Against my better judgment I tried playing Crysis 2. I mean, it’s a popular game, right? Millions of people bought it, played it and raved about it online. Millions of people can’t be wrong, right?
Oh wait… Never mind. Millions of people happen to like Jersey Shore and that’s a genuine piece of shit, if I ever saw one. Popular does not mean good. Popular means appealing to the lowest common denominator which unfortunately does not always denote quality. I should have known better.
But this particular game was highly recommended by a friend of mine. I was told the game is good and that the story is interesting. And again, I should have known better because it was being pitched by the same friend who is trying to convince me to get a PS3 so that we could play Black Ops together.
So I threw caution to the wind, suppressed my finely tuned bullshit detection instincts and decided to play the game. I figured that at the very least it could not be worse than Crysis: Warhead which was shitty, but compelling enough for me to finish it.
Boy, was I wrong. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, let me show you a visual representation of my Crysis 2 experience:
I started the game with good intentions. I wanted to have fun with it. I knew it was not going to be a masterpiece, but there is nothing wrong with a little bit of mindless FPS action. I was ready to give this game a free pass in the story department. It wouldn’t have to be deep or complex. As long as it was clear and coherent, I wouldn’t mind. For example, Cysis: Warhead had a serviceable story: a bad guy obtains a McGuffin weapon of doom and you have to stop him. Right from the get-go you have a goal and a clearly defined enemy. It’s very simple, but it works.
Crysis 2 story, on the other hand, is an unfocused train wreck. You start the game as a soldier on a submarine in the Hudson river. Why are you there? What is your mission? I wish I knew. Suddenly, aliens attack and destroy most of the city. Why? Because they are aliens. That’s what they do. In fact, they are so thorough in their sweep of the city that manage to take out your stealth submarine as well.
So you wash up on the shore and meet some dude in cool power armor. His name is Prophet and he is good at shooting dudes. Then his like “yo, have my power armor man, cause I contracted this plot driven disease and I’m gonna die now”. So you get a cool super-powered clothing, but before you even get to try it out, some dude calls you up and starts giving you quests thinking you are Prophet. And since you are Gordon Freeman mute, you can’t tell him to stuff it.
- You don’t know who you are, and what your mission is.
- The one guy who seemed to know shit, dies in an opening cut scene
- You have no clear goal
- You have no antagonist
- The guy giving you quests thinks you are someone else
I guess I can see where they were going with this. They were probably trying to imitate Half Life 2 and create a sense of mystery and wonder by not telling you what exactly was happening. But, the introductory chapter in HL2 is actually masterfully constructed. It gives you a glimpse of City 17, it’s oppressed citizens and the Orwellian regime of Dr. Breen. It introduces you to interesting characters, it slowly ramps up pressure and it gives you compelling short term goals to follow. It makes you care about the named NPC’s and emphatize with the suffering of the unnamed ones. Crysis 2 does none of that. Prophet rambles for a bit and then dies. Gould, the scientist quest giver basically leaves you passive aggressive voice mail messages telling you to do stuff for him. I played the game for several hours, and I just couldn’t get into it. I was not immersed in the game world at all. I was profoundly bored. I did not care about the characters, I was not emotionally engaged in the events on the screen and I was not interested in the unfolding story. Hell I couldn’t even remember my mission objectives most of the time.
Not that it actually mattered, since every single level in Crysis 2 looked like this:
Yep, the new York City as portrayed in Crysis 2 is basically a big maze made out of rubble and car wrecks. The game tries to mask it’s linear level design by making it’s winding paths relatively wide. If the player follows the quest marker and move forward, it will seem like there is a lot of open space to the left and right. But of course I’m one of those players who likes to skirt around the level edges just to get a feel for where the invisible walls and impassible barriers are located. So I was always acutely aware that I’m running in a rat maze.
Of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with linear design. After all, HL2 (which this game tries to emulate) is very, very linear. The problem with Crysis 2 levels is that they are just boring an uninspired. What’s the point of setting the game in New York city if you are going to build it as generic, brown urban maze. The game ought to feel like a Roland Emmerich style parade of imaginatively wrecked popular landmarks. You know, stuff you usually see on postcards or those “I HEART NYC” t-shirts worn by
soon-to-be robbery victims tourists – just with bullet holes, and explosion craters all over. Instead you spend the first 2-4 hours of the game navigating abandoned warehouses, sewers, parking decks, sewers, generic office buildings, sewers and indistinct urban landscape, strewn with car wrecks and other conveniently-chest-high obstacles. Oh, and some sewers.
Game play is also less than inspired. I would say it is more or less standard brown FPS fare. It does have one “interesting” feature that really made me scratch my head in astonishment. Crysis 2 introduces something they dubbed a tactical view or tactical overlay… Honestly, I don’t even care enough about this game to look it up right now. The point is, you push a button and the game overlays what you see with tactical hints. Let me draw you a simplified picture of how it works:
If you have never played a Crysis game before, the signature gimmick of the series is the Nano-Suit which has three distinct modes. The stealth mode grants you temporary invisibility, the armor mode lets you soak up a lot of extra damage and the strength mode lets you do superhero stuff like jump real high, run real fast and power-punch dudes in the face. In Crysis 2 this was simplified (cause having 3 options was apparently too much for Crysis fans) strength mode is on by default, which instantly makes it less fun to use. So you are left with two tactical options: be stealthy or be ballsy. Part of the fun I had in the previous games was figuring out how to use these powers in different combinations. But if this sort of thing was too open-ended for you, Crytek has got your back. Now you can just push a button and it will tell you the correct, linear way to use your suit powers. So if you want to be stealthy, you need to approach from the left, cause there is cover there. If you want to go in guns blazing, go from the right. And if you want to snipe at people, there is a perfect perch under the blinking arrow. Now you can be a fucking pro at tactics without even having to use your brain. How awesome is that?
Seriously though, could someone please explain to me why is that feature there? Who was this made for? Who the hell would want to use something like that? I just don’t get it.
In fact, I don’t get this game at all. The story is muddled, uninteresting and despite my best attempts I couldn’t force myself to give a fuck about the plot or the characters. The levels are uninspired, brown linear mazes that fail to capitalize on the fact that the action is supposed to take place in one of the most internationally famous, landmark rich cities in the country. Game play is actually a step down from previous games. Removing the “instant superman” mode made the nano-suit much less fun to use and the tactical view is just a curious and baffling addition that makes no sense. I have no clue what people see in this piece of crap.
I usually try to give games a fair shake, and play them through to the end. I just couldn’t do that with Crysis 2. I was so profoundly dissatisfied with the game, I just could not force myself to continue it. And it’s not like I decided to hate it ahead of time. I actually wanted to enjoy it, the same way I sort-of enjoyed Crysis: Warhead. But I guess this game is just plain bad. Maybe not Duke Nukem: Forever bad, but close. In fact, Duke had similarly meandering, unfocused non-story. So the two games are not that dissimilar.