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Game Review

New York City has often been described as a concrete jungle. But rarely has that phrase been more apropos than it is in Crysis 2, the follow-up to the highly acclaimed 2007 sci-fi shooter Crysis. It's 2023. And things are not good in the Big Apple. Residents—the ones who are still alive—face not only martial law, but two apocalyptic-level threats.

First there's the Manhattan super virus, a nasty bug with a penchant for decimating the cells of anyone unlucky enough to be infected by it—which is, of course, almost everyone. Then there's the fact that Gotham is also under assault by an alien race known as the Cephaloids. This time around, the Cephs have traded in the many-tentacled form they manifested in Crysis for a slightly more humanoid, bipedal arrangement … all clad in plenty o' advanced robotic armament. And they're determined to wipe out the human race.

Oh, and it turns out that some of the humans who are left are pretty problematic, too.

Escape From New York
If that sounds like a lot to deal with, well, it would be for any average Joe. But a United States Marine named Alcatraz is anything but average. Especially when he dons a cybernetic armored outfit known as the Nanosuit 2.0, which turns him from fierce fighter into something closer to superhero. Alcatraz had been part of a team tasked with infiltrating the city and extracting one Dr. Nathan Gould, a scientist who once worked for the private paramilitary outfit known as Crynet Enforcement & Local Logistics.

The rest of the team's dead now. And Gould is still in the city.

So Alcatraz's assignment is to get in, find Gould, get out. En route, in addition to evading or taking out all the aliens in his path, Alcatraz must also contend with another rogue element: the trigger-happy buffoons over at C.E.L.L., who are supposed to be enforcing martial law … but are mostly just making things worse.

Suiting Up
Gameplay in this first-person shooter is exactly that: first person. Crysis 2 offers one of the most immersive environments I've ever experienced with a game controller in my hands. It's so immersive I barely even noticed when the opening cutscene seamlessly morphed into gameplay. Likewise, the crumbling remains of the city are rendered with breathtaking cinematic realism.

But this game is also very much a shooter. So if you spend too much time gazing at the pixel-perfect devastation that its developers cooked up, well, you're likely to join it. There are piles and piles of bad aliens and bad guys to kill. And whereas the nanosuit in Crysis offered four distinct modes, this time around things have been simplified into two: 1) armor and infiltration, 2) tactical and power. The first increases your ability to endure damage and use stealth abilities, which enable you to sneak up and slice enemies throats, for instance. The second maximizes offensive potential. Amping up the power mode gives you the strength to lift, say, a car and hurl it at your myriad opponents.

You also have more traditional ranged weaponry at your disposal, almost all of which you scavenge along the way. From pistols to rifles to shotguns to sub-machine guns to a microwave gun that, in the words of videogamer.com reviewer Martin Gaston, "causes alien heads to pop into visually resplendent goop."

"Catastrophically Beautiful"
It's the goopy moments like those, no doubt, that the game's creators hope will help Crysis 2 stand out amid a crowded shooter field. In the words of Crytek Frankfurt's developers, they wanted to create something "catastrophically beautiful," a shooter experience unlike anything else out there.

In some limited ways, I think they've succeeded. Once Alcatraz makes it to the city, it's hard not to just stand and look at the game's stunning rendering of NYC torn absolutely asunder. Crumbling landmarks—like the listing Statue of Liberty—inject the game's setting with haunting emotional resonance.

In more ways, though, there's ultimately little here that we haven't seen and heard before—most of which we don't really want to see and hear again. Splattered alien remains. Rotting, unclothed human corpses piled up in a warehouse. A nonstop stream of the harshest profanities, including Jesus' name punctuated by the f-word.

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