When players think of the Crysis franchise, their minds usually go to one thing: the graphics. A franchise renowned for pushing PCs (and now consoles) to the limit, the upcoming Crysis 2 is a beautiful game. Fortunately, limiting our discussion on Crysis 2 to graphics is cutting the game short. It's safe to say that people know little about the original Crysis’ storyline. As someone entering the series with zero knowledge of the nanosuit, aliens, etc., I was a little apprehensive about trying out the new game. Thankfully, Crysis 2 specifically creates a new experience that touches on the events of the previous game but doesn't require knowledge of the original.
EA has been kind enough to let us jump into the second and third chapters of the game. The very first area, on the edge of the Hudson River, is rife with spoilers for returning players. It introduces Alcatraz, the player character—a mostly silent protagonist and soldier recently fitted with the nanosuit. While details are under wraps, this area acts as a substantial segue into the next chapter in Crysis. By the time Alcatraz has reached chapter two (Sudden Impact), players should be more familiar with the primary mechanics of Crysis and how it plays compared to other shooters.
Crysis 2 builds on the open-ended motif of the original. Levels are linear enough, but problems can be solved in different manners. Players can activate stealth mode and sneak up behind enemies for an instant kill. They can sneak though underground tunnels and avoid battles outright, or they can engage in a more difficult, head-on assault. The game does offer assistance in figuring out which technique a player should take, as a tap on the visor will highlight enemy, weapon, and supply locations, as well as recommendations on different options to circumvent an area. It’s never forced upon the player, but the assistance of the HUD visor is very helpful in overcoming many aspects of the game.
Crysis 2 is pretty damn difficult. While many shooters ask players to walk down corridors and shoot enemy soldiers, Crysis 2 forces them to deal with some of the most difficult enemy AI ever seen. It's more than just running from grenades. Enemy CELL soldiers and aliens will take cover when necessary, flank the player if they can, and charge from behind. The player's stealth ability is only marginally useful early on. Enemies can see Alcatraz’ shadow and hear his footsteps, but until the nanosuit starts benefiting from upgrades, it’s easy for mercenary CELL agents and the Ceph aliens to take out Alcatraz. Players will need to be smart about how they juggle the suit’s capabilities and their overall approach to each situation.
By the time a player reaches the Sudden Impact chapter, they will have met Nathan Gould, a scientist with crackpot theories that, for the most part, prove true. He guides Alcatraz through the streets of ruined New York, where an alien virus has wreaked havoc upon the citizens. People are literally melting apart, twitching and writhing as they slowly die. It’s ugly stuff, and the aliens seem to be involved. Gould wants to understand the nature of the alien bodies, so he tasks Alcatraz with collecting alien tissue from a crashed spaceship downtown. Alcatraz finds more than just the ship waiting for him—he stumbles upon the aliens themselves. They're hard to kill, but there seems to be some link between the suit and the Ceph, not to mention the unique effect of upgrading the nanosuit with their alien DNA. Killing aliens awards the player with XP, making the suit much more useful overall.
The third chapter, Road Rage, introduces a few new mechanics. CELL soldiers will fight the aliens before they fight you, allowing for different tactical responses. This stage also introduces one of the driving portions of the game, in which Alcatraz steers a tank down the ruins of the FDR Drive along the east river shore. It’s an exciting moment, and for a game that never lets players feel overpowered, commanding a tank is dead satisfying.
These early chapters are only a glimpse of the plot and gameplay of Crysis 2. New York has a lot to offer, and with the multitude of upgrades, plot twists and environments of the city, we've only scratched the surface. Make sure you stop back for our review of Crysis 2 next week to learn if the game is worth your time and money.