Crysis 2 Campaign Hands-On Preview - Urban Chaos
Written Thursday, February 17, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It’s decision time folks. It’s D-Day and Manhattan is under siege by a hostile alien presence and it’s up to you to decide how to move forward. How do you respond? Personally, I’d nuke it, that’s the right decision, right? I mean, that’s what any power-hungry leader of the free world would say if they were being honest... you know, “Nuke it first, ask questions later.” Thankfully for Crysis 2’s plot though, that wasn’t an option... after all, there wouldn’t be much of a game if the get-out clause was as simple as that. Then again, it’s not like we’re dealing with a military shooter here... it’s all sci-fi baby, so we can’t really liken it to any realistic situation because we don’t have super soldiers that can run in and do the dirty work for us. Well, unless you believe the X-Files that is.
Our recent hands-on took place about midway through Crysis 2’s single-player campaign, in a mission called, “Dark Heart.” In it, the military are looking to do the next best thing to force the aliens out of their newly invaded city, and that’s to let water flow through the streets and flush the bastards out. Being a fearless soldier in an unbelievably powerful super-suit though – the Nanosuit 2.0 – we have a chance to stop this atrocity and save the city from its Atlantis-style fate. If we don’t stop it, the city’s destined for a soggy future. So no pressure...
In what seems like one of Crysis 2’s go-to environments, we kick off the level underground in the City Hall subway region. Our advisor for this mission is a character by the name of Hargreave, who is very reminiscent of Metal Gear’s Colonel Campbell... but without the pervy lines. According to Hargreave our main objective is to travel through the subway system towards the ‘Hive,’ locate Reeves and his team and eventually, blow up the spore silo somewhere deep in the city.
The subway system is expectedly short of natural sunlight and swarming with the standard alien soldiers, which makes the Nanosuit a valuable commodity here. There are essentially two ways to approach the long winding tunnels of the subway... a.) flick the left bumper, activate armour mode and then charge in; or b.) hit the right bumper, activate stealth mode – AKA active camo – and then sneak through, silently taking down foes on your way. As you do, we opted for a little from column A and a little from column B... which effectively means there are three ways to play.
Joining the Nanosuit’s armour and stealth abilities as valuable tools is the ‘visor mode’ – which can be accessed by clicking up on the d-pad – which is handy for finding weapon drops and locating enemies; while the Nano Vision – which can be accessed by flicking down – activates a thermal imaging field of vision, essential for picking out enemies in the rugged terrain.
Equipped with a Scarab assault rifle and a Marshall shotgun, both of which operate like your traditional shooter equivalents, we begin to charge through the tunnels, taking down whoever crosses our path, switching periodically between the armour and stealth abilities of the suit. It’s essential to not only keep an eye on your health when you’re gunning it, but also the suit’s energy, especially if you’re cloaking and using the armour abilities a lot. Even with the armour ability activated, charging head-on into a group of foes is still inadvisable. Running and jumping in Crysis 2 is a pleasure though thanks to the Nansuit’s impressive technology, and navigating the battlefield is an effortless exercise. With unmanned trains whizzing by spewing flames from its carriages in the dilapidated tunnels and passing through crashed carriages, Crytek always manages to keep you on your toes.
After scaling a bit of scaffolding and using a sniper rifle to explode a few alien skulls, we arrive upon a tunnel with a group of downed soldiers – presumably Reeves – who Hargreave nonchalantly shrugs off; “Casualties of war, I suppose.” With the claustrophobic tunnels now behind us for the time-being, we make our way out into a huge expansive opening that reeks of devastation, but the natural light, impending sandbox combat and terrific view makes for a refreshing change of pace.
While out in the open our objective is simple... take down three conduits so we can access and ultimately destroy our final objective. These three conduits are spaced quite far apart in a huge ravine in the middle of downtown New York; each one brimming with both standard alien soldiers and much bigger creatures that hide amongst the building rubble and car wrecks.
How you approach them is entirely up to you.
With the first conduit, we opt to play it aggressively, choosing to headshot a few standard beasts who line up around the deep ravine to kick things off. Our hostility alerts the rest of the pack to our presence though, and as they charge at our last known position, we take them down in armour mode with the shotgun and the assault rifle. All that stands between us and the conduit now is the big, almost boss version of the standard alien. Luckily for us, there’s a rocket launcher on the edge of the overlooking ledge so we proceed to pick that up and kick down a car towards our foe in one fell swoop. Pinging off a couple of rockets we make the jump down the ravine to the bottom, keeping one eye on the invader as he ascends upon our location. The clever choice, which incidentally is what we chose to do, is to lure the beast – who’s definitely more brawn than brains – to our position, before stepping back and blowing up the car at its feet that we just kicked down. Humanity 1 – Alien scum 0.
The second of the conduits is positioned in a much narrower ravine, with a similar sort of resistance protecting it. This time we opt to stealth our way in, flicking the active camo and silently taking down foes along the way. Unfortunately our cover was blown when we were spotted snapping one of their invader’s necks, so using the grenades and the shotgun we power in to finish off the stragglers and the remaining hulk of an alien. Score.
Two down, one to go.
To get to the third we have to traverse crumbling walkways and tread lightly on what’s left, but upon getting there, we immediately notice the much more open and flatter terrain that surrounds the final conduit. By this time we were so jacked up on adrenaline that stealth wasn’t an option... although in hindsight, it would have probably been an easier one. Bang. Shotgun to the face. Bang. Shotgun to the chest. We rinse through taking out the smaller beasties that guard the final point with relative ease. Unfortunately for us, two – yes, two – of the hulking goliaths stepped in to look to thwart our attacks. Not today my fish faced friend. What then proceeded was a bombardment of grenades with plenty of use of the armour ability and shotgun, combined with a good use of cover, before a stealthy yoink of the PKM-style machine gun off the ground and filling what was left of the alien scum with lead. It was a symphony of violence and destruction if I do say so myself.
Then, and only then, was I left with a free path to the final conduit and then to my final goal. And as always though, rather than spoil the story or the surprise events that occur after here, you’ll have to wait and see how it unfolds. From what we experienced though, the story was shaping up to be quite decent – aside from Hargreave, who felt a little forced – and here’s hoping Richard Morgan has more twists and turns in store for us.
Jumping back to the gameplay itself for a moment; if Crysis 2 is going to win any awards this year, the first award it’ll win is for the most complicated control scheme in the history of consoles – if anyone actually mentions Steel Battalion, just a heads-up, I’ll be scrubbing you off my Christmas card list this year. I’m not saying it’s a game-breaking chore, far from it, but any shooter that has you stood in a corner working out how to throw a grenade for a good few minutes should be an indication as what to expect on that front – if you’re interested , you have to hold Y just to equip the grenade before you throw it.
Every single button though has a specific function, with more than a few being context sensitive or requiring a held button press for an alternative use. For instance, aside from the grenades mentioned supra; to lean round a corner all you have to do is, when you’re by a wall – near its corner, duh – you pull the left trigger, a button which is usually your iron-sight; and to access your upgrade menu you click back, whereas holding back will take you into your gun attachment menu. Seriously.
On the topic of special abilities and gun attachments, Crytek’s implementation of them into the game is pretty damn neat. Hitting back on the controller results in our super-solder lifting his Nanosuit arm up, revealing his hand. Upon each finger of the hand are numerous special abilities that you can purchase to upgrade your Nanosuit using the credits that you find on the carcasses of felled alien opposers. It’s here where you’ll add special abilities like the ‘air stomp’ and upgrade your suit as you see fit. Likewise, the gun attachment menu allows you to customise your weapons to suit your play-style, meaning that you can personally tailor your experience.
No matter what I say here in terms of visuals though, there will always be a certain level of scepticism as to whether or not Crysis 2 can actually deliver on a technical perspective on consoles. It really will be a case of seeing is believing here, especially after playing the multiplayer demo, which can’t hold a candle to the visuals of the single-player campaign. I can tell you though that the developer's claims that Crysis 2 is one of the best looking games on console are hugely justified and not once through our hands-on did we suffer any sort of slow-down or graphical issues that put a downer on the experience. The controls were intuitive – if not a little complicated – and the action intense, which is what you ask for in a shooter. All in all though, the ‘Dark Heart’ chapter might have only been a short and sweet sample of what to expect this coming March, but it’s hugely encouraging that Crytek is backing up its early bold claims with a little style and substance.
Crysis 2 is scheduled for a March 22nd and March 25th release in North America and Europe respectively.