Crysis 2 has to live up to a high standard. Not only did the original Crysis pack a lot of high-quality action into its good-sized campaign, but its stunningly authentic rendering of lush jungle vistas set the graphical standard by which all modern shooters are judged.
Fortunately, this sequel does an admirable job of living up to the original’s reputation of sheer technical prowess. It doesn’t feature all the visual bells and whistles you might expect in a game from a developer known for pushing the limits of modern hardware. But, this sequel still looks amazing, and it plays that way too. The jungle is now of the urban variety–New York City to be precise. You make your way through office buildings, across crumbling bridges, and around broad city squares, where robotic aliens infest hallways and swarm across rooftops. Large environments give you room to maneuver and grant you freedom to approach battle in a number of ways, which makes Crysis 2 a great alternative to the plethora of first-person shooters that usher you down corridors on your way to the next action movie set piece.
Crysis 2 does an excellent job of portraying a city under siege without indulging in constant action-film cutaways. There is still plenty of cinematic excess here, though it’s delivered organically. Yes, there are a few scripted moments in which you are more of an observer than a participant; and, yes, you might be able to hold a key to peer at the imposing alien structure towering in the distance. But rather than wrest control away from you to highlight every falling skyscraper, collapsing passageway, and hovering alien ship, Crysis 2 allows these events to simply happen. And, because they are often so momentous, your attention is drawn to them. The few occasions when the game stops to consider how the average citizen might be affected by an alien invasion lend humanity to your militaristic actions. Familiar landmarks are defaced, lay in ruin, or explode as you watch. There’s an eerie contrast between the untouched trees of Central Park swaying in the wind and the rubble stretching behind them. The visual design eschews artistic flair in favor of authenticity, and it mostly succeeds at providing a frightening real-world backdrop for large-scale shoot-outs.
If you appreciated Crysis as a technical benchmark, as well as an excellent shooter, you might be surprised by Crysis 2′s more modest menu options. There are a few preset graphics options (high, very high, and extreme), but the menu doesn’t allow you to tweak antialiasing settings and such, as you would expect in the sequel to the highly customizable Crysis. (You can adjust these settings by entering certain console commands, but that is not an acceptable alternative to built-in menu options.) Furthermore, the game does not support DirectX 11, so you won’t see the advanced lighting techniques here that you see in games like Metro 2033 and Dirt 2. But to pick these nits with much vigor would be unfair to one of the best-looking games in recent times. Crysis 2 looks stunning, runs smoothly on even modest systems, and suffers from few obvious bugs and glitches.