At the end of Crysis: Warhead there's a sprawling, heavily guarded airfield sitting between you and your objective. I'm proud of the fact I managed to get all the way over to it, avoiding all enemies without being spotted. It's one of those moments where everything about a game clicks and you get into a zone. I got spotted about five seconds after getting to the objective, of course, but the act of getting there was perfect.
Unlike Crytek's previous games Crysis 2 isn't set on a lush tropical island though, it's going to be all about the high-rise towers and urban landscapes of New York. It's a risky jump for Crytek to make, going from their comfort zone in the jungles to the area where so many have already laid their claim to dominance: the urban combat zone.
Before we go into why it might or might not work, let's talk about what Crytek are best known for - producing butt-spankingly gorgeous games that make most people weep with joy. And then rage as they realise their computers haven't got a hope in hell of running them. This time out, it's not going to be an issue, Crytek say. We'll believe that when we see it, but 'big' people like Nathan Camarillo, exec producer on Crysis 2, are assuring us that it'll run well. We've seen it running on a 360, which bodes well for the engine's performance.
Of course, the notion of a Crysis sequel being developed across platforms brings to mind expressions like "compromised" and "dumbed down". And behold, that other phrase so despised by people who don't use pads to play shooters: "cover system". Admittedly, it's worrying to think of our beloved PC exclusive joining the rank of Gears of War and Killzone in the much maligned "cover shooter" console stakes.
But perhaps we're being too harsh. Perhaps we're jumping the gun and should give the benefit of the doubt. After all, the cover system (something Crytek won't reveal) won't even be in the PC version. And there's a very real upside to Crysis 2 being developed for PC, 360 and PS3 simultaneously.
Namely, that the challenge of squeezing every ounce of power out of the limited hardware on offer from Microsoft and Sony means we'll end up with a far more efficient, better looking and, most importantly, faster running piece of software. CryEngine will no longer be shorthand for outrageous system requirements. That's a good thing.
What of the actual game, then? As you can imagine, details are still relatively scarce, but we do know a reasonable amount. First of all, the aliens are still around, but Crytek are working hard to make them more exciting to fight than last time. There'll be Stalkers, Grunts, Shadows, Screamers, Spotters, Changelings and Heavy Ticks, apparently. You'll have to use your imagination as to what form they'll all take, but we think clues are provided by the names.
Humans will also be around to provide a good chunk of the beings you slaughter, but this time they're not Korean. They're American, members of the Crynet Systems' infantry, the company behind the Nanosuit itself. Why are you blowing them up? Partly it's because of the scavenger hunt for resources and tech dropped by the aliens, but partly it's, well, a secret.
Anyway, we also know Prophet, your squad leader from the first game, is name-checked at least once in the brief hands-off preview we were given. Whether you play Nomad, Psycho or another Nanosuit-wearer is still up in the air, but there's continuity here, at least. The same goes for the Nanosuit, one of the most distinctive (and award-winning, fact fans) elements of the original's success. Back come the traditional modes - speed, strength, cloak and armour - and they're accompanied by something new: tactical. This vision mode is kind of like using the binoculars in the original. It'll provide a more detailed, information-filled view of the game world, with notifications about discarded weapons, patrolling enemies, information on corpses and so on.