In October 2010 I was sitting right across from the Crysis producer Cevat Yerli and listened to him talking about the sequel to the world's best-looking game ever and heard him say words like "urban jungle" and "beautiful disaster". About how the tempo in Crysis 2 would come down to the player, that it would be freedom done right. "Bullshit," I thought. "Typical PR bullshit." I had that very morning played through the chapter "Semper Fi or Die" and the lack of freedom, potential and that urban jungle was total.
But I should have known better, that Yerli isn't a Peter Molyneux, that his rethoric isn't tuned by the hype-machinery. Because when I'm after a few minutes into Crysis 2 is exploring a big park at the edge of New York, I understand exactly what he meant. It is an urban jungle, and I instantly get a taste of the freedom I was promised. The difference is that tempo and the focus of the game are more cinematic and more choreographed than in the original. Large areas filled with potential are mixed with tighter, linear passages where the story gets more room. It's a natural evolution of Crytek's concept, yet just as entertaining as the previous.
When Crysis 2 begins, New York is in flames. The alien Ceph have taken out all living things with a deadly virus and then bombed down town Manhattan to pieces. From the dead, the aliens have been harvesting tissue and the military has been decimated until nothing remains. The player, a wounded nobody, gets to don the classic and lethal Nano-suit and is given the mission to fight back against the Ceph and save Alex Ghould, the leader of the resistance.
The suit, its origins and its incredible capacity, is the center of Crysis 2's storyline. But it's far from the most convincing story in the history of gaming. The dialogue often feels over the top and the characters feel flat and uninteresting. Crytek have clearly been inspired by Half-Life 2, but they never even come close to Valve's league despite their high ambitions.
Instead it's the firefights, and all the freedom of choice, that make me giddy with excitement when I play Crysis 2. You can play it just like you would Call of Duty, just keep the fire-button pressed through the whole game. You can also sneak your way through it, evading most enemies on your way. You can build traps, trick your opponents and play strategically. I let my imagination run wild; I place a bit of C4 on a car on top of a parking building, then make myself invisible and kick it from the roof so it lands on top of two armored vehicles below. Then watch as the whole platoon on the ground catches fire.
It's about mixing it up, about trying your way forward - then try some more. And while you're often in control of the tempo, it's never slow or boring. There's also the spectacular graphics, something all of Crytek's games have had. Its design is an exciting contrast to the jungles of the original, and New York is filled with destroyed landmarks, ruined neighbourhoods and the beauty of disaster that Cevat talked about. The amount of detail is insane, and the effects are incredible. The console versions are, of course, not as fancy as on the PC, but they are still fighting for the top spots when it comes to being the graphical kings for their respective formats.
When it comes to multiplayer, Crytek have put in a lot more effort and the former Free Radical-team has done a good job creating some original and unique that is still easy to get into. The balance between the different classes is good, and the level design works very well.
Crysis 2 has a lot of cool weapons and Nano-upgrades, incredible graphics, great game mechanics and a lot of variations. The single player campaign took me about 13 hours to get through and had tons of action all the way. It would simply be a shame not to call this the best action game so far this year. Crytek have done it again.