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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Crysis 2 (Playstation 3)

Console owners have waited a long time to get their hands on a version of Crytek's infamous Crysis series. The ground-breaking original came out on PC several years ago and featured some truly impressive special effects and physics. Now, the sequel has arrived and despite some concessions, delivers a truly engrossing and immersive gameplay experience. Its incredible level of detail makes the battlegrounds of Manhattan come alive and the combat sequences are likewise intense. It's definitely an impressive technical achievement, but the gameplay offers some unique twists that make for a terrific title.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan over-run by a military dictatorship and a subsequent alien invasion, the game offers players a fairly innovative premise in terms of presentation. Instead of merely offering the usual mindless shooting, the game puts you in the center of a government conspiracy with undercover and clandestine operations going on surrounding your mission. You aren't precisely a government agent, but are instead working for an underground group who is looking to unravel the mystery surrounding the alien invasion. It unfolds slowly at first, with the first few levels offering more of a training exercise than a real game. Getting through the introductions and the game improves in a hurry. The story and game picks up significant momentum once the alien invasion of Manhattan begins in earnest. This is all presented to the player in a series of cut-scenes between the action that sets up an interesting backstory, introduces some engaging supporting characters and brings to life some underlying motivations that make Crysis 2's storyline a bit more interesting than the usual run and gun shooter. The production values in these sequences are quite impressive, and the coherent narrative that runs through the game is effective in keeping the player motivated throughout.

It's not all storyline and cinemas in the game, because Crysis 2 delivers some fairly intense action sequences that are both challenging and highly-polished. The game offers a good balance between running and shooting, but there's much more to it than that. While you're given a few super-human abilities and high-tech hardware, your opponents significantly outnumber you which means you'll need more than brute force to survive the battle. Learning to avoid conflict, attacking quickly and getting out of the way of fire are the keys to the game, and give Crysis 2 a surprising amount of depth and strategy. Most of the levels are laid out before you in simple terms, with a series of objectives to complete. You don't necessarily need to go in the same path or a pre-ordained order, but it helps to come up with a plan ahead of time. Enemy forces are seemingly everywhere, and learning where they are and avoiding detection makes a huge difference. Trigger the alarms in one, and reinforcements converge on your position almost immediately. This means you'll need to find cover, but this can be penetrated by stronger enemy fire and the intelligent AI means enemies will quickly converge on your location if you stay there too long. Players can also use nearby objects, such as gas cans which explode when hit to take out enemies from a distance. While your opponents are fairly lethal if you aren't careful, their sheer numbers means that they leave a lot of supplies when you pick them off. You can use this to your advantage and stock up on a number of weapons such as sniper rifles, machine guns and other objects. This sounds fairly standard for the FPS genre, but Crysis 2's biggest selling point is that it makes the player themselves into a weapon.

While the character codenamed Prophet is the nominal focus of the game, Crysis 2's actually revolves around the Nanosuit 2.0. This advanced piece of technology is a powerful body armored suit gives you some incredible special abilities. You can use this as an added advantage in your quest to survive the ordeal. As seen in the opening moments of the game, its been foisted on you by an unknown military organization and fused with your character's DNA. It works in conjunction with your body to give you several superhuman abilities. One of the coolest is the strength it gives you, which allows you to pick up heavy objects, such as cars and throw them at enemies. This can be quite effective in clearing out sections. However, these aren't used as much as you'd like in the game. Foe the majority of the play in Crysis 2, the suit serves two basic functions. These are enhanced armor, which protects you from enemy bullets, giving you extra endurance during battles. The other major function is the stealth ability that allows you to become invisible for a short time. Both of these give you powerful weapons that you can use to evade detection or last longer. However, using these drains your suit energy, which is limited and not completely perfect. Using both at the same time puts further pressure on your resources. Once your energy drops too low, you cannot use these Nanosuit features, so you need to use them wisely. You also can't act like you're invincible either. For example, firing your gun while in stealth mode will immediately reveal your location to nearby fors while the armor mode can survive standard blasts, it doesn't offer much protection against massive explosions. These abilities can be enhanced by gaining upgrades and other items later in the game. When your Nanosuit runs low on energy, you can reboot your energy level by taking a moment out of range and waiting for it to restore your health. If you are knocked out and your energy is completely drained, you can restart the level at the last saved location, which helps to keep your progress fairly consistent. Save points are fairly frequent in Crysis 2, so you won't get blown back too far in the single player campaign.

Most of the game takes place on foot as you traverse the streets of Manhattan, decimated by a series of devastating attacks that seem to have wiped out much of the civilian population. Most of the action takes place in buildings and streets, where you have to traverse through and find checkpoints and other objectives. It's a fairly structured experience, though some areas provide you with alternate routes such as subway tunnels or sewers that you can use to evade detection. To keep things from getting a bit too repetitive, several sequences allow you to take control of different vehicle types ranging from tanks to police cars. This usually means you are facing off against some heavy armor, and means you'll have to destroy them before they unleash missiles on you as well. Surprisingly, these aren't as much fun as you'd expect, probably because it feels like a comedown to merely control a tank instead of having the abilities the suit provides. Most sections of the single player game unfold at a fairly good pace, and since your next objective and the distance to it are clearly labeled on the Nanosuit's HUD, you never really feel lost or confused as to what to do next. The game's level of difficulty depends on the level you select during the game, and making progress depends mostly on your skill and endurance. Most of the human military enemies you face put up a good fight, but the real challenge comes when you face off against the alien foes, which are much less predictable and more dangerous at close range. This makes them particularly difficult to take on when they come at you in swarms. Crysis 2's solo campaign offers a consistently good amount of challenge and offers some truly difficult gameplay on the higher settings, making for a satisfying experience no matter your own skill level.

As stated earlier, the Crysis series has its roots in the PC realm and while the console ports of the games aren't ever going to be precise, the PS3 version at least does a decent job of bringing this high-tech title to the masses mostly intact. The controls are mapped to the standard Dual Shock effectively, with movement controlled by the analog stick while the shift buttons control firing and the use of the stealth/armor abilities. Players use the d-pad to configure the Nanosuit on the fly which makes the interface feel nearly transparent and quite simple to use after a shallow learning curve. The game loads relatively quickly in most cases, making for a decent experience overall. One aspect of the game most players will want to know about are the visuals. Crysis 2's epic scale makes for a cinematic FPS experience that rivals the best seen on PS3 to date, and is about on par with the likes of Killzone 3, though the fact that it's rendering a real-world location gives it a slight edge in terms of presentation and impact. The game's detailed rendering of post-apocalyptic Manhattan is quite impressive. The pacing is also well done, with starts and stops in the action that give you breathing room, through never placing you too far away from some intense action sequences.

In addition to the grind of regular battles, there are some very cool set-pieces and dramatic boss confrontations throughout the game which punch up Crysis 2. This lends things an even more epic feel, which is enhanced by its hyper-realism, giving players a strong sense of place and allowing them to immerse themselves into the action almost immediately. You definitely feel like you've been thrown in the middle of a war, with the city's towering skyscrapers teetering on their edges while ominous wafts of smoke appear everywhere. The game has a strong sense of itself and definitely makes you feel like you're actually in New York City. Even ordinary objects such as vehicles, road signs and street layouts appear authentic and show a great attention to detail. An impressive array of visual effects such as lighting and character animation appeared smooth throughout while the game moved at a consistent frame rate. For the most part, the experience was highly-polished. However, we experienced the occasional glitch with the graphics which detracted from the overall feel slightly. The good news is that the player will most likely come away extremely impressed by the level of immersion Crysis 2 creates. It definitely forms an immediate and somewhat sinister overtone right from the beginning, and this realism goes a long way in making for a more believable gaming experience.

Between its superb visuals, which create a breathtaking vista of a real city under siege, and its unique gameplay features, highlighted by the powerful Nanosuit, Crysis 2 delivers a deep and challenging FPS experience that brings some unique elements to the table. It definitely has a layer of strategy in managing the Nanosuit's upgrades and abilities, and there's some stealth action you'll need to perform in certain sections. However, the game delivers some fairly intense battle sequences as well, which require a great deal of skill and fast reflexes in order to defeat. Its single player campaign unfolds at a decent pace and offers some really interesting storylines and plot twists to keep players interested and engaged in its narrative throughout. While some concessions have been made in some relatively minor aspects, this is still a very impressive technical achievement by any measure. Crysis 2 is an excellent title in most aspects, and one that brings a largely undiluted experience to mainstream consoles in spectacular fashion.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: A-

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