Crysis 2 is a convoluted Jerry Bruckheimer action movie poured into a video game, starring a dead-man-walking protagonist, who was almost literally poured into a power suit as he lay dying. It allows him to withstand a great amount of damage or to turn invisible, but not simultaneously, and only for a short amount of time. The suit needs to recharge regularly. Its abilities give the player multiple options to tackle obstacles and give a nice balance of strengths and weaknesses. Flipping the suit from one setting to the other is easy and fast, so you can stealth your way around in invisible mode and then switch to armor when the shooting starts. Just always keep an eye on your energy meter and retreat for a moment when the energy bar shows red.
The original Crysis – which I didn’t play – was a sandbox game. It saw you freely running around an island in the distinctive powersuit, fighting aliens and humans. Crysis 2 moves the action to an overrun New York, in which people are dying from an infectuous alien disease, or from being blown up or shot, or from a combination of all of these things. The sequel is more linear, split into nineteen chapter that lead you through arenas filled with enemies. There are big action set-pieces, there is a rousing, synthy soundtrack and you get to be the one man able to stop the alien invasion. Just don’t ask me how you end up doing it exactly. I started to tune out a little as the well-produced cutscenes and voice-overs explained what I was doing and just focused on my next mission objective. The plot is a bit too dumb and a bit too dense.
The Crysis franchise has often served as a graphical benchmark and even three years after Crysis 2 came out – which is a decade in game years – it still looks very pretty. However, graphics have a limited shelf-life given the always advancing technology, and the series is most likely to be remembered for the power suit. It does indeed make for entertaining gameplay. The pick-your-own-approach concept is still very much in vogue in game design, but Crysis 2 was a skillful early adapter. The game rarely forces you into one specific course of action, encourages you to switch things up and rewards you for it.
As you enter each arena, your visor can give you a tactical overview, pointing out ammunition stashes, and showing where to head to ouflank, to ambush, to sneak by and so on. When I grew bored of shooting near the end – your arsenal is unfortunately fairly generic – I ghosted past the final levels mostly unseen, though the last one could easily have been a tough and epic battle if I had wanted to go that route.
There was one final, tricky fight I wasn’t allowed to skip, but then you won’t want to avoid being lethal altogether. Because for both the rare occasions when you do have to go mano-a-alien and get up close and dirty, and also to make the stealth easier, you will want to upgrade the suit. This requires you to run up to aliens you killed, to collect the glittery cloud that hangs over them, before it dissapates. A bit morbid and a bit random, but it does require you to be tactical again, weighing the risk of running out across the arena against the glittery gain. But seriously, it glitters – how can you resist?
Your enemies aren’t always especially smart. I remember being cornered, with two exits that ended up at different sides of the same group of soldiers. Rather than rush me, they stood staring at the exit they had seen me at last, meaning I could walk back and forth between the exits, picking them off one by one as they focused on the wrong exit. Some of the aliens are fast and hit hard, however, so even if reactions can get predictable and a bit dumb, you still face a challenge. Checkpointing isn’t always especially generous and you may end up replaying a lengthy battle or two. But if you start to get annoyed, you may be able to just go invisible and sneak to a new area. Even if you leave behind an alarmed army of enemies who see exactly where you are headed, they will not follow you to the next area. It makes no logical sense, but is an easy exploit if you just want bail. I also encountered a few amazingly resilient friendlies, just regular guys, who took on and took out strong enemies solo, as I stood by idly and invisible in my powersuit.
Crysis 2 did leave me feeling satisfied, but not really wanting more for the moment. It’s not a case of overkill, but definitely a case of enough kill. I won’t be picking up Crysis 3 anytime soon. Considering that the reviews for this most recent outing were less enthusiastic than those for 2, new players may want to start with this by now cheaper predecessor. It is a spectacular and versatile blockbuster ride.