Released in 2007, the original Crysis is often held up as a benchmark for both PC gaming and first-person shooters. Crytek's acclaimed title set a very high bar with its graphics and innovative nanosuit gameplay, but it was also notoriously thirsty on hardware processing power and chewed up many systems. Thankfully, Crysis 2 is going to be available on Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as the PC; but will the sequel be able to maintain its predecessor's lofty standards? Ahead of its release later in the year, Digital Spy had a look at the game to see how it's shaping up.
At a recent EA event in London, Crysis 2 executive producer Nathan Camarillo said that it is part of Crytek's DNA to "push technology to create better and better games". This began with the original Far Cry in 2004, which brought an open-world environment to the FPS genre. Camarillo said that Crytek is "proud" Crysis is viewed as the "benchmark in visuals on PC gaming", but the studio "plans on surpassing that with Crysis 2". The game will also be the first title to use the new CryEngine 3, which promises to deliver enhanced graphical and animation performance on both consoles and the PC.
Essentially, the nanosuit opens up a range of "godlike powers" to the player, such as an armoured skin, invisibility or the strength to leap from high buildings. Camarillo said that the team observed from the first game that players formed a particular playing style with the suit powers rather than simply switching between them ad hoc. The styles split into three main "buckets" - predators, silent assassins and superheroes.
Predators would use the suit's mobility and cloaking powers to get within spitting distance of enemies for close-quarters kills. Silent assassins would use the tactical computer inside the suit's visor to scope out enemy positions and then take them out in secret with long-range weaponry. The final category of superheroes would soup up their armour and mobility to dive straight into battle and see how long they could survive in a "flurry of bullets on the verge of life and death".
Rather than take the "easy" option of simply adding more powers, Crysis 2's nanosuit has merely been enhanced and improved to enable players to more easily adopt their chosen playing style. However, the team has also worked to refine the suit's powers to fit with the new urban environment featuring multiple heights and varied structures.
Crysis 2 marks the first time that Crytek has tackled a major first-person shooter in an urban setting. Camarillo said that "no-one cared" about the island in the original Crysis, but the team wanted its sequel to have a setting with more meaning. New York was chosen because of its character and wide variety of environments in a compact area, but also because of what it represents.
In a hands-off demonstration, Crytek showed off a sequence in New York's famous Wall Street, with its glittering sky scrapers gradually being torn apart by the unfurling conflict. Right away, it's clear that Crysis 2 has maintained the first game's high graphical bar and admirable attention to detail. Prophet stood at the top of a skyscraper looking down at the PMC troops stationed on neighbouring rooftops. The enemies discussed his presence similar to the way that the Joker's henchmen did in Batman: Arkham Asylum, which will presumably transmit story information and build atmosphere.
After activating the visor's tactical powers, the Crytek representative scoped out the immediate threat and targeted each individual enemy. He then selected the suit's mobility to perform a huge leap between the buildings, before clicking on the impressive Predator-style cloak mechanism. After sneaking up on an enemy, he performed a silent kill by breaking the man's neck. Clicking the cloak back on, he walked over to the building's edge to scope out soldiers on the opposite structure. Taking one of the guards out with a sniper rifle alerted all the others, causing a hail of fire to pour in.
The spike structure mysteriously appeared to gas the remaining PMC soldiers while Prophet lay prone on the floor, his suit powers temporarily shut down. This is where the aliens came into the picture, with their Deception-style spiked armour punctuated by sinister red lights. While the PMC will provide a significant threat, the aliens are a different kettle of fish, with their impressive armour requiring some serious pounding before going down. The demo ended with a bigger, boss-style alien descending onto the Wall Street tarmac, as Prophet geared himself up for a big fight.
Overall, the early signs are that Crysis 2 will honour its illustrious predecessor and possibly even eclipse it. However, the game's scheduled release window will see it face stiff competition from Activision's Call Of Duty: Black Ops and EA's own Medal Of Honour reboot. Much will depend on Crysis 2's ability to really bring forth the varied gameplay styles afforded by the nanosuit. Equally, a lot will depend on the setting of New York, from both a graphical and gameplay standpoint. Such an emotive location could polarise opinion and it will need to be on par with Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City to truly excel. If Crytek can really nail all these things, though, then Crysis 2 could prove to be an immense prospect when it arrives later in the year.
Crysis 2 will be released in November for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.