Playable in stereoscopic 3D, Crysis 2 is going to be one, if not the best looking game of the year. Hands-on time for the single player campaign on Xbox 360 was available at yesterday's Microsoft pre-GDC press event and I jumped at the chance to play it.
The demo took place during the second chapter of the Crysis 2 campaign, where the player has already fully assumed control of the Nanosuit 2 playing as new protagonist, Alcatraz. One of the first things of note about Crysis 2 is indeed, how beautiful it is; A funny thing to say when most of New York City is starting to become ruined and destroyed.
Buildings explode in the distance and you see the glass shards fly, right before they're enveloped by fire and smoke. CryENGINE 3 is a powerful engine and the effects rendered were impressive.
The objective of this particular part of the game is to locate an alien crash site, gather samples, and deliver them to Dr. Nathan Gould. Unfortunately, Crynet Systems OpFor (who believe protagonist Alcatraz to be former Nanosuit 2 owner, Prophet) will be standing in your way and be preventing you from reaching that objective. The starting area puts you in a building where Alcatraz walks out onto a bridge which immediately gets blown up. After recovering, Alcatraz begins surveying the destruction of the city, giving the player a moment to check out the surroundings and graphic rendering of real life New York City.
You then make your way into a parking garage and this is where the mini-sandbox approach of each encounter starts to show. Fully utilizing the Nanosuit 2's ability of armor, stealth, strength and agility creates incredibly rewarding experiences. Two enemies with their backs are turned to you and they can be taken out quietly by cloaking and stealth-killing them. Or you can switch on the armor, powerslide your way down and shoot both of them and everything in between.
Throughout the parking garage locale, there are many objects that can be used in each encounter. Fuel barrels (the shooter staple), cars which can be kicked with massive force (doing so drains your suit's energy completely), and even cones can be thrown at enemies. Each area affords the player options on how to approach it. After clearing the garage, Alcatraz picks up a weapon which brings back the old Crysis weapon customization menu (activated by holding the Back button on the Xbox 360 controller). Here, a player can choose to equip suppressors, laser sights, red dot sights, or stick to iron sights.
Emerging from the parking garage and into the wide-open urban jungle, this portion of the game introduces a larger area to approach an encounter. Just below were two vehicles with mounted guns and several soldiers. Conveniently, a vehicle was placed near the edge along with some fuel barrels. It's possible to kick the car down and then throw the fuel cans down to blow up the car, but both of those options can be folded into one. By shooting the fuel tank area of the car and setting it on fire, a player can just power kick the car down into the enemies and blow up everything all at once. Just as well, the cloak can be engaged and sniping enemies is possible.
After clearing the area, Alcatraz arrives at the the crashed alien ship and can start collecting the samples for Gould. With the wreckage separated by a large gap, instead of merely moving all the way around the area, Alcatraz can make a power-jump (hold A) across the chasm and access one of the samples. Your objective done, Alcatraz must start making his way to Gould, starting in an underground area and emerging into another open area where the player will have their first encounter with the Ceph, the alien invaders of the Crysis series. The Ceph ambush Alcatraz, but fail to kill him because the Nanosuit 2 has some kind of anti-alien stabbing function.
Following this moment, the player is introduced to combat against the Ceph who move like they're a combination of the Predator and chimpanzees. They are highly mobile and tough to see in the area due to smoke (which is counteracted with thermal imaging from the suit), making for a very different fight. Ceph can be killed in several ways, including shooting them where their body is exposed or doing it the more fun way and grabbing one (hold X while near enemy, works on regular enemies too) and punching it in the face really hard. It takes a lot of shots to kill a Ceph, so performing close combat maneuvers is preferable.
When Ceph are killed they will drop resources that can be used to upgrade the Nanosuit 2. In the single-player campaign, four different slots can be upgraded: Power, Stealth, Armor and Tactical. Each category grants the suit a new ability or upgrades a previously existing one. In this regard, a player may choose to upgrade his suit according to his chosen style of play. Some of these upgrades can be seen in the Crysis 2 multiplayer progression video. There will be enough resources to fully upgrade the suit and the player may be able to replay the game with the upgraded Nanosuit 2.
As Alcatraz continues his journey, he will see Crynet soldiers fight off Ceph, establishing Ceph as a confirmed threat to everyone in the world and not just to Alcatraz. In this instance, a player may choose to wait for the Ceph to kill the soldiers, sneak attack the soldiers or start blasting away at everything. After a few more engagements with enemy soldiers and Ceph alike, the Crysis 2 demo ends.
Crysis 2 is an incredibly fun and gorgeous shooter. The story from Richard Morgan sounds interesting and is going to be more substantive than most first person shooters available. So, that Call of Duty trash talk from the acclaimed author might not be off base. For those looking for a more solid number for the Crysis 2 campaign length, executive producer Nathan Camarillo confirmed that it would range from 10-12 hours. Comparatively, most shooters can make it to the 6 hour mark, with multiplayer filling in the rest of someone's play time.
The 3D element present in the title was not something that felt like it was a gimmick, either. Camarillo continued talking about the importance of having the player be inside the suit and the 3D gameplay does reflect that. The HUD moves pops out in 3D, be it the ammo counter or map or contextual actions. The feature isn't something superfluous, but not playing the game in 3D won't be something you will miss out on - the graphics look fine in 2D as well.
Crysis 2 will be releasing March 22, 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.