Crysis 2

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on May 31, 2010 in

When I first heard that Crysis 2 would be set in New York City, my initial reaction was less “hoorah!” and more “again?”. JC Denton fought and snuck his way around Liberty Island in the original Deus Ex. Our friendly neighborhood webslinger spun his way round The Big Apple in Spiderman 2.  Even Alex Mercer ran up Manhattan buildings in Prototype.  It’s almost a cliche.  Why New York City?  As a New Yorker, my only answer could be: Why not?  It’s one of the most recognized cities in the world. It is the living, breathing stereotype for a modern metropolis.  It has skyscrapers, bright neon lights and streets bustling with city-dwellers at all hours.

I mean, what’s not to love?  One of our skyscrapers was scaled by an over sized ape. The Central Perk was host to a bunch of friends.  We’ve had breakfast at Tiffany’s and had affairs to remember. It’s where Harry got to know Sally and where Winston Zeddemore, buster of ghosts, exclaimed, “I love this town!”

Me too, Winston.  Me too.

So here we are in the Big Apple yet again, this time with an alien invasion, earthquakes and a plague. “Suit up!” Barney Stinson would say as the consummate upscale Manhattan-ite.  Of course, we are dressed to kill with spiffy new power armor that imbues the player character with super powers.  Appropriately attired, our tour of New York City starts with… Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin:

New York, New York, It’s a wonderful town. The Bronx is up and The Battery’s down.

The Battery, Battery Park that is.

Unlike Kelly and Sinatra, our hero Alcatraz isn’t on shore leave. He’s motoring his way across New York Harbor to help with an epidemic.  Cue the explosions and yelling and fade to black.  Our hero wakes up somewhere in Battery Park. Named for the artillery batteries that protected the southern tip of Manhattan when it was first settled, it’s now a park where tourists can, among other things, board ferries to Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty.  Within Battery Park is Castle Clinton.

Most people think of Ellis Island when thinking about turn-of-the-century emigration to America.  However, Castle Clinton, also known as Fort Clinton, predates Ellis Island by over 35 years.  From 1855 through 1890, upwards of 8 million immigrants were processed here before they entered the United States.  While it was in operation as the nation’s first immigrant processing facility, for many, Castle Clinton was the starting point for their new lives.  It was their jumping off point.  Their square one.  It’s almost fitting that this is where Alcatraz makes his entrance.

One of the first things the player will notice is the crisp visuals. The color palette is a wide array of bright hues to add character to the grays and browns of dirt and concrete. Throughout the entire game in fact, the visuals are consistently great.  There is no doubt that Crysis 2 is a pretty game.  While admittedly, there is the occasional screen tear and texture pop-in, they occur so seldomly that they’re barely worth a mention.  I would even go so far as to say that this is one of the best looking games on the system to date.

My inner graphics snob satisfied, we eventually make our way to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive(the FDR to the locals).  This multi-lane highway runs along the eastern shore of Manhattan.  Traveling north, notice the tall buildings that typify Manhattan on the left.  Every once in a while, we come to overhangs that create some tunnel-like stretches of road.  While in the tunnels, above are buildings and walkways. From between support columns on the right, we see Brooklyn and Queens across the East River.

Eventually, we come to barricade manned by uniformed baddies that will shoot on sight.  Being averse to bullet holes on my person, we explore our options, two of which are to sneak or fight.  The point here is that Crysis 2 gives us the option to do either.  This, I believe, is one of the games greatest features.

Usually, games, especially shooters, herd players down a path with little to no options on how to approach an area that’s obviously meant to host a battle. In this case, activating a special visor points out different part of the map that present “tactical options”.  One choice is to activate the cloak and sneak over to an open sewer entrance.  The route through the sewers allow me to avoid most, if not all, contact with the bad guys.  But, if we’re of the mindset that avoidance is for sissies, the visor highlights a route that can have us barreling through the main gates.  Whether sneaking or leaving a trail of bodies, Crysis 2 can accommodate.  Nearly all of the encounters that Crytek throws at us has multiple approaches, lending a sense of openness to an otherwise, linear game.

Later in the game, we come to one of my daily haunts, the New York Public Library, aka the Main Branch, at Bryant Park which is shy of 20 blocks south of Central Park.  Opened in 1911, the building’s main entrance is at the T intersection of 5th and 41st. I would argue that the most occupied area of the library isn’t one of the reading rooms, but the wide front steps with iconic lion statues, Patience on the south and Fortitude on the north.  When people aren’t generally milling about taking pictures of the marble exterior, you’re likely to see wage slaves from nearby buildings having lunch on the steps.  This time, Crytek replaces deli sandwiches and diet sodas with semi-automatic weapons and oh so special armor.  What little we see of the chandeliers and brass lamps of the Rose Reading Room is set aflame as millions of books burn in the alien attack.

We’ll need some patience and fortitude to defeat our enemies here. Luckily, the controls feel tight and responsive.  No worries there.  Swapping out weapons is as easy as pressing the Y button.  Picking up a dropped weapon is as easy as holding X.  Standing over one shows a gun’s stats and how it compares to what’s currently equipped.  The conceit of the game is that the visor is scanning and relaying this data to us. In this respect, Crysis 2 earns brownie points for working a game mechanic into the fiction.

Another weapon at our disposal is the nano suit itself. At the press of a button, armor mode provides protection against damage from flames, bullets, lasers as well as grenade and EMP blasts.  We can just as easily activate a cloak that allows us to sneak past enemies. These abilities add some interesting variety to the gameplay, adding another layer of choices when the visor doesn’t call out any tactical options.

Our next stop brings us to Times Square, the crossroads of the world.  It’s where Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street meet, creating one of the busiest intersections in New York City.  For years, this is where Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has counted down while a globe of illuminated Swarovski crystals descends, marking the start of a new year.  It’s where Great White Way is home to many a live theatrical performance.  Even in the dead of night, the place is ablaze with digital billboards and neon lights.


Yet, beneath those bright lights, a battle rages between human soldiers and alien invaders with our hero thrust into the fray. Soon it becomes clear that the powers Alcatraz had when he first set foot in Manhattan may not be enough.  But each defeated alien drops  a “nano catalyst” which can be used to upgrade the nano suit.  With choices to upgrade the suit’s physical armor, stealth and power use, these options add a bit of customization based on personal play style.

That last stop on our abbreviated tour of New York City is Grand Central Terminal. The largest passenger train station in the world, it houses 67 tracks on two levels.  But the main attraction is the cavernous Main Concourse.  This is where the game takes a large enough departure from the real thing to derail our tour and acts as a reasonable analog to the chinks in Crysis 2‘s nano suit armor.

The first clue is that Crytek renamed the location to “Central Station”.  At first blush, the bridge approach is strikingly recognizable with the set of three dramatically tall windows. Once inside the differences become a little more apparent.  Replacing the turquoise ceiling showing the constellations is a skylight. Totally missing is the the distinctive Tiffany clock atop the information booth in the middle of the concourse.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing that Crysis 2 doesn’t get quite right.  The biggest culprit is the AI.  In early levels, I am all too ready to forgive characters, both ally and enemy, getting caught up in a level’s geometry. But my generosity dwindles by the time I reach “Central Station” when characters getting stuck in the environment stops being amusing and becomes distracting.

Another distraction is a phenomena I like to call peek-a-boo spawning.  It happens when I think I clear an whole area of enemies.  A quick check of my visor shows no one.  But when I advance and reach a certain point, bad guys will just pop up from behind barricades or obstacles less than 5 feet front of me. On more than one occasion, they all pop up at once and seems to start firing their weapons at the same time… at me.  I don’t mind the challenge, but it pulls me out of the moment.

Like Crytek’s depiction of Grand Central Terminal, Crysis 2‘s multiplayer falls a little short as well. While it has the typical death match game types with Crysis-ified names, it really offers little to distinguish itself from the multiplayer offerings from other shooters in the market.  Leveling up my multiplayer avatar will unlock different sets of weapons while completing weapon and ability-specific challenges allow me to upgrade said weapons and nano suit abilities. However, after gaining several levels and upgrading numerous times, it’s just not enough motivation for me to keep coming back.

Crytek has three get-out-of-jail-free cards when it comes to geographical accuracy. First, the game is set in 2023. Being more than a decade into the future, it’s understandable that some things may have changed.  Next, the city is partially destroyed. Strategically placed rubble, crates and tents are reasonable story-based environmental additions that help mask the discrepancies.  Last, we understand that Crysis 2 is a game, not a PBS tour of the Big Apple. Only a native New York would notice, but the in-game areas are shrunken. This allows for a tighter, more manageable kill boxes that can be easily populated with visually interesting items and effects. It’s a sacrifice that trades accuracy for grand set pieces in an iconic city.

And what an iconic city it is.  At the end of the day, whether you like New York City or not, the balance of the experience tips heavily toward the positive.  The action is well-paced and memorable.  It’s undoubtedly a beautiful game. The sharp visuals and generally fluid animation make Crysis 2 visually impressive.

But with the talent at Crytek, the game could have been beautiful in any city.  So I ask again, why New York? Let’s briefly hop back on the tour bus for a whirlwind recap of places we missed.  Not only did Alcatraz fend off extra terrestrial aggressors in City Hall, he fights enemy soldiers at Trinity Church.  He traverses the subways, battles through rooftop gardens, battles at nose-bleed inducing heights in skyscrapers, and eventually has his final showdown in Central Park.

Whether the locales are as recognizable as Times Square or as obscure as the corner of South Street and Market Slip, the mantra of the New York real estate mogul applies: location, location, location.  That is what New York City has to offer in this game.  Despite the game’s faults, Crytek manages to create fantastic set pieces in Crysis 2 with New York City landmarks to overlay this solid shooter.

A copy of Crysis 2 was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.


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Author: John Catuira View all posts by

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