Crysis 2 Is For Future-Soldiers Who Want To Think

I needed to control Crysis 2 to appreciate it. Sitting next to the head of the studio making the game as he played wasn't going to suffice.

Thankfully, in New York, Cevat Yerli, head of Crytek, handed the controller to me a couple of weeks ago.

First-person shooters can look all the same. This one set in a semi-destroyed New York City, but you see the world past a barrel of a gun, with Yerli picking off robotic-looking aliens and it doesn't feel like we're witnessing something new or different.

Yet there's Yerli, saying how different he wants Crysis 2 to be from other first-person shooters. "We didn't want to be Call of Duty," he told me. "We didn't want to be Halo. We wanted to stay true to Crysis."

When the controller was in my hand, I was able to understand. Crysis 2 feels nothing like Call of Duty and not even much like Halo, even when I play it, as I did, on an Xbox 360.

The difference is the sensation of being in a shooting game where I can think and plan.

"Everyone will have their own micro-story," Yerli said to me, speaking the kind of line about the gamers' experience that sounds great when hyping a new game, but what does it mean?

It means this: As soon as I had the controller in my hand in one level of Crysis 2, a level about two-thirds into the game, I realised I was deciding things. I was playing in what Yerli likes to call a "choreographed sandbox".

I was at the base of the arm of the Statue of Liberty which had somehow been tossed into the middle of Manhattan. It looked like the ground had exploded, wrecking buildings, tossing cars, obliterating a train. Aliens were standing guard at various posts nearby.

Yerli had shown me how the player-character's nanosuit works in this streamlined sequel to the original PC Crysis. The suit has a power meter that may drain when the player activates armour and stealth modes or when they modify an action (jumping, sprinting or melee) to add "power" to it.

I was aware of my options. I could run into battle, activating "armor" mode to absorb bullets and maybe draining some power by bounding back out of the fray with a power jump.

I could sneak by turning on stealth mode, which would drain my suit's energy slowly while I stood still, but quickly if I ran and entirely if I fired a shot. (Energy refills over time).

I could use a visor to target enemies, a slide-kick move to scoot into combat or a cover system to advance slowly.

Yerli pointed to a car that was near a ledge over an enemy and assured me I could climb to it and knock it over onto the alien.

I could also stop and customise my weapons with new parts.

As I so often do with a tough Halo level, I barrelled into action, got shot up and backed off to try again. But moreso than with Halo, I felt I had choices that could radically alter my experience of the game. I was getting more of the BioShock vibe in terms of tactical variety (not in terms of complex story, to be clear). I could stomp through Crysis 2 or perhaps tip-toe through it. Yerli pointed out the color-coding I could read off of enemies: red to show they're searching for me, yellow to show they're alerted but don't' know where I am, green to show they're oblivious to me. He kept wanting me to sneak behind one and perform a stealth kill.

Yerli was telling me that his team was making a game for the "for the proactive gamer, not the reactive gamer". He appreciated the blockbuster Call of Duty games, but he finds them too linear. "I think in recent years the shooter market has turned into riding rollercoasters," he said. "I really believe the holy grail is the choreographed sandbox."

More than once, he was talking to me about "thinking" while playing a shooter. Thinking is what I was doing: thinking whether I could power-melee some garbage into an enemy or whether I should just shoot it.

There are other details to share about Crysis 2. It's got a story about a dying man who gives you the nanosuit and a CEO of the company that made the suit who is preparing for a cataclysm. You can play the game in 3D (we did for a time). You can gawk at the nanosuit in a showroom mood and preview clips of your character in action with new nanosuit moves, all of which Yerli doubts you can achieve in one game. He'd rather we not forget about the game's multiplayer mode which he thinks will have some 60 hours of leveling progress to it and is being made by a dedicated 70-person team.

None of those details, though, is what makes Crysis 2 feel like a shooter that could stand out among the so many shooters coming out in 2011. Its the sandbox thing, it's the choices. It's the element of deciding how Crysis will play that was what fans of the first game fell in love with while others simply talked about its graphics.

I was not overwhelmed with the tactical variety in Crysis 2 and the options available could prove to be too few. They are, no doubt, simplified from the first Crysis and are not that much more involved than those of a Halo. But they are more complex than what I've been playing in big-budget first-person shooters lately. They do make you think about how you will fight and if you will shoot.

Crysis 2 is a game you need to handle to judge. It comes out in March 2011 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Cross your fingers they release a demo so you can feel whether it's a shooter than can engage your brain - and whether that's what you want.


Comments

    "Cross your fingers they release a demo so you can feel whether it’s a shooter than can engage your brain – and whether that’s what you want"

    Hopefully they will release a demo - that way people can find out early on if their machines can run it.

    I have heard that Crysis 2 is less resource hungry than Crysis 1 but I'll believe it when I see it.

      Honestly they have proved something there. Remember Crysis Warhead? It ran what they called the CryEngine 2.5, which was an optimized version of the original Crysis' engine. It ran better and smoother than the original Crysis and could even run on some older machines that the original killed.

      So they have been learning from that, so I would assume that this brand new engine would be smoothed out and not hungry.

    Having a mix between whether the player or the AI engages the combat is cool, and I tend to enjoy these games a bit more. COD rarely has this.

    Games that spring to mind are Far-cry 2, and the underrated Bad Company 2 campaign.

      i think you mean Bad Company 1. Bad company 2 was a shameless CoD ripoff on EA's orders. Bad Company 1 was such an awesome idea and no one even noticed. i played BC1 through about 5 times and BC2 about half way and then gave up in disgust at EA for ruining my favourite SP game experience.

      everything he has said sounds like the true successor to what i imagined BC1 would get. not this linear hand-holding BC2 [email protected]

        Agreed. BC2 campaign was shit.

    All of the interesting features you talk about this game having seem to be exactly what crysis 1 had, and it lacked any great measure of 'fun'... Does it look like crytek have improved it, made it anything more than 'crysis in a city'?

    I really hate the word 'streamlined'. It's the industries new favourite buzz word to try and put a positive spin on dumbing down game mechanics to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Problem is most people have eaten it up.

      you have to admit that sometimes, "streamlining" is needed but ill agree most of the time its not.

      Its never a food thing hearing that something is streamlined because it is usually a euphamism.

      What I'd like is for streamlining/dumbing down to be a function of difficulty levels so the game gets more complex and you have to manage more as you ramp the difficulty up.

      Say with Crysis they could make a single button activation for suit powers that automatically activates the most logical one, you press it as you jump and you get strength, you press it as you crouch move and you get stealth, press it as you run and you get speed etc but then if you put the difficulty up another notch you have to manually control it. Or maybe make that an option like Fallout New Vegas' hardcore mode

        Bah, I mean "never a GOOD thing"

        Gotta have something for lunch...

        depends on your perspective. when a PC game sequel is coming to multi-format, streamlined is the last thing a PC gamer wants to hear and the opposite is usually true for a console gamer.

      This is,unfortunately, somewhat correct in some instances.

      But it isn't always bad.

      Sometimes, game mechanics are excessively complex for their intended purpose.

      For instance, the purpose of inventory limitations is to make a player choose what they pick up and carry around with them.

      A "tetris grid" inventory is one way to do this, however a slot-based inventory does exactly the same thing in a simpler manner. It forces the player to make decisions about what to carry around with them, but in a more efficient and simpler way than inventory tetris.

      So yes, not all streamlining is akin to dumbing down. Whilst some of it is, quite a lot of it is more akin to Occam's Razor than Lowest Common Denominator.

      Yes, there are times I think more complex game mechanics would be better than less complex game mechanics. But complexity is NOT an end in itself or an inherently good thing.

    Sounds a lot like the gameplay in Crysis 1. But that's a good thing. Can't wait but yeah I'll be getting this for my PC. From what I've seen there is quite a lot of difference in graphics between consoles and the PC this time, plus it's Crysis!

    Feb - Mar is going to be busy next year. :)

    Sounds like Crysis 2 might be pretty damn good? The story sounds interesting.

    I personally believe some FPS need to be linear, like Call of Duty. It's all about the action cause it doesn't have (or need) the stealth. Stealth in a COD game would not work.
    Being linear keeps the action in place for the gamer - not saying Crysis 2 is gonna be crap, i'm quite looking forward to how good it may be. I just don't believe all the crap the dev's are saying about it - it may become the Medal of Honour of 2011.

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