At this point, you're probably well aware that Crysis 2 has traded in the lush island jungle of the first game for an altogether different location in scenic Manhattan. Well, maybe it's not all that scenic. We're talking about the Big Apple post-alien invasion here. What we've seen of the game thus far has given us a good idea of how players can traverse the streets and rooftops of Manhattan using the signature nanosuit in Crysis--that impossibly powerful (and stylish!) piece of sci-fi outerwear that gives your character the ability to do, well, just about everything. With our most recent look at the game, we've been able to see what this first-person shooter's vision of New York looks like when you get off the rooftops and head toward lower ground.
The level in question is called Semper Fi or Die, taking place roughly halfway through the campaign. You awaken in a shallow pond in Madison Square Park amidst colossal piles of rubble and destroyed infrastructure. Dazed and delirious, a fellow soldier hands you a gun--all but assuring you that this nice little dip in the water isn't going to last much longer. There are grumpy aliens about, after all. You and the squad move through the remains of New York that have been violently scattered throughout the park. It's an environment filled with unsettling reminders of New York's former glory, including the disembodied arm of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the ground like some terrifying beacon leading you forward.
You might be able to guess what happens next. You run into a cluster of giant bipedal aliens standing seven or eight feet tall with the ability to leap in and out of your way with deft ease. Fortunately, you're given a tremendous number of tools and amount of freedom to approach conflicts with these agile enemies, even with the game moving from the vast jungles of the first game into the dense urban streets of Manhattan. The reason is simple: This isn't the Manhattan that you visited with your family over spring break in 1997. It is, quite simply, Manhattan gone to hell--and that opens up a lot of new ways to move about each level.
This particular firefight took place in a massive sinkhole in the ground, where there likely once stood a large intersection between tall buildings. The daring types can take advantage of the severed water mains by sliding down the steep slope leading down below as though it were some kind of water park slide, which is a handy approach for catching the aliens off guard. If you're the more methodical type, you can use the scattered and overturned city buses to climb up to street level to gain a perch dozens of feet above your enemies to pick them off with a sniper rifle. And, then, there are the various other strategies somewhere in between those two that we won't even get into right now. This is a game where you're moving through areas of Manhattan that somehow feel wide open yet still dense with objects and scenery to use to your advantage, which leads to a lot of possibilities.
Maneuvering between enemies down on the ground, you have a huge suite of tools to choose from, but it comes at the price of a fairly sizable learning curve. It also becomes clear that Crysis 2 is a shooter fan's first-person shooter. A tactical visor allows you to overlay helpful locations and then manually tag them so that things like distant enemies and ammo caches stay highlighted once you've gone back into combat. There are also your nanosuit abilities that include features like stealth cloaking to sneak up on enemy aliens (stab their glowing fleshy bits from behind for an instant kill!) and armor reinforcement to temporarily become a flat-out bullet sponge. Of course, that stuff is familiar to anyone who played the first game. New to the series, however, is the ability to upgrade your suit. As one example, we got to try out a sensor proximity upgrade that beeped at a higher frequency as enemies drew closer to us.
Fully wrapping your head around all the different ways you can approach a given combat situation is something that, frankly, takes a bit of a time investment. There's a good bit of strategy that goes along with knowing when to switch on your suit's armor ability when you're taking too many hits; when to tag ammo crates in your visor mode that you'll probably need to run back to (it's very easy to burn through ammo); and when the best time is to swap out an ACOG for a reflex scope on the fly (which you can do with a few simple button presses). But even with this learning curve, Crysis 2 feels very much like a game that embraces experimentation--giving you plenty of incentive to learn the ins and outs of your various tools and abilities.
Our demo ended with protagonist Alcatraz overlooking a giant canyon in the middle of the city hundreds of feet deep--a yawning abyss carved deep into the guts of Manhattan. But as we looked up, we saw the city's skyscrapers towering above the ground line, essentially doubling the sense of scale in one quick turnaround. We didn't get a chance to see what happened next, but we're certainly eager to see what does. For now, expect Crysis 2 to arrive on March 22.