Game actually had a reasonable selection of PC titles when I dropped in last week. I was tempted by all of Dawn of War for £20 or Command & Conquer: The First Decade for a tenner, until I remembered that I’m rubbish at strategies and don’t actually like them that much.
So, in the mood for something a little more disposable, and since I rather enjoyed its predecessor, I settled for Crysis 2…
There are a few spoilers in here, so if you’re sensitive and/or you care you should probably hold off.
Highest of the High
I was expecting it to chug as much as the first game (reducing the settings there didn’t ever seem to have much impact), but it actually ran absolutely beautifully out-the-box with all settings on “High”. Sure, “High” is the lowest possible option, but nobody can argue with a fairly consistent 55-odd frames-per-second (even in areas of massive flux).
And the visuals are pretty stunning. The entire city frequently comes crashing down all around you, and it does it live and in-game without getting its panties in a knot (of course I don’t know how much is trickery and how much is physics simulation). From buildings collapsing in the skybox to bridges toppling around your ears and huge chunks of garden falling away in front of you, they really nailed that stuff.
But I can argue with iron-sights and giant guns that take up more than half the screen. How can I shoot if I can’t see what I’m shooting at? It doesn’t help that, as soon as you do start shooting, the impact zone is smothered in massive dust particle effects, obscuring what little of the screen you could still see. I’m sure it’s so real, but it’s also really bloody annoying and not fun in the slightest.
Seriously, though. JUST GIVE ME A FUCKING CROSSHAIR. That’s all I ask for — ONE GOD DAMN TEENSY LITTLE SOLID, UNCHANGING LITTLE FUCKING CROSS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING SCREEN. FUCK IRON SIGHTS, FUCK REALISM, JUST GIVE MY EYES SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO. EVEN MORROWIND HAS A FUCKING CROSSHAIR AND IT’S A GOD DAMN FANTASY HACK ‘N’ SLASH.
Fuck, man. I don’t even care if that’s where my bullets are actually going — Deus Ex did it perfectly with the always-present cross and the wings of the reticule expanding and contracting to indicate how likely you were to actually hit the spot. Crysis 2 dispenses with the central cross and keeps the wings, making it bloody impossible to know where you’re aiming as soon as you dare to try and move or actually make a shot and the wings go skiting off to the edge of the screen. Why don’t you make cleverer enemies instead of forcibly gimping my aim?
You’re right, I can probably apply that same rant to a lot of modern games, but it really felt painful here. I never liked iron sights.
Round And Round the Passageways
Far Cry was a corridor shooter with corridors so wide that they should have been the setting for an open-world RPG. Crysis tightened the bolts and gave you corridors that were still wide enough to have a lot of fun but not so wide you spent days missing checkpoints (and for fuck’s sake why are we still using checkpoints?). Crysis 2 tightens the corridors even more, presenting self-contained bite-sized arenas to pass through.
I’m not that concerned about the fact that the corridors are tighter; it’s a 100% linear story so there’s no point letting you roam away from that. What I am concerned about is the prevalence of the invisible wall. There are many, and they are in strange places. On the one hand, the game encourages exploring, flanking, sneaking — on the other, if you’re meant to Walk Patiently Through the Area of Dead And Dying People then you cannot explore. It goes so far as to disable the nanosuit abilities at points like this. If I want to jump over the fence and climb those crates, why can’t I?
And when there isn’t an invisible wall, there’s a real wall that is barely two inches too high for you to mantle onto. If you’re going to block my way, make it obvious that my way is blocked — don’t taunt me like that! Well, at least we get mantling this time, I suppose.
The Game That Wanted To Be Deus Ex
I don’t know if it’s just being in New York or the use of the prefix “nano-” on everything, but I keep thinking of Deus Ex. You can pick most objects and throw them around, which although mostly useless still makes the place feel more lived-in than Human Revolution‘s tie-everything-down-except-cardboard-boxes.
Then there’s the whole plague element, and the evacuate-the-VIPs-first stuff. If the weapon variety was upped, they increased the RPG-lite suit configuration elements, if they let you talk to people and swapped terrible quick-time event sequences for side quests, it could really go there (and nary an air vent in sight). But that’s consistently been my feeling since I got Far Cry ages ago. Clearly Crytek aren’t remotely interested in going in that direction.
The Silent Protagonist
I’ve leaned towards and away from the silent protagonist at different times in my life. Alcatraz is a silent protagonist, and I really don’t think it works here.
It’s all in the dialogue. Crysis 2 presents a lot of its plot through first-person cinematics where people are talking. The problem is that they are, well, sometimes talking to you. You sit there like a clown while one man is in the same room talking to himself/you. It feels so wierd — he’s not handing down orders and brooking no insolence, he’s having a conversation, but he’s having it with one person missing — you. It feels really strange when the somebody asks you a direct question and some contrived interruption stops you from ever uttering a word.
Not saying that silent protagonists are bad, just saying it’s not handled particularly well here. Nomad spoke in the original Crysis so I’m not entirely convinced by the need for a change in direction.
The Lost (SPOILERS)
I hate the way it ends. It just… Ends. You go into the Ceph structure and that’s it. No crawling around, no boss fight, nothing. Just in and finito.
For a game that consistently hits you in the face (as soon as you see a helicopter or some kind of evac you know you’re about to get hit by something even bigger that alters your course), it’s such a let-down to just… Succeed. The bad guys are all magically wiped out, la la la, the end — and the epilogue has the cheek to throw the same old “IT’S NOT OVER” line they pulled at the end of Crysis. Yes, Crysis didn’t end either — we might have got a boss fight, but then they flew back to the island with a curt “WE’VE GOT WORK TO DO”.
Fuck’s sake, Crytek — you could have given us an expansion pack that closed it off or just given us one more level to finish it off and this sequel would still have worked. But no, you had to soil your breeches with a stupid non-cliffhanger. And now you’ve gone and done it again.
Having said that, I’ll probably still buy Crysis 3 at some point, because despite the monumentally negative focus of this review, it was plenty enjoyable and certainly worth the tenner I paid (not sure if it’d be worth £30 closer to release, though).
Crysis 2 is a true sequel, in that it’s more of the same but with the inevitable tightening up of mechanics and a different geographical locale. The nanosuit’s functions seem much more useful — I remember in Crysis that stealth mode ran out too fast to be much use, and sprinting was also far too short to be any use (though general movement is, for a bloody super-soldier, still annoyingly sluggish and sprinting doesn’t do much for it).
So it’s not bad stuff, but it does seem… Confused. Is it a vast open-world conspiracy RPG? Is it a tightly scripted “cinematic experience”? Is it a grim real-war military simulator? A free-form choose-your-own-action-adventure? Maybe even a run-and-gun shooter?
Make your mind up, guys.