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Crysis 2 gets a deeper hands-on

Crysis 2 looks ridiculously good. Of course it does, but seeing it in action, under our control, brings the details to life in a way the screenshots cannot. We played a 360 build running on a PC, so although we played with a gamepad on a TV, we doubt the resolution and slick framerate we saw could possibly translate completely to the final 360 version.

But man, does it look good. Crisp, grimy textures of broken concrete, exposed rebar, and showering sparks make the whole disaster-movie tone feel realistic. In fact, we kept thinking back to Cloverfield as we played the demo – never more so than when watching the Metlife building collapsing in a dramatic, slow tilt while the camera wobbled and whipped from one danger to the next. That particular area of the demo was a sort of interactive cutscene in the sense that although the camera yanked our perspective to important events, we could still nudge it around ourselves, maintaining some sense of immersion.

On the streets at night, we battled along crumbled elevated roads (hmm, don’t remember seeing those the last time we were in the real Manhattan, but that’s not important). We flipped on the nano suit’s tactical visor, a kind of souped-up version of the binoculars originally introduced way back with the first Far Cry. These babies highlight enemy positions and items through walls, giving you a serious tactical advantage. Of course, to balance this, you can’t use any weaponry with it, so it’s typically a quick peek to gain info before swapping back to the guns. After trying out the night vision goggles, we moved forth into the warzone.

Smashed, leaning buses and cars serve as a jungle-gym to climb around on and use cover behind while taking potshots at the Predator-ish aliens running around with tentacle dreadlocks and glowing red eyes. While these guys take part in firefights like human enemies, they’ll also rush you and suddenly pounce, knocking you to the ground, and if you’re carrying a heavy weapon, knocking it out of your hand. Luckily, melee attacks take them down just fine when operating under the default strength/speed setting of the nano suit.

We’re not sure if the simplified powers of the nano suit are a result of streamlining for the sake of trimming redundancy, or whether it’s to fit into the idea of being console-friendly, but we think it works. On the one hand, we miss the fun minigame of swapping rapidly between suit powers in the original Crysis, but the dumbed-down version doesn’t feel like it’s missing much. For instance, with strength/speed now being the default, you don’t have to swap to make one super-jump. Instead, you just super-jump all the time, which is definitely more fun. On the other hand, with no true speed ability, your sprint doesn’t have that blinding fast rush that sprinting in the original Crysis brought.

Once in Grand Central Station, we got to play with a nice array of weapons while dealing with successively more dangerous opponents. At first, we fought the same Predator-alikes as on the streets, but then a brute-style mini-mech came stomping in. It’s hard to tell, but we’re assured we’re not fighting robots – there are aliens piloting these things. So this particular mech was surprisingly fast for how big he was, and we found ourselves running from him up and down the various walkways and stairwells around the perimeter of Grand Central.

Scattered throughout this area was a slew of weapons. After our assault rifle didn’t do much do dent the mech’s armor, we tried to go for a fixed gun turret, but got chased out as the mech flanked us. Instead, we got hold of a grenade launcher. We discovered it has a steep arc, but the grenades explode in proximity to enemies, so getting in hits on the mech wasn’t difficult. This launcher also sports sticky grenades as an alt-fire option, but we were too busy running away to plan it out properly. Once we ran out of grenades (and our pursuer still wasn’t dead yet), we snatched up some C4 and plopped some in his path, and that finished him off.

We breathed a sigh of relief that the boss battle was over. And then a bigger mech came crashing through the windows. This thing was too big to chase us up on the walkways, so it was easier to take cover from it. We picked up some one-shot rocket launchers and fired all of them at the monstrosity, but it was still ticking. Then we found something called the Swarmer. It looks like a four-barreled anti-air launcher, but instead it’s held low like a minigun. Each shot sends out about eight mini-rockets what certainly do swarm the target. While we were pestering the clanking boss with angry, exploding bees, his henchmen came along and swatted the Swarmer out of our hands. After taking care of the annoying underlings, we sprinted back to the fixed gun turret, which was right in the boss’s face. Fortunately, we’d done enough damage previously that it only took a second of unloading the turret point-blank to finally cause the behemoth to slump over.

The demo had us missing the gorgeous, lush tropical jungles of the original Crysis, as well as the more complex nano suit abilities, but at the same time the sequence of events had a much more set-piece feel to them. The game overall feels denser with action and tension, at least in these sections we played. There wasn’t much use for the stealth ability of the nano suit, so we’re guessing there will be quieter sections to play. At least that’s what we hope, because so far the excitement level of the game has been exhausting.

Jul 21, 2010

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