Review: Crysis 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360)


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Crysis 2
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 03/22/2011

Once upon a time, the gaming prowess of a computer was benchmarked via Quake. Running that game at 60 frames per second with all the bells and whistles cranked up was the sign of a true gaming rig. Nothing lasts forever, however, and eventually a game came along that brutalized system specs. That game was using the CryEngine, and it was a shot across the bow of console gamers, a firm statement that PC’s were the home of superlative graphics. Well, Crysis 2 has arrived on consoles, and the first achievement you’ll get is a questioning, “Can it run Crysis?” The answer is a resounding “yes.”

1. Story/Modes
Let’s be clear off the bat and address some of the talk about the events in the story. There are several references to September 11th running through this game, alien spaceships will smash into buildings, and buildings will fall down and crush survivors. These moments can be very haunting and effective at drawing you into the setting, but if you have a problem with the imagery, steer clear. Crysis 2 opens with a dark montage of news footage of some awful viral epidemic hitting New York City. You come into play as Alcatraz, a member of a Marine Recon squad sent in via submarine to rescue a scientist. Things go bad immediately, and shortly after, you will find yourself piloting the nano-suit that gives you amazing abilities. The campaign is rather long for the genre, easily in the ten hour range, and it breaks up the opposition nicely. Early on you’ll be fighting to avoid CELL troops, a paramilitary force sent in to pacify the Big Apple during the viral outbreak. Soon though, you find yourself fighting for the species against the invading alien Ceph. The story progresses at a fast clip, with lots of dramatic moments and last stands that are shortly topped by the next one. The game does commit the sin of ending on a cliffhanger, but still offers a satisfying resolution to the battle for New York. I’ll talk about the multiplayer in a bit.

Story/Modes: Great

2. Graphics
I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way first. There is occasional slowdown. When you and a half a dozen marines are fighting against a wave of aliens, in the rain, with gunships above and grenades flying as you activate your armor shield, you might see a brief slowdown. Even then, it feels more like slow motion than a stutter. I also had a gun disappear from my hands, once.

All set with the bad? Now, the good. This is the game you will use to show off your entertainment center. Bright colors, amazing smoke and fire effects, smooth animation, brilliant water effects and a wonderfully destroyed city to play in are waiting for you. This is the first game in a long time that kept me dropping my jaw. I could go on and on about the graphics, but the bottom line is this: the graphics are without peer on the consoles right now. Crysis 2 might mark that point in a console’s life cycle where the developers know exactly how much they can throw at the hardware without causing it to break.

Graphics: Amazing

3. Sound
With all of the various Modern Warfare and Call of Duty entries, as well as similar first person shooters out there, gamers pretty much know what to expect from a FPS from a sound perspective. Crysis 2 doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t often surprise either. You will have the expected radio chatter, gunfire, and military people barking military orders. The gun sounds are all very heavy and satisfying, with the odd exception of the Gauss rifle you get late in the game. It barely coughs, yet is utterly devastating. The music in the game is as expected, but works well. You get your usual pulse pounding anthems, and they are all very good, but nothing special or mind-blowing. I like the music, I’m just not in love with it.

The suit sound effects are where things get interesting. When you cloak, there is a brief purring noise very reminiscent of the Predator films. If you activate the armor mode, bullets that once thudded into you now clang against the armored shell. The gravelly voice of the suit is nice also.

Sound: Very Good

4. Control and Gameplay
Most of the gameplay found in this game is going to be second nature to shooter fans, with a few exceptions. Your nano-suit offers a few fun tricks that will turn one sided affairs into “I can’t believe I survived” moments. With the right button, you can activate a powerful cloaking device that will shield you from almost all sight. If you are right in front of someone you’ll be noticed, but mostly you can hide and flank enemies. The left button turns your armor from bullet-resistant to bullet-proof. If you know you’re going to absorb damage you can flick it on and wade through some of the larger fights. The suit also has a visor mode that will let you scope out targets, resupply points, and tactical advantages. While you are supposed to be able to pick up objects and chuck them at enemies, it really doesn’t work as well as shooting them. If there is one downside, it’s the few driving sections that come up. The vehicle controls are very loose and it is easy to get stuck or killed while driving. The AI also tends to either react amazingly well or run into walls. It isn’t messed up all the time, but usually, if it does happen, it happens towards the end of a big fight.

Control and Gameplay: Very Good

5. Replayability
While Crysis 2 has the typical pile of collectibles and unlocks in the single player mode, the real longevity for shooters is the multiplayer. Is it worth hanging around for? Maybe. The maps for the battles are all taken from the game, and have the same beautiful layout that you’ve fought in already. The problem is that, aside from the suit abilities, it feels just like a Call of Duty game online. If you’ve still got Black Ops, you’re playing this. The suit powers don’t do much except frustrate me anyway. There’s a lot of “I was armored, how’d he kill me?” and “great, invisible snipers,” to deal with. It still is fun, but it feels a lot harder to compete in than other games in the genre.

Replayability: Good

6. Balance
You’re in for a fight in all areas of this game. Very little seems easy, but also very little seems impossible. There are a few areas that take a while to beat, including a fight against the alien walkers followed immediately by another fight against an alien walker, but the difficulty never seems unfair. The only rough bit is the sense that the AI always knows exactly where you are if you’re not cloaked. More stealth would be a nice touch, but it does let you set up most of the battles to your liking before you really engage.

Balance: Great

7. Originality
Gamers have seen the invasion of Earth before, and a guy in a super suit saving everyone’s life isn’t exactly new either. Paging Dr. Freeman? There are entire levels dedicated to alien spore towers, and lots of this game can feel like it was cribbed from Half-Life 2. The permanent ability to cloak, scan, and armor up is a nice touch though, and the sheer amount of pain you’ll endure in the suit is almost scary. About a third of the way in you will be scanned, and it reveals that the suit is the only thing keeping you alive – there’s a litany of lethal wounds you’ve suffered. That comes hours before you get electrocuted, crushed, stabbed, and blown up a few hundred more times. At several points you get to use a defibrillator on yourself.

The one really original aspect for me was on-the-fly weapon customization. If you hold down the back button, you’ll see a screen that lets you put different sights, attachments, and even silencers on the gun you’re holding. It’s great to be able to change weapon tactics as needed instead of scouring the map for that assault rifle you want.

Originality: Decent

8. Addictiveness
Between the spectacle of the graphics and the myriad twists in the story, this is a game that will rivet you to your seat. The “What’s Next?” factor is huge. Your suit gains upgrades by absorbing the blood of the Ceph that you kill, and you can change tactics on the fly based on need.

Addictiveness: Great

9. Appeal Factor
Crysis 2 is a game that can pull you in and keep you there. The ruined environment of New York City is such an intriguing playground for the alien invasion story. Instead of the drab grays and browns, this game pops the eyes open. People say that graphics sell games, and they’re usually right up to a point, but Crysis 2 can keep you interested with solid gameplay and an intriguing story. The nano-suit and the story of how it becomes more than just a suit, but actually a vital weapon, really works. Having this fight entirely on and above the streets of New York City makes the game feel so much more immediate than most of the recent crop of FPS games.

Appeal Factor: Great

Miscellaneous
A funny thing happened on the way to the Deathmatch. If you buy Crysis 2, you get a code that bumps you up five levels automatically for multiplayer. This lets you jump right into the team games and start customizing your gear right away. It’s nice, but on those first five levels you would be playing just free for all games and learning the maps and weapons. Playing in a team game right away when you’re not ready will leave you doing poorly, which can get worse if no one is communicating or helping. If you find yourself at the bottom of the heap over and over again, start again from the bottom of the ladder.

Miscellaneous: Above Average

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Amazing
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Good
Balance: Great
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
Crysis 2 is the best looking first person shooter on the consoles right now, and it backs up those pretty looks with solid gameplay and a very interesting story. The sounds and the multiplayer are a bit cookie-cutter, and you’ll feel very familiar with some of the events and set-piece battles. There are too many little glitches hanging out that keep the game from being one of the best games of all time, but you can certainly count on this title being one of the prettiest and most immersive on the market. Crysis 2 tells a gritty, dark story, and will keep you entertained from start to finish.

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