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Crysis 2 World Premiere Impressions

9 April 2010

"Crysis 2 is the greatest product that is going to come out this year," promised David Demartini, General Manager of EA Partners. Demartini was touting Crytek's upcoming first-person shooter at EA's Crysis 2 World Premiere event last Tuesday, April 6. PSU was in attendance at the event, and while we think Demartini's statement may be a bit overzealous, we're happy to report that the sequel is looking extremely promising.

In Crysis 2, Crytek swapped out the lush jungle environments of the original for the crumbling, desolate city streets of New York City. “If the gamer cannot save New York, no other city will be able to be saved,” explained Cevat Yerli, CEO & President of Crytek. He feels New York is a place we'd want to protect in the face of an alien invasion, making it much more emotionally relevant than a nondescript island.

Now, the first Crysis is known for many things, but an emotional narrative is not one of them. Yerli himself recognizes that the original's story wasn’t up to the standard of the rest of the experience. To ensure the studio wouldn't make the same mistake twice, Yerli brought acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer Richard Morgan on board as the game's Lead Writer. Morgan, an avid gamer as well as a successful novelist, sees "massive potential in games," but believes that such potential often goes unfulfilled.

In Crysis 2, Morgan promises an "emotional charge from the word 'go.'" Indeed, the game's introduction -- which we won't spoil for you here -- sounds extremely gripping. Morgan's creative vision will focus around three primary narrative threads: the narrative of the player, the Nanosuit, and of the city; the three become wrapped together and intertwined in various unpredictable ways throughout the course of the story. One important thing to note is that the character is essentially a blank slate, meaning if you haven't played the original game, you won't be utterly lost if you pick up Crysis 2.

Assuming that, if you're reading this preview, you're interested in the PS3 version of the game, know that the console versions aren't shoddy ports of the PC release. The three main areas focused in Crysis 2 -- highly interactive destructibility, the Nanosuit 2, and a visual style Crytek calls "catastrophic beauty" -- are all done justice on the consoles. The technology in CryEngine 3 that they're able to run on the PS3 and 360 is pretty astounding, actually. A quick run-down of some of the features that made the jump from PC to consoles includes dynamic time of day, color grading, blend shading, procedural destruction, integrated physics, procedural deformation, a dynamic cover system, and hit reactions. They're all on display in the following tech trailer from GDC 2010, just now officially released to the public, which means gorgeous HD video footage.

After the various speakers concluded, it was time for a real-time demonstration on Xbox 360. Before we go any further, know that due to the nature of CryEngine 3, the PS3 version will be virtually indistinguishable from the 360 version of the game. Anyway, continuing on, a developer grabbed a controller and began to play. The first of two scenes on display took place on Wall Street. As the character stepped out onto the edge of a dilapidated skyscraper, Crytek's version of New York City exposed the extent of its devastation. Between the sweeping orchestral score and extremely technically advanced, but also stylistically relevant graphics, we really felt a sense of the "chaotic beauty" that Crytek is aiming for.

After gazing defiantly at the gorgeous backdrop for an appropriate amount of time, the developer switched into action mode: literally. The Nanosuit, like in the first game, has different modes, but the mechanics have been simplified this time around. There are two primarily pillars: invisibility (stealth/tactical) and invincibility (power/armor). In this occasion, the dev flipped on invincibility (which, to clarify, doesn't make you entirely invincible), jumped down well over ten stories, and emerged unscathed. He then engaged in battle with Crynet security forces. Crynet security, a private military corporation, will provide your human opposition, though we're not sure why at the current point in time.

The developer, after engaging in standard firefights for a moment, switched back into his Nanosuit's power mode, and proceeded to high jump between rooftops, hoping to gain a better vantage point. Crysis 2 will retain the sandbox feel of the original game, seemingly with an emphasis on verticality due to the city environment. After progressing a bit further, we saw a shift in play styles. Opting for a more tactical approach, the developer used the Nanosuit to cloak himself and sneak up behind an enemy. When he got close enough, a prompt to perform a stealth kill popped up on the screen, and the developer ripped the guy apart in a brutal, but not overly violent, fashion. He proceeded to sneak up on another enemy, who he grabbed and tossed through a glass window, which shattered into dozens of pieces. Once again, we were reminded that the game is very, very pretty.

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The first scenario came to a close, and the second one was loaded up. There seems to be a heavy emphasis on first-person story-telling in Crysis 2, in the vein of Half-Life 2 and other more recent games. From the first-person perspective, the character boards a helicopter, which begins to take off. Soon after leaving the ground, though, a giant alien spouts out from beneath a building, ripping the entire thing to shreds in the process. The alien manages to strike the helicopter, which veers out of control and spins into the ground. The character, thrown from the chopper, struggles for quite some time on the ground, nearly blacking out as all hell breaks loose around him. Eventually, though, he's able to rise to his feet, which concludes the engaging two or three minute first-person intro sequence.

A horde of robotic-looking aliens swarm the area, and fire upon the character with some form of alien weaponry. The developer fights back with a grenade launcher, wreaking havoc on the environment around him in the process. One alien dashes towards him -- showing off the game's stunning motion blur effects -- but the dev avoids the attack and continues his assault. Suddenly, another form of alien plummets to the earth flaming comet-style, takes aim, fires, and hits the character, who passes out.

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Thus concluded the brief but exciting live demo of Crysis 2. It's difficult to judge the gameplay from a short, carefully selected slice of the game, but what we saw definitely looks promising. And, though the visuals weren't flawless -- there were a few occasions where buildings far in the background popped in, where there were noticeably jagged edges on objects, and where the framerate dipped when the action got heavy -- even at this early stage, it's a technical and stylistic masterpiece. When it releases, it will undoubtedly be hailed as the best looking multiplatform console game of this generation thus far.

So, will Crysis 2 be the game of the year as businessman David Demartini desires? It's a bit too early to answer that question, but it's is definitely shaping up to be one of 2010's heavy hitters. Mark your calendars; the battle to save New York City begins at the end of the year.

Check out the Crysis 2 image gallery to see photos from the event.


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