Friday, August 5, 2011

Game Review: Crysis 2 - J.D.

Game: Crysis 2
Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows
Released: 2011
Reviewer Platform: Microsoft Windows
                Preceding its ground-breaking 2007 release, Crysis, German game developer, Crytek had yet to make a bad game. Crysis, and parallel story, Crysis: Warhead didn’t disappoint, rather, they set a new standard. Knowing this, and considering the cliffhanger upon which Crysis ended, it caused me no small amount of excitement when the first Crysis 2 trailer surfaced. Apparently premature, it was lost in a thicket of other potentially great titles which were more imminent, Crysis 2 was temporarily forgotten. When it resurfaced, bringing in the wake of its considerable resurgence more information about what it would eventually be like, I was left feeling…betrayed. It didn’t seem like it was going rescue those of us dangling on the edge of the proverbial precipice since the end of the first game. And while this didn’t turn out to be exactly the case, what it did instead was baffling and disappointing, in more ways than one. Let me say this before I continue, I enjoyed Crysis 2 despite its many attempts to accomplish the opposite effect, but I did not enjoy it as much as I felt I should when it was first announced. I’ll give you my best attempt here, but even after finishing the game, and having some of the heavy fog which surrounded the story lifted, I still don’t really understand what took place. I suppose it might take another play-through. On the other hand, that may only serve to create even more confusion as holes in the plot are discovered which remained hidden after the first, cursory glance.
Story (Spoilers)
                Ah, yes, the story. I think it can be summed up into four little words: they tried too hard. To say they jumped the shark would be an understatement. They jumped the shark, while simultaneously riding another shark which was being jumped by yet another shark which combusted mid-flight. I really wish I could lay the aquatic analogies aside now, but I can’t. As one of the characters said, “We are getting our asses kicked by Calamari.” Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. I can suspend disbelief as well as the next guy, but this really was a bit too much. We are expected to believe that a race of super-intelligent undersea creatures, resembling squid, who inhabited earth long before the first appearance of humans left for some incomprehensible reason, and have now come back, wishing to reclaim their planet? I suppose this would be acceptable, had it had ANYTHING to do with the original storyline. In the first game, these creatures had been lying dormant for many millennia under a Pacific island (once again, with no explanation), and were disturbed by a team of scientists. I suppose they looked VAGUELY like the “Ceph” (short for cephalopod) of the second game, but, I think it worked better when any resemblance they had to undersea creatures, either living or dead was purely coincidental.
Anyway, as much as I really hate the phrase “One thing led to another”, but it really is applicable here. I’ll try not to spoil too much, but suffice it to say that Prophet from the first game makes a rather important appearance in the sequel, making it technically a continuation of the story. He’s also incredibly creepy. There was some sort of bio-technological possession going on there. Shudder. No, he isn’t the villain, though, I think the game would have been immensely more interesting had he been. I honestly think that this direction was an afterthought. There were just too many details which were glossed over, or shoved in a corner, with the apparent hope that we wouldn’t look too hard. Crysis 2 would have been a better game, had it not suffered from its name. Don’t get me wrong, Crysis needed a sequel; there were just too many loose ends, but this was not the sequel it needed. No indeed. I haven’t even mentioned Jacob Hargreave. I won’t, either, since played a considerable role in the only truly unexpected part of the game. Confusing at best, truly incomprehensible and stupid at worst, the story earns, and I do mean earns a lamentable 3 out of 10. This is certainly not helped by the gaggle of single-dimensional human stereotypes which comprised the entire cast. I didn’t want to do it, but you forced my hand, Crytek.
The Gameplay
                The gameplay, or as I’ve taken to calling it, the Saving Grace, is just what the doctor ordered, almost as if he knew beforehand what malaise was afflicting the story. Fans of the original, put down the fireworks and vuvuzelas, it isn’t as good as Crysis, but “fun” would be an excellent way of describing it. Unfortunately, so would “Streamlined”. In the first game, there was an art to managing the different powers your suit possessed; now, all it takes to switch between suit modes is a simple push of a button. Far. Too. Simple. The result was a much, MUCH easier game, compensated for by an ever increasingly improbable number of enemies, nearly Serious Sam-esque in places. Still, the feeling of epic power is worth something, even if it means sacrificing difficulty. I played it on the most difficult setting available, right out of the box, and it offered little challenge, until the very end, at which point it got painfully hard. I died more times attempting impossible jumps and other nonsense than I did due to the sincere attempts of the game. Regardless, it IS still fun, as I’ve said before. A little more balance, fewer infuriatingly long cut-scenes, and sequences in which the player does not have full control of the character, and it could have easily received a perfect score, as it is, 8.5 out of 10 seems fair. Purely in terms of shooter dynamics, it is a very solid and enjoyable game. Also, even though I don’t really like multiplayer much, I did enjoy the multiplayer in this game. Oddly, it seems to lack the balance problems which plagued the single player campaign. An admitted n00b, I was still able to hold my own against much more experienced players.
The Setting
                It takes place in New York, so gone are the rich, lush jungle environments Crytek is so good at producing. The result is somehow…appropriately dreary. I’m not sure if this exact feeling was intentional or not, but I will give Crytek the benefit of the doubt on this one. Also, something simply must be said for the voice acting. It was PHENOMINAL. I didn’t recognize any of the voice actors, but they were extremely well cast, to play extremely flawed characters. They had to work with what they got, and they did an excellent job of it.  Unfortunately, the setting had its fair share of bad sides. Crysis was a sort of hybrid between a sandbox, and a traditional shooter. Crysis 2, on the other hand was rail shooter, with the illusion of being open world. Perhaps worse yet, destructibility is all but gone, a real blow to the game as a whole. You would be surprised how much enjoyment can be had from killing Korean soldiers with projectiles comprised entirely by exotic animal life. Crysis 2 had a dearth of not only Korean soldiers, but also things which could potentially have been thrown at them. All things considered, and by that I mean, “most things I could think of considered”, the setting earns a respectable 7.0 out of 10.  
Final Thoughts
                One of Crytek’s mottos is ”Maximum Game”. This seems to have been amended to “Maximum Profit”. Crysis 2 was a blatant attempt to cash in on a well-loved and profitable franchise with a sub-par product. To reiterate what I previously stated, had they gone back, changed a few important details, and named it something completely different, I would have more than likely enjoyed it much, much more than I did. Perhaps they get the hint, as this seems to be a rather popular sentiment. Ah well, one can hope. It has yet to be the case when the Objective score matches my overall subjective score, but I think it does in this case: 6.1 out of 10. Perhaps it is my tainted viewpoint, or my overall disappointment, but I don’t find it within me to rate it any higher. Perhaps you will disagree, but you’ll have to play the game to find out, and only you can decide whether it’s worth it.