Posted on March 22, 2011, Phil Hornshaw Crysis 2 Review
Super suit. Alien invasion. Last hope of humanity. Unstoppable killing machine. Those are the core concepts at the heart of Crysis 2, but they could describe almost any non-World War II shooter on the market. Sadly, that’s the major problem with Crysis 2 as well: While it’s not bad at what it does and is especially visually remarkable, there’s not a whole lot that lifts it above a crowded genre.
It is a beautiful game, though. Crysis 2 takes place in New York City amid an alien invasion by the Ceph, some jellyfish-type monsters that go around in exoskeletons. The city is in chaos after an alien disease has swept through it, causing a paramilitary group to declare martial law and start going nuts, rounding up and mostly just executing the infected. They’re led by a crazy guy, as all such military groups seem to be, who has unlimited resources and who eventually turns his sights toward killing you.
Crysis 2 (XBox360 [Reviewed], PS3, PC)
Developer: Crytek Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Meanwhile, the aliens hang back a bit and give you time to get situated, then show up full-force about a third of the way into the game. As a marine called Alcatraz, you start on a submarine in the Hudson River on your way to extract a nanotechnology scientist from the city. The sub gets blasted, some events ensue, and you eventually come to find yourself gifted with the Nanosuit 2 — your obligatory future soldier supersuit. This is what makes you a one-man special ops squad and gives you the ability to play the next eight hours of Crysis 2.
The Nanosuit can be a lot of fun to play with. It has several key abilities — you can sprint fast with it, jump high with it, turn yourself temporarily invisible or make yourself temporarily heartier when under attack. Each of these abilities consumes the suit’s energy, which will deplete but rapidly recharge over time. You’re never without your abilities for longer than about three seconds, and on Normal difficulty, that’s more than enough to make you nigh unstoppable if you have any idea of what you’re doing at all. (Note: Don’t play on Normal.)
To help on the knowledge is power front is the scope, a set of on-board binoculars that let you get the lay of the land and pick out Crysis 2′s tactical suggestions for just about each enemy encounter. Every time you hit a big fight, you’ll get a chance to whip out the scope and scout the area before committing to it. This lets you see where you can sneak past guys, where a good sniper position might be, where spare ammo and weapons are located and where enemy positions are strongest. The scope allows for and promotes a lot of freedom in how you approach each situation.
For all its tactical posturing, though, Crysis 2 doesn’t really deliver, and this is where the game starts to slip. Even though it gives you plenty of bad guys to fight, including military guys and their vehicles and aliens and their vehicles, especially on the normal difficulty, no fight is really that big of a deal. As you encounter aliens, you’ll be able to pick up goo from them that allows you to upgrade your suit, and more or less this starts to make you fairly godlike. But even without upgrades, most players will commit to two possible tactical options: sneak up and kill a guy, thereby triggering attacks from all sides (which means running away, recharging and sneaking up and killing another guy), or just sneak past encounters altogether.
That’s right — you can blow past just about every fight in the game, unless it’s a huge boss-like encounter. With some slightly skillful cloaking (read: being behind something when your energy runs out), you can give most every enemy the slip with little to no trouble at all.
When you do stand to fight, you’ll be subjected to the middling AI, which ranges from slightly remarkable (oh man — they grouped up and came to find me as a team!) to totally idiotic (alien runs into wall until I come up and kill it). Even if the AI does make a good decision against you, all bets are off the moment you flip on your camo, because apparently in the future no one thinks to bring thermal imaging equipment along on their alien invasion. Enemies will often hear you and come investigate, and two feet from a guy it’s impossible to hide, but for the most part you’ll just fight enemies until you get bored, flip on camo and leave the encounter. I was able to play the entire end game, except for one final mandatory fight, without firing a shot.
When you actually decide to take on enemies, the gunplay has a lot of potential. As you find new weapons on the ground, you gain the ability to add attachments to the weapons you pick up. Silencers, barrel-mounted grenade launchers and shotguns, and varying sights allow for a lot of on-the-fly customization and tactical options. The silenced pistol is a phenomenal stealth weapon, for example, allowing you to clear whole levels without detection.
But Crysis 2 is really at its best in a few big set piece battles, in which you’re actively alternating between running-and-gunning and stealth in order to give enemies the slip, flank them and blast them. But it’s never especially hard: really it boils down to how exposed you leave yourself when you make an attack, because there are usually other guys ready to shoot you from your flank and the higher difficulties include bullets that don’t give you much room for mistakes. One-on-one alien encounters are usually a little more interesting because they’ll occasionally throw in melee attacks that send you flying, but once you line up a shot and hold down the trigger long enough, you win. Activate armor and you’re usually pretty hard to kill, although on the hardest difficulty, bullets have a tendency to rip you apart.
While there are a lot of pretty things to look at and great environments to work through — New York gets torn apart by the prolonged fighting, and with building collapses and seismic shifts all over — there’s no immediacy to most of the enemy encounters. Fighting big enemies dissolves into strafing around them and shooting them in the back (though they irritatingly often find a way to face right at you regardless of where you are and how invisible you appear to be). Smaller enemies usually go down without much fuss. Your supersuit makes you a bit too super, making much of the fighting just feel a bit boring.
There just doesn’t seem to much in the way of stakes for a lot of the game — even characters giving you information will often speak evenly and calmly about things like the eventuality of nuking the city or the ability of the aliens to murder everyone everywhere.
Things look up a bit in multiplayer, where that immediacy and danger with every encounter returns to the fore. Crysis 2 handles almost exactly like the modern iterations of Call of Duty, although the addition of being able to cloak or harden your armor at will, as well as to climb up buildings and use the scope on enemy positions, adds a lot of character to the fairly standard game modes. These additional abilities let players define how they attack the game in some cool ways, especially with the ability to scale buildings and sneak up on one another.
The whole thing is set on an unlocking scale that makes you work to earn new weapons, equipment, abilities and game types, which means you can expect to play a lot of team deathmatch before getting to try anything more interesting. All the game types are the standard shooter fare, though — holding down territories, extracting objects, capturing flags. They’re not bad, they’re just nothing to scream over.
That’s the plight of all of Crysis 2, unfortunately: it’s an extremely competent shooter and would have made an amazing summer blockbuster film, but as a video game it’s just not that engaging. Fighting takes on too much of a fish-in-a-barrel quality, but toward the end of the game with the cloaking ability amped up, I started to wonder why I should bother fighting enemies at all. Couple that with a story that’s convoluted and feels like it’s missing a lot (for example, Crysis 1, which wasn’t available to console players and so causes a lot of confusion for people picking up the series for the first time) and it’s hard to really stay engaged.
There are some really great, breakout moments in Crysis 2 — but not really to play through, more to just watch. The whole game is a series of good ideas that lack a soul, a reason to get you invested in trekking through eight hours of encounters with the same five or six enemies. You’ve played this shooter before, so unless you’re really hoping to continue the Crysis lineage or see some nice graphics on a console (and nicer on a PC), there’s just not a lot of new ground to tread here.
- Lots of variety in how you approach fights.
- Nanosuit is fun to play with and has a range of abilities.
- Scope ability and the game’s layout promote tactical thinking.
- Lots of weapons and customization options for each.
- Freakin’ gorgeous to look at.
- Lots of amazing moments and great setpieces.
- Competent multiplayer with lots of customization and rewards.
- Nanosuit in multiplayer gives some interesting leeway to play style
- AI isn’t nearly as revolutionary as the hype would have you believe.
- Almost every encounter is distilled into cloaking, sneaking around the guy, and shooting him from another side.
- Nanosuit feels out of balance and often makes you way too powerful.
- Story doesn’t make a ton of sense.
- Game desperately lacks stakes — except when helping save New York civilians from aliens around the middle, the game never really tells you why you should care about what’s happening.
- Multiplayer has some nice touches, but doesn’t stray too far out of the standards of the genre.
- Stupid glitches: sometimes enemies don’t go to their scripted positions, objects and vehicles will freeze in the air, and enemies go charging into walls until they’re killed.
Final Score: 72/100
Got the game? Check out our fullCrysis 2 Walkthrough.