Tue Feb 15 17:30:52 PST 2011

crysis 2, two days later

So I said that I had started playing Crysis 2, and was hoping it would get better.

It didn't.

Not to say that the plot is bad. It's just not good. Bland. Unambitious. About as edgy as a bowl of oatmeal. If anything, it solves the question of why they allowed Morgan and Watts to work on it: they didn't actually allow them to do anything. As far as tone goes, they could have fucked off to a beach for six months and let some anonymous schlubs write everything, there is no functional difference. Crysis 2 is yet another Modern Warfare 2 clone, no more, and no less.

You play as a bog standard heroic mime, who, without fail, listens to the voice with an internet connection, and waltzes into increasingly obvious traps.

Like any other big-budget video game in the last five years, the game is split between several production units who apparently had a big fight, and now refuse to speak to each other. Sometimes you're fighting an incredibly well-equipped PMC while investigating the virus which has more or less destroyed New York. Sometimes you're fighting aliens with the help of some marines who apparently don't care at all about the virus the other half of the game hypes up, by their lack of protective equipment. The transitions between the two are not very well concealed by having the protagonist get knocked out with alarming regularity.

I might check out Watts' novelization. But I sure as hell won't buy it.

There's also a bucketful of awful, showstopping bugs and assorted fucked up scripted sequences. (An example: Prerendered videos are at 800x600, and occasionally the game gets confused and forgets how to upscale them to whatever resolution using, at a speed faster a frame per minute. The workaround for this is to force quit the game, and restart it in 800x600 windowed mode.) But I can't complain about this, since they'll probably be fixed when the game is actually released, in a month. I can complain about design decisions, though.

Crysis 2 has brain-dead pre-mission briefing cinematics, just like Modern Warfare, but what they forget (just as Epic did) is that these cinematics have two purposes. The obvious, to brief the player, and to cover up loading screens. In MW2, you jump right from the briefing screen to the action. In Crysis 2, you get another loading screen. Stupid.

You can add silencers, which make weapons more or less perfectly silent, but don't reduce range or damage at all. Once you unlock the silencer, there is no reason at all not to put it on every weapon. Which makes me sad. Also, all the pistols are useless.

There appear to be three kinds of alien enemies, total, and two kinds of human enemies. Total. Which is a bit miserly, for a triple A game.

As for the gameplay systems; they have one very noticeable failure, and one original idea they actually did fairly well.

First up, the failure: Armor mode is implemented with comical ineptitude.

Like in the original game, damage taken while in armor mode drains energy instead of health. Unlike in the original game, you have to enable armor mode manually, which adds a subtle screen effect, makes your steps clunkier, and slowly drains suit energy. A very, very subtle screen effect.

Therein lies the problem. When they stole the regenerating health mechanic from Halo, Cretek forgot to copy how it made it really super obvious when you were unshielded, with loud alarms and large blinking lights. So it's fairly easy, in Crysis 2, to wade into a firefight in armor mode and then die suddenly when you run out of energy. Which is great fun.

The tactical assessment mode is well done, however. When you use the binoculars, you can mark the location of enemies, ammo caches, and even possible routes to use. I used it for half the game before I figured out that it was a very well disguised easy button. It tells you where to go, and where all the enemies are, and puts that information on the minimap. It's made for clueless newbies, and it tricked me into using it! Very clever.

So maybe Crytek will fix all the bugs, then go on to completely rewrite the plot and a bunch of game mechanics, in the next month. If they pulled off that miracle, then I could recommend this game. But I doubt it.

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