Alright, one thing right off the bat, I am deeply apologetic for my long leave of absence. It had some good reasons (some of which you'll be hearing about soon) and some not so good ones (which you won't be hearing about), but the long story short is both and absence of content and of updates that I promised long ago. Hold me to those! Oh, and for you audiophiles out there, the Top 25 Soundtracks is getting very close to being complete. I underestimated how long it would take, but I'm getting closer and closer to the big presentation. All that aside however, lets get into the news that you actually want to see: Crysis 2.
Crysis 2 has been a much anticipated title for many reasons. The game had strong showcases at E3 and earlier, was well talked about and even earned not one but two articles on this very blog located here and here. The first Crysis title was both a technical achievement of graphics and a stellar First-Person Shooter, dropping the player into a vivid island jungle with a powerful suit of combat armor which, unlike other notable FPS titles, actually bestowed upon your character the power you would expect to come from a high tech jumpsuit, and it left many players hungry for more.
Unfortunately early rumors concerning Crysis 2 seemed to have the game aimed at consoles as well as the PC, and allegations of "dumbing down" began to fly. Crytek (the development team) assured everyone that the situation was well in hand and that the game was on track. Now, after months of waiting, the Crysis 2 demo has finally hit, although strangely enough, its not on the PC at all, but on the X-box 360 as a multiplayer only experience.
So I had to try it, and with one question in mind: how well does it stack up to the original Crysis? Is this the sequel that fans of the original Crysis have been hoping for? To be brutally honest: No If the finished product is anything like the Demo I played this week it's not. In fact, its a giant leap backwards.
The very first problem that any player of the original Crysis will notice right away is that the players nanosuit has been completely nerfed. Now it could be because its the multiplayer mode and maybe they've heavily nerfed the game for that reason, but even that would be a poor excuse. In the original title, players were given the ability to cycle through four different "modes" at any time. There was armor mode, the default, which would reduce all damage taken but drained energy with every bullet it absorbed. Strength mode, which enhanced your natural strength to the point of being able to leap 15 feet into the air, throw enemies through walls, and smash through doors with ease (again, with a slight energy drain). Speed mode, which raised your normal running speed as well as letting you drain your suit energy into a single burst of 60+ mph sprint. Lastly, there was cloak mode, which made you completely invisible save a nigh impossible to notice shimmer and a shadow. When all of these tools were at your beck and call, the game was an exercise in creativity in combat, with an emphasis in letting you choose when and how to fight.
In Crysis 2 however, the player is only given three armor modes: Armor, Stealth and Default (which is called strength, but I'll get to that in a moment). None of these work in any way like they did in Crysis, in fact, they're severely downgraded from what they were. Take the default mode, mis-named Strength. This is the default setting for your suit rather then armor as it was in the first title. Now, ordinarily that wouldn't be a big issue except that your suit never actually displays any strength unless the game has been hard coded to. For all intents and purposes you are a generic marine until you happen to attempt "that one jump" and suddenly you're flying a good fifteen feet. The problem is that this is entirely up to the game to decide, not the user. In the first Crysis, when the player turned on strength mode and jumped, you knew how high it was going to be. Crysis 2 doesn't display that same logic. You are a normal featureless grunt until you make the jump the designers want you to make, then you make it. Case in point, there is one part of the map where if you look at a particular ledge and jump, you'll launch yourself across a gulf to the ledge. However, since this is at the discretion of the game, good luck getting yourself across several other gaps of the same size, a lesson I learned time and time again. The game isn't coded to let you jump that gulf, so despite the earlier example that you should be able to clear the gap easily, you'll find yourself needlessly falling to your doom any time you try to make a jump the designers either didn't predict or didn't want you to make.
Crysis 2 also suffers from hard coded failure in other areas of the game as well. One of the touted features of the game was the heavily destructible environments, which were supposed to react realistically to your bullets, bombs, and even your punches. They must have missed that memo for the demo, because the game fails in this regard as well. Seeing that strength was the default mode, one of the first things I tried to do was punch my way through a flimsy wooden office door to get into the room on the other side. Unfortunately, wooden doors in the world of Crysisadamantium. Ironically, I later found that while the door couldn't be destroyed, the wall right next to it could, resulting in a truly weird logic jump. The rest of the world seems just as solid as that office door. No matter how precariously one of the maps bridges seems to be balanced, I've yet to see a nearby grenade knock it from its perch, or even make it quiver.
Armor and stealth modes are both nigh-useless as well. Although armor mode does do what it says on the tin (namely, take a few extra hits for you), it also suffers from impracticality issues. Whenever armor mode is engaged, your movement speed drops by a significant amount and your energy bar is constantly drained. In the first game armor was your bread and butter, with no usage penalties. In Crysis 2, if you use armor mode, people will run rings around you. Even worse, armor mode drains your limited energy (already drained by simple activities such as generic sprinting and jumping) simply by being activated at a fairly rapid pace. This means that if you leave it on for any amount of time (say, to chase someone in combat), you're loosing armor simply by virtue of using it, making the lowered movement speed all the more crippling. After about twenty seconds of armor mode, you've effectively halved your movement speed for no purpose at all.
Stealth isn't much better. Enabling stealth mode is the swiftest way to drain your already feeble energy bar, and the trade of, much like armor, just isn't worth it. Not only does it seem to strip any armor you already had from you (kills on a cloaked player are pretty much "one shot one kill") but the actual "cloak" is less "invisible Predator" style and more of "shiny Saran-wrapped player model" that everyone sees. The only way to be truly invisible is not to move. But since your armor is depleted, I've ambushed players from behind in stealth mode, only for them to turn around and kill me before I kill them. What's the point of cloak again? Well, you could argue the atypical behind the back assassination moves everyone loves, but since these seem to have a very small hitbox and no ability to actually "aim" themselves at a rapidly moving target (unlike other titles, where a melee has an obvious homing effect) the melee usually ends up being a useless gesture on anyone other then stationary targets, as well as alerting the other player to your presence.
What this boils down to is a title that seems more like a simple Call of Duty clone with a few bells and whistles then the sequel I was hoping for. The games themselves even run like the atypical CoD game. The majority of the players I played with an against had one strategy: Spawn with the shotgun and sprint everywhere blasting people at close range. Not only is it prevalent, but it is an entirely workable strategy. Unlike the maps of Crysis with their sprawling vistas, the map shown off in the demo is small and cramped, barely a hundred feet from side to side, which renders almost any weapon other then a short range one pointless. The game's clone factor even goes as far as allowing the player to pick 3 perks to use in game and a kill cam showing your killers view a few seconds before they found you. I might add I've always hated kill cams of this nature, they remove any sort of advantages things like stealth bring to the table (the only exception I've found being TF2, but the game is made for it, granting it the only amnesty I've found). For a "thinking" game like Crysis 2 has been claiming to be, little features like the kill cam remove quite a bit of the strategy.
To be honest, I found my time with the Crysis 2 demo to be a mess. Gone was the sense of carefully planned combat. Gone was the array of game-changing special abilities. Gone was the sense that I was playing something fundamentally fresh. Gone was even a fluid sense of control. True fact: once you switch to grenades, you have to throw one. You can't switch to grenades and then change your mind. You must throw one. Not that grenades are very useful due to the pitifully small blast radius and a helpful red grenade indicator that shows everyone where they shouldn't be.
There was one small ray of light. The graphics did look nice. While Epic has a made a fuss that their engine is just as good looking, I'd have to give looks to Crysis 2, simply on the basis of crisp bright color. The water looks great, the first person view is actually quite fun (its a bit like Mirrors Edge in that you actually see yourself doing stuff), and for the most part the stage looks very real.
Sadly, all the nicest graphics in the world couldn't make me like Crysis 2, and I left every play experience with a bitter taste in my mouth. The overall experience was so dumbed down, so generic, and so broken that I walked away feeling, in all truth, betrayed.
The Crysis 2 demo does offer two slim rays of hope, however grim. The opening page of the demo has a very large statement that this is a work in progress and that the demo is not representative of the final product. Also, this is a multiplayer demo, its entirely possible that the single player game could be more of the Crysis we all loved.
These are thin strands of hope however, and for now, although it pains me to say it, Crysis 2 is ranking up to be on of the all time biggest disappointments in gaming.