Crysis 2 Eyes-On Impressions: Rumble in the Asphalt JungleS

Though it leaves the Pacific islands for New York City, Crysis 2 is still governed by the law of the jungle - do unto others before they do unto you. Fortunately, you get more than one way to do it.

Crysis 2, as detailed in Totilo's earlier preview, presents you with two ways to tackle your objectives: Either as a stealthy predator, or a guns-blazing armored-up tank of a fighter. This Nanosuit enables both. In the demo I saw, which was the conclusion to the cliffhanger presented at EA's E3 news conference, the Crytek handler found reasons for both approaches throughout the level.

Ripping up a piece of sheet metal, for example, turned it into a barrier. That helped him go into active camo and sneak out of there, assailants unaware. Armoring up seemed to be the only way to take down the devastating Pinger - a Ceph alien mecha getting its name from a glowing plunger-like device atop it that apparently sets off a kind of sonic shockwave. Our player rigged it with explosives he'd found laying about Grand Central Terminal, surviving the job thanks to the armor power - but also popping out from an alcove in active camo to bazooka the Pinger in the crotch. Our guy did win the fight.

The combat was largely conventional with a few flourishes that show plenty of room for improvisation, using your surroundings. One impressive tactic was rigging a blown out taxicab with sticky bombs, setting them to manual detonate, then kicking the whole package into the midst of the enemy for the big buh-boom. Mounted heavy guns could be detached and trundled around if their position was no longer optimal. I think everyone got to see the guy use his shotgun to blast apart the ticket booth and the player dive clean through to the other side, taking cover behind it.

The leaps were a real delight, too, seeing our player's left arm fling out, superman-style, as he soared over the atrium at Grand Central and out of the pinger's attack. I'm not sure what this guy looks like to others, but I have to believe it is awe-inspiring.

Crysis 2, is a beautiful game, of course, dedicated to outdoing the top-of-mind reputation its predecessor acquired for devastating even high-end PCs back in 2007. There were some framerate drops when the action got a little hairy. We were advised that this is an alpha build, of course. We saw a shattered New York that still remained vibrant and full of color, giving a sense that whatever's ripping it apart has either just happened or still is in process. Anyone with any firsthand exposure to midtown is going to feel a strong sense of place, speaking well of the game's fidelity to actual places, still set in the future. Crytek wanted to get out of the jungle (the first Crysis and Far Cry) and their choice of the concrete jungle of New York City seemed to work well for what we saw. It showcases both the level of destruction the environment will exhibit (the Pinger makes its entrance through the side of the building) and how you can use that to a tactical advantage.

How all of this will fit together will be the difference between what is really a good-looking shooter and a truly compelling game. Apparently, in the story, you're not supposed to have this Nanosuit, so there's a rogue agent aspect to your swashbuckling and will probably add some diversity to your foes, too.

The game will be 3D-enabled - we didn't see any of that, but did see a 100 percent pre-render trailer in 3D at the E3 presser. Of course that looked awesome, but I have no clue how it works or if it adds value when the gun's actually in your hand.

Crysis 2 is due for a holiday drop and what I saw is where one would expect a project of this scope, packing this kind of a graphical reputation, to be at this point. We had no hands-on with it; I'd really love to see how the game handles between stealth and armor modes, whether it feels truly lighter and stealthier in the former and superhero badass in the latter. But it looks like an invigorating, fluid shootout that will provide tons of action once it arrives.