First-person shooters often give players everything: clear paths to victory, unrestrained special powers, and challenge-free railed segments. Crysis 2 doesn’t, and feels agreeably chaotic as a result. The original Crysis, relatively open-ended and bearing then-ridiculous hardware requirements, was emblematic of hardcore PC gaming. Developer Crytek now brings Crysis 2 to consoles as well as the PC, but it’s made few compromises in design and sumptuous visual detail.
Once again, the star is your character’s powered nanosuit. It offers a tactical visual overlay, the better to ID and track enemies and useful environmental elements. By tapping into a power reserve, you can enhance speed or strength, activate an intense armored mode, or disappear into a cloaked state that will fool enemies until they’re inches away. Passive powers, such as an enemy proximity alarm, can be activated over time.
Your power reserve drains quickly enough that abilities have to be used sparingly and with forethought. The first impulse is simply to activate cloaking or armor and wade into the fray, but that ignores the nanosuit’s potential. Instead, try planning an infiltration path in which you use abilities to hide, backstab, power-kick a car into enemies, then leap to a sniping position.
The core idea at play is balance: You’re powerful, but never overwhelmingly so. If Crysis 2 had more varied setpieces and pushed the bounds of gameplay further from what was established in the original game, it would be spectacular. As is, the jaw-dropping visual presentation overlays sometimes-clever level designs that open multiple options for gamers to put the nanosuit to work without laying out such a clear path that imagination never comes into play.
The power balance feeds into multiplayer, which towers above the original Crysis' online game. It retains most of the solo game’s powers (cloaking, armor, etc.) and adds a now-standard experience system through which dedicated players can develop and customize their characters. That same power balance that enlivens the solo game makes for challenging, varied team and free-for-all matches. In the long run, the online game may turn into a bloodbath where the most skilled players relentlessly apply nanosuit abilities to crush all challengers, but for now, Crysis 2 has enough unique character to demand online play.