Discussion Review: Crysis 2

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New York City, and the human race, is on the verge of annihilation as a viral outbreak and alien invasion turn the Big Apple into a chaotic war zone between U.S. Marines, a private military force called C.E.L.L., and a race of squid-like aliens known as the Cephaloids.

We here at VGBlogger have joined the fight to save humanity in Crysis 2, Mike playing on the PC, myself taking down those tentacled bastards on the PS3. So, was Crytek’s mission to top its notorious system hog PC-only FPS a success or yet another example of dumbed down multiplatform sequelitis? Or perhaps both? Read on for our take from both perspectives!

Nanosuit, engage!

Matt: In today’s era of cut back mainstream-ified first-person shooters, Crysis 2 stands tall as the anti Modern Warfare; a game that showcases its single player campaign as the main attraction and severs the hand that so many developers use to rigidly guide players along like a parent does a child crossing the street.

In Crysis 2, just like the first game, Crytek unshackles players’ hands and opens the playing field to allow for freedom of customization and play strategy. At the heart of the game is the Nanosuit – or Nanosuit 2.0, actually – a futuristic piece of body armor augmenting its wearer with cloaking camouflage, increased speed and strength, enhanced jumping capabilities and nearly impenetrable armor. In addition, weapons are fully customizable with different scopes, silencers, and barrel attachments, allowing for on-the-fly modding to match the scenario at hand.

As the player, it is your job to decide when and how to use these powers to traverse the urban jungle that is New York City and achieve victory in combat, and this element of choice is what separates the Crysis experience from other modern FPSs.

Crysis 2 is a thinking man’s FPS. You can play stealthily and avoid combat almost entirely, or, if you prefer, you can activate armor mode and charge into the fray head first – or feet first with the new sprint and slide mechanic. And you can mix and match these styles to create ambushes and take enemies out cat-and-mouse style, which is always good fun. The power of the Nanosuit also allows you to use the environment as a weapon. You can pick up and throw objects at enemies, for distractions or to inflict damage, and you can even hurl abandoned cars with a power kick – strap on some C4 before doing so and you’ve made yourself a bomb capable of small scale mass destruction.

The level designs play into this freedom as well. While the breadth of Crysis 2’s New York City playground has narrowed from the sort of open-world jungle exploration of the first game, the environments are still huge and still open to many different approaches. The verticality of the game world is what impressed me the most. Every level is built upon multiple layers: a main street layer, usually some form of underground passage like a sewer tunnel or the like, and an upper layer consisting of scaleable structures like scaffolding and full buildings. Hell, you can even jump on top of cars to get a tactical advantage.

Crytek definitely shows a deft hand in Crysis 2, as everything from the level designs to the Nanosuit system is honed to perfection. You always feel powerful, but never so powerful that the game becomes too easy or predictable. And you are always able to choose your path through a level, but no one path ever seems more advantageous than another – each path is simply different.

I’ll pause for now and let you jump in, Mike. How do you see Crysis 2 from a PC gamer’s perspective?

Mike: Well, Matt … I have so many Crysis 2 thoughts I almost don’t know where to start. Some are good, some not so good, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I am reviewing Crysis 2 and not the whole Crysis franchise, everything Crytek has done or all console-to-PC shooter ports in general.

First let me just say that Crysis 2 is a very good shooter, with more options, better gameplay, and a more open feel than the vast majority of shooters released in the last several years.

If that makes it sound like there is a ‘but’ coming, that’s because there is.

Because Crysis 2 is a very good shooter, BUT it is the worst shooter Crytek has ever made. By quite a bit. In fact, I would estimate that Crysis 2 is worse than Crysis and Far Cry in pretty much every possible way …oh, except for those playing on a console. Because they are not available on consoles. But aside from that you will find that every compliment has a complementary ‘but’.

Let’s start with the obvious – graphically Crysis 2 is gorgeous. The details on everything you see during every second of the game are simply amazing. This looks better than just about any game ever made. Time for the ‘but’. But you want to know one game that looks notably better? Crysis – the original one. That game launched with full DirectX 10 support – Crysis 2 (more than 2 years later) regresses to DirectX 9. Why? Console support – consoles couldn’t handle the original Crysis, so Crytek needed to scale back their ‘next gen’ engine to work on the weaker console hardware. Consoles, rejoice … PC gamers – welcome to the age where the sequel has WORSE graphics than the original!

Matt mentioned the scale and scope of the level design – what he didn’t explicitly state was that everything in those large areas is more detailed than just about any game in recent memory, with papers blowing around, debris and dust flying, and so on. Nearly everything you see can be explored. Sure there are plenty of locked doors, but there are also little open areas, ledges you can climb, vantage points you can gain and so on.
OK, there isn’t specifically a ‘but’ for this one…

In terms of gameplay, pretty much everything Matt says is true: using the Nanosuit you can choose stealth or combat as your focus, ranged or in-your-face attacks, using strategic locations or items to gain advantage or just run-and-gun it through. All approaches are viable and fairly well balanced.

But I have to key in on Matt’s calling this a ‘Thinking Man’s FPS’. Based on everything he and I have mentioned – large world, multiple physical paths, multiple tactical approaches, and so on – it really seems to be true. Yet I would say that if this is a ‘Thinking Man’s FPS’, then the world of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy has come to roost now.

Why do I say this? First, your head is constantly infested with voices coming from all of these people who want stuff from you. They are constantly pushing you and will only shut up when you heed their call – they are annoying nags that will occasionally know an impossible amount about what is going on around you including details of enemy advances and so on … and other times have no idea about what is taking so long as you wade through wave after wave of enemy attacks. I cannot think of a game with such an array of annoying taskmasters that I never care about to begin with and only learn to hate as I proceed.

Next, along with the ‘hurry, hurry, this way, this way, c’mon, hurry’ voices, the game overloads you with a constant and way-too large ‘hey you go this way’ arrow on screen, on the map, and generally always in your face. You cannot turn this stuff off, and that doesn’t even count the ‘visor mode’ that shows you loads of tactical info and lets you flag stuff around the city.

If these two things work against you exploring the city – one by yelling at you constantly and the other by reminding you the mission is in the other direction – then the final insult is that while there are a number of paths, the actual explorability of the world is extremely limited. Again, compared with Black Ops and other brain-dead corridor shooters Crysis 2 feels like Daggerfall (which was ~10,000x the size of Oblivion) … but that isn’t the point.

Matt already mentioned how scaled back the game feels compared to Crysis … and I find it even worse compared to Far Cry. In both those games you truly had freedom of action – but in Crysis 2 you have a somewhat open area connected by a pinch point to another somewhat open area. As an RPG lover I wanted to lavish in the areas, but constantly bumped up against the limits and discovered that the world was much smaller than it seemed – and much smaller than Crysis and Far Cry. Again, this is done solely for the console transitions … yet another thing smaller – and in my opinion worse – than the original.

I want to get to the story, such that it is, but there is one final thing that just annoys the heck out of me – and yes, it is yet another set of changes that remove content from Crysis in order to fit on consoles! First, there are no quick saves, nor the ability to save anywhere as you could with Crysis. There is no reason – it is purely punitive – an intentional screwing over the PC gamers who have funded Crytek to this point. Then there is the usual removal of the ability to lean. There are plenty of times in firefights when I would have loved to lean out … like I could in Crysis.

How bad is the consolitis? When you see the opening screen, the game prompts you to ‘Press the Start Button’. And here I am with keyboard and mouse … thinking: Crytek, you are lying scumbags. You said that the multiplatform development wouldn’t hurt the PC version. You lied. How do I say that? No DirectX 11 version that was promised, no 64-bit executable (yeah, Crysis had one), direct console references, lack of graphics options, console save system, and on and on. It is an insult – and even more so because at its core Crysis 2 is a REALLY GOOD GAME.

OK, Matt … I only wanted to mention a few things and, well, sorta got on a tear … so you can discuss story or controls or anything else if you dare!

Matt: At this point I’ve come to expect the unexpected when discussing multiplatform games with you, but in this instance I really am caught off guard by how negative your view of this game seems to be. Sure, you say the game is really good, but based on everything else you wrote, that’s nothing but a backhanded compliment. Basically, it sounds like you’re saying, “this is a great game…but I hate it!”

First off, I couldn’t disagree with you more in regards to this being Crytek’s “worst game.” For starters, I think giving the game such a label is just another way to cast it in a negative light when it simply doesn’t deserve it. But mostly I just don’t think it’s true at all. In my opinion, it is an improvement on the first Crysis in virtually every way. But hey, that’s what makes an opinion and opinion — and that’s why we do these discussion reviews!

Now before you fire back, “of course you think it’s better, you’re a console gamer!,” let me remind you that, even though I don’t play PC games as much as I used to, I have played almost all of the top PC FPSs since Doom and Quake back in the day, all the way up to games like Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Painkiller, Serious Sam, Call of Duty, Far Cry, Crysis and so on, so I do know what PC gaming is all about and in most cases I fully understand your concerns about PC games dumbing down to reach broader console audiences.

The funny thing is, every time I put the game into my PS3 I feel like I’m playing an uncompromised PC FPS. Crysis 2 has the customization, the variable gameplay, and the freedom of movement that more scripted, on rails-feeling modern console FPSs don’t have. And I’m not sure if you missed it or if Crytek left it out of the PC version, but the game most definitely has peek-and-lean. On PS3, you can latch to pretty much any form of cover and lean around the corner.

I also vehemently disagree with the notion that Crysis 2 is inferior because it is more linear. If we were discussing an RPG, I would be right there with you. But Crysis 2 is a FPS, and personally, I don’t think the FPS genre is at its best in open world type settings. FPSs aren’t built for exploring huge worlds, they are about shooting and action and immersion. Outside of the immersive qualities of a large environment to roam around in, I honestly saw the larger worlds of Far Cry and Crysis as minor negatives. They aren’t RPGs with loads of side quests and secret dungeons to seek out, so the open terrain often serves no real purpose, and in many cases kills the pacing by forcing you to travel across large distances with little to do. That’s actually one of the things I didn’t care for in Far Cry 2 as well — I loved the huge world and the abundance of missions, but traveling the huge map and having to deal with random encounters when you just want to get from point to point and complete an objective is very tedious.

Personally, I think Crysis 2 benefits tremendously from being a little more linear than its predecessors. To me, linear is not the dirty word most gamers and critics treat it as, especially when a game’s progression is linear but the means to follow that linear progression are open ended. I think Crysis 2 nails this balance of linearity and freedom — the environments are confined sections of New York City rather than a large chunk of the city with no direction, but each confined area along the linear path is a mini-sandbox of its own. This way you have plenty of room to choose your way, but the action is more focused and tightly paced. That’s just intelligent, evolutionary game design to me, not a form of dumbing down for console players.

The one thing I do agree with you on, though, is the auto-save system. Even as a console game, the lack of manual or quick saving is annoying, because checkpoints are often fairly far apart and many times you’ll have to replay large sections of the game should you die.

Oh, but you lost me on the annoying taskmasters and overt arrow guidelines — I didn’t notice either one.

Mike: I very much agree with you – this discussion makes for a wild ride! I did want to move on to the story, but I feel the need to address some of your comments on my previous statements.

One note – Far Cry 2 is NOT a Crytek game, it was done by Ubisoft after the split. If it was, I would be much more upbeat about Crysis 2, as I put Far Cry 2 alongside such dismal sequels as F.E.A.R. 2 and Deus Ex: Invisible War! Crysis 2 might have a litany of annoyances for me, but make no mistake – I really DO think it is a very good game!

We don’t score things here, but I think we are both heading to a ‘Buy It’ recommendation and I would tend to rate it as an 8 on a scale of 10 (with Far Cry and Crysis each getting a 9). So while calling it ‘Crytek’s Worst Game’ might seem intentionally provocative, it is the same thing I would say for Dragon Age 2 and Bioware, and that certainly isn’t a bad game! (And for further context, compared to the idiotic stuff Bioware did in Dragon Age 2, most of my complaints here are ‘nitpicks’). I just look at how this game stacks up and feel it comes up short based on their other efforts. Compared to over-rated dreck like Halo and recent Call of Duty games … Crysis 2 is pure brilliance. But again, I am comparing to what they have already demonstrated.

As I stated from the start, I knew I’d have a hard time maintaining my context of simply reviewing this game without taking into account everything else Crytek has done. Until this game they were a PC developer, and as such I took their PROMISE to ‘not undermine the PC version’ very seriously, and therefore I am analyzing this game based on delivery to that promise. They did poorly – as I said before there were many cases in which their statements were out-and-out lies. That does tend to color my analysis … but I think you already get that.

I know you have played many shooters through the years, as have I. But one area where we diverge is in how we deal with ‘consolization’ of multiplatform games. We’ve been through it many times, but in the PC port of a game like Oblivion or Fallout 3, where you can make some changes to controls but not others, it demonstrates a lazy PC-last approach. When the first thing you see as a PC gamer in Crysis 2 is ‘Press the Start button to continue’ …that speaks volumes. I mean, what does it say that this is such a damn lazy console port that they CAN’T EVEN GET SCREEN #1 RIGHT?!?!

My point is that there are times when you and I are playing the ‘same game’ in a multiplatform release, and other times when one side is clearly favored. Games like Sacred 2, Divinity 2, Risen, Arcania, and so on represent PC-first efforts – and regularly reviewers will pound on the X360 releases of these games for failing to optimize for the platform. Crysis 2 is a console game, and I am pounding on it (a) for failing to optimize for the PC platform, and (b) because the original game WAS a PC release.

OK … enough of THAT.

I mentioned ‘taskmasters and quest markers’ and you wondered about those. From the moment you start the game, you have ‘contacts’ like Barclay and Tara who contact you on your radio. This is fine – it provides some context and direction. The problem? They never seem to shut up! In the STALKER game you are alone dealing with issues, and even Half-Life 2 only poked you with conversation sparingly. This meant you needed to figure out where to go, what to do and how to do it.

In Crysis 2 you NEVER have to do this – because that voice telling you exactly what to do is always right around the corner. I can only imagine how dreadful HL2 would have been during some of the physics puzzles if you had someone telling you ‘there are barrels you could use to raise the level’ or ‘stack the boxes on the end of that plank’. Sure I could turn off the sound – and I did, but I couldn’t shut down that over-the-top help, and with the subtitles and appearance of the person in the corner every few minutes, it was still an annoying example of ‘spoon feeding’…or, yes, dumbing down.

The ‘quest arrows’ I mentioned are actually less of an annoyance, but still remain – and for me the annoyance is that I can’t turn them off. Whenever you get near a ‘mission point’, a little blue marker appears, and when your crosshair moves over it, you get an explanation displayed. And again, something you cannot disable. I know that you see these things on the minimap same as in the original game, but Crysis 2 takes it to a new level. When you are close to an objective and engaged in a firefight, it is possible to literally have your objective text splashed on screen 25 times within a few minutes!

Finally, on controls. I look at it this way: when I can do something when *I* choose to, it is a ‘gameplay feature’, but when I can only do it when the developer says so it is a ’gimmick’. In Crysis I can be in an open field and ‘lean’ – and sometimes you could use it for a strategic look. In Crysis 2 you get a pseudo-lean, and only when the game says so. Not to belabor it, but that sort of thing is pretty much the definition of ‘dumbing down’.

Moving on, I have heard loads of complaints about the Nanosuit, and honestly I have no issue – sure there are fewer modes, but the important stuff is there and works very well. Some people couldn’t find the rotary menu and complained about it … simple RTFM issue. Overall I enjoyed the way it worked – in the original game it took me time to get quick with switching modes and now I have no issues activating modes. Of course, there is always a ‘but’ … but in this case it is more philosophical: in the original game jumping was tied to strength and was therefore used sparingly. Now it is tied to the suit and always on – but how ‘super’ is a power that is always on? In my mind, when everyone is above average, everyone is average … but the average is higher.

I really did want to talk about the story, so although my side is rambling on I’m going to do it! Crysis 2 presents a thrilling introduction mixing CGI and FMV sequences showing a vision of New York City in a growing state of chaos as Matt mentioned at the beginning. From there you get to semi-participate in a series of cutscenes and segues that eventually land you in the Nanosuit. That is where all of the story setup occurs about the outbreak and what your role will be and what you need to do.

I have to be honest here, I absolutely abhor the trend of ‘cinematic games’, as they seem to constantly jerk me out of the action and make me watch the ‘directors cut’ of some moment in the game. I like to have control as much as possible, so I was already annoyed when I *really* got control. But I got over it quickly enough because … well, nothing shakes out annoyance than wandering a gorgeous world popping headshots on enemies!

Some folks say ‘you can’t analyze plots in shooters because that isn’t the point’. And to an extent they are right – I’m not looking for some great epic story, just something that works to keep me engaged. Crysis 2 tells the story of an alien invasion and viral outbreak, both of which you are eventually tasked to deal with. In general the game flows well enough, and you learn what is going on through cutscenes that pull you out of the game between firefights.

My first impressions of the story were … awful. It felt fragmented, slow, nonsensical at times and generally an irritant that I wished would shut up so I could shoot some more brain dead enemies (more on that later). In fact, I wanted to do a reload when there were a couple of ‘jump points’ where I felt I ‘missed an episode’, but as I mentioned – no saves. Fortunately things get better – not to say that there is a great story, but after the first few hours things really seem to get moving and there are twists and turns and you can just enjoy being along for the ride. It almost made me forgive some of the other stuff, but not quite.

I’ve hogged the mic long enough, Matt – I want to get your take on the story, the AI of enemies, tactics, and an overall feel for the gameplay … and anything else you want to talk about!

Matt: I hear where you are coming from and normally wouldn’t be so eager to constantly disagree. Shit, if we were discussing Dragon Age II right now, I’d step back and let you rant, because even though it is still a great game, there is no doubt BioWare created it with a console-first mentality. But outside of the graphics engine being scaled back (and honestly, that has every bit as much to do with so many people complaining about not being able to run the first game as it is a ‘dumbing down’ to fit on consoles), I just don’t see where Crysis 2 has been compromised from the original. But we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that! I’m still not following you on the taskmaster thing either — I don’t recall ever having objective updates constantly flashing on the screen or cluttering the airwaves in my time with the game.

I think part of our disagreement also stems from differing views of the first Crysis. It sounds like you hold Crysis in higher regard than I do. Crysis was a fantastic game, but to me the open exploration grew tiring after a while, and when I first played my interest began to wane over probably the last third of the game because the story never really grabbed me and I thought the aliens were boring adversaries. Since my last reply I’ve also gone back for my first replay in a couple years for a quick refresh. It still is a great game, but after replaying it some I believe even stronger now that Crysis 2 is the tighter all around experience, just as a sequel is supposed to be.

The overall feel of the game really isn’t that different if you ask me. While the flow of gameplay has gone from a seamless jungle environment to more of a mission-based level progression, the change isn’t all that drastic — certainly not as much as I was expecting given the harsh PC gamer reaction to the downscale. The larger world of Crysis gives you a little more freedom to move, but it’s almost more of a false freedom. In the end you are still just going from one objective point to the next, with only an occasional side objective taking you off the beaten path in a meaningful way. For me, the exploration only leads to more time spent traveling from one area to the next in vehicles, something I’m happy to see gone in Crysis 2 (there are a couple vehicular sections, but they are very short).

Oh- and I know Far Cry 2 wasn’t a Crytek game. I was just using that as a more recent example of why I don’t think the FPS genre is perfectly suited for open-world gameplay. But for the record, I still very much like Far Cry 2 and don’t consider it any better or worse than the original. But we’ll keep the can of worms closed on that argument for another day!

Even in my transition from PC to PS3, the Nanosuit and weapon mod interface hasn’t changed much from the first game either, and it continues to be one of my favorite Crysis design elements. Your two main activated powers are stealth and armor. However, now certain powers like sprinting, high jumping, and power kicking are in an ‘always-on’ state, as you mentioned. But these abilities still eat up suit power when used, and it’s actually more intuitive and sensible to be able to activate these powers with standard button commands without first having to activate a specific suit mode. In the first Crysis, you definitely spend a lot more time popping opening the mode selection wheel, which is one more thing that I think Crysis 2 improves upon.

I love how the suit and weapon interface pops up and immerses you in the activity of upgrading your suit and changing gun parts in real time. In other games, you’d be pausing and sorting through tedious menus to equip or upgrade your character. But in Crysis 2, like Crysis, your character (Alcatraz) holds his weapon up to the screen so you can pop on a new scope or remove a silencer pretty much at will without ever feeling segregated from the action, and when equipping and upgrading suit powers Alcatraz shows his hand to the screen, with each finger assigned to a different skill tree. Playing on the PS3, I think the controls and interface work just as well as mouse and keyboard.

My only serious complaint about the game is the AI — and from the hint you left it sounds like you encountered the same issues. I played through the campaign on the highest Super Soldier difficulty, and for the most part the AI kept me on my toes, using squad tactics to flank my position and call in reinforcements if I got sloppy with my stealth kills and left a body out in the open. However, there is definitely a bug in the AI code that Crytek wasn’t able to exterminate before shipping the game. At random times you’ll see enemies running nonstop in corners, getting stuck on cover pieces, or sometimes seeming to deactivate entirely. It’s a serious flaw, but one that doesn’t seem impossible to rectify via a patch. So hopefully that happens.

As for the story, we are in general agreement that it’s not the greatest video game narrative ever told, but it’s still an entertaining ride while it lasts. I found myself more engaged than I did by the first game’s story at least. For the most part, I felt that much of the story stayed within the flow of gameplay as well. There are cutscenes in a few key places, but other than that the plot seems to unfold through in-engine dialogue similar to Half-Life 2.

I actually liken Crysis 2′s story to the recent Will Smith flick ‘I Am Legend’. The core story and characters are nothing special, but the visual narrative being told by the environment and circumstance are deeply compelling. Many games have used New York City as a setting over the years, but none have captured the city with the realism and grandeur of Crysis 2. The city itself turns into a main character, and the imagery of crumbled buildings, deserted streets lined with abandoned cars, shattered pieces of the Statue of Liberty scattered throughout, memorial stands lined with pictures of missing people, and infected citizens left for dead on the streets tells a story far more interesting than anything the real characters have to say or do. The soundtrack also does a great job building cinematic tension and drama while you play.

What are your thoughts on content and replay value? I know those are important factors you look for in games, as do I. Playing on Super Soldier with more than a few moments spent dying and retrying tough sections (this is where manual save sure would have come in handy!), I’d estimate my total completion time was somewhere in the 12-15 hour real-time range, which is right around what I got out of the first game. So under normal conditions, 10 hours is probably a realistic estimate for most gamers — and even longer if you spend time searching for the car keys, email conversations, and souvenir collectibles hidden in each stage (which I didn’t do a whole lot of the first time around). That’s an ideal length for an FPS to me.

Multiplayer is quite solid, too. The basics in terms of maps, match types, and character customization are the same as any other modern FPS, but the Nanosuit system definitely gives Crysis 2 a unique touch that other games can’t match. I’m also finding the reward system a lot more, well, rewarding than other online shooters. Having the added element of collecting dog tags from opponents you’ve killed on the battlefield to build up towards kill streak abilities (air strikes, radar, Nanosuit overdrive, etc.) is fun, and I like how each suit power has its own upgrade track so the experience you gain is a direct reflection of how you are actually playing. So, if you play a lot in stealth, the stealth module of your suit gains more experience and levels up faster, and so on and so forth.

Overall, the performance has been very stable in my experience playing over PSN, although compared to other PS3 shooters I’m finding the community to be rather small so far. And honestly, that makes sense. On PC or Xbox 360, I’d probably take Crysis 2 over the competition, whether it’s Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Halo Reach, Battlefield, or whatever. But on the PS3, I’d still probably give Killzone 3 the edge if I had to choose just one, and it would be a neck-and-neck race between it and a game like MAG. But certainly, if you can’t get enough FPS multiplayer action, Crysis 2 has what it takes to give the top guns some serious competition for your time.

How about you, Mike? Any thoughts on multiplayer, or any other points you’d like to make before we put our Nanosuits to rest?

Mike: So let’s see where we’re at: we agree that the story is mediocre but serviceable, that the core gameplay is excellent, that the Nanosuit feels truly streamlined rather than ‘dumbed down’, and that New York looks great.

As for the rest, as you say we’ll just have to disagree – but that is great since I think we’ve both stated our opinions and the readers can use that to make their own choices. Of course, since both of us are giving the game a solid ‘Buy It’, the question ends up being whether my comments on Crytek screwing and lying to PC gamers resonate with folks more than both of our comments that the game is very good regardless.

It is funny that you mention replaying the original, because a large part of my consternation is fueled by replaying that game and particularly Far Cry. I already had Far Cry installed and had played some in anticipation of Crysis 2. I was amazed at how well it has stood the test of time, how well balanced the drive forward was compared to the truly open feeling in terms of emergent gameplay and approach. Great game, awesome AI…shame about the ending.
My thoughts on Crysis when it first came out was that it was more or less comparable to Far Cry – it looked better than any game ever (still does), provides some cool new gameplay items and carries forward much of the open world feel, but clamps down on you to the point where my review spoke of “only occasionally do you feel that you are being led by the nose through the designer’s vision of how you should approach things”. Again, the end of the game was crap, once again nearly ruining an otherwise excellent game for me. But I have always been clear – while technically I loved Crysis, I still thought Far Cry was better.

When I updated the EA Downloaded Manager (nice new icon) and entered my Crysis 2 code it automatically started downloading BOTH Crysis games (but not Warhead for some reason). So I played some of Crysis after feeling smacked upside the head by Crysis 2. Unlike you I found Crysis still contained the same feeling of making your own way in the world that I NEVER felt in Crysis 2. I could still see the strings being pulled, but compared to the ropes and chains dragging me around New York it felt totally open.

I love games like Boiling Point and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in terms of how they provide an open-world shooter experience with some degree of limited role-playing and loads of options to make the game unfold, and I really felt that Far Cry and to an extent Crysis shared something with those games. I am also playing the Boiling Point sequel Xenus II right now, and there you are simply plopped on an island with a basic mission and left on
your own. Crysis 2 feels nothing like any of those games.

I spend time mentioning that not to disagree with you but to add some context – it is all about what you expect from a game, and what you are looking for. In my Crysis review, while I lamented how the ending turned into a corridor shooter, I stated it was a top-notch corridor shooter. The same thing is true here – Crysis 2 is an excellent limited-scope outdoor area and corridor shooter.

As for replayability, the contrast of my statements about ‘emergent gameplay’ and ‘corridor shooter’ should make my thoughts clear – after you have gone through the game once, there is not as much reason to replay as there was in the earlier Crytek games. I say it that way because compared with the single player campaigns of the shooters you mention … well, there is no comparison.

However, the multiplayer was completely forgettable – and soon to be forgotten. The game is full up with the worst behaved people in terms of gameplay, cheating, rage quitters, and on and on. The modes feel uninspired, and while the Nanosuit adds some variety of action, after playing for several hours across a week I have not gone back and will never go back.

I know I have been harsh and mixing praise and criticism throughout my statements, but the more I think about it the more I realize that it is more to do with Crytek than Crysis 2. Once I entered the game and saw the ‘Press Start’ opening screen, a bunch of stuff had bugged me. They were extremely vocal about piracy in the wake of Crysis, but I have always saw that as a scapegoat, since most folks can’t run the game even now, let
alone three years ago! Then there were the repeated interviews where they talked about their “PC first design,” “not compromised in any way,” “latest technology,” “PC gamers really use their full systems,” and nVidia even listing the game as a DirectX 11 showcase. None of it was true – and the proof was right there in front of me, in a game called Crysis 2.

The game Crysis 2 is very likely the best shooter you will play this year on any platform. You can use stealth, subterfuge, ranged shots, run and gun techniques, and so on. You have variety of options in approaching many objectives, and you get to see an awesome spectacle unfold in front of you. Taken as a stand-alone game without any of the baggage I carried into the review, any shooter fan would be foolish to let the game pass. Even as EA is leading the charge to extract an extra $10 from PC gamers (pure profit since there is no royalty like for X360 and PS3 … crap, I’m doing it again!), I still feel this is a great value in gaming.

Pros:
+ Awesome graphics that most mid-range PCs will actually be able to play
+ Streamlined Nanosuit is actually more immersive than the original
+ Tense and focused action throughout
+ Multiple approaches to actions

Cons:
- Misleading/untrue statements from developers set PC gamers up for anger/disappointment
- Much smaller and more closed world than Far Cry or Crysis
- PC-specific controls and options removed
- Blatant ‘console-first’ product … if that sort of thing bothers you
- Annoying taskmasters constantly telling you what to do

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So after all the squabbling, we’ve reached the same ultimate conclusion here…just from completely different angles and with varying degrees of enthusiasm!

You like the game, but feel understandably burned by Crytek not living up to pre-release PC version promises, while I just plain love the game without any qualifiers attached. Overall, this was a healthy discussion to have, as a lot of what we talked about here is a microcosm of the current state of the gaming industry as a whole.

As for my final thoughts on the game itself… To me, Crysis 2 offers the most complete FPS campaign this side of Half-Life 2 and the BioShock games, in terms of balancing superb gameplay and level design with spectacular graphics, a lengthy runtime, and a strong enough story to hold your attention the whole way through. In fact, Crysis 2 just got better and better the further I progressed — a complete reverse from my experience with the first game which started out strong but gradually degraded – and by the end I, opposed to you, was psyched to start the game all over again.

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Pros:
+ Nanosuit allows for many different tactical approaches
+ Intelligent level design balances linearity and freedom
+ Jaw-dropping graphics bring NYC to life in incredible detail
+ Immersive Nanosuit and weapon mod systems
+ Great combo of a long campaign and solid multiplayer

Cons:
- Buggy AI
- Poorly balanced checkpoints and no manual saving

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PC and PS3, also available for Xbox 360
Publisher: EA
Developer: Crytek
Release Date: 3/22/2011
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1 (2-12 online)
Source: PC and PS3 review copies provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!