Crysis 2: Early Impressions

The two games I’ve got rented right now are Crysis 2 and Dark Void. I’m about a third of the way through Crysis, but it’s been slow going, so I’m putting it on hold while I barrel through Dark Void. It’s interesting: both games are shooters with enhanced mobility mechanics, but beyond that, there’s not a lot that’s similar between the two.

This is my first dive into the Crysis franchise (though I have played Far Cry) and it seems like a game that doesn’t particularly care about its story. I puts I “press to skip” prompt up within the first five seconds of its opening cutscene, and the silent protagonist schtick feels outdated. But once I actually got into playing the game, I found it tense and riveting. The levels are a linear series of encounters, like a traditional shooter, but the encounter spaces are very broad, more so even than something like Halo, and there’s an abundance of combat options. It’s a real good sandbox, not quite up there with Far Cry 2, but it’s still the most thoughtful shooter I’ve played in a while.

I love that they give the stealth ability more or less off the bat, and then only give the armor ability several encounters later. Combined with the visor-mode which points out enemies and items of strategic interest automatically, it encourages thinking about how to approach an encounter given the enemies and the space it’s in, rather than going in guns blazing. I’ve heard complaints about the visor, how it reduces the complexity of encounters, but I quite like it. The encounter spaces are just so large, and the number of places enemies could be so great, that having the vision mode as a player-aide feels like a smart way to guide players and reduce frustration. Unfortunately, teaching me to use stealth early has also slowed the game down to a crawl. I don’t have a good feel for how resilient my character is, so I have a tendency to take encounters very slowly and meticulously. Stealth, headshot, fall back, repeat.

This is a pretty game, filled with recognizable Manhattan landmarks. I have to wonder whether it was a conscious homage to Deus Ex to feature early encounters in and around Castle Clinton. Sure, it’s a New York landmark, and it feels like both games use it primarily due to its proximity to Liberty Island. Nonetheless, it was a nice touch.

I like the upgrade system (though I wish you could see what later upgrades will do before you’ve already saved the currency to buy them) and the gun-customization. I do wish there were more longer-range silenced options, though I guess that might be overpowered. I also think it was a mistake to have the early guns be, in order, a dinky pistol, and then a submachine gun and assault rifle that feel basically identical. Halo in particular does a better job than other sandbox shooters out there (except maybe Half Life) is that it does a great job of differentiating its weapons, and Crysis 2 has fallen a bit flat on that front thus far.

Most of all, I like the feel of moving and shooting, which, really, is the most important thing in a game like this. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a pleasant, engaging time with a game’s mobility systems. Maybe not since Mirror’s Edge? Between the high sprint speed and jump height, and the way the character will automatically grab onto ledges and climb up, getting into and out of combat is simple and smooth.

So, all in all, I’m having a good time. There could be a little more weapon and enemy diversity, but there was a pretty solid vehicle sequence to break things up, and the diversity in the structure of the encounters has kept things plenty interesting thus far.

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