- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2011

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Crysis 2: Limited Edition (from Electronic Arts reviewed for PlayStation 3, rated M for mature, $59.99).

Fueled by a story written by sci-fi author and comic book scribe Richard K. Morgan, this first-person-shooter sequel finds a player stuck in New York City under siege in 2023, on a mission to save humanity from extraterrestrials and biological warfare.

What’s the Story? From the game manual: Something’s gone horribly wrong in New York City, and there are rumors of a possible Ebola outbreak, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis. Alcatraz, a U.S. Special Forces Marine, and the rest of his Marine Recon unit are a little skeptical over the reasons for sending in trained soldiers to handle a virus. Whatever is happening, it’s serious, and they are going in — whether they like it or not.

Play the role: The player becomes Alcatraz, who is encased in an exoskeleton called the Nanosuit. Pop-culture fans will feel the deja vu love as the technology is reminiscent of comic book character X-O Manowar with a bit of Robocop and G.I. Joe’s Accelerator Suit thrown in for good measure.

Set loose in a war zone spearheaded by an alien invasion that’s turning the Big Apple into an urban jungle, the player battles government-sanctioned military might and the mysterious Ceph invaders as he infiltrates such famed spots as the FDR Freeway, Wall Street, Times Square and Ellis Island.

His wondrous Nanosuit offers two areas of extra performance: armor enhancement to absorb heavy damage (including taking the impact from large falls) and a cloaking device to move around undetected.

Here’s the strategic rub. You have limited energy to power the Nanosuit. The energy eventually will recharge, but that can leave Alcatraz very vulnerable.

Additionally, a tactical visor offers two modes of support. First, it can display real-time intelligence in any hostile situation (for example, it can detect enemies behind structures, tag items or help with location of objectives). Second, is what I’ll call Predator vision: It uses heat signatures to identify hostiles in situations when Alcatraz is visually impaired.

Another nice touch allows Alcatraz to take control and drive vehicles. And, yes, it’s pretty cool to handle an armored death machine loaded with side missiles and a high-caliber machine gun, wreaking havoc on enemy locations.

Get to the action: For as much as this game is about using the armor and its upgrades, the action also relies on enjoying a fantastic selection of weapons dropped by fallen enemies and simply scattered around various locales like gifts.

A player eventually chooses from almost two dozen primary weapons, including the Grendel heavy-assault rifle, an electrostatic pellet gun, L-Tag tactical airburst grenade launcher and Microwave Incendiary Klystron Emitter (it broils aliens in their suits); four revolver-style secondary weapons; a selection of extra explosives (don’t ignore the anti-tank missiles); and some major firepower ranging from a heavy machine gun to a guided minimissile launcher.

On the fly, many of the weapons and suit powers are customizable using a translucent pop-up menu (a bit like Dead Space 2) that appears before Alcatraz in the middle of the action. For example, the player can add a silencer, extra magazine or grenade launcher to a primary rifle or enable a proximity alarm on the Nanosuit.

Memorable moments (in no particular order): Escaping a submarine and emerging from the water to view a badly damaged Statue of Liberty (my “Planet of the Apes” moment); super throwing an enemy into the Hudson River; blasting a truck’s fuel tank and watching it slowly catch fire and then explode; taking time to appreciate the beautiful selection of flowers in a New York City park; almost feeling the water spray while locked in a decontamination chamber; and listening to Hans Zimmer’s supportive, yet understated and perfectly orchestrated, musical score

Violent encounters: Blood is spilled during every firefight, but I have seen more gruesome death from a slew of recent first-person shooters (reference Bulletstorm, please).

Still, killing is often the best way to meet objectives (including extracting suit upgrades from dead aliens) and Alcatraz can shoot from a distance or stalk prey in that cool stealth mode, sneaking up on enemies and snapping necks, strangling, sticking a knife in the rib cage or using enemies as human shields.

Story Continues →