Taking place on a jungle filled tropical island, the original Crysis was released in 2007 and was one of the first titles to feature DirectX 10 graphics support on PC. Visually ahead of its time, Crysis pushed graphics beyond the norm and is a shining example of an FPS that takes video game stories off the rails. Its only problem was it was too far ahead of its time, and required more processing power than was readily available (or affordable) for most gamers.
Crysis: Warhead, a pseudo sequel or spin-off story, was released in 2008. Taking place on a different part of the island, Warhead had similar - though slightly muted - graphics quality with the added benefit of faster performance on mid-range PC gaming equipment.
Crysis 2 is the much anticipated sequel to the first Crysis, and unlike its predecessors, it supports both PC and console platforms (Xbox & PS3). Whereas the first Crysis offered the innovation of DirectX 10 support, Crysis 2’s flagship offering is stereoscopic 3D support that doesn’t hamper gaming performance.
Today, MTBS shares its in-depth review of Crysis 2! Was it worth the wait? Does the stereoscopic 3D really work? Today we find out!
General Game Review
When we left our antagonists in the first Crysis, ancient aliens (“the Cepth”) hibernating under the island had woken up, and a full invasion of humanity was under way!
Crysis 2 takes place three years later. You are a marine named Alcatraz who is sent with his squadron to recover a New York Crynet employee named Doctor Nathan Gould. Turns out that Dr. Gould has vital information you need. Sadly, things go bad with a surprise Cepth attack, and you are separated from your squad.
Manhattan is in post-invasion shambles, and taking on a combination plotline of War of the Worlds, Outbreak, and any number of zombie movies, the population is stricken by a flesh eating virus that has no apparent cure. Rescued by Prophet from the original game, his dying wish is for you to continue his mission where he left off and passes his nanosuit on to you.
This post-apocalyptic New York went from being the “Big Apple” to the “Bad Apple”. Manhattan is under martial law by a private army called Crynet Enforcement & Local Logistics (CELL). You’d think they would be friendy…NOT! Mistaking you for the now deceased Prophet, these guys want you dead and your spiffy Nanosuit 2.0 all for themselves.
As if the machine gun toting henchman weren’t bad enough, New York is strewn with increasingly hostile and advanced Ceph aliens who are happy to tear you apart from nano-enhanced limb from nano-enhanced limb. With great responsibility comes great power, right? Right!
Nanosuit 2.0 is the lifeline that gets you through the game. Similar to the suit in the original Crysis game, it’s as bad-ass as ever! The suit features three standard features: power, cloak, and armor mode.
Power mode gives you bursts of super human strength that can be used for speed, attacks, and jumping very high or far. Cloaking renders you invisible to all but very close targets. Armor gives you rock-hard skin that makes you nearly impenetrable to bullets and munitions. All these abilities require suit energy that depletes depending on how fast you are moving and whether or not you are under attack. A suit recharge is pretty quick, but it often leaves you very vulnerable if you aren’t careful!
The new and improved suit has other benefits too. As you take out Ceph aliens, you collect tissue samples that are absorbed into the suit and unlock special abilities. Abilities like armor enhancements, super fast energy recharging, enemy warnings, and more.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is the interface itself. In the original Crysis, you had to manually pick one of several suit modes while you were playing, and it had a very clumsy feel to it. I can’t tell you how often I wanted to cloak, and hit the power mode by accident! Or I needed to jump over something high, and accidentally cloaked instead. It was very frustrating.
Crysis 2 fixes all that by making the interface a lot more natural. Want to jump super high? Just double tap the space bar. Want to run as fast as a speeding bullet? Just hit the SHIFT key (on PC) and run in the direction you want. The power mode is automatic. The remaining cloak and armor modes are easily accessed with a single key. This really made a positive difference for Crysis 2 and gave a fluid feel to the game. In some ways, it makes the game too easy.
Graphically speaking, I think the original Crysis was more visually innovative. While the Crysis 2 environments are artistically well detailed and visually interesting, I think the underlying technology was rolled back a bit to make the game playable on both mid-range PCs and gaming console. Having played both PC and PlayStation 3 versions, the visual differences aren’t breathtakingly obvious. Perhaps an upcoming DirectX 11 patch will change all that.
That said, don’t confuse graphics quality for level design! What Crysis 2 took away in crazy light calculations, they made up for with creative mission structures and fun environments. As before, the Crysis 2 environment is as much a weapon as your trusty machine gun. You can pick things up, grab enemies, and blast away with the occasional turret gun. One thing I haven’t seen before is the ability to get behind a turret, detach it from its base, and take it with you for blasting on the go. Now how cool is that?!?
Now the big question on everyone’s mind is how does Crysis 2 perform in stereoscopic 3D? Time to find out!
What is 2D+Depth?
Crysis 2 is, by definition, is a native stereoscopic 3D video game. What this means is that the actual game is creating the 3D experience, and it’s not an extrapolation of 3D API calls created by a third party stereoscopic 3D driver.
What makes Crysis 2 different from its 3D gaming predecessors is it is using a 2D+depth technology. Normally, a stereoscopic 3D image requires two distinct camera views which contain unique information. On paper, this could require as much as double the processing power of a traditional 2D game.
2D+depth creates a 3D experience by placing objects at different depths on a pixel by pixel basis. It works by mixing the image captured from a single camera perspective, and combining it with the information from the Z-axis to determine depth placement. The result is then passed on as a separate left and right image for the display.
2D+depth is advantageous because by only requiring a single camera view, it maintains the game’s full performance in both 2D and stereoscopic 3D modes. Unfortunately, unlike a true stereoscopic 3D game with two unique camera views, 2D+depth tends to lose a lot of bite in the process. Limitations usually include depth-only experiences, and object 3D placement and shaping is less convincing.
Stereoscopic 3D Review
Crysis 2 supports most legacy and modern stereoscopic 3D solutions on PC and console. On PC, we tested on an Nvidia GeForce 3D Vision solution with a 24” Acer monitor, and an Nvidia GPU running on a Zalman interlaced monitor. All Nvidia-dependent displays will be listed as running through a driver in Crysis 2 settings, but all it does is pass on the left and right view through the driver to the display – it’s not an extrapolation. All other modes don’t require a driver at all, and go straight to the display.
Crysis 2 uses 2D+depth for most of the game’s FPS imagery, and reserves some actual stereoscopic 3D effects for the heads-up display (HUD). Gamers are given a lot of flexibility for levels of separation (i.e. depth) in the game for optimum comfort, but there are no convergence settings which would be required if you want out of screen effects.
Having played Crysis 2 on both PC and PlayStation 3, I think there is something to be learned here about stereoscopic 3D gaming experiences.
On PC with a 24” 1080P 3D monitor, Crysis 2 had great FPS performance, but the actual stereoscopic 3D experience was lacking compared to what we are used to. As mentioned earlier, traditional stereoscopic 3D gives your eyes a unique image for each eye complete with a different set of visual information. Your brain takes these two unique images and creates a true 3D picture in your mind. Crysis 2 only sources from a single perspective, so even though both your eyes are getting fed a different picture, the information or details between the two views isn’t all that different. This missing ingredient results in a pseudo or less convincing 3D effect.
Here is where things get interesting. On our PS3 console combined with a Panasonic VT20 50” 3D HDTV, Crysis 2 was far more impressive in 3D than it was on PC. It still isn’t as good as a true 3D experience, but it clearly made the screen look more like a window than a flat screen.
I’m guessing that on smaller screens, gamers are more sensitive to the visual details or the lack of visual details, while the big screens don’t necessarily require the same visual elements to get noticeable results.
I think this also explains why Crysis 2 has been receiving mixed reviews from MTBS members. From what I can tell, the gamers that like it are playing on projectors or demoed it at conferences on large sized screens. The less-than-impressed group are gaming on PC platforms with much smaller desktop displays.
To be clear, we are not saying that PC is intrinsically inferior! PCs can be connected to a 3D HDTV (e.g. Nvidia 3DTV Play, side by side mode, etc.) just like a console! It's just that consoles are more likely to be connected to a large sized 3D HDTV by default.
While I appreciate that Crytek didn’t want to trade graphics quality for graphics performance, I think a future patch or sequel should add a true stereoscopic 3D rendering mode option – on PC at least. Yes, it will require cutting down some graphics settings to compensate for performance, but if gamers have the option, all 3D displays will benefit from a fulfilling 3D experience.
Crysis 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable game with a welcome scenery change from the original. While the graphics quality isn’t as over the top as the original, Crysis 2 makes up for it with strong level design and a much more intuitive interface.
Stereoscopic 3D gamers are encouraged to buy this title for PC or console if they are gaming on a large screen like a 3D HDTV or projector. While PC gamers using small desktop screens will have a less than impressive experience, DDD and iZ3D are still developing Crysis 2 profiles that support full stereoscopic 3D mode. This should offer a convincing stereoscopic 3D experience beyond the 2D+depth option that Crytek has included when fully available.
Some final remarks: normally we would give seven days notice for game reviews like this to DDD, iZ3D, and Nvidia. However, since this is a native game which provides all its support internally, this was unnecessary. We purposely did not review the game with stereoscopic 3D driver support for this reason. We have some ideas on how to supplement this review at a later time when full S-3D profiles are available that do not used 2D+depth technology.