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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Arts Games |
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Anomalous Materials: Crysis 2

Set in the post-apocalyptic rendition of a New York City that has come down with a nasty case of invaded by aliens, Crysis 2 is the sequel to 2007’s Crysis, which has you once again don the Nanosuit, a slick-looking super-suit that gives you the speed, armour and strength of a juggernaut as well as Predator-style invisibility at your disposal.

The switch to an urban setting was a profound but well executed one for Crytek, who until now have set their games in lush jungle environments. The fluidity between soaring athleticism, tense, stealthy hunting and traditional shoot-and-cover is seamless, making you feel like the ultimate post-human badass. While the mechanics of the suit itself have been “streamlined” since the original, this is almost entirely to its credit. Switching between suit modes is no longer a fiddly process of holding the mouse wheel down and selecting from a menu, now allowing you to weave between power, stealth and armour with a masterful ease.

The story itself is fairly by-the-numbers. Not that big a surprise, seeing as this whole game is military fetishism at its finest. You play as an irritatingly voiceless and faceless US Marine, the sole survivor of an alien attack, after which he gets the Nanosuit thrust upon him by the only recurring character from Crysis. And, as you’d expect, the fate of the entire world is placed squarely on your shoulders. The characters do well in their performances but stray little from their action movie archetypes, exchanging one guy barking orders at you for another, in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Crytek does a great job of showing their world to you and making it feel expansive without relying too heavily on iconic New York scenery, but resorts too often to telling you the narrative and characters involved through large expositional info-dumps and techno-babble. Having said this, buying Crysis 2 for its story would be like seeing I Am Sam for the intense action sequences.

The game’s mini-sandbox environments encourage you to explore and be creative with your immense power, providing you with a dozen different ways to tackle any challenges you face. The contrast between combat against humans and aliens is not as stark as in the first game, but distinctive enough to provide the diversity that keeps the game flowing well. Bipedal aliens will swarm you and outflank you with a manoeuvrability that rivals your own, while humans will hunt you down methodically and overwhelm you with superior firepower, but both are equally fun and challenging to go up against.

The first Crysis is still considered a benchmark of what is capable in computer game graphics, and its sequel does not disappoint. Several times I was gunned down unawares because a stunningly-rendered sunset or crumbling building in the distance had me gawking like a deer at an oncoming car. A multi-platform release has had its impact on the PC version, making the flexibility of the graphical settings limited, but in-game this goes almost unnoticed. The thing is written so damn well that it’s nowhere near as taxing on your PC as the first game.

A large selling point for the game was also its multiplayer aspect, which lifts its progression layout almost directly from modern Call of Duty titles. But there the comparisons between the titles stop. Taking on other humans who have the same incredible powers as you makes for a tense and exhilarating experience, and the COD-style unlockables are a logical choice in a fast-paced game such as this. I only hope it has the staying power necessary to keep an online community alive past the first few months.

Imperfect integration of gameplay and story aside, Crysis 2 is the most fun I’ve had with a game in a long, long time. The team at Crytek have put years of blood and sweat into this game, and it shows. They constantly keep the eyes and ears engaged with complex, interesting levels and fantastic sound design (the score is noticeably awash with Hans Zimmer’s signature evocative charm), while encouraging you to break the stale mould of the modern FPS genre and approach every situation intelligently. I hesitate to reduce such a magnificent piece of work into a numeric rating, but this game takes home a well earned 9 out of 10.

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