The suit maketh the man
Crysis 2 is one of those games that comes along now and then, doesn't really add anything new to the FPS space but manages to succeed on being a combination of good ideas, solid gameplay and well thought out level design. It builds on the framework laid down by the first title and manages to streamline things, yet keep every encounter fresh and interesting. It's a highly recommended title.
Set after the events of Crysis, we're not going to spoil the story for you, but it really does feel like you're playing in a devastated NYC after a brutal alien invasion, that much we gather that you know about the background to Crysis 2 anyways. The Ceph, the aliens that featured in the first game are back en-masse and things are not going well for our gallant defenders. A Private Military Company, known as Cell, has taken the law into their own hands and is busy cleaning up the streets of aliens, infected humans and anyone they don't like.
There's far more to it than that, but you'll have to play the game to find it out.
Crysis 2 appears at first to be a standard first person shooter; it has all of the tick-boxes of the FPS genre and plays to those strengths. There are a few things here and there, like the cover system that lets you peek up and around cover rather than just popping up now and then to take a pot shot. What really sets it apart from most of the genre is that the level design plays into the mechanics really well, since the majority of the levels are designed with a sandbox play-style in mind.
You see, you are the weapon, Crysis 2 features the Nanosuit 2 and this is a game-changer of a suit. It has three operation modes, Power, Armour and Stealth. The default mode is Power and it lets you move faster, jump higher and reach places that a normal human could never hope to get. It allows you to Power Slide too to avoid enemy fire. Many of the suit's functions are tied into your Energy Meter and keeping a close eye on that can mean the difference between life and death.
The suit has a tactical HUD that can be toggled to give you an idea of tactical opportunities, highlight enemies and items/weapons/ammo stashes. With that in mind you can instantly see where you could gain a height advantage, by doing a ledge grab with Power Mode active and get above your enemies. Or you could use a grenade to take out a group of closely packed soldiers before they move on with their patrol. Perhaps you're more into sneaking and assassination? Then you can find an alternate route with a lightly guarded area and do some stealth kills to boot.
If things don't go to plan you can engage Armour Mode which instantly slows you down, toughens the suit's exterior and lets you soak up insane amounts of damage. The two modes are activated with a quick press of the left or the right shoulder button. The other mode is Stealth that lets you fade from view in a Predator-style active camo, one that is really useful but can still be spotted if you move too quickly or you get too close to an alert enemy.
Power Mode (on by default) lets you grab stationary machine guns, pick them up and wield them against your foes. Jump high and move fast. With a combination of all 3 modes you can quickly go on the offensive, gain higher ground, soak up damage and fade from view leaving your enemies wondering where the heck you went. It's great fun to switch tactics on the fly and if you're feeling like avoiding a confrontation, you can do just that by switching to Stealth and just avoiding your enemies.
It all controls very well, with suit functions such as Nanovision (low light and thermal); Tac-HUD being mapped to the d-pad along with the usual fire-mode toggles for various weapons and grenade/explosives and so on. Weapon switching can be done from the Y button and a double-tap selects grenades.
It is the level design though that really shines as part of the gameplay, with lots of options at your fingertips, you're able to assess a situation and then formulate a plan. A rarity in a modern shooter, which normally just sees you wade in guns blazing. Of course you can also get up close and personal in Power Mode, the suit channels your strength to the next level and you're able to grab foes around the neck, slam them against walls or kick large objects across the battlefield as an impromptu battering ram by clicking in the right stick and holding it for a while.
The Nanosuit 2 is an evolving piece of tech and it can take the DNA from dead Ceph, which you collect as you kill them. You are able to buy modules for the suit and increase things like nano recharge, faster energy recharging and muffling footsteps in Stealth Mode to name but two. It all costs a lot of DNA so you'll want to basically plan your upgrade route based on your current tactical situation. You can freely switch suit modules but you can only have one active at any time.
So if you're planning on soaking up more damage in Armour Mode, then it makes sense to have that module active for a heavy firefight. There are several modules per mode so you can mix and match picking and choosing the right tool for the right job.
It isn't just the suit that can be modded either; Crytek has given a wide ranging arsenal of weapons the same kind of treatment. Various guns found lying around or taken from the dead bodies of marine and Cell forces alike, can be customised quickly and effectively for ever-changing battle tactics. If you have a fondness for a long range rifle but really wished it had a silencer, you find one on a dead guy's gun; you can probably swap that out to any weapon you own.
Basically, pick up and grab any new weapons you find to increase your toolkit in terms of weapon mods.
You can also often use the environment to help you take down enemies in Crysis 2; there are tonnes of explosives that can be triggered if you do some recon. It is this level design that stands out and propels the game from just another FPS into the realms of something that's so-far damn near perfect with a great emphasis on playing how you want.
Then there are various vehicles that you can drive, several sections enforce this and they're short/sweet moments that play into the whole narrative pretty well. They don't feel forced or too long, in short you never get bored. The game uses a pretty solid checkpoint system to keep your frustration levels down, but there are moments where they could have used a couple of extra ones in some of the tougher battles, especially on the higher difficulties.
Expect to spend around 8-9 hours on the single player if you want to get the best out of it. Perhaps more if you're looking for all the secrets and taking a far-more confrontational route against the Ceph to gain that precious Nano-DNA for upgrades.
It is also important to mention that a new play of Crysis 2 keeps your suit unlocks as a bonus.
So that about wraps up the gameplay for single player. Oh there are a few lite-quicktime events but nothing that'll have your fingers in a knot like say, God of War.
I'd go so far as to say that Crysis 2 is one of the best looking console games on the market, on both 360 and PS3. The 360 version boasts some nice visuals especially when you're running it on a good quality HDTV. It does have 3d options but we didn't bother with those since the TV here isn't 3d ready and well...we're not all fond of 3d as you might notice from a recent article. The non-3d is fantastic, the textures are crisp and clear and the special effects look great. The City of New York above and below ground has been brought to life as a war-torn ruin amidst an alien invasion, which makes the perfect backdrop for the action.
The frame-rate stays solid throughout and there are very few texture glitches, we did spot the odd one or two but they weren't enough to spoil our enjoyment of the game at all. There's virtually no pop in or out either and the level of detail both in terms of environment and characters is basically top notch.
There's a lot going on in Crysis 2 in terms of animation, you can see your suit change as you trigger the various modes and there's a nice level of animation to the characters, actions, weapons and environments. Nothing ever appears to be static here and it's all done to near perfection. It's hard to pick one thing that stands out, but in terms of cut-scenes the whole game is shown from the perspective of your character so you're always in the action regardless of what's going on. The death animations are pretty good and there's a lot of variety in the way your enemies and allies go down.
There's a lot of physics running foreground and background in CryEngine 3 and it really shows when you're hurling cars, smacking bad guys around like confetti and seeing the enemy get blown backwards by a huge explosion. There's a nice sense of weight to any hand to hand and your Ceph foes are capable of going toe to toe with your Nanosuit 2. They can actually hurl you around and knock you over, this all feels as though there's some force behind it.
There were a few AI gitches in terms of path-finding we discovered on our first play, which didn't happen again on play #2 at all. Ceph and Cell soldiers got stuck on a few environmental objects or in some cases walked off ledges and toppled to their doom. For the most part the AI is just excellent; it really works as part of a squad and makes good use of grenades, cover and concealment. It has 3 states, aware, combat and unawares. When they're aware, they're paranoid and they're looking at your last known position. They'll go into a search mode from this point on and attempt to track you, so it's wise to relocate and move quietly using Stealth Mode.
In combat they're actively trying to murder you and they'll do a good job of it unless you evade, or kill them first. Ceph are especially good at taking you down quickly and it's wise to use the suit's agility to break their line of sight and keep your distance so you can hit and run.
There are a few more tricks the AI can do, but you'll find those out as you play.
The weapons in Crysis 2 have their own unique sound, there's not just one type of gun and all of them have varying audio attached. The environment sounds and the spot sounds in the game do a great job of bringing the atmosphere home and as you're wandering the ruin of NYC you'll hear various cues that make the invasion seem so much more real.
There are a few talented composers involved with the game and none other than Hans Zimmer provides some of the best themes to Crysis 2. His music is the capstone that makes the soundtrack excellent. Haunting themes combine with staccato war-like undertones as the Ceph invasion continues with humanity's last hope pinned on the Nanosuit 2 hero.
The voice actors in the game all do a great job with their characters, yours being a silent protagonist apart from the Nanosuit that gives you a few audio cues and has a robotic voice for when you change various suit modes and detect threats. The script and dialogue has a few stumbling blocks here and there but for the majority of the game its pretty good stuff and fits the theme nicely. It is much better writing than Crysis for example.
There's the usual suite of MP modes in the game, it has unlocks and character customisation. What you'd expect from a modern shooter, riffing off the successful Call of Duty model which in turn riffed off some of the previous shooters. You gain XP from battles and work as a team or against your enemies.
One of the more notable modes is a control/capture assault style mode where one team, low on tech and weapons has a Nanosuit and must hack servers whilst the others are armed to the teeth and must defend.
Overall the MP side of the game is pretty Ok; especially now they seem to have fixed some of the lag issues and server problems found at the start of its MP shelf life. It is fun using the Nanosuit in combat since it behaves like the SP version and provides you with some interesting tactical moments and opportunities.
It's a worthy addition to the engrossing singleplayer side of the game.
It's a good solid game with a lot of potential, the multiplayer definitely adds extra value and the game itself is good enough to stand with just the singleplayer, offering numerous replay opportunities to experiment with different Nanosuit Upgrades and play styles, going for a more gung-ho approach and trying out the armour's higher levels of power and taking different weapon loadouts.
We say it's highly recommended; it impressed us here at Games Xtreme enough to play it through a second time for the review and that's a rarity.