(This is a re-write of the Crysis 2 review which was supposed to be published on the 27th of April but ended up getting lost in internet limbo. The game since then has been updated to v 1.8 which brings a lot of tweaks to the multiplayer side of things. As such, my criticisms of the single player campaign still stand but multiplayer has certainly become a lot more enjoyable. The scores have been updated to reflect this.)
When Crysis first came out, it made the PC gaming community go nuts. The press around the game made it seem like it was the pinnacle of the FPS genre. The graphics were rig meltingly awesome, the world was a huge playground, the AI was usually competent and the Nano suit was just plain cool.
Too bad I hated it.
Well ok, maybe “hate” is too strong a word. At best it was “meh” imo. I should add here that I’m not much of an “open world” player. I like my shooters to have a tight scripted feel without being a strict corridor affair. Half life would be a good example. Regardless, even if I personally did not enjoy Crysis as much as the press did, I could still respect it for what it was, ie, a decent open world shooter that did give you a myriad of ways of making things go “boom”. It was in many ways, a landmark for the genre.
Why the sequel decided to piss all of that way then, is a true head scratcher. Sorry folks, if you are looking for a glowing review (at least for single player), you should probably stop reading right now. Crysis 2 is so generic it makes me want to take a boxed copy over to the developers, slam it on their heads and scream “WHYYYYYYY?!?!?!”
Where do I even begin? The game starts with a yawn worthy cinematic with a bunch of spec op guys doing their chest thumping routine. “Rah Rah bring it on blah blah”. This quickly launches into a scene that seems copy pasted from CoD4. Escape from a sinking vessel. Great.
This is followed by some other sleep inducing cut scenes which show the Statue of liberty on fire (Oooooh, never seen THAT before have we?) and the inevitable rescue by generic mystery man number 3417. I suppose the whole point of this exercise was to drive home the fact that the aliens from the first game have totally taken over. Fine. From this point on though, the story from the first game is effectively flushed down the toilet. Let me say this as clearly as possible: Apart from the nano suit that you quickly procure and a guest appearance by a character from the original Crysis there is absolutely no connection to the narrative of the first game. None. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing; I can totally live with the revamp of an existing plot if it makes any sense at all. Though the story does come together towards the end, chances are that most players would have long lost interest in it by then.
The aliens look completely different, none of the characters I meet seem to shed any light on wtf is going on and somehow, there is some kind of plague to content with. Oh, and for some damned reason, I’m a target of both the aliens AND humans. Crysis 2 went to extra ordinary lengths to confuse the hell out of me (plot wise) in the first 10 minutes.
Soon I’m out in the city looking upon a rather stunning urban landscape. Ill give Crysis 2 this: it does look pretty. Sunlight glints over shattered concrete, trees sway realistically and shadows play across everything. The engine is by far the game’s biggest strength. And perhaps the only thing of note. Oh btw, forget about tweaking your graphical settings beyond pre-defined options. Obviously it was too much to ask for even though its been a key feature on the PC for decades. That being said, you can still expect some stunning graphics even on a mid-range system.
It soon becomes apparent that the rest of the game is divided into mini levels giving the illusion of being in a huge expansive world. The key word here being “illusion”. The world is full of walls and not all of them are the visible kind. For all its bluster and media hype, Crysis 2 is just like your average shooter with some extra options thrown in. The devs refer to these as “action bubbles”, ie, small areas of freedom that are connected to each other within a huge world. I call them disappointment centers. It is nothing more than a design crutch and a flawed one at that. What they have effectively done is strip away the sense of wonder that was to be had in not knowing which way was the “right” way. There is no exploration here. I’m shaking my head even as I write this; Crytek excels in free world exploration. Look at Farcry 1. That was a great example of how to do exploration right. And this was a game the same people made 8 years ago! How could they get this aspect of it so wrong?
Oh but there’s more, not content with flat out locking me into these tiny areas, they actually felt the need to hold my hand throughout missions. The so called “tactical mode” is a joke. It essentially highlights the options I have available for completing an objective . I could see how highlighting foes and ammo caches can be helpful but do I really need to be told “Look! A ladder. You can climb this!!”? Oh right, I DO need to be told, because as I mentioned, the world of Crysis 2 isn’t really open at all. You can only climb ladders that the “tactical” visor tells you about. Sure, the other ladders look perfectly climbable, but unless a certain path was clearly highlighted for the player, it’s not an option at all. May as well give me a compass that points me in the right direction. Oh wait, there’s no need, the game highlights where to go anyway. Silly me.
There are even parts where the player will be prompted to press a key so as to not miss a pretty but pointless explosion. Or click the left and right mouse button alternatively to “crawl”. If you are thinking of Call of Duty right now, don’t worry, so am I. I don’t mind mechanics like that if they make sense for the game in question. CoD4 was nothing but a series of corridors glued together with cut scenes and quick time events. But they were executed brilliantly. They gelled and came together in a fantastic climax. In Crysis 2 they just plain suck. Level design, narration, gameplay, all suffer as a result.
Not content with diluting the core experience, Crytek also decided that it would be an excellent idea to slap on a ridiculous checkpoint save system. You know, so when those wall hopping aliens manage to get the drop on you, you can repeat the last 10 minutes of sneaking. Sigh. Speaking of which, expect to do a lot of that. Sneaking, that is. Unlike the first game, Crysis 2 does make stealth a less frustrating option. But there is only so many times one can play the “shoot and stealth behind wreckage” game before it gets tedious. And therein lies one of the biggest problems. There just isn’t enough variety in the battles. There is the occasional vehicle mission and mandatory boss to spice things up but by and large these are just tacked on fillers.
It would have helped if there was strong sense of narrative but there isn’t. Most of the time you are on your own. The only company you keep is the annoying voices in your ear piece telling you where to go and what to do. Who these people are and what their deal is remains a mystery to me even after finishing the game. The story is a loosely written mess that did little more than bore me. On the rare occasions that you do meet people, you will wish you were back on your own. Every person I came across was essentially a card board cutout with zero personality. And the voice acting does not help matters. Lines are delivered flatly with little or no emotion (with some exceptions). One small consolation is the music, which is surprisingly well done. The title score in particular is excellent. Overall, the sound in the game is of high quality. Gunshots sound just right, the aliens sound suitably otherworldly and metal crunches convincingly. Too bad it’s not enough to dull the pain of the biggest hurt of all.
You guessed it. The Nano suit. I honestly think Crytek should change the title of the game to “How to nerf a Nano suit”. The original Crysis made no bones about the fact that it was all about the suit. It was the real hero. The guy in it was just along for the ride. By all accounts, this worked just fine because the suit was truly awesome. In Crysis 2 however, it feels totally gimped. Super speed is little more than an average sprint and the super jump just, isn’t. It boggles the mind how the game has you jumping across buildings like a would be spider man only to be foiled by something as simple as this:
As for strength mode, granted, its immensely satisfying to grab a foe by the neck and send him flying into a wall, but why is it that the same “maximum strength” that can falcon kick cars across a street finds its nemesis in a wooden door? The fact that the suit can be “upgraded” does little to help in the beginning. Towards the end of the game, when the suit is tricked out, it does become a lot of fun. Its tragic that it takes too long.
The AI does a good job most of the time and had the suit actually been any good, it would have been truly wonderful to use its abilities to out jump and out run the competition. Unfortunately it’s just too easy to die in the first few hours. This effectively forced me to stealth my way through places I did not want to.
Everything I criticized the game for would have easily been forgotten had the Nano suit been implemented correctly. Unfortunately, it is easily the biggest disappointment in the whole game. And considering how Crysis 2 is essentially a long string of disappointments, that’s saying something.
The game does have its moments of brilliance now and then. But that only goes to remind the player of what a fantastic game it could have been. As it stands however, Crysis 2 has become (for me at least) the poster child for hype over substance.
I expected this sequel to address the complaints I had about its predecessor. What it ended up doing was take out everything that made Crysis fun in the first place and fill it with things that either have no place in a game like this, or just do not work. I hate to say this, because in many ways, Crysis was the PCs flagship title for FPSs. It is a game I desperately want to like. But the console bug has bitten it’s pretty little head right off. The gratuitous hand holding, pointless story, gimmicky mechanics and severely restricted world make it precisely the kind of game I have no interest in. And though I admit I enjoyed the last couple of hours immensely, it hard to forgive the initial hours of drudgery.
The multiplayer aspect of the game does redeem it somewhat. Going up against human opponents with their own upgrades to the Nano suit opens up new possibilities. Unfortunately, the ping I got playing from India made it difficult to give an unbiased opinion. I kept getting disconnected frequently which was annoying. Whether this was the game’s fault or just the initial server load, I cannot say. What precious little I did play was certainly enjoyable.
As is becoming the norm, the stats for multiplayer are persistent, ie, a player gains experience points which unlocks new ranks and bonuses. Crysis 2 also has a direct rip off of the kill streak rewards that Modern Warfare has made so famous. Although here, it isn’t as over powered. The tight level design actually works quite well in multiplayer where unleashing the suit’s powers becomes an act of sheer joy. The feeling of satisfaction I got from pulling of a powerful ground slam move to instantly kill three enemies from above is something to make one feel truly badass. It’s a pity the same sensation never came across even once in single player.
Rounds are hectic and short which make Crysis 2 perfect for thirty minute sessions. The single player may be an exercise in mediocrity but those looking for some human vs human action might find the game worth the money. Give the demo a go to see if it holds true for you.
Whether the multiplayer keeps me hooked for long still remains to be seen. But for the most part, it looks promising enough for a couple of months at least.
In closing I can only say that Crysis 2 is not a bad game. It’s just not nearly as good as it should have been. In an effort to cater to the console crowd, it has given up most of what made its predecessor special. Whichever way you look at it, the single player campaign is still a disappointment.
FINAL SCORE: 7.0/10 (Single Player campaign) 8.1/10 (Multiplayer)
Update: The game is now patched to version 1.8. The constant disconnects seem to have been fixed as have many minor bugs and crashes in the single player. The game runs stable now with nary a crash. There is a definite improvement in pings as well. It runs a lot smoother and as a result is more fun to play now.