As far as graphical ambition is concerned, games don’t get much more impressive than Crytek’s original Crysis. Boasting incredible scenery set in lush, tropical jungles, the title became infamous for requiring an expensive rig that only PC elitists would likely own, but this presented the issue of a limited market resulting in limited sales. Now that the hotly anticipated sequel has hit store shelves, the developers have finally (and quite cheekily) answered the question posed by gamers back in 2007; can consoles run Crysis? The answer is a confident yes, but does it have the gameplay to match its technical proficiency or is it nothing more than the catwalk model of the industry?
If you’re going in to Crysis 2 expecting the same jungles and sandy beaches of old (and as featured in the original Far Cry) then think again. This tale is set entirely on the streets of a war-torn Manhattan, New York City. Now, if you find yourself scoffing at the idea of yet another gaming romp set in the Big Apple then fear not, art direction has not been set asunder in the name of technical showmanship – the gaming world looks and feels as organic as a concrete jungle should. Quite honestly, you haven’t seen anything this spectacular since the set-pieces of Uncharted 2. Buildings crumble in the distance, explosions tear the city apart and the surviving populace lie sick in quarantine, just hoping for the next ticket to safety. There are moments when you’ll genuinely wonder how your console is handling it all, and while the framerate may take the (very) occasional hit going on our PS3 copy, everything here stands as a testament to the developer’s deft use of the tech, also marking the debut of the CryEngine 3.
You play as Alcatraz, a faceless marine thrust into the multi-purpose Nanosuit 2.0 complete with healing factor, increased strength and an ever-useful cloaking device. Given the ferocity of the invasion coupled with the lack of useful back-up, it soon becomes clear that you’re humanity’s final hope. Hails of gunfire, whizzing bullets, soldier screams and exploding grenades sound off in the distance, sometimes even occurring around you as you attempt to gain ground in battle. While standard soldiers have little chance against the invading Ceph, Alcatraz is a force to be reckoned with, despite the suit’s relatively small amount of energy. Engaging the cloak, walking behind an alien and executing a stealth kill is satisfying and never gets old, mostly because it isn’t always an option. The addition of an energy meter means you’ll always be keeping an eye out and thinking tactically, making you powerful yet not overpowered – you have the distinct advantage, but getting cocky will reap few rewards and may leave you surrounded and with no energy.
The game encourages you to think before charging in, with the ability to power-kick vehicles, snipe headshots, shoot exploding barrels (this is rare thankfully), learn enemy routes and gain the upper hand before anyone even knows you’re there. Eventually of course they will, and foes will frequently call for back-up once they spot you. When in a tricky spot it’s a good idea to activate your armour module, significantly reducing the damage you take; it hardly makes you invincible, instead giving you a chance to either find cover or go in guns blazing for a few moments of increased power. Some later mini-bosses can negate your stealth altogether, serving up some memorable moments where you’ll feel overwhelmed and have to find other ways of surprising the enemy. The few on-rails vehicle sections do leave much to be desired, but these are fleeting enough to not become a problem.
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