start out. That's pretty much how I felt starting Crysis 2.

Stuttering Cutscenes
Surprisingly enough, with graphics settings at maximum, my only real issues with performance were during the briefing cutscenes. Video and audio would sometimes stutter terribly during these cutscenes, but this issue never came up during gameplay.
Silent Protagonist
Sometimes the silent protagonist works. Here, I hate it. When you first don Prophet's nanosuit, everyone naturally thinks you're Prophet, but Alcatraz doesn't think to correct anyone and simply goes along with it, even to the point of risking Gould's trust and putting himself in danger. For pretty much the entire game Alcatraz just does whatever he's told - including "defend this handful of civilians instead of stopping the invasion" or "jump into the alien conduit" or "inject yourself with the contents of this syringe" - and not once does he ever offer his own opinion on what's going on. And it's not even that he can't speak or anything - he gets one single line at the very end of the game. For some reason he just chooses to never say a word until then, causing himself plenty of trouble along the way.

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it.
Crysis might just be sneaking its way into my carefully-selected list of favourite series. The gameplay is absolutely stellar, with top-notch gunplay and allowing you a lot of choice and fluidity in how you approach combat scenarios. I usually don't like military shooters, but when they go sci-fi and give you superpowers and aliens to fight, well that's a different story. And of course these are some of the best-looking games in the industry. I'm looking forward to the third game.


  1. Man, that game looks really nice. Glad to see it has some substance as well!

  2. I agree, the streamlined suit isn't "dumbing" the game down. It is changing the way you play, allowing you to basically do everything you could do in the first game, and trimming the fat.