My first hour or so with Crysis 2 was not exactly fun. I expected that my high tech Nanosuit would protect me from bullets, allow me to safely leap from the tops of buildings, and perform ridiculous feats of strength from the get-go. Naturally, this miscalculation led to an assortment of quick and violent deaths.
As early as the second firefight in the game, I found myself facing defeat. Initially, I tried to activate my Cloak (nearly invisible/stealth mode) and kill all of the enemies in an area. After I snuck up on my first enemy and took him out with a knife, I tried to hide behind some cover. When I came out of stealth mode, still crouched, an enemy noticed me through a slit in the wall and started filling me with bullets, alerting everyone else around me to do the same.
The next time, I decided that I’d be a little gutsier. I activated stealth and did a running leap over the enemies ahead of me. Apparently they noticed the rippling air around my cloaked form, since they immediately proceeded to fire a million bullets at me. Needless to say, the words "reload last save" quickly became burned into my mind.
Like this, but with the roles reversed.
After a few false starts, I finally realized that the game didn’t want me to use my cloaking ability to kill everyone, but to sneak by my enemies instead. With this in mind, I managed to escape the area by taking an unguarded route, hardly using the cloak at all, and only fighting off three or four enemy soldiers.
I was baffled. Why would a game put me in a fancy mechanical suit if it wanted me to sneak around avoiding conflict? I expected that cloaking would essentially turn me into the Predator, but unfortunately, the suit wasn’t strong enough and my skills were too weak to do anything but run away from people. I know that the game was trying to teach me to use stealth, but why was I punished for experimenting with what I could do with the power?
The tide began to turn when I gained the enhanced armor ability. By trading my suit’s energy, I could take a lot more bullets before going down. This allowed me a bit more wiggle room in a firefight, essentially turning me into RoboCop (NSFW language) for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, after a few smaller-scale skirmishes where I felt practically indestructible, the game started hounding me once again.
"Okay," I thought to myself, "I’m just going to have to play smarter here. I’ll use a silenced gun and stealth to eliminate the guys on the turrets, activate my armor, tear a turret off of the truck it’s attached to, take out the enemies around me, then drive the truck to the waypoint. This sounds like a good plan in which nothing will go wrong."
Of course, I didn’t notice the assortment of enemies that were hiding just outside of my view from my vantage point, and by the time I’d wrenched the gun from the truck, I was dead. I had made the mistake of using a powered jump when I’d leapt from the rooftop I was on, which decreased my energy, making my enhanced armor less useful. Following this, once again, I reloaded my save and made sure to take down more enemies with my silenced rifle before I leapt down to the truck. After having to modify my plans a few times, I finally completed my task, mentally complimenting myself for my tank-like combination of turret fire and power armor.
Despite the few successes I had, though, my experience with Crysis 2 initially involved enough player-deaths to make Demon’s Souls proud. I figured I had to be doing something wrong…
Then it hit me.
The Predator didn’t take on Arnold’s entire troop in a single battle. It hid in the jungle, picking them off one by one with its agility and combat prowess! I needed to do the same thing in Crysis 2. Instead of thinking that I could use a single plan and sheer firepower to eliminate an entire enemy force, I had to think smaller. A battle could change at a moment’s notice, and if my grand schemes were thwarted, I never had any backup plans. I needed to learn to strategize from cover to cover.
For instance, instead of jumping cloaked off of a ledge, grabbing an enemy for use as a human shield and rushing into gunfire with armor like I initially attempted to do, I had to make less grandiose, almost split-second tactical decisions. Okay, new plans.
While on the ledge above the enemy soldiers, I cloaked and scanned my enemy targets and tactical options on the battlefield. I then de-cloaked behind cover, recovered energy, and attached a silencer to my pistol. While normal gunfire immediately snaps Alcatraz (the silent protagonist) out of his cloaked state, the silencer allows him to stay cloaked while shooting for slightly longer. I quickly moved into a position where most of the troops were within pistol range.
To see the enemies through the dust of a recent earthquake, I activated the Nanosuit’s "Nanovision" ability while cloaked, allowing me to see the heat signatures of enemy soldiers. If an enemy walked too close to me or left his compatriot’s line of sight, I eliminated him. After taking out a couple of enemies, I let my energy replenish itself, engaged my power armor, and equipped my shotgun. The last couple of enemies were eliminated, and I took a moment to take pride in my work…
…Only to be blindsided by a tank shell.
Fortunately, the remainder of my energy gauge took the damage, since I still had enhanced armor mode on. I quickly got behind cover, cloak, and snuck through the tank’s assault to my waypoint, finishing the mission, and then patting myself on the back.
When I discovered the way Crysis 2 wanted me to play it, I realized that my earlier frustrations came solely from a combination of ineptitude and misunderstanding. I had to learn that the game wasn’t about eliminating hordes of enemies in the open, but rather darting from cover to cover, using my suit to trick enemies into making themselves vulnerable, and picking them off one by one.
When Crysis 2 clicked, it really clicked. What initially felt like insurmountable trials became open-ended opportunities. The limits to the suit’s powers weren’t meant to be punishments, but rather a way to force the player to make quick and effective decisions with the energy they had. I’d made the mistake of thinking that the game would allow me limitless power, and was punished for it. However, when I thought of the main character as a human instead of a superhero, I discovered how fun and freeing my powers could be.
I hope Robocop and the Predator would be proud.
Food For Thought
1. Crysis 2 tries to explain away its silent protagonist by explaining that has a hangover. This must have been a heck of a hangover, since as far as I’ve played, Alcatraz hasn’t said a word.
2. In the game’s opening video, there’s talk about soaring gas prices, but the prices on the gas station’s sign are less than they are in my neighborhood.
3. That opening video is mostly live-action footage but there’s a very jarring interview with one of the game’s main characters that is very clearly CG.
4. The first few aliens you encounter in the game act in really interesting ways. Instead of simply attacking you, they almost seem like they’re curious. The game seems to present them in a dangerous fashion, but it’s kind of cool just to watch them hop around wreckage and stuff. They seem less vicious than regular soldiers, too.
5. While New York is an interesting setting for a game, one would assume that even after an deadly viral outbreak, there would be more people and cars in the city.