The original Crysis for the PC was known for many things. It had a nice, open jungle like Crytek's previous effort, FarCry. It had an amazing array of suits to gave you a wide range of powers. It also became notorious for barely running at an adequate level on the top PC rigs of the time. Years after the title's release, gamers still haven't managed to get Crysis to run at peak performance all of the time. At E3, we spent some hands-off time with Crysis 2, and it's plain to see that Crytek still has the desire to release a technologically top-notch shooter.
Before the presentation began, the producers told us about how they streamlined a few things from the original game. Gone is the need for multiple suits; one suit handles all types of situations and powers, so players can concentrate on more action and less inventory juggling. Also gone is the open-ended nature of the game; the experience will now be akin to a controlled sandbox. You can still attack the enemy any way you want, but you have a set path determining where you should go next. In the demo, the producers gave us an example of how a player might want to approach getting to a train station amidst alien activity. The player can treat the game like an action movie and simply spray everyone with bullets, or the player can take a different route and sneak around the enemies to get to the objective point. There are still some choices, but don't expect a completely open environment.
The demo focused on two different areas, the first of which is a destroyed road that leads to Grand Central Station. No matter where we went, we constantly heard explosions and distant gunfire. The heads-up display is now projected as part of the helmet, giving you a shot of the typical elements like radar, ammo count, etc. It has a tendency to bounce and sway as the player moves in the game, and although it's initially distracting, we grew accustomed to it as time went on.
The new nanosuit has two primary modes. The first is a strength mode, which increases the player's armor strength so he can withstand some of the more powerful shots in the game. The mode also gives his kick much more power. During the demo, the producers showed the player running to a parked car and kicking it over the bridge, making it land on an alien shooting from below.
The other is a stealth mode, where you can turn on a heat vision scanner to detect enemy movement or some active camouflage for sneaking around. We also saw a few player abilities that act independently of the power suit, including the ability to do a sliding tackle and propping up objects to create some impromptu cover. As for taking cover, the player also has the ability to lean over or above objects.
The second area of the demo takes place in a wrecked Grand Central Station. The player has infiltrated the building through the basement and is going to make his way to the main part of the building. As we travel up crumbling stairs, we see the amazing graphics by way of flames bursting from broken gas pipes, particle effects with doorways and stairs kicking up dust as they shatter, and the ability to create convincing set pieces as an elevator comes crashing down the shaft.
Once we make our way to the main stage, we see more combat and how much enemy AI behavior has improved since the prior title. Enemies run around more frantically between cover and work in groups to lure you into traps. The producers assured us that this was only a small amount of the tactics that enemies would utilize to kill you. In the battle, we used a turret and then ripped it out of its socket for extra firepower, much like what was in Halo 2.
New enemy types are everywhere. There's a more heavily armored alien that is much tougher to take down and has the tendency to kick everything out of the way, whether it is cars, corpses or debris. The other enemy is much larger and has been dubbed the "Pinger" because it uses a sonic ping to discover your location and destroy the environment. While the enemies are impressive, we were told that there would be many more lethal ones that weren't ready to be shown yet.
It may be quite a while before Crysis 2's intended release date, but the game already shows off what Crytek can do with console technology. The aliens, buildings and people are well rendered, and the lighting is superb. One look at the glass rooftop of Grand Central Station as a spotlight shines through it is proof of how well Crytek treats light. The environments seem to be very destructible, with most of the environments turning into rubble after being rocked by nearby explosions and gunfire. All of this comes at a price, though, as the game tends to pause during scenes of heavy activity. The two scenes from the demo are filled with activity almost all of the time, so the pauses are more frequent and noticeable. The sound is spot-on so far. The effects come out cleanly and the voices are fine.
One of the surprises coming out of the Electronic Arts E3 conference is that Crysis 2 will support 3-D for all three consoles. When asked, the producers revealed that the new shutter glasses 3-D technology (used by the new 3-D TV sets hitting the market) would be used by both the PS3 and PC versions of the game while the 360 version would use the old anaglyph technology (red and blue glasses). Things may change down the road but for now, if you are one of the few gamers who owns a shiny new 3-D TV or 3-D monitor, this information may sway your decision about which SKU to purchase.
Crysis 2 is intended for a 2011 release, but from what I've seen so far, it is quite impressive. The game's more cinematic approach is better suited for the big city environment, and it's astounding that console gamers can get the same Crytek engine running without a high-end PC. There's still time to make some tweaks and spill more information about the game, so be on the lookout for more news in the months ahead.
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