Does Crytek’s latest stand out in a cornucopia of other FPS games?  Read on to find out!

Let’s get the ugliness out of the way: Crysis 2 has had a lot of criticism mounted against it, especially by fans of the original.  Complaints range from occasionally muddy textures to limited graphics options to the lack of DirectX 11 support to the loss of the open world format from the original to…well, let’s face it: just about everything in Crysis 2 has been rolfstomped by PC gamers, despite its critical success.  For myself, however, I offer a rather unique viewpoint: I’m a PC gamer who, beyond seeing screenshots, has never played the original Crysis.  As a result, this review is based strictly on my experience with Crysis 2.

The opening cinematic and subsequent opening “scenes” in Crysis 2 are turned up to 11.  Real video (presumably taken from riots and such) are used to convey the panic that sets in from an alien virus slowly taking over New York.  As the game starts, you play a guy in a special ops military unit that’s in a submarine, attempting to make a covert landing at the edge of the city.  The sub gets rocked by an explosion, and you have to make a short but tense escape out of the quickly sinking sub.  Then, you’re face to face with an alien ship firing at the water.  You get blown clear, and are found by a guy in a Nanosuit (I’ve been told this particular character appeared in the first game, but seeing as I never played the first one, to me he’s just a guy in a Nanosuit.)  The suit gets passed on to you, and the meat of the game begins.

Using the Nanosuit becomes second nature very quickly; being able to utilize its many features (stealth, super armor, “nanovision”, tactical visor) is kept very simple, and you’ll find yourself making minor adjustments or using different parts of the suit without even thinking.  The same goes for quickly making weapon upgrade swaps on the fly.  I found myself constantly switching between secondary items (shotgun, grenade launcher, etc), sight types, and putting on/taking off silencers based on the situation I was in.  Because you swap out weapon customizations as the action is happening (the background blurs, with the weapon squarely in focus), there is a “field customization” aspect to Crysis 2 that took me by surprise.

Suit upgrades are also done on the fly, although unlike the weapons, you would never need (or want) to switch around any of the upgrades.  The upgrades themselves range from adding tracers to enemy fire (an absolutely essential upgrade, if you hope to survive), to lowering the energy consumption rate of your super armor, to just about anything else you need.  While the list of upgrades isn’t long, each one is quite useful.  The ease with which you can customize your suit and weapons (as well as their actual use) is astounding.  I wish I didn’t have to hold down the right mouse button to aim down the sights on my weapon (a toggle would be preferred), but other than that the control scheme works very well.

I’ve heard complaints that Crysis 2 is linear, and I’m sad to report that it is…kind of.  There are many, MANY different ways you can approach each situation, but you still have to go through these different firefights one at a time, in the same order every time you play through the game.  That being said, the sheer number of different ways you can deal with a group of enemies keeps the replay value high.  Out of the many options available, my personal favorite is moving into position while cloaked, uncloaking and quickly making a silenced headshot, then immediately recloaking and changing position.  Pulling this off requires very little practice, and becomes second nature quickly.  Through the Nanosuit’s visor, the game provides you with locations that allow you to carry out certain tactics (avoid, grenade, observe, etc), but I find these suggestions are hit or miss.  They only point out the most obvious tactical positions, not necessarily the best ones.  Still, in a game with so many different tactical positions, having a guide to give you a general idea of what’s available to you is useful.  You could replay the same firefight five different times, and it would go down five completely different ways.

As far as the visuals are concerned, the criticisms leveled by the PC gaming community do carry some weight.  Picture this: the cover you’re crouching behind is being eaten away by enemy fire.  You can hear them flanking you…it’s only a matter of time before you’re overwhelemed, and that damn tank has a lock on your position.  Stealthing out is not an option, since there’s too much ammo flying around for you to survive.  Your only hope is to engage your super armor, dash towards that collapsed freeway you see off to your left, jump, and pull yourself up.  Quick field assesment: Weapons? Fully loaded, but you should pop the silencer off that rifle, and put the laser sight on there so you can run and gun.  Energy full? Check.  Ok.  Let’s do this.  You engage your super armor, pop up, and make a mad dash towards the broken freeway, your weapon spraying death at every Cell soldier you can see.  You make it to the bottom of the broken freeway, and just as you’re about to leap up to your salvation, you see a vending machine that looks like it belongs in the original Half-Life.

This is not an exaggeration: that is an actual gameplay experience that happend to me while playing Crysis 2.  Many of the textures look great, the weaponry looks awesome, and the lighting effects are quite impressive…but every now and then, you’ll run across a strange oddity like the one described above.  It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t rip you out of the game world so harshly.  I suppose you could say that’s a testament to how crazy the game can get at times, since such an imperfection can temporarily destroy the fantasy of running around in the Nanosuit…but let’s face it, there’s no excuse for this sort of thing to be happening:

Many of the complaints PC gamers have are indeed legit.  The only problem?  Those complaints are what everyone focuses on, with no love given to the game itself.  Even with those problems taken into account, Crysis 2 is still a hell of an intense game, one that’s entertaining and gripping.  Gunfights can leave you feeling breathless, your tactical options are wide open, and the suit feels as natural to use as it would if it were jacked directly into your nervous system.  It’s a real shame that Crysis 2′s flaws are focused on as much as they are…there’s a really entertaining, great looking game here.  I’m not saying the things wrong with it should be blindly accepted, I’m just saying don’t let its flaws prevent you from enjoying what’s done well.  Besides, if flaws were all gamers focused on, Mass Effect 1 would be widely considered to be a pile of crap.

So long as you keep your fanboyism in check and are willing to put up with some occasional strangeness, you’ll love it.