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Crysis 2 review: More than just a suit


Crysis 2 running well and looking fantastic, even on the half-decade-old Xbox 360, is now a reality. Gone is the question of "Will it run?", replaced by the really big one: "Is it any good?"

Make no mistake, Crysis 2 answers the "Will it run?" question definitively. Though about the millionth FPS built around a plot of an alien invasion, give or take a few, it's also the most beautiful. Its depiction of a disaster-ravaged New York City is the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, with layer upon layer of impressive visual effects, animations and large-scale destruction.

Gallery: Crysis 2 (3/22/11) | 5 Photos

I already had a pretty good idea of what I'd find under the eye candy coating. I'd played the original (on Medium Detail, for what it's worth) and thought it was a pretty good sci-fi FPS delivery system for some really fantastic graphics.

Its sequel is, in a lot of ways, the same. It's a solid FPS, not a great one -- not a Half-Life nor, in more recent years, Halo: Reach. Developer Crytek clearly has a firm grasp on the fundamentals of what makes these games fun: the hefty weapons are an interesting mix of realistic and sci-fi; the enemy AI is convincing; the cover system feels effective and useful.

It doesn't disappoint on the technology front -- but was there really ever any doubt?

As for the things that make this uniquely Crysis, the nanosuit abilities, such as cloaking and damage absorption, are easier to use than in the original and are put to good use. The levels are all built to offer multiple paths to victory that play to these abilities -- or particular player styles -- and the game even points them out through a tactical visor mechanic.

The targets of your cybernetic aggression vary both in origin (human and aliens both think and act differently) as well as scale: one moment you're fighting three grunts, the next it's an alien dropship or massive mech. Plus, just when you think the entire game's going to be a solo operation, squad mechanics come into play.

While there's a seemingly unending "domino effect" of action set pieces and devastation unfolding all around you, the actual narrative is merely a whimper. Neither the plot, with its multiple attempts at shocking twists, nor the dialog are truly compelling. It's good, then, that the actual combat and chaos are so well delivered.

There are some pacing issues and problems with balance -- I found myself replaying a couple of sections several times because I was either simply overwhelmed by enemies or there was seemingly just one very specific tactic needed to progress. I also found myself getting lost now and then, running into dead-ends or missing too-subtle visual cues, which added an extra hour or so onto what at times seemed like an overly long 10-12 hour campaign. Cutting some of the rougher sections probably would have helped, but the strong moments definitely outnumber them and are worth a little trudging to get to.

The multiplayer side of Crysis 2 is something I didn't go into the game expecting a whole lot from, but it's easily some of the most fun I've had playing a shooter cooperatively -- and competitively -- in a long time. It's partly thanks to the weapon customization and interchangeable nanosuit ability "modules," but also to the maps, which each have a distinct feel and are loaded with verticality. The deal was sealed, however, by the thrilling Crash Site, where two teams fight to defend alien pods that drop into the map at random locations during the match.

As has become the standard, Crysis 2 features a lot of the staples of Call of Duty multiplayer like a number of custom loadout slots, unlockable weapon upgrades and a 50-tier leveling system. In lieu of badges, Crysis 2 has dog tags, some of which need to be earned by in-match actions, while others can be unlocked in campaign or by earning tokens in multiplayer. Playing off CoD's kill streaks, Crysis 2 offers support perks based on the number of dog tags you can collect from fallen enemies before you're killed. The more tags you grab, the better the payoff, from "maximum radar" to orbital energy beam strikes.

While the single-player campaign is something I can see myself returning to a couple more times in a quest for Achievements/Trophies, the multiplayer side of Crysis 2 has me utterly hooked. I came for the pretty graphics, was happy with the solid shooter underneath them and am pretty much beside myself with how unexpectedly good the online play is.

So yes, to answer your question, Crysis 2 runs on consoles. And if you're craving a fresh take on the multiplayer shooter, that's damn good news.

This review is based on pre-release and retail versions of Crysis 2 provided by Electronic Arts, played for 21 hours (including multiplayer).

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