Review: Crysis 2
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In the grand scheme of first-person shooters, the original Crysis fell in kind of an odd place. Beyond its absurdly impressive graphics that have stood the test of time, it was a hybrid of open-world action and military shootouts, with a healthy dose of sci-fi powers and enemies. Crysis Warhead narrowed the scope of the open-world elements to make for more focused fights, and greatly benefited from that decision. I doubt I’ll ever know why exactly Crysis 2 all but abandoned the open-world side of the series, but honestly I’d say it was the right call. The increased focus on brutal firefights and linear encounters may have put it more in line with average military shooters, but the incredible quality of the action keeps this one a stand-out in the genre.
The extraterrestrial disaster that you battled in the first Crysis appears to have had far-reaching consequences, as New York City has fallen to a plague of unknown origins. In the midst of the chaos your squad of marines is sent in to extract an important scientist who may have the key to curing the disease, but the sudden appearance of alien invaders on top of the blight scuttles your team and your plans. You’re saved by Prophet, one of the nanosuited soldiers from the original game, though he’s not long for this world and entrusts his suit and his mission to you. With only that single lead to go on, you’ll have to battle through the ruined streets of NYC in a desperate struggle to turn the tables on both the invaders and the all-consuming plague.
You may recall Crysis being a rather bright, almost tropical experience outside of the pitched firefights and cave sequences. If you do, Crysis 2 is going to feel like the inverse of that. New York City is in some of the worst shape its ever been in, with the aliens punching giant holes in the island and skyline and the ravenous disease turning the residents into chunky beef stew. Not even The Division reached the same level of devastation as you’ll find here, a unique mix of biological squalor and raw destruction. The city streets are choked with smoldering rubble and overturned cars, while the service tunnels are caked in liquefied human remains and leaking biohazard bags.
The graphics are what really sell the setting, because Crysis 2 certainly lives up to the series pedigree. For a seven-year-old game it still rivals modern titles in detail and quality, featuring plenty of convincing particle effects, life-like locations, and striking character models. Your weapons are sculpted down to the tiniest screws and scratches, while your enemies bristle with body armor and alien attachments. The sheer spectacle of the game is practically enough to keep you pushing forward, and if it isn’t then the combat will definitely keep you glued to your seat.
I mentioned that Crysis 2 has evolved to be more of a standard military shooter than the game that spawned it was, but it’s one with unusually visceral combat. It probably goes hand-in-hand with the overall level of detail but your enemies stagger, bleed out, and crumple when pounded with bullets or blown up with explosives. Foes are hardier than you might be used to which means you really need to work Cell soldiers or aliens over to drop them, and the combination of thundering impact effects and intense particle effects really sells the feeling of destroying your target. Firefights can also span large areas with a dozen or more combatants, adding to the chaos particularly when enemy humans and aliens start taking shots at each other instead of you.
There are weak points in the design though, mainly stemming from beloved features being tweaked or removed. Your nanosuit is still an important tool but generally not the versatile game-changer it was in the first game. Skirting past encounters is simply not an option, especially since your speed power is essentially gone. Armor helps you weather hits when out of cover and stealth lets you get the drop on an enemy, but neither provides the flexibility that defined the first Crysis. At least, not until you get the big late-game stealth upgrade that lets you waltz past entire setpiece battles completely unnoticed. As I said the combat more than makes up for this, but you’ll find other little gripes there. Your ammo reserves are bizarrely limited and the developers seemed to notice, because ammo caches can be found about every fifty meters. Your mission objectives are also never going to be more complex than “get to this point” or “break this thing”, and plot moments are almost always you mutely watching other people monologue or argue and descend into rote military objectives for a large section of the back half.
These are little more than ugly blemishes on an otherwise magnificent package, though. Crysis 2 remains a major step up from Crysis and Warhead in the ways that count, in the spectacle and the action. The ravaged husk of New York City is the perfect playground to gun down PMCs and aliens in a nano-fueled frenzy, while still leaving time to admire the scenery and grab the occasional collectible or two. The combat never gets old and the graphics never cease to impress, and for a shooter like this that’s all you really need for a good time. It’s missing some of the freedoms Crysis afforded but when the trade off is better shooting and more interesting levels, it’s hard to argue this isn’t the better game.