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Demo Impressions: Crysis 2
by Tom Acres

If you think of online shooters, the first game to spring to mind is probably any one of the titles spawned from the ridiculously popular Call of Duty series. Like it or not, first-person shooters are all the rage right now, and it seems as though every game, from Medal of Honor to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is trying to grab a slice of the pie before it's all gobbled up by Activision's behemoth. These games are everywhere, and perhaps soon you'll grow tired of authentic weaponry and urban environments, kill-streaks and XP bonuses, red dot sights and the like.

There was a time when less ultra-realistic FPS games were common, however. Remember Crysis, that stunningly gorgeous shooter from the guys at Crytek? The lush jungles, the sci-fi gadgets, the brutal combat, the special suit manoeuvres and the crazy aliens; remember all that? You probably do, but chances are you probably didn't have a computer that could run Crysis at a framerate above 4fps. In fact, you probably still don't have a computer that could run it at a framerate of more than 4fps.

Luckily for you, however, the sequel is here soon and it's coming to consoles. EA released a multiplayer demo of Crysis 2 last month to give players the chance to sample the latest shooter attempting to steal Call of Duty's crown. Perhaps its unique take on weapons, special suits and game types will tempt you into buying it?

I was certainly excited, and wondered what kind of cool take on the shooter genre this would throw at me. Turns out, after all this build-up, it may as well be Call of Duty with slightly different fonts when an XP indicator pops up.

Don't get me wrong, Crysis 2 plays just fine and if you've played any sort of military-based shooter recently you'll feel right at home. It feels a bit more weighty than something like Call of Duty, striking quite a nice balance between that and something more akin to Killzone. The thing is that it's also the biggest problem I've had with my time with the multiplayer: it just doesn't feel like I'm playing a Crysis game. The maps are small, enclosed urban environments and the weapons are fairly uninspired. The game modes aren't anything that you haven't seen before, and everything from kill-cams to XP bonuses are present and accounted for - it's very much more of the same. You can customise equipment and load-outs too, but you can also do that in every other shooter out there. Even the control scheme is ripped straight from the Black Ops manual and there's just not enough about it to make you say, "hey, this is fun and interesting and new'. It's all just kinda 'meh'.

Like I said, Crysis 2 plays perfectly well, and the nano-suit abilities do provide at least some variety even though they don't seem as impacting or relevant as they did in the original game. The abilities include the likes of invisibility and super speed, but we've seen this done before in the Halo series; whilst these abilities felt fun and fresh in the huge jungle environments of the original game, in Crysis 2 the cramped urban spaces just make it feel like you're playing Modern Warfare with some Halo perks.

The fairly familiar feel behind the game extends to the visuals as well, with fairly plain-looking environments, albeit with very technically proficient textures, animations, effects and the like. Say goodbye to the beautiful sandy beaches and lush jungles of the first game, and say hello to grey rooftops and boring office blocks. As with everything else about the multiplayer though, it just screams Modern Warfare 2 rather than what you may of been hoping from a Crysis sequel.

In fairness, the single-player mode may well be a little more interesting, and from what I've seen of it, it looks like that may well be the case. The multiplayer however just doesn't have enough about it to draw you away from the popular shooters you're already playing. It doesn't help that Crysis isn't a particularly huge franchise, and it almost feels like the developers realised this, and in doing so have sucked all the originality and personality from the game, which will no doubt alienate existing fans.

It's too early to say if the single-player is going to retain the open-endedness and freedom that made the first game so great, but the multiplayer certainly isn't anything to write home about as it stands.

Sure, you could accuse me of double standards after my glowing review of Call of Duty: Black Ops, but that is what Call of Duty is. Millions of you buy that game every year because you love that style of gameplay with all the perks that come with it, and you're always guaranteed a fun campaign and some great co-op to go with the addicting multiplayer. Ask yourself why you might want to check out Crysis 2 and you'll probably end up disappointed when you play the game itself.

If Crysis 2 is to succeed then it needs at least some identity to call its own, and on the evidence of the multiplayer demo it simply does not have that.

Crysis 2 is due for release for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on 25th March.

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- Tom Acres

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