There's something special about playing a well-made first person shooter on the PC that sets it apart from its console counterparts. The original Crysis was very much the pinnacle of this, when played on a powerful-enough PC of course. It was like the difference between watching Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock on VHS and being there in the flesh to soak up the atmosphere.
Add in the fact that Crytek resoundly claimed that the Xbox 360 and PS3 just plain couldn't handle the CryEnigne 2 full stop then Crysis was a very special experience indeed.
With this in mind a many PC gamers recoiled in terror at the announcement that Crysis 2 and indeed CryEngine 3, the technology behind it, would be multiplatform. How could Crytek betray their PC gaming fanbase so dreadfully?
The easy answer would be to say that they wanted to make more money but, having played Crysis 2 on the PlayStation 3, I would beg to differ on that point.
The aim in developing Crysis 2 for consoles as well as PC was to gain Crytek a bigger budget to play with so that they could not only improve on the technology and the experiences they produced so masterfully with Crysis but also so they could finally bring a PC-like FPS experience to the console generation.
This they have done in impressive style. Crysis 2 is glorious. It begins almost as the first one did with a team of marines gearing up for insertion into Manhattan Island by submarine to find a scientist, Nathan Gould. A virus outbreak caused by the Ceph, the alien race woken up in the first game, has caused the island to be quarantined and the Gould has knowledge vital to curing the virus and stopping the Ceph.
It soon emerges that this is no milk run and the submarine is destroyed and you, codenamed Alcatraz, and your team have to escape. The relief at the surface is short lived as you are greeted by a Ceph gunship which slaughters your team and leaves you for dead until you are discovered by Prophet, Nomad's team leader in Crysis.
Prophet, stricken by the virus himself gifts you his Nanosuit and passes his mission onto you before ending his life rather than succumbing to the Ceph virus.
Of course, this turns out to be much more complicated than a simple extraction mission and you are soon embroiled in a pitched battle between the Ceph, the US Military and the private military forces of weapons and pharmaceuticals company Hargreave Rasch who just happen to have developed the Nanosuit.
The storyline shifts and swirls around and is almost as dynamic as the environments that Crytek have created to be a backdrop for the story. They have used the towering buildings of Manhattan to create one of the most awe-inspiring battlefields yet. Earthquakes, crashing aircraft and heavy weapons fire all conspire to bring buildings crashing down. With every new challenge thrown at Alcatraz there are a myriad of tactical options that allow you to utilise your favourite aspects of the suit.
You can play the entire game through using whatever approach you like best or even adopt different tactical approaches as the situation requires. The key to making the most Crysis 2 is in uncovering the amazing flexibility that Crytek have handed you. This counts for everything through your approach to dealing with your enemies to how you set up your weapons and your Nanosuit.
Every weapon has two or three different customisable points that allow you to fit silencers, laser sights, grenade launchers and a variety of scopes as you come across them. The Nanosuit itself also has four customisable slots that can be fitted with different upgrades that can be bought with nano-material dropped by dead Ceph.
All this customisation would be overwhelming especially with so many different functions to control and, while PC gamers will be comfortable with the relative complexity the console version requires a tad more finesse on the implementation. Again Crytek do not disappoint.
One of the criticisms of the original Crysis, aside from the crippling demands it placed on PC hardware, was that the system for using the suit's powers was a bit unwieldy. For the console version of Crysis 2 they have solved this admirably creating a control system that facilitates the flow of the action admirably. Armour and stealth modes are toggled by the right and left analogue triggers and the power mode is only activated when charging a jump, melee attack or sprinting.
Firing a weapon while cloaked with the exception of silenced pistols will result in an immediate drain on the suit's energy and the disengaging of the cloak. Two weapons can be carried at any one time and their corresponding customisation options can be accessed by holding down the select button while the weapon is equipped. Pushing select button will open up the Nanosuit customisation menu allowing to buy and to switch between the various upgrade modules.
Demolition weapons, fire modes/under-barrel weapons, binoculars and visor modes are mapped on to the d-pad in an intuitive fashion allowing full access to your arsenal almost without thinking.
The enjoyable story and the well-worked controls would be nothing, however, without what everyone now buys a Crytek game for an that is the cutting edge visuals. Crysis 2 is beautiful beyond comparison. The apocalyptic destruction wrought on New York City is so clear crisp and sharply presented that it almost brings a tear to the eye. Crysis 2 is easily the best-looking game on any platform at the minute by a good country mile.
Crysis 2 is not all wonders though. There are a few dubious moments where enemies appear to disappear into walls or the impressive throat-grab kill manoeuvre is executed seemingly without actually grabbing the enemy. Occasionally weapons, usually the heavy ones that you really need don't always appear at the resupply points either. There are all small grievances though that can be fixed with some small patches and don't taint the experience too the point of despair.
In fact despair is far from how I would go about describing Crysis 2. For the best part of seventeen years consoles have been trying to emulate the unparalleled experience of playing first person shooters on the PC. For the first time Crysis 2 shows console gamers that they can have the PC experience without the massively expensive gaming rig.
As with Crysis before it, Crytek has set a new benchmark for the FPS experience with Crysis 2 and now everyone can share it, console and PC gamers alike.