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A great game, even if it isn't the benchmark its predecessor was
on August 30, 2013
The first Crysis was a beautiful slideshow of a middle-finger to everyone with a sub-$300 graphics card when it came out. Rendering huge densly-packed vistas over miles and miles it showcased all the effects one feasibly COULD put into a single engine, all at once, all the time. The fact that also played very well was icing on the beautiful cake, and I, like everyone else, loved sneaking through its near-photorealistic jungles and battling aliens and the KPA. Half a decade later, with a video card that can actually run it, Crysis remains the best looking PC game you can play today and a testament to how awesome PC gaming can be.
Sadly everyone stole it. Like EVERYONE. Conservative estimates put Crysis at easily the most pirated PC game in history.
Understandably burned by this, Crytek developed their next game for console. This has had good and bad effects, because while Crytek managed to squeeze obscenely good performance out of a console game, and while the PC release does have a lot more bells and whistles, no console on the market can contain the raw power of the cryengine, and sacrifices were made.
First, the game doesn't look quite as shockingly real as Crysis did. It still looks leaps and bounds better than many other games on the market, but the water and glass are reflection mapped instead of reflective*, not every surface is as casually parallax mapped (the use of a graphical map to add geometric depth to surfaces) as the ground was in Crysis, and some clouds, buildings, and objects of interest in the distance are textural props instead of real geometry.
Second, the game world is a little more confined. This is not as bad as people have made it out to be. Play Crysis again, and you will see it is full of barriers- a cliff here, an impassible gorge there- In Crysis 2, set as it is in New York, these barriers are simply buildings and walls, and therefore more obvious. There is still plenty of room to sneak, avoid, and snipe to your heart's content. But drivable road is more rare, and in general environments feel a little more compact- as you would expect in a city instead of a jungle.
The good news? None of this matters. Even toned down, Crysis 2 is one of the loveliest games of recent memory and it does a LOT. You want thick atmospheric effects? You got it. Earthquakes that shake the loose objects of a whole map? It's here. God rays and water caustics and particle effects all over the place? Yup. And you can still see your own body, something FPS games struggle with to this day. And while the environments are restricted by location and technology, the New York of Crysis 2 is very convincingly a city, albeit one full of blockades, debris, fires, and alien warfare. Gone are Crysis' samey jungles- each level now feels convincingly different, and those levels are still quite large, with a terrific sense of scale.
The gameplay is back too. Player control is responsive and natural with a good sense of weight and motion. PC controls are spot on and do not suffer from being also-rans to an XBox pad. Enemies are smarter than they were in Crysis, engaging in elaborate searches and flanks, and their behavior is so realistic they can even be fooled convincingly. The aliens of the first game are back, but instead of boring robots we get living commandos with their own tactics and weaknesses to learn. And while it's no Oscar winner, the story in Crysis 2 feels a bit more taut and well expressed, as affable Boffin Dr. Gould flogs you around the city to fight enemies, do science, and clear his browser cache before the evil Cell PMC troops can find his porn.
So Crysis 2 is a pretty awesome game. It's not the face-melting tech demo that the first title was, but it IS a beautiful action adventure with good challenge, exciting action, and a killer musical score**.
-Has awesome atmosphere
-Actually runs on most PCs now
-Only select vehicles can now be driven and there is less opportunity to do so
-Doesn't really look appreciably better than Crysis does (then again neither does anything else short of a pixar movie)
-The player character has a bad habit of just watching stuff during cutscenes when, given the choice, a little precision sniping would probably be better (for instance early in the game you eyeball the main villain from like 40 feet away and do nothing while he leaves in a leisurely fashion)
-This version of Crysis comes with high-def textures that far outstrip what shipped with the base game or console editions
-Nanosuit modes are automatic now. Run and you use power, power jump and it happens automatically. Only armor, the visor, and stealth are manual. Plus you can now use strength mode to steady your gun while aiming!
* There is a tool you can DL from Crytek to enable "real" reflections, or you can tweak INIs yourself
** With a theme by Hans Zimmer, no less!