Crysis 2 – the PS3 Attitude review
“BE STRONG. BE FAST. BE INVISIBLE. BE THE WEAPON”. That’s EA’s slogan for Crysis 2, to prepare us for this suped-up, sci-fi first-person shooter. It wouldn’t sound out of place in an eighties action flick, but, then again, neither would Crysis 2.
We’re not talking about its graphics, because they’re splendid and would certainly look completely out of place; we’re referring to its unashamedly macho, action spirit. Crysis 2 belongs in an era which celebrates the overpowered guy, the guy who can single-handedly take down an army in the middle of New York without shedding a sentimental tear.
Take the nano-suit as an example (a one-piece number, capable of going invisible, leaping great heights and going harder than adamantine); it’s a suit all people of a certain age would have loved growing up, back when the Predator was the coolest thing on Earth. This suit allows you to be the Predator.
Hit R2 and Alcatraz (your guy) will go into stealth mode, turning him nigh-on invisible. Like the Predator, it’s not entirely invisible – the cloaking leaves a shimmering outline, but by the time the enemy soldier notices, you should already have snapped his neck. Should you run into a bottleneck, and expect a rain of bullets to descend upon you, hit L2 and you’ll activate armour mode, offering you a few more valuable seconds to survive.
Another of the nano-suit’s features, and for our money the most important of the lot, is the ability to do power jumps. Hold down X and Alcatraz will leap to great heights, and what’s more, he can grab onto ledges and pull himself up. It’s all done in one swift effortless motion. It makes Crysis 2 more exciting, dynamically, than any other shooter on the market. The battle isn’t just on the ground level; it’s on higher floors and even on the rooftops.
Because of the number of powers at your disposal, you are constantly re-evaluating the situation. Am I approaching this area in the right way? Should I climb that scaffolding? Do I go in all guns blazing and think about the consequences later? Do I have enough time to sneak through? You’ll ask this last question a lot, because the nano-suit, for all its power, runs on batteries. They hold more power than a Duracell bunny, and they can even recharge, but they won’t last long in the energy-sapping stealth mode, especially if you’re moving or firing a weapon.
This is important because it stops Alcatraz from being invincible; in fact, you’ll notice quickly that he’s actually very vulnerable. This author found himself spending more time avoiding confrontation rather than going in all guns blazing. Another reason for this is that you’ll spend much of your time running around with a lowly SCAR assault rifle rather than a high tech microwave blaster (although you will get one of these later). If Alcatraz had unlimited juice and ultimate firepower, the challenge would quickly disappear and so would the game’s subtleties, which make it so compelling.
We suspect you could get through the game by using just pure force and direct running, at least on the normal difficulty setting, but Crytek has done a good job conditioning the player so that they feel like they should play in a certain, more fulfilling, way.
There isn’t one way, mind. There is a multitude of ways to play through each section. When you enter a new area in New York, you are encouraged to scan the vicinity for weapons, equipment and tactical opportunities. The areas are generally large wide-open spaces so there will be plenty of tactical opportunities available. Your visor will reveal flanking opportunities and turrets. If you’re like us, you’ll find that a large section of the game will be played stealthily.
The stealth gameplay isn’t entirely satisfying though, mostly because of some AI issues. We suspect Crysis 2’s enemies are descended from Psycho Mantis, because of their uncanny knack of seeing you through walls. You’ll find a nice quiet corner which is perfect for some downtime to recharge your batteries, but you’ll soon find that this well-hidden spot isn’t so well-hidden after all. It’s not game breaking, but it can be highly irritating.
Much is made of the fact that Crysis 2 is a PC shooter scaled down for consoles. This is mostly true, and we shouldn’t complain about that fact (we’ll be seeing it a lot more in the coming years). The most important thing is that the core gameplay experience that PC gamers are having can be enjoyed by console gamers. Console gamers are often treated like idiots, incapable of understanding anything more complicated than move and shoot, but Cytek doesn’t do that to us. They happily give us numerous options and aren’t worried about whether we’ll pick it up or not.
The controller seems like a maze at first, with all the keyboard shortcuts crammed on to it. Tap triangle to change to the secondary weapon, double tap to equip grenades. X is jump but hold down to power jump. Press left on the D-pad to change your shot fire, down to activate nano-vision (infra-red) and right to bring out your rocket launcher – press it again to bring out your C4. Tap Select to open up nano-suit upgrade menu (which is confusing to navigate) and hold Select to open the weapon modification screen. Every button is used, and it’s bewildering at first. It takes an hour or two before it all starts to come together, but afterwards, you’re changing tactics on the fly with ease.
The learning curve is both unforgiving and generous (yes, we know). The various suit functions are thankfully filtered to us throughout the first two levels at a steady pace, but Crytek still think nothing of throwing you into conflicts against several soldiers. Once again, it’s daunting at first, but Crysis 2 has such rich gameplay that we urge that you stick around.
Hey good looker
You want to know how it looks, right? After all, you needed a top-end PC to run the first game. Well, CryEngine 3 looks absolutely fantastic. Textures are rich with detail and the water, fire and lighting effects really shine. In those departments, it’s up there with all the PS3’s best looking titles (Killzone 3, God of War III, Uncharted 2). Sure, it’ll look best on a top-end gaming rig, but it looks mighty fine from where we’re looking.
The engine sometimes struggles to do all it wants to do on the PS3, and you can sense the hardware crying (chortle) under the pressure, leading to the odd glitch. Yet, it’s never enough to diminish the overall standard. We could say that Crytek should be proud of their achievement, but we don’t think they need a confidence booster; the first trophy in Crysis 2 is called “Can it play Crysis 2?” They’re confident, and rightly so.
It’s the sense of scale that really makes our jaws drop. New York is known for its high skyline, and when you’re walking amongst Wall Street and look up, it’s daunting. You can almost feel the vertigo kicking in when you look down from the rooftops. So rarely has a game managed to make you feel like you’re in a place where everything feels in proportion. Things in the distance feel as though they’re actually in the distance rather than just being scaled to a smaller size. New York, with its grand scale, is the perfect city to showcase CryEngine 3.
It’s hard to describe Crysis 2’s plot because so much of it doesn’t appear to hang together. It goes from one extreme to the next. Alcatraz is a marine heading to New York to help the fightback against the Ceph alien invasion. He’s attacked by a Ceph dropship and would die if it wasn’t for nano-suit wearing Prophet (from Crysis 1) coming to the rescue. Prophet doesn’t hang around long; he kills himself and passes his suit over to Alcatraz, sending him on an adventure that will see him fighting a mad scientist, a crazy military commander and his army and an alien invasion. It’s a lot of convoluted nonsense, but that doesn’t matter; it’s a game that has you playing as a super soldier who fights squid-like aliens in an advanced, weapon-grade leotard. Who cares about plot?
The environmental storytelling is, however, very impressive. When you begin New York looks mostly pristine, but by the end it’s almost decimated (wait till you see what happens to Central Park!). Seeing the MetLife building collapse on to Central Station is a very powerful sight.
The pacing is also very good. It never feels rushed or overloaded with set-pieces. Crytek know when to reign in the action and let you play, but they equally know when to let the world fall apart around you, leaving you to enjoy the visual splendour. There are the awkward driving sections (as is now mandatory for all first-person shooter) but they don’t intrude too much.
Overall, Crysis 2 is the essential purchase for anyone looking for more from their first-person shooters. It’s faster, stronger, bolder, and better looking than all but maybe Killzone 3.
As enjoyable as Crysis 2’s singleplayer campaign is, it’s in the multiplayer arena where it will shine the longest. Here we’re seeing players do fantastic things with the nano-suit. We’re seeing players leap impossible distances across buildings and drop into stealth mode before sneaking in behind enemies and knifing them. We’re seeing 100mph hour action happening everywhere (think Quake Arena).
It’s intense, so rookies join at your own risk. Neither is it best for those who like to dip in and out of multiplayer. There are very few options available at the beginning, just team and solo variations of deathmatch and four standard loadouts (assault, sniper, scout and demolition). You’ll have to put in a decent amount of time before unlocking Crash (a territorial battle mode) and days, maybe weeks, before unlocking the other modes such as Extraction, which features tanks. You have to level up before unlocking custom classes and even then, you need to sink in plenty of hours before you can acquire some decent kit. You even have to level up before you can start winning achievements on various weapons.
There are, however, 12 maps ready from the go. That’s a good number, much more than Battlefield: Bad Company 2 launched with. It’s also all killer and no filler. Each is different from the last and full of great spots and shortcuts (usually found by sprinting and power jumping) that an experienced player will enjoy. This author’s favourite map so far is Skyline on Crash mode. It’s set on the Manhatten skyline, and it has you jumping from rooftop to rooftop as you try to control the territory around an alien pod. You need to be fast and alert, because there are few hiding places.
Once unlocked, there’s plenty to play with. Aside from your custom weapon loadouts, you can choose three perks to assist your power, stealth and armour modules. These can be perks such as Aim Enhance (self explanatory) and Tracker (which allows you to see the footsteps of your enemy). There are many interesting combinations available to suit your playing style.
To complicate matters further there are killstreak awards in the game. Pick up three dog tags and you can have everyone show up on your radar (assuming they don’t have a jammer), and get five and you can jam their radar. There are killstreaks that allow you to fire a deadly laser from the sky. Thankfully, none of the killstreaks seem over-powered (yet), in the way that Call of Duty’s killstreaks have been over the years .
You’d think that with all these different customisable options and the ability to go invisible, Crysis 2 would be full of exploits. This may well prove to be the case, but so far games have been well-balanced with the skilful players have been rewarded for their talents. Hopefully this remains to be the case.
Crysis 2 is one of the most exciting multiplayer games around and an essential purchase for any serious fan of the first-person shooter genre.