Released back in 2007, the original Crysis was an outstanding first-person shooter... for gamers with super computers. Thanks to the game's steep hardware requirements, a lot of people unfortunately never got to play it. Crytek, the game's developer, decided a change was in order for the sequel, making Crysis 2 a multi-platform shooter. PC enthusiasts may not be happy with the move, but everyone else should be, as Crysis 2 is a spectacular sequel that stands above the horde of generic shooters being released.
Crysis 2 takes place in New York City, three years after the events of the original. Alien invaders known as the Cephaloids have invaded Manhattan, and a deadly virus that breaks down all cellular matter has ravaged most of the city's human population. You play as a marine under the codename "Alcatraz" who is sent into the city for recon. That mission is rather short-lived, however, as your squad is quickly disposed of by the Ceph, leaving you as the last surviving member. Outfitted with the technologically-advanced nanosuit, it's up to you to defeat the alien menace, as well as the humans hunting you for your suit.
The good thing about Crysis 2's story is that it stands by itself. Even if you haven't played the original, the story will still make perfect sense. There are some important characters from the first game that make an appearance in the sequel, but you'll never be confused not having played the original. The bad thing about Crysis 2's story is that it is just pretty... bland. The characters are all flat and forgettable, and the overall themes of alien invasion and epidemic virus are so widespread that they just feel like a big cliche. Thankfully, the campaign is so enjoyable that a poor story hardly detracts from the overall experience. One of the main reasons for this is the game's setting: New York City.
The visuals in Crysis 2 are gorgeous, and are perhaps best displayed in Crytek's depiction of New York City. The sense of catastrophic destruction is jaw dropping throughout nearly the entire campaign, from watching Ceph gunships crash into buildings, to watching gigantic skyscrapers fall to the ground. Even though the story is lackluster, your adrenaline will still be pumping because everything looks, and feels, so real. The lighting effects in Crysis 2 are particularly beautiful; the way that the sunlight streams in across the faces of buildings is simply serene. And the little details, like burning embers floating lazily through the air, help make this crumbling, war-torn New York City look hauntingly beautiful.
The level design in Crysis 2 easily matches the high quality graphics. A lot of modern shooters have devolved into corridor after corridor of enemies that need to be cleared out before moving on to the next section. In Crysis 2, this thankfully isn't the case, as each level is large with multiple routes to take. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the game's level design is the verticality introduced in urban warfare. Levels seems considerably larger than they really are because of the height of New York City, whether that means you are up in a ten-story building sniping enemies, or dropping grenades on foes who are deep below the crumbling streets.
The gameplay in Crysis 2 is largely what you'd expect in a modern first-person shooter, save for one important exception: the nanosuit. The nanosuit in Crysis 2 has received some pretty significant upgrades over its predecessor from the original game. Instead of four static power modes, there are only two now: stealth and armor. Stealth allows you to turn nearly invisible, allowing you to sneak past (or up to) enemies. Armor mode makes your suit harden, allowing you to take less damage from enemy weapons, and fall great distances without breaking your knees. The speed mode has been replaced by a simple sprint mechanic, and power mode has been scrapped altogether. However, you can still perform plenty of "power" moves, such as the power kick and air stomp. Your suit also gives you tactical information, such as locations suitable for ambushing enemies, or where to find ammo and weapons.
You can even upgrade and customize the nanosuit this time around, which is pretty awesome. After you kill a Ceph, they leave behind a cloud of sparkly dust which is called nano catalyst. Collecting this stuff lets you upgrade your suit however you'd like. If you're a fan of the stealth mode, you can upgrade your suit to make your footsteps silent, or make it so stealth mode drains less energy. Or if you're a fan of speed, you can upgrade the suit to make Alcatraz grab ledges quicker, and be able to sprint for longer. When combined with the ability to customize weapon scopes and attachments on the fly, the nanosuit's upgrades make for quite a bit of customization in the single player campaign.
There are plenty of epic battles throughout the campaign, from fighting huge assault drones in Central Station, to making your way through a vast Ceph hive under the city's streets. Best of all, the campaign can't be beaten in a single sitting (well, it could be... but we don't recommend it). The game takes a good ten hours to plough through, which is a lot longer than most shooters these days. There are also plenty of collectibles to be found, and the higher difficulty levels will give even hardened veterans a worthy challenge. Unfortunately, the challenge doesn't come from enemy AI, as it's not too bright. Sometimes I'd walk up to an enemy and shoot him once, and he'd just stand there as if nothing happened. Other times I'd see an enemy throwing a grenade at a wall, even though I was standing behind him unstealthed. As good as the campaign is, it would be even better if the AI wasn't so dumb.
Crysis 2 also boasts an impressive online component, which sets itself apart from its competitors through the nanosuit. All of the standard modes are in there: death match, team death match, capture the flag, and so forth. You gain experience by killing enemies and completing objectives, and level up in order to unlock new and enhanced weapons, just like in every other online shooter. But in Crysis 2, you also gain Power XP, Armor XP, and Stealth XP after each match, depending on how you used your nanosuit. So if you use the stealth mode a lot, you'll gain more Stealth XP. These experience points can be used to enhance different modules for your nanosuit. For instance, the stealth module "Blind Spot" makes it so you're invisible on your enemy's radar.
The nanosuit is really what makes Crysis 2's multiplayer stand out, as it adds so much more depth to the actual gameplay. Gauging how to use your energy in specific situations is often the deciding factor in killing another player and being killed. Should you activate stealth mode to sneak up on a group of enemies, or use armor mode to absorb a little more damage in fighting them all at once? Little decisions like these help make Crysis 2's multiplayer a fun, unique experience. The only problem with the multiplayer right now is the prevalence of hackers online. Hopefully, Crytek will patch a fix for this, and quickly, because on the PC version of the game, there are far too many cheaters.
The other notable feature of Crysis 2 is the game's soundtrack. The main theme was composed by Hans Zimmer, and the rest of the game's soundtrack is almost as good as the visuals. In total, there is over 6 hours of music in Crysis 2. The sound effects are spot on as well, with huge explosions and collapsing buildings sounding amazing in complete surround sound. The voice acting is well done, with the robotic, baritone voice of the nanosuit stealing the show.
If you're a fan of shooters, you won't be disappointed with Crysis 2. The lengthy campaign is enjoyable from beginning to end, and the online multiplayer is a unique experience thanks to the nanosuit. Mix in some extraordinary graphics, an outstanding soundtrack, and plenty of replay value, and you've got one of the best shooters of the year, so far.