Crysis 2’s single player campaign reminds me of best friend’s incredibly attractive mother. Though I don’t actually know her that well, the thought of spending some “quality time” in her company is enough to generate a feeling of excitement deep within me. Crysis 2 evokes very much the same reaction. For weeks, nay months, I’ve drooled over trailers, screenshots and footage of Crytek’s sumptuous-looking first person shooter and longed to spend some time in its company. Sadly though, now that fantasy has finally seeped into reality and I have Crysis 2 naked in my arms, I feel a little disappointed that it hasn’t lived up to my expectations. In the same way that the fantasy with my best mate’s mom is undoubtedly better kept in my head, Crysis 2’s single player campaign is also a far more attractive proposition from a distance rather than in the flesh.
That’s not to say that Crysis 2 is a bad, or even an average game. While the lack-lustre solo campaign and forgettable storyline only serves as a good example of how hype can raise your expectations to such an extent that even good just doesn’t feel good enough, Crysis 2's multiplayer component saves the day. However, it's with the campaign that this review unfortunately starts. One of the big problems with Crysis 2 it that it takes far too long to get going, and even when it does it lacks any memorable moments that leave a lasting impression. Devoid of the kind of intense, tactical battles that I expected, gameplay just plods along - with hardly any shift in pace or tension. Even when gameplay does attempt to engage you fully, the few boss battles that it throws at you are quite tedious, as you try to snipe down a machine-gunner from the door of a passing enemy helicopter that just won't keep still. Crytek will punish you by making you take down this gunner three times before you can move on; a perfect example of how the single player component lacks in quality gameplay, and quite shocking when you take into account Crysis 2’s graphical innovations.
The fact of the matter is that Crysis 2's gameplay just isn't particularly exciting or engaging. Part of the reason it fails to enthral, it seems, is that Crytek has focused much of its attention on the multiplayer component and creating a game that simply looks fantastic. Meanwhile, it’s neglected to spend enough time creating a solo experience to match. In an attempt to stand out from the crowd, Crysis 2 does have some beautifully detailed, sprawling environments that encourage tactical freedom, but mopping up ground infantry and alien monsters on the way to your final destination becomes fairly rudimentary once you learn how to exploit the system with the powers of the nanosuit. The nanosuit is a superb creation that works brilliantly in multiplayer, but in the campaign its powers feel quite cheap.
Crysis 2 generally involves traditional ‘A’ to ‘B’ objectives where you might be tasked with blowing up an ammo stockpile with some C4, or gathering specimen samples from alien pods. The large multi-tiered levels give you the freedom to adopt a variety of tactics and make use of the game’s impressive array of weapons. Levels are impressively designed so that you can make use of the nanosuits’ powers, particularly the main function; its visor. You can open up the visor at least once per level and survey a range of tactical opportunities. Scan the location and you’ll see positions marked with instructions, such as ‘Flank,’ ‘Stealth Kill,’ ‘Explore’ and ‘Snipe.’ You can then tag them, and head to these positions to take advantage of a specific tactic. ‘Flank,’ for example, might send you into a sewer system to bypass guards on the main road, whereas ‘Stealth’ might offer you a way to avoid a battle completely by turning yourself invisible. Needless to say, this feature does give you a lot of tactical freedom should you want to experiment.
The nanosuit also has a range of other powers that you can utilize for short periods of time, such as the armor mode which gives you extra protection; the stealth mode for turning invisible, or nanovision (thermal vision) for spotting enemies in the dark. The nanosuit offers some impressive core powers, while the tactical options you gain from the visor give you plenty of choice on the battlefield. However, I found I could - on most occasions - tag the option for the exit or end objective, turn myself invisible, run like hell with the sprint ability on and make it to the next cut-scene or section where I’d be safe from the dozen or so guards I've left behind. With the option always there to go invisible, it's quite tempting to do so at every opportunity.
Though stealth mode becomes quite an integral part of the game anyway, it isn't actually much fun to use. Its main function is so you can sneak up behind guards and rack up stealth kills, but such is its advantage that it feels a bit like a cheat mode. I was also right when I said in my Killzone 3 review that - after enjoying the vicious melee attacks in Guerrilla Games' shooter - melee attacks would never feel as satisfying in any other game. In Crysis 2, melee feels like you've just prodded someone in the back, and lacks any visual impact at all. Of course, you can avoid temptation and stay away from stealth altogether; and there is some fun to be had out of testing out the strategic options and getting a different viewpoint over the battlefield. Weapons to handle impressively, and it’s particularly satisfying to execute a head-shot with a sniper rifle, or blow a helicopter out of the air with the powerful JAW. The addition of modules adds a further layer to the combat, allowing you to improve on your various attributes, such as being able to leap higher, or inflict more damage. There’s also some fun to be had out of being able to power kick objects into enemies, or kill them by sliding.
So, Crysis 2 does give you more of a sense of tactical freedom than most first person shooters do - and for that it deserves credit. However, some of the technical problems I encountered were quite frustrating. Crytek has claimed that "enemy AI in Crysis 2 is the most sophisticated in video game history." I've seen little evidence of clever A.I. What I have seen is men running into walls, floating through scenery and some standing completely still as I've walked past. I've also seen enemies spot me in stealth mode even though I’m invisible, while some drop to the floor with a head-shot, and others get straight back up. There's a lot of infantry and aliens to fight through in Crysis 2, so there are always going to be instances of some A.I. going a little berserk. There are many occasions where enemies behave as they should do - taking to cover effectively, heading cleverly toward your position if they spot you and chucking a grenade at your little toe, but it's all far from perfect.
The main area where Crysis 2 really does excel is the graphics. Stand the game's sprawling urban environments head-to-head next to Killzone 3’s junk-yards, jungles and space-ships, and Crytek’s shooter just about edges it in terms of overall visual impact. Stunning character models and facial animations, huge draw distances that span across the horizon and a meticulously modelled interpretation of Manhattan are all quite stunning. Away from the fighting, you're also rewarded for exploration with dozens of collectibles to find, such as dog tags, New York souvenirs and car keys. It's worth heading off the beaten track anyway, just to enjoy the scenery, but it's quite an addictive mechanic searching for these hidden objects.
While Crysis 2’s single player ultimately disappoints, the multiplayer is a different kettle of fish altogether. All of the standard game modes are present, including ‘Team Action,’ ‘Instant Action,’ ‘Capture The Relay,’ ‘Assault’ and ‘Extraction,’ so there’s plenty to get stuck into. Furthermore, it’s all gelled together superbly with an EXP system that’s extremely rewarding and motivates you to keep racking up kills. It seems that Crytek has learned some valuable lessons from Call Of Duty’s multiplayer, with clan tags, ranks, medals, awards and dozens of unlockables to get your hands on as you rank up. And your progress is all viewable via the service record which displays all of your achievements. The fact that everyone has the nanosuit powers in multiplayer - unlike the single player campaign where it seems the balance is tipped significantly in your favor - ensures that everyone starts off on a level playing field and only through hard work and dedication can you get significant upgrades.
Though you start off with one of four classes – namely, assault, scout, sniper, and gunner - you can customise your own class too with different load-outs after reaching a certain rank and gain extra XP through the likes of support bonuses, the use of weapon attachments and achieving skill kills. It’s a rewarding and satisfying mechanic, and it never seems too long before you unlock something else that comes in handy during battle. Having said that, it's a little annoying that you have to rank up to unlock some game modes. Game options are also very impressive, with the option to only jump into matches with players of a certain rank, or the ability to customise a game how you see fit - perhaps removing the ability to use the Nanosuit, ensuring that only headshots cause damage, or removing custom classes. There’s so many options here that you can’t fail to find a game that suits your play-style and skills.
Furthermore, the twelve maps are graphically just as impressive as the single player campaign, with a variety of iconic locations such as the financial district of Wall Street, or the Statue of Liberty, providing a plethora of tactical options. All levels are multi-tiered too, so there’s plenty of opportunity to use your ledge grabbing skills to find vantage points to snipe from, or get up close and personal by hiding in the shadows with stealth and jumping out on your opponents. The only word of caution I do have is that I’ve yet to play Crysis 2 when the servers are full. Prior to release, there’s only been a handful of journalists online, so games have been lag-free and as smooth as silk. If that stays the same, there's no reason not to believe that Crysis 2's rewarding online multiplayer will be jammed to the rafters with players in months to come.
Though the overall tone of this review may suggest that my Crysis 2 experience is largely an average one, I did have exceedingly high expectations for Crytek’s shooter. Furthermore, some of my disappointment could be attributed to the fact that I’ve come straight from playing the Killzone 3 campaign, which was so much more intense and ultimately more enjoyable. Crysis 2, of course, is a different kind of shooter that requires a different type of mentality. However, while some will enjoy the tactical options of the nanosuit and large environments, it’s still a fairly unexciting campaign that lacks intensity. Let me tell you my thought process here before I settle on a final score for Crysis 2. I’d rank the single player campaign 7/10, above average in my opinion, but nowhere near as good as I thought it would be. The multiplayer, however - for being one of the most robust and comprehensive online experiences on PS3 - deserves a solid 9/10. With single player and multiplayer in mind then, Crysis 2 scores a very good, but slightly lower than expected 8/10.
|Crysis 2 Review by Steven Williamson|
-The Final Word-
A visually dazzling, but forgettable single player campaign paves the way for a mighty multiplayer component.