Friday, 12 August 2011

Review Time - Crysis 2

"Cloak engaged" the nanosuit tells me, for the fiftieth time today. Yes, mr nanosuit, I knew that I was cloaked already, my arms went see through, that was a bit of a giveaway. Still, the nanosuit voice is the only company I have, so I'm not complaining too much. I see a patrol up ahead. I activate my suit's zoom function and weigh up my options. It's a busy street. I could try sneaking up to the roofs, probably won't be too many patrols up there. I could risk an all out firefight by concentrating my power reserves on extra armour. Hmm, there's a lot of guards near that car though, I wonder...

You can punt a car at a man's head. This is the best part of the game. Not to undersell it, Crysis 2 isn't a bad game by any means; this is the best part because it doesn't point out you can do this like you're a moron, it has cars lying around, and you figure out to punt it at enemies' heads yourself. Crysis 2 does quite a few things well, but the absolute best part is how much room it gives you to simply fuck around. In an age of shooters getting more and more restrictive, it's nice to have one, and a very high budget one at that, let you simply figure things out for yourself. There are always multiple paths through each area, but on top of that, you can choose stealth or extra armour, silent melee kills or long range sniping, and all are viable in different situations. Okay, car punting isn't that viable, but it is hilarious, and that's a lot more important.

Combat is varied, but also pleasingly solid. Each gun has a real heft to it, most sound great, and putting bullet on man has a pleasing impact. It's basic stuff, but it does the basic stuff with gusto. The multiple path thing is done quite well too; it's a linear game, about as much as Half Life 2 say, but there's plenty of routes. You can take sewers, buildings, or use your super jump to just hop over shit and goomba-stomp them.

Or simply do your best Lonely Island impression.

Crysis 2 is technically competent in every respect, from visuals, to level design, to the feel of the weapons, but there are some flaws too. It's a tad too easy for one thing. On the second hardest difficulty, it didn't give me much hassle at all, and on the last level I didn't even die once. And I suck at shooters on consoles. The highest difficulty will probably remedy this somewhat, but essentially, it's not going to be much of a challenge if that's what you're looking for. A more annoying aspect however, is the constant fighting against aliens. They're simply not fun to fight against. They're bullet sponges. When they engage cloak and start wall climbing, it can get brilliantly tense but all too often it feels like you're just fighting more annoying humans. A tougher enemy now and then can add some variety, but far too much of the second half is nothing but fighting aliens, and it just becomes a chore as each battle becomes more and more drawn out. It's a lot more tempting to simply cloak and sneak on by. Sneaking on by is a valid option of course, but it's a little too easy to pull off, which is also a problem. A lot of options is a great thing of course, but when the most valid one is to avoid fighting anyone, something's gone wrong. Furthermore, the game doesn't give too many instances of when you have to think about your next choice carefully; nearly any tack will work in every situation with good results, so it's simply for variety.

The story, frankly, is a load of toss. Surprisingly, it was penned by Richard Morgan (who wrote the rather excellent Altered Carbon), but here, he either didn't care, or something got lost down the line, because it's dull, clich├ęd, confusing and has no real resolution. Aliens have attacked. You kill some dudes for some reason. Then kill the aliens for a better reason (presumably). There's something about finding some dude or another thrown in too. It's just really uninspired. What's telling is that during the cutscenes between levels, the game loads at the same time, and once you can play the next level, a large prompt to skip it appears over the cutscenes, and stays there. Even the developers knew no one would care about it. Not all games need good stories, or even stories at all, but here's it's particularly frustrating. A big part of what makes the game enjoyable is how believable the world is. The world is lovingly rendered, highly detailed,  with complex open areas that doesn't cage you in. It's frustrating that when I connect to this world, there's nothing deeper going on beneath it. The people that inhabit it are dull, and the trees are literally more interesting.

Pictured: Two dudes you couldn't care less about.

Also, this is a really minor gripe, but your character has like the loosest footing in the world. At even a hint of a loud noise or scary alien (related to the plot), he gets thrown to the ground, gets up really slowly, and then shuffles about even more slowly. This happens all the time. Assumedly the developers thought it'd make their cutscenes more exciting, but instead it feels like you're trying to walk home after a bottle of vodka.

It all leads to Crysis 2 being a little frustrating. It threads a well worn genre, and with the essentials, it nails it. It's a lot smarter than Call of Duty and most other modern shooters, while having the budget to match it, but it falls just short of greatness. With some difficulty balancing, a greater need for tactical choices to back up your freedom, and less frickin' aliens, it'd be pure joy. A compelling story would be nice too, but when you're talking about Marines fighting Aliens in New York, I guess that's a lost cause from the start.

I'd recommend it. It's not perfect, but it's extremely solid, and a fantastic looking game to boot. It gives you significantly more freedom than most fps games and the biggest criticism I can level is that it's good, and not great.

Go put car on man.


  1. The very first split second I saw the title I thought "why would you review Time Crisis 2?" That is all.

  2. Your profile name never stops making me mentally stumble. I'm like "Oh god, did I comment to myself on my blog? FOREVER ALONE."