The first-person shooter game that brought home PCs to their knees with its demanding hardware specifications has a new installment for platform play. "Crysis 2" has arrived, and it has consumers' wallets in its cross hairs.
This remains the genre primarily consisting of running, ducking, hiding and shooting at others doing the same. Only an engaging plot, and perhaps some groundbreaking graphics, can strengthen a title beyond those basics. "Crysis 2" takes aim on both fronts, with decent results.
I played "Crysis 2" for Xbox 360 ($59.95, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). And while it doesn't break any tremendous new ground in detailed graphics, it is a polished update for the game. It may not be a jaw-dropping addition to the "Crysis" series, but it is one of the best shooters available.
I played as the protagonist, Alcatraz. The locale is New York City, following some climatic disasters that have left the Big Apple and other cities around the globe in near ruins. Society is crumbling, aliens are bouncing around Wall Street and camo-clad special-ops teams have me in their sights.
Somehow, Alcatraz acquired a so-called Nanosuit that allowed me to cloak myself in temporary invisibility and toughen my armor at the touch of a button. Much of the plot revolves around the technology behind the suit — and how Alcatraz came to have it — and you'll have to play the game to learn the threads of that important plotline. No spoilers here.
I found the game entertaining and a bit addictive. The levels are woven so nicely with the advancement of the plot that playing "Crysis 2" felt like reading a Dan Brown novel. Brown is an expert at persuading you to start the next chapter instead of putting down his thrillers, and "Crysis 2" also leaves you wanting more at the completion of each mission objective. I found myself in buildings, in subways, along the waterfront, on rooftops and crawling through the hulls of burned-out aircraft in search of sneak attacks on soldiers and aliens all seeking to do me grievous bodily harm.
Those objectives are clear, and there are welcome audio reminders that pop up when I bested the bad guys to remind me what the next step was. After a hard shootout against a squad of paramilitary types at a spacecraft crash site near a subway station, it was easy to forget where I was supposed to go next. "Crysis 2" guided me nicely with its pale blue dot on the minimap representing the location to get to, while not giving away the most optimal route.
"Cloak engage." That's what I heard a lot in the early levels as I used my armor to go invisible when the opportunity arose. I had to be judicious, as it sucked my energy down quickly and sometimes left me revealing myself out in the open after I had used it up. Not even my trusty SCAR assault rifle could save me once I'd been exposed.
The graphics are about as good as you'll find on an FPS platform title. The game builders at Crytek UK used hundreds of location photos and lighting tests from New York City to properly dapple the street with light as it bounces off brick and stone. Their extra work paid off, and there's an eerie feel when walking the streets of this iconic city peering through the scope of a SCAR assault rifle. The sidewalks aren't just gray pixelated slabs; they have earth and rubble along them as they met the sides of buildings, and sounds echo off the walls with unique realness.
The multiplayer online experience is solid, with various proficiency levels to choose from. The goal here is to get enough kills to gain XP, or experience points, which will earn you additional content and abilities. Respawns of my character were quick, and there were no server stutters or slowness to the connectivity.
Unfortunately, it took some time for me to get up to speed with my counterparts online. One of the first prizes I achieved was the "Glass Jaw" award for being melee-killed the most during a session. Hey, we all have to be good at something.
I took such a shellacking at one point, it reminded me of the classic Woody Allen line about his military service classification: "In the event of war, I'm a hostage."
"Crysis 2" will make you feel this way sometimes. Helpless in the face of too many enemies and not enough firepower, leaving you only with guile and experience to get you through. It's a challenging title, and remains one of the best shooter series with this richly rendered installment.
Four out of four stars. "Crysis 2" is rated "M" for mature.