What is it this month with the predictions of rather dire straights in the US? If it isn’t North Korea invading (see Homefront), then it’s an outbreak of plague and an invasion by aliens; oh well, at least the graphics look good.
Submerged just below New York’s Upper Bay area in a military sub in the year 2023, US marine, Alcatraz, is shaking of the worst of a tequila-fuelled hangover. His fellow marines, the standard bravado-happy, wise-cracking types, are busily exchanging conspiracy theories as to their current objective.
Suddenly sirens sound for action stations, “I told you, they don’t need M4s to treat disease,” extols the mouthiest of the group. Seconds later his supposition is confirmed — and how — as an explosion rips the sub in two, submersing the marines as a torrent of water rushes into the ruptured sub. One frantic half-dashing, half-swimming moment later and Alcatraz is clear of the sub and bobbing on the surface with the other survivors.
Lady Liberty burns in the background, the Brooklyn Bridge smoulders and corpses float in the river; before the marines can form any kind of plan they’re come under attack, as a hostile UFO rains fire down upon them. A semi-conscious Alcatraz is suddenly dragged to safety by Prophet, nanosuited soldier of the original and, after a hazy explanation, Alcatraz’s fate is confirmed as the nanosuit is passed to him: welcome to Crysis 2.
So let’s cut to brass tax, much fanfare has been made about Crytek’s achievement in cramming their CryENGINE 3 on to PS3 and Xbox 360; indeed, even one of the first achievements you pick up during single-player is entitled ‘Can it run Crysis?’ Now I’m not usually one to harp on about graphics too much with with a game like this it would be remiss not to.
Having gotten through the solo-campaign on 360, and having had chance to play multiplayer on PS3, I can confirm with 100% certainty that yes, it can run Crysis. How well does it run it? It’s easily on a par with the other console shooters, the likes of the Unreal Engine 3 driven Bulletstorm and Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Guerilla’s bespoke Killzone 3 to boot. I’ve seen it in 3D too (again on 360) and it looks great there too, as you’d expect of an engine built from the ground up to incorporate 3D; possibly the best 3D effort thus far in fact.
The CryENGINE offers a welcome change in its graphical style too, with textures looking that little bit more substantial than we’re used to seeing. Still, despite all the hype it’s a fine looking engine, capable of throwing huge alien ships our way and have buildings crumble round us but it isn’t goal post shifting better. On PC of course that’s maybe a different story with the engine capable of taken advantage of every bit of processing power you can muster. It’s the old cost:benefit question again, whether to shell out on the upgrade of just buy a console…
So that’s the graphics, great but not god-like, how about the game itself? I’m pleased to announce it’s more-or-less all rosy. Upon receipt of Prophet’s nanosuit you’re immediately presented with a whole suite of options when it comes to tackling the game’s various encounters. Stealth more (think Predator) allows you to sneak passed hostiles, armour mode turns you into a bullet-absorbing bad-ass, while power-jumping parkour moves, assisted sprinting and power kicks all add to your tactical choices.
Hitting ‘up’ on the d-pad unveils the suits tactical visor, allowing you to survey the a scene from a discreet distance, enemies in sight can be tagged, thus becoming highlighted on your HUD’s handy map and easily tracked, while tactical options are unveiled, i.e. flanking options, target destination, ammo sources, etc. Of course all this power doesn’t come for free, the nanosuit’s power is consumed whenever an ability is used, yes it powers back up quickly but always seems to dissipate just when it’s needed most.
Hostile forces are more than equal to the task of knocking you down however, cleverly grouping together to hunt you down in a similar manner to say the alerted guards of Metal Gear Solid. Oddly however, I did witness more than a couple get snagged on scenery, unable to negotiate their way around a car for example, not ideal and strange in a game where otherwise enemies are quick to spot you, able to vault fences and generally quite tough.
Still, the odd bit of dense AI isn’t enough to stifle what is otherwise some thrilling gameplay. Whether you choose to play the gung-ho action man role, or a more subtle silent but deadly approach, Crysis 2’s encounters are ever enjoyable while some truly breathtaking cinematic set pieces push the storyline on a pace delivering a shooter which inexorably draws you into it – and at roughly 15 hours I didn’t feel short changed either.
Then there’s the multiplayer which leaves the nanosuit’s abilities untouched so expect lots of cloaked snipers. Thankfully Crytek have thought about that and have introduced not only a kill cam which shows exactly where your assassin was hiding, but also dog tags, dropped whenever a player is killed. These glowing pick-ups are interesting for two reasons, first of all, collect enough and you’ll be granted extra power (maximum radar, orbital strike, maximum nanosuit), but secondly that act as a means of establishing how safe an area is, if there are a stack of them in one place then a little caution might be advised.
The modes of play, unlocked as you progress through multiplayer battles provide a good deal of variation too. Extraction, in which attackers must prise two alien creatures (which just so happen to max out their possessors nanosuits) providing closely fought battles, as does Assault which pits nanosuited but lightly armed infiltrators, bent on hacking computer terminals, against normal armoured but heavily armed guards – all across Crysis 2’s devastated urban settings, so adding the gloss to an immensely enjoyable experience.