Crysis 2 Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – EA – Developer – Crytek– Genre – FPS – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
But will it run Crysis? A question that has plagued PC gamers since the release of the original Crysis game. Crysis was a monolith of PC code, a game that taxed even the most overclocked, overpriced, overhyped gaming computers. Crytek decided to release a game to suit the hardware of the future, not the hardware available to lesser mortals at the time. Even PCs built with today’s technology, nearly four years after the game’s release can struggle with the game running on its highest settings.
With this in mind, PC gamers were understandably excited by the announcement of Crysis 2. Considering the massive leap in graphical fidelity that the first game brought, what would Crytek manage with the sequel? The news that the game was to be released not just to the muscle-bound PC gaming scene but also to the consoles brought consternation to this subsection of the gaming community. Why, if the game were to be released onto the consoles, where hardware follows a standard format, with no expensive tweaking of hardware, no risky fiddling with settings and core temperatures, what would be the point of it all? Gameplay? What’s that?
I wish I were making it up. But, unfortunately, there are people out there who think like that, and to them Crysis 2 is going to be somewhat of a disappointment. Not only does it run beautifully on consoles, it’s also very friendly to older PC hardware, whereas the original game made small piles of melted silicon-slag where a processor used to be.
However, Crysis 2 is a game that revels in technology. It is a world where technology has run rampant, where humanity’s fetish for futurism has melded man with machine. It is a world with super-soldiers, or at least they are once they don the Nanosuit. The Nanosuit is part exoskeleton, part supercomputer, part Swiss army knife. This miracle of gadgetry allows the user superhuman agility, the ability to absorb massive explosive trauma and leap twelve feet in the air. Want to sneak about invisible to the naked eye and get the drop on the opposing force? There’s an app for that.
The Nanosuit really is the star of the Crysis show. Although the player nominally controls Alcatraz, the silent protagonist of the game, for all the character and attitude he displays, they might as well just be in control of the suit with a piece of salami inside instead. It’s a strange creative choice, considering how much the game really wants us to engage with its plot, but seeing as the best thing about the original Crysis was the supersuit, it’s not really surprising. Even more interesting is that this time round, the player has even less control over the suit functions than before. Instead of manually switching between strength, speed, stealth and so on, the only functions directly controlled by the player are stealth and armour. Everything else triggers when required. On one hand, this makes the suit more intuitive, but also strips out a little bit of the thrill of being at the helm of a vastly powerful technological wonder.
Aside from the suit, the game is all about gun-porn. Every weapon in the game can be customised on the fly, with silencers, scopes and ammo-clips. The guns are meaty and satisfying to fire, with some great audio to back the whole thing up. The whine of silenced shots, the dangerous hum of alien projectiles, the distant clatter of automatic weapons, the whole thing sounds perfect. On a proper 5.1 sound system, the deep bass crash of explosions and impromptu demolition is hugely entertaining.
And there really is a lot of demolition going on. Crysis 2 takes place in an alien-infested war-torn New York, with combat flowing between the streets, subways and office blocks. It’s a brave move from the generic tropical paradise of Crysis, and it proves far more gratifying to wage a one-man guerilla war through the detritus of urban life than pristine beaches. It seems as if each set piece is desperate to outdo the last in spectacle and grandeur.
The sheer heft of the engine behind the game goes a long way towards achieving this. To review a Crysis game without waxing lyrical about the beauty and graphical trickery on display would be a pointless effort. The game looks phenomenal and sets a new benchmark for other developers to strive towards. The sense of scale while running through the devastated streets is dizzying, but it’s the little touches that impress the most. Clouds of dust are just as impressive as abstract sculptures of explosively mangled girders.
What disappoints are the occasional rough edges. Crysis 2 has clearly been a labour of love, and yet the errors that pull it back from greatness are probably the easiest to remedy. The most irksome is the superhuman observational abilities demonstrated by the AI. Poke a toe out of a blown-out doorway half-way up a ruined skyscraper and the grunt half a kilometre away will spot it and open fire instantly. Seriously, these guys are impressively alert with neigh-on eagle vision. Of all the suit powers, the cloaking ability is the one that you’ll be using the most, just to get a break from constantly dodging bullets. It’s too easy to blunder into view of an enemy on the far side of an open space and suddenly have every enemy in the vicinity open fire directly into your face. It might well be realistic, but dying in such a stupid way bursts the bubble of superhuman ability.
Tweaks to the Nanosuit are undoubtedly welcome, like the much improved recharge rate of the energy that allowed the use of its functions. Some further balancing wouldn’t have gone amiss, however. While not quite on par with Gordon Freeman’s HEV suit sharing battery power with sprint function, sprinting in Crysis 2 seems to use up an inordinate amount of energy. I’m not claiming to be in any great physical shape myself, but I’m pretty sure I could run further than a Nanosuit-clad spec-ops soldier. Running even a hundred yards seems to reduce him to a shuddering mess of exhaustion, which is further complicated by the fact that you won’t be able to activate stealth or pop on the ultra-armour until the suit recharges. Again, it ruins the ideal of being better than human, and leaves the player frustrated.
Watching the AI trying to deal with an enemy who has just cloaked and moved position is also interesting. While it’s impressive to watch them move to your last visible location then spread out to try and smoke you it, it’s definitely less so when you watch them march on top of cars or straight into scenery. I’m also pretty sure that the army teaches soldiers not to stand so close to explosive barrels.
As always with these sorts of minor gripes, they are all easily sorted with more scrupulous play-testing. Considering that I ran into most within about an hour of play, it’s almost certain that the play-testers ran into them and the development team decided not to act on them. Considering the polish put into the likes of Valve’s titles, lazily deciding not to fix what to players seem like game-breaking problems is not excusable. In this regard, Crysis 2 reminds me very strongly of Far Cry 2. Both games looked fantastic, had intriguing premises and presented a different approach to the first person shooter. Both games were also held back by strange design decisions and lacklustre polishing.
Which leads me to my conclusion. Is Crysis 2 an impressive achievement of both graphical prowess and world-building? Definitely. Is it a game that I would recommend you play? Mostly, but be prepared for a lingering after-taste of frustration.