Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's my party and I'll Crysis if I want 2

If Crysis 2 was a man and not a computer game - which may seem like a very odd analogy, but bear with me - if he climbed into the helicopter next to Dutch and Co at the start of Predator, they'd all feel incredibly inadequate by comparison. Crysis 2 would sneer at Jesse "The Body" Ventura (so called, apparently, because he is in possession of a body - and "The Spleen" was taken) chewing his tobacco (which apparently makes him feel like a "goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus") because Crysis 2 would be too busy gnawing the corners off house bricks. For fun.  As it mocked its colleagues sexual orientation, as they sat helplessly nearby and wept into their Malibu and coke.

Crysis 2 (or "KABOOOOOOOOOM!" as it should be called) is the excitingly titled sequel to Crysis, a PC only game that I never played because I've never owned one of the only three super computers on the planet capable of running it. The kind of machine that when you switch it on causes you to get warning letters from your electricity supplier and complaints from your neighbours regarding their house lights dimming every time you power it up.

Crysis 2 tells the story of.. Actually, I've played it to completion and I'm still not really sure what the story is. There are some aliens and some bad humans, and they might be in league - or might not - and you have to shoot them up regardless. Except for when you're teamed up with them, and end up shooting them by accident as they wander into your line of fire as though life suddenly became too overwhelming for them, like a man forced to watch the Box Set of Series 1 of "Horne & Corden" in its entirety. Anyway, there are loads of huge explosions and loads of stupidly large weapons that no mortal man could even lift, let alone fire, without fire of dislocating their arms or shoulders. Or heads.

But, as fate would have it, you ARE no mortal man. You're a soldier embedded in a fancy space-age suit™ capable of briefly turning you invisible, giving you the armour of a walking tank or just allowing you to run around the map punching cars into peoples faces. Admittedly you're restricted by battery power and your suit seemingly runs off the same power source that powers my HTC Desire (or "Mr. Sleepy phone" as I call it) but you're pretty kick-ass nonetheless. Although your suit seems to have some basic operating system issues in that it reboots frequently throughout the game (It's probably Windows ME), but as this is mostly an excuse to force you to lie there whilst you watch some manner of drama unfold around you (and by "Drama" I mean "Another huge explosion").

Your character is one mean-assed son of a bitch. The evidence of this is through his voice which is so gruff and deep it's impossible to hear what he's saying without having the subtitles switched on. 

It's both a busy and noisy game. Levels almost without exception begin with you perched on some high point on the map and after you've consulted the super-duper visor mounted computer™ to give you your tactical options (which extend as far as "sneak past the baddies", "Find some more ammo" or "shoot the baddies in their alien/devious human faces") you're in amongst it.  Oddly, despite the tactical options, most battles start off in stealth mode until you're discovered either by your own incompetence or the AI deciding to be able to see you even though you're invisible, and then all hell breaks loose.  Find ammo, continue allowing hell to break loose, find more ammo, repeat until fade.

The prequel Crysis was set in the jungle, and this new one relocates you to New York, an urban jungle. It's a beautiful looking game - arguably one of the best looking games on the XBox 360, but cheats with the frame rate occasionally with blurring effects and tiny bits of scenery have an awkward habit of disappearing and reappearing. I.e. I'm looking at some lovely detail on a packing crate (which coincidentally is one of my real life hobbies) and slightly turn my head - and the crate vanishes. Turn it slightly more and it reappears. Damn aliens invading New York and causing innocuous street furniture to phase in and out of reality - IS THERE NO END TO YOUR EVIL?

And it's never mentioned in the plot, but the aliens also seem to have attacked New York with a Super-retardo-ray™ which backfired on them, because every opponent you'll meet in the game (except for the odd occasion which really stands out), be they the standard human variety or some nasty tentacled beastie, is a fucking idiot. An enemy soldier will see you in plain view become invisible and will suddenly forget you ever existed, going about his business as though he's decided you were simply a mirage or trick of the light. An alien will see you emerge from stealth mode and stab his Martian friend in the back with a knife and will completely ignore you, as though he never really liked his friend anyway. Despondent opponents will charge at a wall and run against it for ever until you put them out of their misery with a grenade. Honestly, some of the scenery shows more intelligence than your opponents.

But despite this, you know what? It's dumb fun. All too often the game throws so many enemies at you that you almost forgive the stupidity of them - they're all simply fleshy shouty bullet receptacles anyway. It's noisy, has one gear like Charlie Sheen ("Go"), has a plot that it thinks is way cleverer than it actually is, but it's entertaining from start to finish. There are some wonderful set pieces, the soundtrack is pure excellent bombastic action film theme, and some of the map design is surprisingly good, and the tactical options at the start of each level don't quite make it the sandbox game that it's predecessor was but it's still surprisingly open. It's the gaming equivalent of a Summer Blockbuster - stupid if you think about it, but fun whilst it lasts. And for around 10 hours worth of single player campaign, it lasts a fair old while. And to be fair to the makers, I think this was exactly what they were trying to achieve.

And the epilogue movie sets Crysis 2 up perfectly for a sequel with such a nonsensical piece of exposition that I've watched it three times and it still makes absolutely no sense.  Honestly, for all the logic in this game the end movie could have revealed that the great big baddy behind the aliens was a sentient piece of Caerphilly Cheese flying a Anti-gravity bagpipe and it still wouldn't have been any less daft.  Huge dramatic music plays over a clip that doesn't really seem to mean anything, the end titles show and I'm left going "What?  Is that it?  What does that even mean?".

So, Crysis 2.  Like all the stupid films you ever watched shoved together randomly into a huge odd shaped mass.  But astoundingly daft fun.

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