Crysis 2

This visually stunning sci-fi shooter sets a new benchmark for the genre

Away from the multiplayer arena, fans of first-person shooters have had a pretty tough time of it recently. The short-lived campaign modes served up by high profile releases like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Homefront have failed to live up to expectations and felt more like developers going through the motions rather than pushing the genre in either exciting or interesting new directions. Thanks heavens then for games developer Crytek, which has delivered the shot-in-the-arm this withering genre so desperately needed with its latest offering Crysis 2.

Released in the back end of 2007, the original Crysis was a PC exclusive that in many ways seemed designed to prove what the format could offer above games consoles. Graphically there was little to touch it at the time of release, but it was hamstrung somewhat by the serious demands this graphical powerhouse made of PC systems. Between this last limitation and the narrow audience created by excluding console gamers, Crysis never really found the success it deserved - something Crytek has clearly set out to avoid with the multi-format release of its sequel, going so far as to make the storyline perfectly easy to understand without having to have played through the original.

On the town
Bypassing the jungle settings that typified Crytek's previous shooters, Crysis 2 shifts the action to the devastated streets of New York. But that doesn't mean that the developers have slacked off when it came to the games visuals. While it undoubtedly shines best on powerful PCs, Crysis 2 is still a truly exceptional looking experience of games consoles. Indeed, it's one of the best looking console games HCC has ever seen, which I guess is why one of the loading screens states that the game has been 'achieved' rather than simply developed using the CryEngine 3 game engine. Character models are beautifully detailed while the cityscape itself provides an epic and towering world for you to leap and shoot your way around. The scope and scale of the game is so cinematic that you'll quickly end up wanting to play it on the biggest screen possible - and if you do put Crysis 2 through the projector in your home cinema there are sequences that will simply take your breath away. Big screen gaming doesn't get any better than this. And, if that's not enough, if you've taken the plunge and invested in a 3DTV you can take full advantage of that thanks to a built-in 3D mode that works wonders with the game's the astonishing visuals.

Unlike other titles we could mention, the excitement isn't just surface deep either. Crysis 2 delivers an incredibly deep gaming experience that combines a lengthy and rewarding singleplayer campaign mode with thrilling action scenes and impressive tactical depth. In theory, the endless bells and whistles offered up by your 'Nanosuit 2.0' (including Predator-like invisibility, increased armour, heat vision and a HUD that highlights the positions of enemies, weapons and areas of tactical interest) should completely unbalance the game in your favour. But instead, it simply works to provide an astonishingly rich variety of ways to approach any given set-piece, ensuring that you mix and match styles (stealth, run and gun, etc) depending on the situation at hand. And there are enough enemy forces at play to always keep you on your toes and never guarantee an easy win, no matter how much you plan in advance.

King of New York
Of course, no game is ever perfect, and if Crysis 2 falls over anywhere its in the realm of enemy AI. It's not so much that the soldiers you battle are stupid, more that there are occasional glitches that drag you out of the game. These range from characters ignoring explosions going off right next to them to soldiers getting trapped on a piece of scenery and endlessly running on the spot until you put them out of the misery. And it's not that these are particularly frequent events either - it's just that the rest of the game has been designed so meticulously that little problems like these are arguably more impactful here than they would be in another (less impressive) game.

Outside of the singleplayer mode. Crysis 2 also offers up an enjoyable selection of multiplayer modes based around traditional 'Deathmatch' and 'King of the Hill' games, only given snazzy new names like Instant Action and Crash Site here. If the modes themselves offer little new in terms of multiplayer gameplay, the real excitement comes from the diversity of maps unlocked and additional gameplay modes that open up as you keep playing, plus the extra tactical options offered up by plentiful customisation options. And if none of it is quite as revelatory as the singleplayer mode, the multiplayer here is still a lot of fun and will keep fans going for some time.

Xbox 360 (version tested)/PS3/PC, EA, £50 approx, On sale now