If Crysis 2 has some fatal flaw, I can’t find it.
Though I’ve played a few stand-out titles, first-person shooters don’t rank highly among my most preferred games. That prejudice alone handicaps most FPS titles (admittedly, not always fairly) and amplifies every grating minor irritation like dragging a rusty nail across a chalkboard next to a microphone plugged into a Marshall stack. That acknowledged prejudice toward what I often regard as a repetitive genre that’s ever reinventing the wheel actually amplifies my respect for what a complete, enjoyable game this really is.
Crysis 2 is developed by Crytek for Electronic Arts and powered by the debuting CryEngine 3. Over-the-top bastardization of a single prefix? Perhaps. But when your game looks and plays this smoothly with nary a hitch, you’ve more than backed up the bravado. An engine producing graphics, textures and shadows this crisp, detailed and flawless comes along rarely. Only one other engine truly belongs anywhere near this one in terms of visual presentation, and it’s another engine forever bearing the name of its legendary debut appearance: Unreal.
CryEngine 3 is the fine-tipped brush that paints 2023 New York City, three years following United States Delta Force operator Jake “Nomad” Dunn’s Lingshan Islands campaign in the original Crysis. NYC has been infested by the alien Ceph race and evacuated following the extraterrestrial “Manhattan” virus outbreak. The city has since been placed under Martial Law, and policed by U.S. Department of Defense-contracted Crynet Enforcement and Local Logistics (CELL) soldiers and stalked by numbers of alien beasts who don’t care much for you or CELL. Point in fact, Alcatraz will sometimes combat both while they fight one another . . . that is, when they don’t ignore one another and come get a piece of Alcatraz.
Force Recon Marine “Alcatraz” and his unit aboard the submarine USS Nautilus meet a Ceph attack that separates Alcatraz en route to extract former Crynet employee (OK, now it starts getting a touch excessive . . .) and valued intelligence asset Dr. Nathan Gould.
Alcatrazis rescued by Delta Force Major Laurence “Prophet” Barnes, who returns from the original game clad in what will soon be your Nanosuit 2.0. Infected by the lethal mutating virus, Prophet commits suicide so that the high-tech suit will abandon him and bond withAlcatraz to help him extract Gould and combat the alien occupation.
There is no one linear way through this game. The Nanosuit 2.0 allows for combining its Cloak, Armor and Tactical functions at any given time to suit numerous optional strategies – as long as the suit’s finite-but-rechargeable energy level remains intact. Still, no one combination suits every scenario.Alcatraz must constantly re-evaluate terrain, assess every area’s threats, and contend with astonishingly sharp, reactive and adaptive enemy AI that notes and adjusts to his every maneuver. Tunnel-vision and myopia are expressways to death in this landscape. The lay of the land shifts from city block to city block, so one can’t survive without knowing every potential threat’s location. Sometimes progressing won’t so much mean gunning down every living soul in sight, but exercising well-plotted stealth.
With that in mind, the radar system could be deemed a flaw but given some thought to how it combines with reactive enemy-awareness system, it shouldn’t be. The radar seemingly doesn’t always detect every enemy, but that’s all the more reason it should never become the player’s crutch and force some actual visual confirmation. Some enemies’ positions don’t show clearly until they become aware ofAlcatrazand the “Awareness” meter rises to a yellow or red level. All the more reason you’ll just have to actual spot your target and assess your methods the hard way: by paying attention.
Ammunition abounds throughout the game, thanks both to drops by enemies and intermittently placed ammunition cases where Alcatrazmay load up to capacity. Likewise, as he collects alien tissue samples and generally progresses, the Nanosuit 2.0 becomes customizable to suit whatever general strategy – or hybrids of several – the player has chosen to adopt. Personally, I relished using the abundant cover and varied possible shooting positions to adopt a thoughtful, stealth strategy as a Sniper. Nevertheless, nearly every objective can be met through whatever approach best suits the individual’s skill-set. It makes for an intense, and admittedly sometimes frustrating, learning curve to truly feel the game out. But once completely acclimated, it becomes a paradise of beautiful, thinking-man’s shooter, a melding of Metal Gear Solid’s most enjoyably tense stealth aspects and Call of Duty: Black Ops and Homefront’s intensity and blistering pace.
It stuns me that I’m saying this about a FPS, but I cannot possibly recommend this highly enough.
Final Rating: 9.0/10
E-mail The Sleepless One at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @sleeplesscolin. For more insomnia-addled rantings, visit http://colinsdiner.blogspot.com or http://www.geekgems.com.