The original Crysis was a PC game so graphically demanding that it became, in its day, a benchmark for the highest-end computers. While Crysis 2 still hits high graphic standards on the PC, we gave the console version a whirl--it's the first Crysis game available on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
So, can Crytek still work its magic using 5-year-old consoles?
Moving through a post-apocalyptic landscape--with a gun in hand, no less--is hardly a novel experience in gaming. The fact that Crysis 2 adds even more gaming cliches to its checklist--battle-destroyed New York City, crippling virus outbreak, alien invasion, power-enhancing suits--doesn't help the cause of Crytek's console debut, either.
Put your concerns about originality aside, however, and what you have with Crysis 2 is an extremely well-wrought game that sweeps you up in its expansive grip regardless. I'm hardly a fan of the "shooter" genre, myself, mainly because so many feel like they're starting to bleed together. Call it an action game with a gun, or whatever you like: Crysis 2 might be one of the best representatives of the genre since the last.
I didn't follow the plot. I didn't need to: honestly, when it comes to shooters that fall in line with a structure I so clearly recognize, the disturbing truth is I don't really need a reason to start shooting. Get past the story necessities, and the mechanics are fluid, the scope of the outdoors landscapes larger and wider than many other games of late. I found using the various visors modes more off-putting than helpful, and sometimes the game could use a few more idiot-proof HUD pointers for the next goal (I was one of those idiots, stuck for a while on one level), but the visceral speed of Crysis 2 feels better than that of the competition, for the most part.
But, is New York a successful "character" in Crysis 2, an environment that helps suck me in? Was I emotionally affected? No. The last time NY really worked as an environmental pull was Grand Theft Auto IV. Here it's impressively rendered, but still eye candy.
Multiplayer dangles the now-familiar carrot of experience points, but playing in a wrecked Grand Central Station is far more satisfying than doing the same thing in a generic war-torn lobby. As a New Yorker, I appreciated the virtual tourism of Crysis 2: however, I've been there courtesy of my control pad many, many times before.
Without a doubt, Crysis 2 is one of the best-looking games we've seen in years. It displays a certain smoothness that is ultrarealistic and really brings the setting of a crumbling New York City to life. Gameplay is tight, responsive, and intense. The sound design is fantastic and really adds to the atmosphere.
The game makes a valiant effort by trying to separate itself from the mundane linearity that plague so many other titles in the genre, but at times Crysis 2 feels like it's giving you more options than you really need. A visor accessory is used to help outline specific locations for the player to launch an attack, but it's not always practical to follow.
Also, some of the enemy AI in Crysis 2 is abysmal, which doesn't help a game that's trying to encourage strategic and tactical combat. Too often we were able to sneak up on an enemy that had seemingly fallen in love with a concrete wall.
The first few hours of the game are almost enough to cause a loss of interest, but things certainly escalated the longer we sat with it. In terms of a story, we must admit that we've seen this one so many times before. For the most part it's forgettable, especially after playing through a narrative like the one in.
All in all, Crysis 2 provides enough eye candy for most, and we really appreciate the well above average production values here. However, we had a difficult time forgiving the subpar enemy AI and the handful of times where we just didn't know what to do next.
The best films, novels, and games all know the importance of creating a compelling setting for the audience. Think of the bleak futuristic cityscape of "Blade Runner" or the isolated west of John Ford's "The Searchers." Interactive games have a better opportunity than most to make use of this location-as-character concept, giving the audience an opportunity to literally walk through the backdrops.
Probably the best example of this I've seen is the vivid faux New York of Grand Theft Auto IV, although the entirely fictional world of the Elder Scrolls games, with multiple cities and towns teeming with life and unique architecture, come close.
Crysis 2 immediately hits one of my personal soft spots by choosing my home town of New York as its setting, and, while not terribly relatable (due to a viral outbreak and alien invasion turning the city into ruins), the look and feel of different parts of the Big Apple mostly ring true. Highlights include a showstopping shootout at Grand Central and a view of a half-destroyed Statue of Liberty (shades of "Planet of the Apes," perhaps).
By making its setting such an integral part of the action, the game manages to rise above its somewhat rote action game roots, although there's a surprising amount of stealth and strategy required. On the other hand, the voice acting is some of the worst to be heard in a big-budget EA game in recent memory (not that most of the poorly written lines these amateur voice actors are reading deserve much better).
On a different note, Crysis 2 has managed to do something that Black Ops andcould not--look good on a 3D TV. Those earlier action games lost far too much visual fidelity when in their 3D modes, and I quickly switched back to plain old 2D in both. Crysis 2, on the other hand, looks just as sharp in the third dimension and smartly makes the 3D effect subtle, moving elements into the background, rather than flinging things through the screen at you.