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Crysis 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Crysis 2 (Xbox 360) review


"Crysis 2 is easily worth checking out for reasons that go beyond looks (and given how long it is, thank Christ for that). Crytek grants us the ability to turn invisible, leap from the roof of a very tall building and power-kick a parked car into an enemy soldier’s face all within the span of a few seconds, and it’s for those moments that Crysis 2 doesn’t blur together with the pack of steely grey twitch shooters on the market."



I never played the first Crysis, and it’ll probably stay that way for the next two decades or so, until I finally get my hands on a machine powerful enough to run it. I’ve played the sequel, but I played it on Xbox 360, and apparently the PC version smokes its console counterparts in the visual department, which, I mean, holy crap. I’ve played Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy XIII – the PS3 version, mind – and I’m comfortable in saying that Crysis 2 is as pretty a console game as has ever been made. Crytek isn’t afraid to wave it in your face, either. Here’s a team that recognizes how talented its artists are and uses sheer spectacle to the game’s advantage; it’s the kind of thing that actually elevates the material. Had Crysis 2 sucked, I’d still choke up a recommendation if only so you could witness the game’s drool-inducing final set piece.

My conscience can rest easy, however, because Crysis 2 is easily worth checking out for reasons that go beyond looks (and given how long it is, thank Christ for that). Crytek grants us the ability to turn invisible, leap from the roof of a very tall building and power-kick a parked car into an enemy soldier’s face all within the span of a few seconds, and it’s for those moments that Crysis 2 doesn’t blur together with the pack of steely grey twitch shooters on the market. It stands out, and in the industry’s current state, I value that.

This is where I would lay down the plot, but you’ve caught me at a bit of a loss. The original game was tailored for a very specific audience (i.e. people who’ve spent a lot of money beefing up their PCs and want to justify their investment), but EA chose to bring its sequel to a larger audience, probably because they’re still angry that Call of Duty exists and have realized that they’ve got another shooter IP at their disposal. And that’s good, because I wouldn’t have played Crysis 2 otherwise. But the game thrusts you into the thick of this futuristic world without any explanation of the series’ prior events, and as such, I was surprisingly lost for most of the campaign.

I can tell you that Earth is being overrun by squishy aliens who may have landed from space or may in fact be digging their way up from underground, and you’d think that would be simple enough. But there is also an infection of some sort spreading, and numerous humans see you as a point of interest because of the super-powered nanosuit you’re wearing. You’re only wearing the suit because its previous owner, Prophet (the guy from the first game, I’m assuming) was dying and needed you to complete his mission. Your character spends most of the game being mistaken for Prophet, and he never corrects them, because he is a silent protagonist. Some humans want to take the suit from you, some humans want to shoot at you and call you “tin man,” and a select few smart humans want you to use the suit to fight off the aliens. The suit has a voice itself, and it wants you to assess the battlefield and complete objectives.

Yes, the suit. It’s all about the suit. Everything that makes Crysis 2 unique revolves around the suit. You can sprint incredibly fast, jump incredibly high, cloak, and activate near-impenetrable armor, and all of these abilities draw from the same energy meter. It’s actually strikingly reminiscent of last year’s Vanquish; you move through the game by making efficient use of your powers, but should you overexert yourself, you’ll be left a sitting duck without so much as the ability to move quickly.

As an action game, it’s almost impossible to categorize Crysis 2 because the approach is entirely up to the player. You could go the stealth route, jumping from cover to cover under your cloak and quietly backstabbing guards one at a time or even slipping by unnoticed. You could power up your armor and go around blasting enemies with a shotgun, stopping only to give your suit the occasional recharge. You could deploy hit-and-run tactics, quickly taking out a few enemies and then vanishing before they can mount a counterattack. You could leap onto a rooftop, take out a watchman, and turn his sniper rifle against the other guards. You could use the environment to your advantage. Crytek even supplies us with a scanning radar that highlights enemies and even recommends various tactical options. In Crysis 2, you never have an excuse not to be one step ahead of your enemies at all times; it’s just a matter of how you use the tools at your disposal.

While I never played the original, I’m familiar with its brand of free-roaming jungle environments since I own its spiritual predecessor, Far Cry. I feel Crysis 2 does limit itself a bit by being set in a city, as the levels never quite feel as sprawling and open-ended as you’d think a game like this requires. But the game still works when you apply its nonlinearity less to its level design and more to its wealth of approaches to combat. Even when the game inevitably goes all war-torn cityscapes in its second half, I rarely felt like I was being forced to play Crysis 2 any certain way (with the exception of a few tired “defend this position from waves of attackers” scenarios). I made the daring choice to play the campaign on a higher difficulty right out of the gate; that decision sometimes bites me in the ass, but here, it actually encouraged more creative use of the game’s mechanics beyond the simple run-and-gun we’re all so used to.

And what’s cool is that there’s never a “correct” way to do anything. Crysis 2 is sufficient as a straightforward shooter and just as sufficient as a stealth game (disregarding the occasional moment in which an enemy gets stuck to the environment). You can use your cloak to avoid conflict, but leaving guards alive means they’re available in case the enemies in a later section need backup. The corpses of Ceph aliens can be looted for nanosuit upgrades, but the aliens themselves are significantly harder to kill, and they’ve got advanced tools for tracking you, just in case you thought you could sneak around stabbing them without any trouble. It’s rare for such a linear game to provide so many options.

So the solo campaign is both fun and unique, which is why it’s such a bummer that the multiplayer fails to live up to its end of the bargain. It’s essentially just more twitch-based Call of Duty worship, only with the surprisingly inconsequential addition of suit powers thrown into the mix. I suppose it’s competent if you’re not as sick of this sort of thing as I am, but aside from the usual mix of issues (withholding equipment and game modes from new players continues to be a terrible decision, and I often felt that I was battling less with other players and more against my weapons’ absurd recoil), it’s disappointing to come off such a colorful and wildly varied campaign only to stumble into more generic, washed-out deathmatches.

I still play Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood religiously, so the idea of a largely stealth-based multiplayer mode isn’t a lost concept to me. The campaign makes me feel like Predator, and had Crytek found a way to introduce that dynamic into the online component, it could have been a winner. Instead, it’s just a bunch of guys running around shooting each other, virtually indistinguishable from the legions of similar games on the market. File this one under missed opportunities.

Still, I’ve only just recently grown an interest in online console gaming (and incidentally, I’ve only just recently bought an Xbox Live subscription), so how would my former self – the one concerned entirely with a good single-player experience – have liked Crysis 2? He would have lapped it up, despite its relative glitchiness and occasional lapses into tired design formulas. Rarely has a game made me feel like this much of a badass for so many reasons all at once. Yes, I’m sure the original was way better. Yes, I’m sure it doesn’t compare to the PC version. But the game I played is pretty sick one way or another, and easily one of my favorites of 2011 so far.

Rating: 8/10

Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (April 18, 2011)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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Feedback

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radicaldreamer posted April 18, 2011:

I don't quite get what you're saying about the multiplayer. When I played the multiplayer demo, it was people invisible almost all the time.
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True posted April 18, 2011:

Nice review. One thing:

I’ve played Killzone 2 and Final Fantasy XIII – the PS3 version, mind – and I’m comfortable in saying...

Should be mind you.

That's all I caught though. Good work.
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Suskie posted April 18, 2011:

I don't quite get what you're saying about the multiplayer. When I played the multiplayer demo, it was people invisible almost all the time.

Weirdly enough, in the time I spent with the multiplayer, I only ever ran into a handful of people who were cloaked. Most people either used armor or seemed to ignore the suit powers altogether. Then again, most of my time was spent in the servers dedicated to players ranked 10 and under, so it may be that the people I was playing with just weren't very good. Either way, I can only go by my own experiences.

It's still pretty easy to spot people when they're cloaked anyway, just like armor doesn't make people much more difficult to kill. That's what I meant about the suit powers being inconsequential.
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Masters posted April 18, 2011:

mind you = mind
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True posted April 18, 2011:

Eh?!
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darketernal posted April 19, 2011:

Interesting view of the game, reviews and opinions I saw so far were all universally negative, ranging from timid "they removed half the armor powers from the first Crysis", to the not so timid "They made it retarded for console users", "The graphics are uglier then the first one" and so on and so on. I played the first Crysis, and while it was breath takingly beautiful it was a pretty standard shooter(with an awesome last fight). I might check this out one day.
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Masters posted April 19, 2011:

True, I was just saying that you can use "mind" in place of "mind you" and it means the same thing.
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Suskie posted April 19, 2011:

To be honest, DE, I'd probably like Crysis 2 a lot less if I'd played the first one beforehand, because I can definitely see where it would have been a step down (mainly in the more linear level design, as I mentioned). But the suit powers were something of a revelation for me, which was a big factor in why I enjoyed the game as much as I did. Plus, I'm rarely of the opinion that a disappointing sequel is always a bad game. My instincts tell me I should have hated Dragon Age II, but I didn't.

Still, I do wonder why developers feel the need to simplify games for console audiences. We're gamers too.

Also, Masters, I marked your post because you have greatly offended me. Or maybe just because I meant to hit "reply" and accidentally marked your post instead.
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darketernal posted April 19, 2011:

I understand. I don't want to jump on the Dragon Age bandwagon just yet because I didn't play it yet, but yeah, the games of today are getting far too streamlined, and even without playing it, I'm sort of glad that Bioware(and I will presume Crytek too) get a certain fan backlash for cutting off their games the way they did. This will only intensify further on if they fuck up Deus Ex.

The original Crysis had more armor powers, like strength and speed, and jump or something like that, and honestly, they were mostly useless(the strength one I think was only used in spots where you absolutely had to use them, like breaking down a wall or something to pass through), I think only the speed and the invisibility one were ever used, but just the ability to have it, the lack of utter and complete linearity is what made it interesting.
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Halon posted April 19, 2011:

I'm NOT one of those people who are anti-console and going to complain that console limitations are killing gaming or anything, but I HATE how every game is turning into a crappy Call of Duty. The original Crysis actually had decent multiplayer via Crysis Wars and Crysis 2's multiplayer demo (which was basically Call of Duty with a fancy suit) really turned me off. The talk about how linear and restrictive Crysis 2's gameplay is doesn't help much, either.

Companies need target what sells, I guess. Especially Crytek who bitched and moaned for years about how Crysis wasn't a sales success (which was partially their fault). Maybe I'll try the game when it's $20 or so.
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Suskie posted April 19, 2011:

The silly thing about this is that Call of Duty fans aren't going to leave Call of Duty for something exactly the same. Halo used to be the console shooter to beat, and that only changed when gamers got hooked on a different type of multiplayer (and, oddly enough, Halo: Reach actually feels somewhat unique in today's market). If EA really wants CoD's fanbase, they'll need to create the next multiplayer craze, rather than mimicking the current one.

I want to reiterate, though, that this doesn't encapsulate Crysis 2's campaign. Even if it is watered down (and I haven't played the first game, so I can't personally say), it's still long, beautiful, and incredibly versatile. It feels nothing like the mainstream model for shooters, which is why it's so disappointing that the multiplayer is just another me-too CoD clone.
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True posted April 19, 2011:

True, I was just saying that you can use "mind" in place of "mind you" and it means the same thing.

I'm an idiot then, as that's news to me. I just thought it looked odd. Still kind of does.
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Masters posted April 19, 2011:

You're not an idiot. Suskie's just mad smaht (said in a Boston accent).
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fleinn posted April 19, 2011:

..or he's just British :p

"If EA really wants CoD's fanbase, they'll need to create the next multiplayer craze, rather than mimicking the current one."

Actually, I take it back. Suskie is clever as well.

Seriously, though.. try saying that to DICE, or to Guerrilla Games. Or Zipper. Or anyone else. Guerrilla Games do things like this, for for example. In the KZ3 beta, they had a simple overlay with small transparent type. No flashing plus-signs, or anything like that. The HUD was minimal, no killstreak names or popups.

Then for the final version, they add something that's literally a copy of the hud in Call of Duty, full with killstreak prompts and so on. And they actually hardcode the layer, so it's impossible to turn off parts of it - even though we ask specifically for something like that.

--
Still.. one thing that does suck the life out of an online game, and makes it seem more random .. or less about playing /other players/, rather than shooting at flickering suits that don't move like you do, etc.. is the lag.

EA pulled the preview of Crysis 2 because of too many complaints. And then they launched the full version later with the same (unchanged) setup. This is the same setup they use in MoH as well as BC2 - with mechanical matching to region, generally speaking, and no filters or "preferred" games. So if you play online, you're very likely to get into a game with people who lag, while playing on servers in Peru. Or getting into a local game, but this time with players from Peru, etc.

It's a pretty bad problem for all online titles on consoles. But someone figured out "most people" don't care of something..
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Suskie posted April 19, 2011:

Hey, I was watching The Departed last night too.
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Masters posted April 19, 2011:

The Departed? I was talkin' about Good Will Hunting! But The Departed will do. And oh, while I'm in here--nice review, too.
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Halon posted April 19, 2011:

Of course it's not going to sell as much as CoD but I really don't think developers are trying to do that. It'll still sell a few million copies, which is probably more than the original sold. Better to play it safe and get a decent number of sales than take a risk and potentially flop I suppose.
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Suskie posted April 19, 2011:

I was talking specifically about EA. Homefront sold well because it's so much like CoD and I'm sure THQ is happy with that, but EA products will always sell well anyway and the company has said on numerous occasions that they're trying to overtake CoD, and that they believe IPs like Battlefield and Medal of Honor have the potential to do so. Simply having a successful franchise isn't enough for them.
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overdrive posted May 02, 2011:

While hanging out with a friend yesterday, we played this and had a good time with it. Only got through about half the game or so, as the rental didn't come with instructions, so we were kinda gradually learning our way through the game. I agree about the "feel like a badass in different ways" aspect of this review. Trading off the controls, we both seemed to have different styles. He loved the armor upgrade ability for more intensive combat (which, admittedly, worked out well for him as the aliens started playing more of a role). I preferred cloaking and sneaking...to the point where during the level you're setting up a diversion by blowing up stuff near a church, I was in full evasion mode running from one objective to another only close-range shotgunning nearby solo foes when my suit was running low on juice.

The suit mechanics are sweet, although my poor brain doesn't need another thing to keep track of. I think I had more of those "I'll get you guys...SHIT I WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO AMMO AND NOW AM AUTO-RELOADING WHILE HALF THE U.S. ARMY IS GUNNING ME DOWN!!!!!" incidents than I've ever had because I was focusing more on how much suit ability I had left.

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