I think it's best to begin this review by comparing the release trailer of Crysis and Crysis 2
They don't feel connected do they? Certainly, the Crysis 2 trailer is put together better, but it barely represents the game you'll play.
In 2007 Crytek released the seminal PC game Crysis. Crysis was well known as being a graphical powerhouse. Many bought Crysis just to test out their computer's prowess. It was only recently that I was able to afford a computer that could run the thing on very high at a high resolution. Even then, I still have framerate issues occasionally.
Unfortunately, the graphical showcase of Crysis overshadowed what was, and still is, a very smart shooter. It was a response to games like Doom and Halo, where you have a single soldier that can do everything and they just go forward killing stuff. They're strong, fast, able to jump high, can soak bullets like nobody's business and pretty much mindless. They don't have to really think about the situation, they just go forward. Crysis forced you to pick and choose what you could do at any given moment through the mechanic of the Nanosuit.
Here is a good representation of what I'm talking about. This is a gameplay trailer, and a bit different from what is in the final release of Crysis, but it's a good approximation.
The areas which you were forced to tackle were very open. It took place on an island afterall. You weren't forced in to a certain way of approaching a situation.
These large environments coupled with the gameplay mechanic of the suit resulted in a synergy of unique gameplay. This design was brilliant because it turned each combat situation in to a puzzle. A puzzle with multiple answers and approaches. I haven't ever played through Crysis the same way twice.
Best of all, the story was very well done. It wasn't the most original, but the way it was told made it engaging. The characters were also well done despite being walking cliches. Prophet, Psycho, Nomad, and the various supporting characters all had a certain charisma. The aliens were actually well designed, and refreshing.
There was one thing wrong with Crysis. It ended with a cliffhanger. It left us wondering what would happen next to our protagonists. Finally, Crysis 2 has been released. Does it live up to the original Crysis? Well...
To start off with, the graphics are still brilliant, but it doesn't stress the limits of hardware like the first one did. It's difficult to compare which game looks better because of the differing environments. The aesthetics are completely different. In certain situations, Crysis looks better. In other situations, Crysis 2 looks better. At the very least, the engine runs better. Very rarely do I run in to framerate issues in Crysis 2.
There will be people that may notice technical differences between the two, but those are few and far between. Most who say one looks better than the other are simply confusing aesthetic for visual prowess. I can only say, that I'm pretty good at picking out glaring visual inconsistencies, and I couldn't notice a decline in quality at all.
Ultimately, graphics aren't what matter. The gameplay is changed, streamlined. I'm a large proponent of streamlinging an obtuse experience, but crysis didn't need that. Dumbing it down is flat out wrong. The brilliant gameplay mechanic in the original Crysis has been dumbed down. Instead of being forced to pick and choose abilities, you are only forced to choose between armor and cloak. Gone are the abilities of strength and speed.
The game is also much more linear. You aren't given a large sections of an island to play around on, despite being on a large island, Manhattan. Rather you are sort of forced to move forward in a very linear fashion killing everything in your way. Don't get me wrong, there's room to approach situations in various ways, but it's a shadow of what the original Crysis offered.
That probably best sums up Crysis 2. A shadow of what the original Crysis offered.
The story changes are infuriating. Crysis ended with a cliffhanger. You'd think that Crysis 2 would pick up from, or at very least answer that cliffhanger. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. Crysis 2 pretty much drops everything that was interesting about the original Crysis. The main characters are notably missing with one exception. The aliens are almost entirely different. Even the equipment is notably changed.
The only returning character is Prophet. He is removed from the plot for most of the game and his relevance is terribly explained through flashbacks, and double crosses that you can see coming a mile away. These flashbacks fail to explain what happened to the main characters of the first game.
The aliens are wholly changed. They were floating blue squid things that wore mechanized suits that allowed them to defy gravity. Now they're red, wear mechanical bipedal suits. Some, even look like they are straight out of Halo. Even their technology looks completely different. Hell, even the way they affect the environment is different. In Crysis, they were connected with sub-zero temperatures. Basically the only reason those in a nanosuit could engage them was because the suit protected the wearer from those temperatures. In Crysis 2, without giving too much away, the significance of the Nanosuit and its relationship to the aliens is wholly different.
Here are some comparisons
It's wholly different. And to be honest, terrible art direction. Yes, these aliens look cool, but there is no consistency, and it throws the narrative off. It's hard to accept that these are the same antagonists, and this feeling is pervasive.
You are essentially given a story that is supposed to be a continuation of a previous story despite missing its protagonists and antagonists.
Even the music is different and much less engaging. In the original Crysis, the music reflected the situation. For example, during most action sequences there was a theme that had sort of a motivating beat. It really complemented the experience. In Crysis 2, the music is barely noticeable. The only time it is noticable is when it echoes Crysis' original music. Though, this only highlights the disappointment.
This is what sums up Crysis 2. It's a disappointment because it doesn't continue any of what made the original great. I'm just scratching the surface with what's different. It's not that different is necessarily bad. Certainly, Crysis 2 is a fun game. However, anyone who played the original Crysis will be disappointed. It will feel like you're playing Call of Duty: Crysis, instead of Crysis 2.