Crysis 2

FBT suits up, ships out and loses his shit.

The first Crysis was a work of art - a militarised Far Cry, it left you to navigate an island how you saw fit, while using a multitasking smart-suit to skirt around or brutalise the Korean forces who were up to no good. Only the final third where the aliens popped up stumbled it. But the rest was a gaming experience that really hasn’t been equalled. There’s tons of non-linear shooters but usually you’re a fish out of water type who has to learn as they go. Not so in Crysis; there, you were master of the battlefield and I loved it so much – well, the first two thirds anyway. So, to say I was excited about C2 would be an understatement. To say C2 was a disappointment would also be an understatement. I hated it on release, but Previous Weapon is all about second chances. Time to suit up and give it another go...

Shifting from an isolated island to New York, CELL, a private contractor is hired to contain a deadly outbreak in the city and ensure no carriers escape. We’re ‘Alcatraz’, part of a marine squad sent to locate a doctor who might have a breakthrough on the disease; before we get chance, we’re attacked, and a severely injured Alcatraz is rescued by Prophet, the CO from the original; infected, he gives us his Nanosuit and tells us to finish his mission; bring down the Ceph, who are behind this virus attack.

It kinda all sounds awesome, like the original but in a concrete jungle instead. We’ve got a lone, silent hero, CELL; a typically corrupt corporation looking to steal Ceph tech, and aliens. Plus, we can free-roam NY. In a Nanosuit. But within minutes, you realise none of that is actually going to happen – and then you realise this isn’t Crysis 2, it’s CoD's little brother.

Okay, so the original’s lead, Nomad was a nobody but Alcatraz is even worse. Any least Nomad was actually under orders to dig into what’s happening, but Alcatraz didn’t even sign up for this - why would a severely injured soldier sent on a recon mission who woke up in a dead guy’s shellsuit just go fight aliens? His injuries are so bad he’s called a ‘dead man walking’ yet he keeps gamely walking toward more danger, not the medics back at base.

There’s no reason why Alcatraz couldn’t just turn around and call it in. That should be his mission - find a radio - but no, he just stomps toward the mission marker after silently agreeing to continue the mission – kill all the aliens, expose CELL, whatever. This guy’s special ops? What did he specialise in?! Okay, so there’s a ton of games where you have to wonder what the lead’s motivations are, but this silent hero is an idiot. Even when he's told he’s dying he doesn’t even mutter a FML - if he’s silent it’s on me to impress motivations on him but I have to assume he’s just a blaze of glory type and he wants to kick some ass before he dies. Shame he doesn’t get to do that either.

At least we have the suit. Wait, what’s wrong with the suit? In Crysis this thing was, if a little short on power, a game changer. Not anymore. What happened to ‘be the weapon’? The suit doesn’t afford any advantage or ownership of the battlefield like it did in the original, where you actually felt like you had an edge, like you were ahead of the game and it was up to you how you played it. The suit has almost no relevance which is compounded by the AI of the CELL soldiers set at a pre-school level.

They instantly know where you are, no matter how much tactical manoeuvring you do; you get spotted, go cloaked, they stop firing; you move to a new spot, uncloak, they carry on firing. It’s aggravating. You sneak to a great spot, load the sniper and … the second you uncloak, they’re on you. How TF did they know? And if you try to use Armour to brazen it out, you lose power from all the hits and once your suit is powerless, you’re dead. An option to use Predator-like heat sensors is briefly cool but using it drains the battery you need for shields because they still spot you, and thanks to blatant code short-cutting, it highlights dead NPCs as having a heat signature meaning you can spend ages closing in on a corpse.

Original options like speed are now just ‘run’ which means you either clunk along like Robocop or lose energy jogging, and using what used to be strength is pointless too; kicking a car into enemies is all very well and good, but you never risk it because getting close enough to do it unseen is a long shot, and if you do it, the shield drops and they cut you to pieces. The suit has been neutered and so have you.

The suit isn’t the only thing to have lost its balls. NY is supposed to be open-world yet I can’t just decide to go around Wall Street, look at Lady Liberty, wander the subway; all I can do it follow the predetermined paths. The game was sold on ‘verticality’ but I can I only go up a building when told to? Can I scoot around checkpoints, use the city to my advantage like the subway to get behind a garrison, or clamber across buildings to avoid confrontations? Nope, except when it’s scripted to let me. You’re constantly corralled. Just the illusion of choice.

In Crysis I loved spending an age planning a way around a Korean camp or looking for an environmental edge to take them down, but there’s none of that here. You have to face them straight on, making the suit a reaction option at best; ohh, lots of soldiers I’d better put armour on. I might as well be playing CoD. Alcatraz isn’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time he’s in the wrong game. You never feel like you’re a boss, just another grunt in another game. There's missions that require choppers to be taken down rather than avoided, areas to be cleared before a mission giver pops up to set another waypoint, just standard shooter stuff.

At one point I had to skirt around a group of Ceph. There’s dozens of ways I could get past them but all are closed off or out of reach. Instead I have to face them head on just to reach one checkpoint that then unlocks an area I could have reached at any time, had the game let me. Often you can’t sneak because the game forces you into confrontations or sets up an area that happens to be wider than the cloak can last - there’s no wit or intelligence to playing C2. And if you try something sneaky or out of bounds, like the original let you do, you get offed and sent back to the start of the level thanks to long-distance checkpoints.

And the Ceph have been redesigned to be shit too. In the original they were scary, unnerving, floating Matrix-style squiddies, now they’re jaunty, unscary aliens we’ve seen a dozen times before that pile toward you blades at the ready, meaning you can never not have shotgun equipped. If you get too close to a Ceph they can spot you cloaked - no more of the tense fun of watching a Korean soldier walk right up to you. There’s zero tension. A really annoying element is that the suit can analyse and absorb Ceph DNA, giving you dinky power-ups. That’s great but it stops you doing anything other than killing every Ceph you meet for the XP/DNA strands. No more sneaking or avoiding because you need the level ups. Meanwhile the CELL troopers do scripted leaps, dodges and runs unlike the sketchy, nervy Koreans who were just as likely to run off as charge you. How did we get to this?

The most annoying thing though is the plot actually has some great corporate corruption moments. CELL are obviously aware of the Ceph, and that they’ve been here for a millennia, waiting for us to reach a population explosion and technical level they can harvest. It’s revealed the Nanosuits were designed from Ceph tech by a guy who discovered them years earlier – turns out in the original game, Prophet had foreknowledge of the Ceph, and that we were on a stress-test mission to see if the suits could resist them. All sounds good but it’s redundant filler – it has no bearing on us or motormouth Alcatraz.

The suit even has a chance to be more interesting than Alcatraz, but it doesn’t go anywhere; its analysing DNA, finding a way to cure the disease, is revealed to have deep-layer code within it that goes beyond the original programming, and has ideas about how to deal with issues; in other words, it’s aware, or at least has a high-end AI. It wouldn’t be much of a leap to make it untrustworthy, possibly trying to return to the Ceph - that would have made it a hundred times more interesting, to think you’re inside the enemy like Venom and could perhaps sway it; or even side with the Ceph, since Alcatraz is basically dying and being absorbed by the suit while Prophet's recorded emotions becomes dominant, like the suit's personality. The possibilities are endless but C2 takes none of them, it’s sights are set solely on emulating CoD and taking it’s multiplayer crown. Which it utterly failed at.

There’s unforgivable bits of scripting - I had to kick in a door (rather than sneak through an open window next to it), which alerted all the Ceph on the other side forcing a fight, but the door sealed behind me. Wow, this is so open world. I had to infiltrate a dock and shot an isolated guy with a silenced weapon and the entire dock was instantly "he's here!" - how’d you know that?! I tried again and sneaked past him yet the base went on alert again - it was scripted. At one point I saw a Ceph run into a subway then disappear; on went the heat sensor and I spotted it, cloaked. So I fired, but nothing happened. Then I fired 3 rockets at it. Still nothing. It had just been scripted as a scare moment but didn’t actually do anything, and they didn’t even bother to script it to leave. Good job I can leave.

Eventually I lose it after a soul-destroying linear slog through a Ceph controlled area that was just boring (boring!) and undermined everything that the original was about – it being my call how I do this. I get killed, and sent right back to the start of the level and realise I have better things to do. I’m not having fun and I don’t care. Rage Quit.

Some say the game gets better once you have the suit levelled up and the encounters are more evenly balanced, but bollocks to that. What was grand about the original was you were already the boss on the battlefield, it was you taking the fear to them, not grinding for the honour. I admit I was carrying a lot of Crysis baggage and this just couldn't compare, but it doesn't even try. It's trying to be CoD MP instead. But the biggest letdown is not being given the key to the city. As a linear experience, it's one we've played too many times now.

The trailer promised so much. The game delivered so little. NY does look great, from a distance, and some moments are - bravely - evocative of the eerie images of 9/11 in the days after. It’s a stunning, unnerving, rotting graveyard. But only to look at. There’s the larger ideas about the suit, the Ceph’s plan, CELL’s role as a private contractor, Alcatraz’s fate, Prophet's consciousness which continues to haunt the suit and threaten to take over Alcatraz’s (non) personality, but they’re all wicked ‘ohhhh’ moments that go nowhere.

C2 pisses over the original’s legacy as it stampedes toward being a suit-oriented CoD; they already did that, check out Advanced Warfare. And that aces Crysis 2. This has nothing to do with the original and I want nothing to do with this.