Crytek's "Crysis 2" takes place in a futuristic Manhattan ravaged by aliens. Electronic Arts

“Crysis 2” is neither a shooter nor a stealth game in the purest sense of either genre.

To be a shooter, it’d have to force your trigger hand in unavoidable confrontations with enemies. It doesn’t quite do that. To be a stealth game, it’d have to shove you right under the nose of those enemies in moments where only your cunning and patience can keep you alive and undetected. It doesn’t quite do that either.

Instead, “Crysis 2” lets you shoot the guts out of aliens and human soldiers, or just turn on your cloak and skirt along the edges of the game’s generally humongous maps scot-free.

So what kind of a game is “Crysis 2”? Notwithstanding this curious approach to game design, it’s a fun one.

Along with a super-armor mode, the cloak is one perk of “Crysis 2’s” most distinguishing device: the Nanosuit, a symbiotic full-body suit that lets the player jump high, run fast and kick a car a dozen feet. As a Marine code-named Alcatraz, you inherit the suit from “Crysis” character Prophet upon arriving in alien-infested, 2023 Manhattan. Your mission is to find a doctor who may know how to stop the heavily armored, pink-bodied aliens. But your more immediate goal is to survive the squads of them who want to kill you and the private military units who want to peel the Nanosuit from your corpse.

“Crysis 2” is most thrilling when you choose the way of the (obscenely high-powered) gun, though this method also makes the least prominence of the game’s departures from every other shooter. If you stick to that same old strategy — “shoot, cover, shoot, cover, recover health, throw grenade” — you might not explore the tremendously detailed wreckage of the wide-open, dynamic Manhattan scenery, or make much use of the cloak.

But your heart will pound. The aliens in particular are a beastly force that flanks you without mercy, and the trio of showdowns with an AT-ST-looking mech delivers relentless cat-and-mouse suspense. The only recurring problem in combat is AI that’s so buggy, Crytek convinced me the enemy military has a whole battalion of soldiers whose tactical specialty is running into walls.

If you choose to stay sneaky, you might scratch your head for much of “Crysis 2” and wonder whether you’re playing a game or taking a postapocalyptic Manhattan walking tour.

Sure, some shooting is inevitable. Cloaking, like all of the Nanosuit’s abilities, is tied to a power bar that exhausts after enough use. When it does, you might peek-a-boo right before an enemy’s eyes. Some you’ll benefit from killing, namely the aliens, whose remains yield biological material with which you can upgrade the Nanosuit. A few you have no choice but to shoot, like the mechs and the foolishly underused final boss breed of alien, which smacks some poetic justice upon the sneakiest players.

And sure, cloaking does have its fun moments. It can be a tense few seconds to sit in the potential view of descending enemies while you wait for the Nanosuit’s power to recharge before cloaking again.

But for the most part in “Crysis 2,” you can just stroll by camps of soldiers or aliens and proceed to the next chapter. Even on the hardest difficulty, foes aren’t remotely alert to your presence until you’re 2 feet in front of them. So what’s the point?

By giving it a well-lit easy street, Crytek makes you choose how much to engage — and, by extension, enjoy — “Crysis 2.” Players who just want to conquer the game and rack up the trophies/achievements can do so, but they’ll tire quickly. Players who want to spike their pulses, on the other hand, will get their fix from the tactical balance I struck after a few hours: Only cloak when you must. The gunfights, both compulsory and optional, will excite you for hours on end. But if a trouble spot pops up and you’re biting your controller because you can’t shoot your way through, just sneak on by. This open approach to the design of “Crysis 2” may not be the most skillful nor even the most likable, but motivated players will find plenty of satisfaction in it regardless.

If you’ve ever been to Manhattan, you’ll recognize several parts of Alcatraz’s route. He infiltrates a quarantine camp near Battery Park, sabotages military supplies near Trinity Church and confronts the mechs in Grand Central and Times Square. The landmarks, realized by Crytek’s much-vaunted CryEngine 3, are stunning to behold.

Several of those iconic Manhattan areas double as multiplayer maps, where the cloak mode is again the major wrinkle in a very familiar — but still fun — routine of leveling up and unlocking weapons. But if you loathe campers in the multiplayer arena, “Crysis 2’s” cloaking won’t endear them to you any more — and may sour you on the game’s multiplayer altogether.

As a multiplatform sequel to a PC game so technologically demanding few players could even run it, “Crysis 2” may hold the distinction of being the most-played sequel to the least-played game. As such, the story — already a dull affair on its own merits — may lose your attention with each reference to the events of “Crysis.” But between the ambushes and double-crosses, there are plenty of paths to enjoyment in “Crysis 2.” You just have to find them.

David Wilcox


Twitter @drwilcox

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