Video Game Review: Stunning ‘Crysis 2’ is a Revolutionary Shooter

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CHICAGO – Like most hardcore gamers, I’m not as easily impressed as I used to be. From the beginning of “Crysis 2,” and several times during my experience with the game, I was simply blown away. Whether it’s from the stunningly beautiful graphics (the best yet in the history of the Xbox), the deep customization that makes the game unique, or an incredibly deep multiplayer experience that is the most addictive since “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” this is a title that I know I will be playing on and off for the majority of 2011. It’s incredible. Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0

From its opening scenes, the single-player campaign for “Crysis 2” is visually jaw-dropping. Picking up three years after the first game, you play a soldier named Alcatraz, whose troop is moving into a New York City ravaged by an alien attack. Your jaw will drop at the skyline and the sight of the partially-destroyed Statue of Liberty moments before the rest of your squadmates are destroyed in an amazing sequence that leaves you as the last chance for the survival of the human race. You have to move through the city and find a missing scientist who has the answers for survival.

Crysis 2
Crysis 2
Photo credit: EA

But you’re no longer a mere soldier. In the opening scenes, you are given the Nanosuit, something that gives you an advantage over your enemies with customizable skills like enhanced armor and even a cloaked stealth mode. As the game progresses, the suit not only becomes more essential to your advancement but becomes more and more fluidly a part of your control scheme. Don’t worry about overly complicated bells and whistles. The Nanosuit is incredibly powerful but it’s also intuitive, especially in the revolutionary multiplayer, in which it adds a layer of strategy previously unseen in shooters.

Crysis 2
Crysis 2
Photo credit: EA

Back to the single-player campaign. As you wander the streets of Manhattan, choosing carefully between a stealth approach when needed and impressive firepower when you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to get distracted by the sights. Visually, the game pushes the envelope of what we should expect from console graphics. Most of you have probably seen the released footage from “Battlefield 3” or “Batman: Arkham City.” 2011 is clearly going to be an incredible year for gamers in terms of advancements in the world of graphics. “Crysis 2” is the start of that (although, credit should go to the very-impressive “Killzone 3” as well, but this one even blows that away.)

The Nanosuit not only gives you options like stealth or armor, both of which you’ll need depending on the situation, but gives you some super-human abilities as well, like power jumping or melees, but it all comes at a cost. If you move quickly while cloaked, your energy will drain and, eventually, you’ll be spotted. Armor and even running also drain the suit, leaving you vulnerable, depending on what skill you use when. It’s an interesting dynamic of the single-player campaign that becomes a revolutionary one in the multi-player realm as strategy is just as important as hand-eye coordination.

In both arenas, the energy level of your suit turns what could have been a generic shooter into more of a strategic experience. You’ll often come upon a well-guarded area of the city in the single-player campaign and use a scope to mark targets and plan your strategy. It’s an amazingly varied gameplay dynamic that allows the title to be different for everyone. Take cover, toss grenades, and unleash Hell? Or mark your targets and stealthily take out enemies in cloaked form? Or just run? The decisions rarely feel predetermined, adding to that sensation that only the best games share, which is that you, the player, are actually authoring the experience.

Crysis 2
Crysis 2
Photo credit: EA

Even the single-player campaign contains an amazing amount of customization, including different weapon attachments and suit enhancements. There are 22 weapons with 11 attachments and that doesn’t even touch the suit enhancements possible in both single and multiplayer. It is an amazingly individualized shooter that also allows for incredible replayability.

Crysis 2
Crysis 2
Photo credit: EA

The multiplayer is not only tactically fascinating but works in every other way as well. The map design, besides having the best graphics you’ve ever seen in this kind of game, is spectacular. They’re just the right size with the perfect amount of cover and open space and, honestly, are even more well-designed than “Black Ops.” They’re the best maps, on a design level, since “Battlefield: Bad Company 2.” Like most modern multi-player games, kill streaks produce rewards like enhanced radar and even a fighting ship to destroy your enemies, but in one of many brilliant moves, the player must collect the dog tag of the victim to earn the streak. So, hiding from cover and just being a sniper won’t get it done. You have to go into the chaos to get your trophy.

The upgrading is also incredibly well-conceived as each time you join the battle, you’re likely to find something new to play with when you’re done, whether it be a new weapon, attachment, armor module, dog tag, etc. The game also features a great “New Recruits” system for players ranked 10 or lower, so you don’t have to worry about getting your ass kicked by more-upgraded players from day one. And when you do graduate, the experience continues to unfold through upgrades in a way that only the best multi-player games do. This is one of the best ever.

“Crysis 2” includes the expected variety of game types including variations on Free-For-All (known as Instant Action), Team Instant Action, Domination (here known as Crash Site with the added feature that the sites that need to be held explode after awhile before a new one is dropped), Capture the Flag (here called Capture the Relay), and more. Personally, I’m much more of a fan of objective-based multi-player like flag capturing or Conquest/Rush in “Battlefield: Bad Company 2,” but I found the Instant Action of just trying to kill as many competitors as possible incredibly rewarding this time, arguably more than any other multi-player game. Yes, I’m saying it — with its strategy-added elements, “Crysis 2” might have the best deathmatch ever made.

What more is there to say? It looks amazing and, honestly, it’s so addictive that I’m trying to get this review done quickly so I can get back to playing it. It’s the first game in quite some time to get its hooks into me that deeply. Even jaded critics can still fall hard for a game as impressive as “Crysis 2.”

“Crysis 2” was released by EA and developed by Crytek. It hit stores on March 22nd, 2011. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360, but the game is also available for the PC and PS3. content director Brian Tallerico

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