Crysis 2 certainly gets off with a bang. With mood lighting illuminating the bowels of a submarine, the game begins with a troop of marines being briefed on what may lay ahead. Something's going on on the surface, and as part of their ranks, it's up to you to sort it out. No one really knows what's wrong - there seems to be some sort of disagreement even between the troops - and you're even more clueless than they are. Suddenly, there's an explosion (as is always the way) and the sub starts sinking. You need to escape.
A short while later, you come to in an abandoned warehouse, where you have a flashback, and see a man in a fancy looking armour-plated suit giving saying something cryptic about you being the only hope, before giving you his suit, and promptly shooting himself in the head. There's nothing to really explain who you are, what you're doing, or even what's going on, although it doesn't take great detective powers to know something strange is afoot. Considering the game's story's been written by a professional author, we'd have hoped the game's intro would make a little bit more sense.
To fill you in where the game leaves you in the dark, Crysis 2 is set in New York City in 2023, where a virus has been raging out of hand, sending the local population into hysterical hiding. Adding to the depressing mix, there's a crazy bunch of Government-contracted mercenaries known as the CELL running around killing anyone they think might be infected, and just to make everything worse, some aliens show up, and decide now would be a great time to invade.
Luckily for you, you've got your new Nanosuit, a kind of technological super armour that's meant to turn you into a slightly more realistic version of Iron Man, which fuses with a human on a genetic level to turn them into an unstoppable war machine. This is why the intro's so important - and also why it makes little sense that the game explains it to you so badly - as the suit's the thing that can help turn the tide of the alien invasion, and put right the wrongs of the world. With the suit on your side, you literally are a one man army. Or at least, you should be.
Your nanosuit brings with it several special powers, some of which are more useful than others. By pressing the right bumper, you can activate your cloak, (or as the game would put it, "you can activate cloak". Eurgh.), which renders you temporarily invisible, theoretically letting you avoid contact with any enemies. It's a good idea in theory, but one's that rendered merely frustrating, thanks to the enemy AI's amazing ability to spot you, despite the fact you're basically invisible, for all intents and purposes. The left bumper, on the other hand, shores up your defence by activating your armour, which means you take less damage from explosions, and can last for a little bit longer in an intense firefight. Adding to your two main abilities, the suit also lets you run at slightly-faster-than-average speeds, and punch/throw enemies reasonable distances, although it's never quite enough to truly make you feel like a super hero. Strangely, every time you use an ability, your suit will announce whichever power you've chosen to the rest of the world, which, admittedly, can be handy to begin with, but soon-"CLOAK ENGAGED"- gets frustrating.
Each of your abilities can only be activated for a certain length of time, as they drain your suit's pathetic battery almost as quickly as a 3DS playing a game in 3D. Far from shoring up the game's idea of painting your character as a superhero; a weapon; all this does is force you to constantly be looking for somewhere to hide when you're using your cloak, or finding a way to get out of the line of fire when you've got armour mode activated. Whenever you're in combat against more than one enemy, you're always having to plan your exit, rather than standing and fighting, as you're never more than a few seconds away from being exposed - hardly the super hero we were expecting.
Of course, your suit does more than just shore up your physical attributes. Whenever you come up on a fairly large juncture that's swarming with enemies, your suit will advise you there are tactical options available. One such case comes fairly early on in the game, when you're approaching an enemy base. You're given a number of options - Grenade, Stealth, and Avoid. Not being much of a fan of stealth, we tried the grenade option first, and slowly cre-"CLOAK ENGAGED"-pt towards a guard tower, which had a soldier manning a turret at the top. After looking in the manual to remember how to switch to our grenades (you press Y twice, in case you're interested - a case of the 360 not having enough buttons for the game), we casually chucked a grenade towards the window, which promptly hit the wall, and bounced back, landing next to our feet. Right. Brilliant. That's not going to work, then. Not with our useless aim, anyway. Realising the error of our ways, we then pulled out our pistol, took a few steps back, and shot the guy inside. Much simpler.
Stepping inside the base, while cloa-"CLOAK ENGAGED"- ked for maximum effectiveness, we snuck up on a few troops, and took them out, only to end up running out of cloak power in the middle of an open area. "Uh oh", we thought, "this isn't good" - but even we weren't prepared for what happened next. Literally, no sooner had we de-cloaked, than "BOOM BOOM BOOM", we were dead as the ground exploded around us. What on earth was this? Where on earth had it come from?
Reloading from our last checkpoint (as you can't save your progress manually), which just happened to be quite a way away from where we were, we slowly made our way towards the base again, doing the same thing we'd done a few minutes ago. Approaching the base, we weighed up our options. "Tactical Options Available" Yes, thank you suit, we did do this a few minutes ago, we know. Now it was a choice between Stealth, and "Avoid". What does that mean? Surely stealth and avoiding something are the same thing? Oh well - if it was telling us a way to avoid any confrontation, that sounded good to us. So, fully cloaked, we set o-"CLOAK ENGAGED"-ff. Sigh.
This was more interesting. Legging it to a pillar, we decloaked to give our batteries time to recharge, and waited for a guard to walk past, before turning invisible again, and legging it to behind a truck. Not much further to the "Avoid" point now, which would presumably be leading us to a handy passage to get us out of the base. Cloak activated again, we left cover behind the lorry, and ran towards the avoid point, only to be met face to face with a tank. "Odd", we thought, "what's that doing there", as we ran up to it to try and squeeze past. We hadn't quite got there when our suit told us it was about to run out of power. Oh dear. Luckily, we managed to make it to the side of the tank, and pressed up against its warm metal shell as our cloak ran out of power. Just in time. "Phew", we thought, "it'll never see u-"BOOM BOOM BOOM. And we were dead.
You see, "Avoid", funnily enough, means "Avoid". Not "take this path to avoid the enemies", but "avoid this if you value your life". Reloading miles back, slowly making our way toward the base, we pulled up our tactical options again. "Avoid", it says, and at the side of the screen, warns us about a CELL soldier. That's it. A soldier. Not the huge chuffing tank he's sitting in, just the soldier. We can take a soldier. But a tank that apparently has a gun with a barrel made out of rubber so it can stretch, bend down next to the side of the tank, and shoot us without even leaving a scratch on itself - no. Now that's a super weapon.
And so, we loaded it up for a third time. We followed the same path as last time, and eventually found ourselves near the tank again. Luckily, we were still cloaked, and had a good few seconds left. Aha - now we had it - why don't we just try and run around the tank? All that stood between us and freedom was a pile of rubble behind a tall, but weak looking fence, hastily constructed to block off the collapsed bridge that the tank was sitting beneath. If we could leap over this while cloaked, we'd be home dry. Come on suit! Don't let us down now! Hup! Aaaaand down. Damn. Despite our new super powers, ability to leap the roof of a cottage in a single jump, and the fact we quite blatantly managed to get higher than the fence, we still couldn't pass it. We also forgot that jumping uses our battery. BOOM BOOM BOOM. Dead.
It's a slightly silly example, admittedly, because once you've learnt what the various warnings mean, you don't get them wrong again, but it serves perfectly as an example of what's wrong with Crysis 2. It treads a strange divide between being freeform and not, in that you can do whatever you want - so long as you take one of these four options, interpret them correctly, and then do exactly as the game expects. The enemy soldiers' ability to cunningly see straight through your cloak - or even brick walls - and tell you're hiding behind them is more than a little bit annoying, as well. I thought we were meant to be the super weapon - not the bad guys.
If you forget about the suit stupidity, however, there's a competent, if unspectacular first person shooter here waiting to be explored. There are a few nice touches, too - finding your way through thick fog using your heat-seeking goggles to give you an advantage your opponents don't have goes some way to making you feel like the unstoppable super weapon you're meant to be. You can pick up new weapons, and salvage only the bits you want, too. If you find a guard's dropped a pistol with a silencer, but you love the laser sight you've got at the moment, you can pick his up, and then equip your laser sight to it, giving you literally the best of both worlds.
The powers of the suit can also be upgraded as you make your way through the game, by killing certain alien enemies. Killing said bad guys will give you points, which you can then spend on unlocking new powers as you see fit, ramping up your armour ability, if you think you need it, or buying all manner of other, cool extras - although you can only have four extra abilities active at any one time.
There's plenty of scope for replay value here too. While the levels are all fairly linear and constrained, there's enough scope to move off the beaten path that Crytek have scattered various collectibles through the levels, which, in the decaying remains of New York, can prove pretty tricky to find.
When everything clicks, and everything all comes together, Crysis 2 can be a fair amount of fun, but it never really shine in the way you'd hope. There are a few brief moments where you really do feel like the super-weapon that nobody saw coming, but sadly, those moments are few and far between, and far too often get replaced by moments of sheer stupidity, where you find yourself randomly exploding, or your tank being blown to smithereens with next to no warning. There's nothing Crysis 2 does particularly wrong, but there's nothing it does phenomenally well either. There's little to make it really stand out amongst numerous "me too!" shooters, and when you have about as much fun playing an 800 point arcade game as you have playing a full price release that's had a juggernaut publisher and developer behind it, it leaves a lot to be desired. In all, Crysis 2 is really a shell of the game it really should have been - a shiny new nanosuit, that's got no legs.