Crysis 2 First Look PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Apr 09, 2010
Until recently, my only experience with New York City had been solely through other media. For 31 years, I lacked either a reason or the means to visit the most important city in the world, so defining my mental image of New York was up to the likes of shows like Seinfeld and Law & Order, songs by Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z, and Ryan Adams, tales from my evangelist friends who live or had at one point lived there, countless movies, and of course, the incessant Sunday Night Baseball appearances by those damned Yankees.
But there’s something about actually being in the city -- in the middle of Times Square at midnight chomping on a hot dog, on the observation deck of 30 Rockefeller Plaza with Central Park stretching out to the north and the Empire State Building dominating the south, or walking through the TriBeCa and SoHo neighborhoods on the first warm and sunny day of spring - that drives home how impressive, important, and lively this giant metropolis really is.
Which is precisely why Crytek wants to blow it up in Crysis 2.
"The New York location allows us to elevate the location in a sense that is emotionally more relevant for us. New York is symbolic for the pride of mankind. New York is the city that we are most proud of. If I would pick one city to protect, it would be New York."
Those were the words of Crytek’s CEO & President Cevat Yerli during the world-debut presentation of Crysis 2 in New York City. Long gone are the idyllic beaches, rocky outcrops and lush canopy of the jungle that defined both of the company’s biggest games, Far Cry and Crysis. The pitch now is "urban jungle," with palm trees replaced by traffic lights, beaches swapped for bus stops, and rocky cliffs transformed into skyscraper rubble. Disaster has once more found a home downtown.
We were first shown the debut trailer and after brief presentations by Yerli and the game’s lead writer Richard Morgan, it was time to see Crysis 2 in playable form. Producer Nathan Camarillo was driving the demo - played on the Xbox 360 - which appears to be somewhere near the beginning of the game. The first game’s protagonist, Nomad, returns in the starring role with the brand-new Nanosuit 2, and he finds himself numerous floors above Wall Street in a high-rise about to crumble down with the rest of the financial district rubble. Across the street, PMCs from Crynet Security patrol the rooftop and start chatting nervously about current events. Camarillo switches to his visor that lets us listen in...
"Think they’ll bring down this suit guy? ‘Prophet,’ or whatever he’s called?"
"I heard they already got him. Probably chewing his ass on the FDI."
"Nope. Bravo 14 had eyes on him, right after that."
"He’s right, gentlemen. This piece of shit took down Bravo 14 single-handed, so cut the chatter and stay sharp, all of you."
Conversation ended, Camarillo switches to power mode and leaps down from his perch, over the street and toward the rooftop patrol. Quickly changing to his invisible cloak, he sneaks behind a PMC and makes a silent kill. Weapon in hand, he opens up on the rest of the patrol and initiates a frantic firefight where Armor, Power, and Stealth mode are all utilized as the battle conditions merit. We see the L-Tag grenade launcher, the DSG-1 sniper, and a variety of automatic weapons. He detaches a turret mini-gun and opens up on the abandoned buses and cars being used as PMC cover points, rendering them useless. The area has been cleared of threats.
We skip to another demo, this time showcasing a different threat. Nomad has been captured by the PMCs and being choppered away from the intersection of Broad and Nassau...right in front of Federal Hall.
A PMC guard gloats. "It’s all over, Tin Man."
As the heli lifts up, there’s a sudden quake. Dust and debris shake from the roof and columns of Federal Hall, right before a massive alien limb bursts through the building, destroying it as it changes focus to attack the chopper. The craft goes down, Nomad falls out and is stunned to the point of immobility while the Nanosuit 2 does a hard reboot. But you can still watch and hear the recently emerged aliens wipe out the PMC squad with ease. With the Nanosuit back online, Camarillo quickly cloaks and watches the Matrix-like xenos quietly move through the now-empty street. They shred the PMC corpses with ammunition, savagely making sure that their enemy has been put down for good.
Camarillo opens up with the assault rifle, and another massive street battle ensues. The aliens are quicker than the Crynet soldiers, and can absorb much more punishment before going down. We see more Nanosuit power improvisation, combining cloaking to evade and armor to fight head-on. The battle is going well, but suddenly alien pods fall violently from the sky and cause massive explosions. And that’s all we get to see, for now, of Crysis 2.
For a game whose predecessor required absolute top-of-the-line computer hardware to realize its full graphical potential, there might be some rightful concern about seeing the sequel go multiplatform and potentially held back by now-aging console systems. While it was very impressive running in real-time on the Xbox 360, PC players with capable rigs will still be able to max out their settings and go wild. The game’s running on the CryEngine 3, the third iteration of Crytek’s proprietary game guts that launched with Far Cry in 2004, and that’s allowed Crytek to easily construct the game on three separate platforms without making significant sacrifices.
Another concern that carries over from the first Crysis is a story that sort of gives up as you get further in the game. That won’t happen again, promises lead writer and sci-fi novelist Richard Morgan, whom Yerli personally reached out to to help Crytek write Crysis 2. Morgan is a newcomer to game writing, but he definitely appears to know his stuff, saying "I’m a crazy, enthusiastic console gamer for the last seven or eight years. And the thing about games that always struck me was that there was a massive potential in them."
New York is the definitive plot hook, the emotional core that they really want the player to feel a protective attachment to: "...this choice of New York...probably the most iconic city on the planet. You set it here and immediately there’s a massive emotional charge to that city. Not just for Americans, I think, but internationally as well. And that enabled me as a fiction writer to come over and say...Well, I can web the characters into this, I can web the narrative into this, there’ll be a response...these characters are going to have their own feeling about this city."
Also in play is the Nanosuit itself. Morgan is using his sci-fi fiction experience to conjure themes about technology. "What I’m interested in is how [technology]’s kind of unpredictable. It’s a very useful and sharp tool, but it can cut both ways. It can get out of hand, it can do things you didn’t expect it to."
In fact, he’s got bigger plans for Nanosuit 2: "The Nanosuit actually becomes almost a character in its own right. It has an arc, and as the game progresses, the narrative builds and there is a narrative thread for the suit itself. Which you, as the player using the suit, will have to get to grips with. And the technology...there’s a mystery to the heart of it. The technology is not as it seems, there’s more to it than what appears on the surface."
"The suit itself has a narrative arc, it has a destiny, an endpoint...and that destiny gets entwined with the destiny of the city you’re trying to save."
We’ll find out what that destiny is by the end of this year. Crysis 2 is tracking for a "holiday" 2010 release on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.