It's this sort of freedom that the 360's shooter library badly needs. Gears of War was about as open as Woolworths, while Halo: ODST's supposed freedom was limited to the Rookie missions that bookended the game's tightly structured flashback sections. Even Halo Reach, for all its promise, seems to be heading down a very different path to this game. If Crysis 2 can manage to retain the freedom of the first in the series, it will be unlike any shooter the 360 has seen yet.
All of which makes the move to NYC more than a little troubling. The whole game will, apparently, take place there - a place not typically known for its vast tropical environments, or indeed its killer sharks. It's probably safe to assume we can expect major landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building to make an appearance, probably in the context of getting blown up.
Sadly, Crytek haven't revealed much - indeed, anything - about the plot yet; if original hero Nomad will return, whether Crysis Warhead's Psycho will take up the mantle, or if some new guy will step into the Nanosuit.
JUNGLE TO JUNGLE
What we do know is that it's a very different setting to the first game. And according to Nathan Camarillo, the Executive Producer at Crytek, it's for the unique possibilities that come with the new locale. "We decided to pick New York as it's one of the world's premier hotspots; it's a very important place for the entire world. In general, a city offers more opportunities for vertical gameplay than a jungle; the player can jump between different floors, jump on buses, on trucks, in craters, and from one building to another.
The player is much more mobile in a city playground, and can change his position more often. They also have a lot more freedom (in this kind of world), as they can plan or attack someone from above, and gain an advantage."
The freeform tactics of the first game are intact, albeit in a slightly different form. Crytek are adapting to the new locale by incorporating all of the vertical elements that come with a major city - in particular, unsurprisingly, the enormous skyscrapers. It makes sense: Crysis puts you in the shoes of an all-but superhero, and what better place for a superhero to fight crime than New York City? It's been home, variously, to Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and countless others; spiritually, Crytek are simply trying to draw on New York's iconic history.
The major concern, of course, is that the new setting will undermine the sandbox nature of the original. Camarillo doesn't think so. "When we started thinking about Crysis 2, we first figured out what we could improve, in which direction we'd like to go, and what the next playground could be. Crysis 2 is a sandbox game. In contrast to the common sandbox, Crysis has borders and a world that extends beyond those borders but - just as importantly - we go into more detail within our play space too."
LOST IN NEW YORK
As cynics, we need to butt in here to point out that 'more detail' usually means 'smaller environments', but then again, there is far more background detail to represent in a city, not to mention a greater number of people and objects to interact with. The major problem with city-set games up until now (Grand Theft Auto IV aside) is that they just haven't had the processing clout to present a lifelike city in its expansive, people-packed glory.
With the power of CryEngine 3 behind it, Camarillo doesn't see that problem, or the problem of offering the player genuine freedom of movement, as an issue. "I think the freedom of Crysis 2 will surprise console gamers.
Crysis is not about 'go anywhere'; it is about looking at a situation from a great vantage point and then formulating a plan that you proactively initiate to defeat your foes. You have a lot of freedom in what that plan entails, and what weapons and world interactions you use. This is what we're calling Veni Vidi Vici gameplay: I came, I saw, I conquered, and it should be quite fresh to the console market."