So fawning was the critical reaction to Crytek’s marvellous original Crysis game back in to 2007 that it appeared to take a matter of seconds for console gamers to commence their relentless (and deafening) clamouring for a PS3 and Xbox 360 iteration of it. Some PC zealots clearly took relish in exclaiming that those machines weren’t physically capable of running it in the first place, but a far more pressing problem was how Crytek would ever have been able to map all of the essential commands to each console’s control pad. As was probably to be expected from such an exemplary team, the way that Crytek have solved this particular issue in the console versions of Crysis 2 represents one of the most commendable of its great many successes.
And it’s a system that’s sure to be influential. Accessing the Upgrade menu for both your Nanosuit and your equipped weapon is achieved via an extremely elegant new system that’s accessible at the touch of a single button – with a quick tap bringing up the former, and a one second-long press taking you to a hub menu for the latter. Modifications are then made by using multiple taps of each relevant face button, and although this IS a tad disorientating at first, after about two minutes you’ll be able to manoeuvre around it extremely briskly. In all it’s a near-faultless scheme that’s very difficult to describe, but is as simplistic as it possibly could have been; with the only niggle being the fact that consequently there wasn’t room for a quick-throw command for hand grenades. To do that, you’ll have to double-tap Y on the Xbox 360, or Triangle on the Playstation 3 to equip them in place of a firearm.
One area in which Crysis 2 does itself a slight disservice is to keep its story in the background much more than we expected. In the same way that last week’s Homefront roped in a famous writer in order to inject a bit of cinematic punch into proceedings, sci-fi novelist Richard Morgan has been brought in to spice up the sequel to a game that definitely wasn’t renowned for its strong or distinctive narrative. This is revealed to have been a great move mere minutes in – with the appearance of a brief but very involving cutscene that features a band of bickering squaddies belittling eachother – but some of the strongest material appears elsewhere. That material appears during the cutscenes (and it’s a bit of a shame that you’re told that you can skip them as soon as they begin) in the rolling menus that bridge the gaps between levels, and during the ‘Flashback’ mini-movies that are automatically unlocked as you progress, and which are inexplicably tucked away in the lower depths of the main menu. It’s great to see a developer putting so much control into the hands of the player; we just hope that enough people investigate further, as the story as a whole is liable to spawn a hefty number of very respectful fans.
Crysis 2’s vivid near-future New York City has been designed with an essentially linear pathway at its core, but it always does you tactical favours to explore the boundaries a little. Your journey through the game is assisted by the familiar ever-presence of flashing waypoints, but deviating from the course frequently opens up a sizeable array of strategic opportunities. During one sequence in which we encountered a small faction of enemy Cell agents idling in the middle of a street, we took a series of obscured rear alleyways until we discovered a spot at which we could vault up onto an adjacent car-park roof. Rather than directly engage, we assessed our bearings, located the precise sweet spot behind a parked car, and then booted the vehicle off the roof and into their three gormless faces. There are numerous opportunities like these available if you take the time to seek them out, but even if you aren’t the adventurous type, Crysis 2 never qualifies as a straightforward meat and potatoes shooter, simply because of how fundamental the Nanosuit is to the core gameplay.
Despite the fact that some of the suit’s abilities are only utilised in the campaign during sections that appear to have been specifically designed with them in mind – like Nanovision, which gives you a Predator-like thermal perception – Crysis 2’s online multiplayer allows you to bring every last one of them to the table; and doing so is clearly the key to constant success. Superficially the game closely resembles the Call of Duty series post Modern Warfare – with similar XP, perks and killstreaks in place – but using the Nanosuit shrewdly is what it’s really all about. Sticking to one tactic (as a number of our opponents did during our lengthy session) is nothing more than a shortcut to repeated death. Those who cloaked themselves and waited in the shadows were no match either for players who armoured-up in anticipation – your stealth meter instantly depletes if you open fire whilst invisible – those who used Nanovision, or those who used the tactical visor in order to spot them for teammates.
But if campaign action is all you’re here for, you can rest assured that Crysis 2 definitely features more speaker-shaking bang for your buck than the first game did, with action-centric vehicle sections now appearing much more frequently; and they’re no longer hamstrung by a restrictive first-person viewpoints either. The game is invigoratingly tough even on the default difficulty setting, though never frustratingly so. And Crytek may have talked a frankly uncouth amount of smack about how Crysis 2 was going to be the best looking console game ever made – it’s a bit of a tough call to assess whether this matches the might of Sony’s Uncharted 2, in honesty – but your jaw will drop, and more than once. The environments are awe-inspiringly huge but razor-sharp detail is at a perpetual premium, and we didn’t notice a single visual glitch or frame-rate issue either during the campaign or whilst playing online. It might not quite be perfect (there are one or two instances of bumbling AI during the very early stages) but Crysis 2 is a thoroughly barnstorming piece of entertainment, and one that you should miss at your peril.
Watch the Crysis 2 trailer here: