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PLATFORM: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Crytek GmbH, Crytek UK
The first Crysis stunned gamers upon its release in 2008 almost solely due to the graphics. Developer Crytek’s Cryengine (yeah, these guys like to cry) provided what was easily one of the best-looking games at the time of release, featuring a massive open world environment. The game played pretty well too, offering a first person shooter experience with a little more choices than usual. In the game you were given a “Nanosuit” that could be powered up in a myriad of ways, allowing you to play the game as you saw fit. Prefer a slower, stealthier title? Activate the suit’s cloak ability and sneak around unaware enemies. Prefer rushing in and shooting everything that moves until there’s nothing left? Turn on the armor and run head-on into the battle.
The plot was thin and the enemies nothing special but it took an interesting turn about halfway through with the reveal of aliens, and the graphics and open world certainly helped shuttle you along the way.
Now the sequel is here and with it a brand new engine that’s even more jaw-dropping, and for consoles too, no less. But with it also comes a smaller game world and less of a variety of enemies, and a definite feel that this was created with console gamers in mind. Will gamers be pleased or forced to cry in our huge pillows?
You are Alcatraz, a marine heading towards Manhattan in a submarine to extract a doctor from the city. A strange disease has spread throughout it and chaos reigns, and this VIP has something to do with it. Just when the job looks like it’ll be easy the submarine is rocked by an unknown blast and you’re forced to evacuate, making it out to see an alien ship rise from the depths and begin blasting everyone and everything.
You barely make it to shore to find Prophet (a character from the first game), clad in his biosuit and about to save your life. He gives you a suit and removes himself from the equation and you’re soon on your own- tasked with finding the doctor and getting him out of NYC, which has gone completely to hell. The Ceph aliens that attacked in the first game have widened their invasion- and they’re already here. Along the way you’ll find out just why this guy is so important, what exactly this suit is, and try and stop the alien invasion (of course).
The game plays like a strange bastard child of Call of Duty and Halo. Anyone who’s played COD will immediately be able to jump right into things as the controls are nearly the same, but of course we have the addition of the suit powers. The left and right bumpers (L1 and R1 on the PS3) control them, and allow you to easily snap in and out of armor and stealth. Both deplete an energy meter so you’ll have to decide which warrants your attention.
Two additional suit modes from the first game- Speed and Strength, are incorporated into the regular controls. You’ll enable Speed just by clicking the left thumbstick to run, which allows you to sprint incredibly fast and also to slide across the battlefield. Pick an item up and you can chuck it by holding down the right trigger, which enables Strength (and also allows you to kill enemies with a bevvy of amusing objects). It’s definitely a simplification of things from the last game but it works. You can also purchase upgrades by picking up dropped “Nano Catalyst” from slain Ceph, gaining new attacks and stronger suit powers. Weapons can be fitted with new parts as well, allowing you to choose if you’d like various scopes, silencers and underslung weapons on each gun.
While the game world is much smaller and more linear than the last it still allows you to play the game any way you like it. Your visor allows you to pull up a HUD to see all enemies, weapon drops and tactical options every time you enter a combat zone. You can click on enemies so that they’re highlighted in your regular view mode and check off various tactical spots in the order you want to do them. For instance- there might be an area that’s better suited to a stealth approach, so you can choose to tag that approach to sneak by enemies and tag a mounted gun inside the base to surprise your enemies.
The biggest problem of the game by far is the atrocious enemy behavior. They’ll sometimes get stuck in animations, hung up on a wall or doing a running man. On three separate occasions I saw one throw a grenade right at his feet and blow himself up. The game is also of the annoying variety that if you uncloak near enemies they immediately zero in on you and begin firing. The lack of enemy varieties doesn’t help things, but it’s to the game’s credit that setting your tactics before an attack never gets old. The suit powers are really that much fun.
The campaign is lengthy and exciting but most people will find more meat in the multiplayer. It definitely feels familiar to anyone who’s played Call of Duty before (xp, weapon unlocks, kill cam, kill streaks, etc. etc.) but the addition of the suit powers changes things up beautifully. Now that anyone can stealth themselves or throw on armor in the middle of a firefight you’ve got a lot more strategies to think about. You’re given a ton of maps to play with- a dozen- and a lot of game modes to play around with them in. The setting really adds to the experience as well, since there’s just something unreal about a gigantic shootout in a destroyed Grand Central.
Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. Easily the best-looking console game of all time- easily. The particle effects, the light bloom, the characters models, it’s all amazing from the very first section of the game.
The setting definitely helps. NYC has been done to death in games (Just in recent years- Spider-man, Prototype, The Darkness, Mafia II, GTA IV, The Godfather II, Alone in the Dark, hell, even Darksiders kicks off in Times Square…) but the destroyed look definitely makes for an exciting game world. Even if a native will be amused at all the goofy little discrepancies, like the V and W trains still running, on the whole they did a great job at recreating the city.
The score as composed by Borislav Slavov is some truly epic stuff, and I found myself humming the theme song (composed by none other than Hans Zimmer!) long after I’d turned off the game.
The campaign offers a solid eight hours of gameplay and you’ll likely want to go through it again to try different paths. And then of course there’s always the multiplayer, with all of the goodies to unlock like guns and upgrades and game modes. You’ll be playing this one for quite a while.
Crysis purists may not want to hear this, but this is such a step up over the first. The loss of a lot of things that made the series unique in the first place is sad, of that there’s no doubt, but the first game always felt like it lacked focus. This on the other hand feels like a complete package- solid campaign, fantastic multiplayer.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars