Reviewed: April 13, 2011
Released: March 22, 2011
I remember when the first Crysis game was announced back in 2007. That was the first time I actually specíd and built a new PC specifically for one game, and then the game came out and my new system barely ran. It took a few more upgrades over the years but I finally got a PC that was able to handle Crysis and then Crysis 2 was announced. Here we go againÖ Obviously there is some sort of voodoo lurking inside this latest version of the CryEngine. The game looks and performs amazingly well and seems to scale itself to fit with a wide range of system specs on the PC, or at least that is what I hear from those with lesser systems. I for one, ran out and built a new PC, not just for Crysis 2, but because this is the year that PC gaming makes its triumphant return!|
Since I was reviewing both the 360 and the PC versions of the game I decided to review the console version first. While the gameís arenít radically different the PC version does take advantage of whatever hardware you can feed it, thus eliminating some of the focus issue I had on the console, not to mention just running at a much higher resolution with infinitely better texture details and lighting. This time the game doesnít even let you tweak the settings all that much. It just auto-detects what your system can do and locks things down for the best possible experience.
Seeing this game run on maximum settings on the PC is almost a life-changing experience. I was blown away from the very first moment, and even had a few flashbacks to 2007 and that opening plane ride in Crysis, as I now found myself in a similar squad of men, only this time in a submarine. ExplosionsÖa hull breachÖa rush of water and a mad dash through emergency strobe-lit passages and flooded control rooms and a final surge to the surface brought me face to face with the horrors of near-future New York City under siege by some strange alien virus.
Youíll be playing as Alcatraz, a soldier who inherits a Nanosuit almost immediately after the title credits are finished. The Nanosuit is no stranger to veterans of the first game, although you will enjoy a much more intuitive control scheme this time around, making it much easier to invoke the powers of Stealth, Speed, and Armor. As before, these powers will drain a rechargeable power reserve at various rates. Combining powers or exerting yourself during their use will drain the power bar that much faster, and therein lies a big component of the strategic gameplay in Crysis 2.
While many might think these powers are a gimmick or a cheat to help balance out poor gunplay rest assured that your Nanosuit only enhances the use of conventional weapons. The enemy AI is brutally tough in Crysis 2 and you will frequently find yourself being buried under a barrage of fire just waiting for your suitís energy to recharge so you can cloak and reposition and if lucky, flank your enemies. Other times you might enjoy invoking the power armor and just wading into a group of enemies as an indestructible human tank. The suit gives you plenty of ways to approach each encounter and the overall way you play the game.
Your suit has additional abilities. You can use your tactical mask to locate points of strategic value and mark enemy targets that will stay highlighted on your HUD once you return to active mode. You can also enhance your suit and weapons with a variety of upgrades that are unlocked using the gameís XP currency. Earn credits by killing enemies and observing key cinematic moments that occur throughout the story. You can purchase many more upgrades than you can install at once, so again, you have some strategy in tailoring the game to your specific tastes of stealth or Rambo tactics.
While most of the game takes place on foot you will have a few chances to ride in vehicles and make use of some powerful mobile weaponry. I wasnít a huge fan of these parts of the game, but thankfully they donít last long. There is a good mix of indoor and outdoor locations as well as fighting and exploring within the city or the more outdoorsy park environments. Sometimes things are pretty civilized and other levels look like its three days after Armageddon with uprooted city streets and subway cars teetering precariously over a bottomless chasm. Landmarks like the crumbling FDR and a dismembered Statue of Liberty sell the location while seeing the Freedom Tower rising above the cityscape sells the 2024 time period.
Those looking to explore can seek out NYC souvenirs as well as laptops with emails that propel the story and help add to that sense of completion. There are even certain cars and trucks you should be looking for if you want those perfect stat screens. The good news is you can always go back and look for these items by replaying any previously completed mission and this time bringing along any cool new toys or upgrades you may have acquired.
For those thinking that the PC version offers a superior control scheme thanks to the mouse and keyboard Ė forget it. It is obvious this game was designed to be played with a controller, and after only a few levels of struggling with the mouse and keyboard I plugged in my 360 controller and played Crysis 2 the way it was meant to be played. Having just finished the game on the 360 everything felt so much more intuitive and moving and aiming was just as precise as a mouse and keyboard, only now I had greater access to the suit powers, weapon attachment, and other in-game menus. With amazing console controls and superior PC graphics, this is the best and only way to play Crysis 2.
Crysis 2 is easily one of the best looking games Iíve ever played on the 360, but if you can toss a $2000 gaming PC at it prepare for the ultimate in virtual reality because I guarantee youíve never seen anything like this. Crysis 2 is one of the visually most complex games Iíve seen in the way of architecture, models, and texture detail. The game is amazing with an immersive HUD, richly detailed weapons, creative monster design, and the most lifelike recreation of NYC Iíve ever seen. Thanks to my new video card and monitor I even got a chance to play the game in 3D, and much like my experience playing the game in 3D on the console, the effect proved more annoying than beneficial. I can appreciate the novelty of the concept I had to revert back to 2D after less than an hour due to eye-strain.
The audio backs up those visuals with a powerful 5.1 mix that often had me feeling like I was watching a sci-fi action movie rather than playing a game. Obviously, my Astro A40 headset didnít offer the theater-like experience and powerful LFE of my console and home theater system, but I was able to appreciate the subtle use of positional audio in all of the surround channels and perfectly mixed dialogue. Voice acting was exceptional and the story, while a bit convoluted at times, really helped to motivate me to my next mission.
Crysis 2 is a 12+ hour experience with a fairly even pace that pits you against human and mutant opposition. There were a few key moments in the campaign where I got stuck having to stumble upon the one sole solution for a problem. Usually the game is pretty open and you can figure out multiple paths to your objective. The checkpoint system is a bit annoying, especially on the PC where we often feel entitled to save wherever and as often as we want. Crysis 2 often forces you to replay lengthy portions of a level leading back up to a major fight or choke point. Iíd rather have the game soft-save prior to these fights than afterward.
Iím a big fan of multiplayer and after playing in the 360 beta for a month or so I was looking forward to playing the full game and checking out more levels than just Skyline. Sadly, the final game isnít playing all the much differently from the beta with the exception of some very cool new arenas. There are some balancing issues with the weapons and the Nanosuit powers, and people are quick to exploit them, making many of my matches not so much fun to play. It just depends on who you are playing with, but hopefully a future patch can level the playing field. There is a vast arsenal of weapons and suit upgrades to unlock in this persistent online experience Ė perhaps not as many as Modern Warfare 2, but no less rewarding for earning them. Obviously, the more you play the more you earn and the more choices you have for approaching future matches. The PC also presents its own set of challenges in matchmaking and in-game chat that 360 gamers now take for granted.
Crysis 2 is an amazing accomplishment for PC gaming. Itís visually stunning, almost defying our perceived notions of what some of our lesser systems can do. It is arguably one of the most scalable PC games in history, offering pleasing results to those who merely meet the minimum specs. The story is interesting and the AI ranges from hard to virtually impossible, always making you think on your feet and always having a back-up plan for when things go wrong. Fans of the first Crysis as well as any FPS fans in general should probably not miss out on what will likely be a Game of the Year nominee. Crysis 2 meets and exceeds all my expectations as a sequel and a next-gen shooter.