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Crysis 2 multiplayer preview: Nanosuit or Nonosuit?

Crysis 2 is shaping up well. The CryEngine 3 is up and running on consoles, and looking unbelievable. The location shift to New York is already promising a more focused, more immediate spin on the original game’s freeform tactical combat. The storytelling seems epic and affecting; very much in the Half-Life 2 mould. But what about multiplayer?

Do super-soldier power-suits mean smile-inducing online good-times? Or just a great big messy clusterfook? It's definitely one of them. I have played it, so I know which. And if you would like to,read on and I shall bestow upon you that knowledge.

It has worthy heritage, and it shows

My first worry, that Crysis 2’s nanosuit powers would turn its multiplayer into an unwieldy circus of Spring-heeled Jacks launching, plummeting and aimlessly hurtling past each other like someone had stuffed Quake into a popcorn machine, turned out to be totally unfounded. This is a multiplayer offering built around slick movement and exhilarating kineticism, but its approach is tightly balanced with a satisfying clarity.

It shouldn’t come as much surprise, really. Crysis 2’s multiplayer component is of course being developed by Crytek UK, formerly Free Radical Design, formerly, andhopefully soon to be again, the developers of the TimeSplitters series. Aside from its hilariously mad writing and imaginative, movie-pastiching scenarios, TS’ greatest asset was always its multiplayer. Accessible, fast, exhilarating and razor sharp, its was one of the defining multiplayer offerings of its generation, and despite the radically different personality of Crysis 2, a fair bit of its spirit has made it through.

You're free as a bird (of prey)

While unlockable, customisable perk load-outs will be made available through repeated play, certain traits are available to all players right from game one. A poke of the right bumper activates a temporary Predator-style stealth mode, the left gives a brief shield boost, and a very immediate athleticism comes as standard. Hold down A and you’ll enjoy an exaggerated, nanosuit-powered leap. It’s nothing excessive – about 10 – 12 feet – but when coupled with the ability to grab and climb onto just out-of-reach ledges, it gives Crysis 2’s deathmatches a free-flowing freedom all of their own.

It also facilitates a deeply satisfying vertical fist pound, activated by hitting the melee button in mid-air. It’s a fast, brutal, and unexpected attack which simultaneously shifts the emphasis of attack and defense to a truly multi-directional one and also makes you feel like the Incredible Hulk every time you use it. So no complaints there then.

It's fast but fair, brutal but brainy

Two of Crysis 2’s most pleasing multiplayer facets though, are much more ambient ones. First of all, this game is quick. Not TimeSplitters lightning fast, but certainly nippy enough to make the likes of CoD and Gears of War feel rather plodding. And to compliment that pace, your control over your character has a lucid freedom to it that really makes the most of your unrestricted, more overt powers.

And you can soak up a decent amount of damage before going down, too. After years used to Call of Duty’s bang-shit-I’m-dead-where-did-that-come-from one-hit kills, it’s really refreshing to discover an opponent and know you’re going to have a real, cat-and-mouse dance of death on your hands. With stealth, shielding, verticality and slide-tackles at your disposal, it would be an utter waste if sneaky insta-kills meant that you never got the chance to use them with tactical flair, but Crysis 2’s damage scale and frequently open, multi-layered level design allow fights to be thoughtful and frenetic in equal measure.

It remains to be seen how Crysis 2 will develop once the character buffs – which include things like the ability to detect enemy proximity and see through cloaking – filter through the game, but on the strength of a few merry blasts through vanilla team deathmatch, I’m really rather happy about its prospects. So as a man previously, and traditionally, far more interested in story-driven campaigns when it comes to FPS, I’d definitely recommend that you keep an eye on it.

Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.