Crytek and EA Partners chose New York City's Tribeca Grand Hotel as its location to unveil Crysis 2 to the press for a good reason -- the latest game in the franchise is set against the backdrop of a post-disaster New York City.
Original Crysis gained acclaim for the richness of its mysterious tropical island setting, and Crytek head Cevat Yerli told attendees at the media event that adding the verticality of city skyscrapers -- making the jungle into an "urban jungle," so to speak -- will help the new game's environment raise the bar.
It also raises the emotional stakes, Yerli asserts. "New York is symbolic for the pride of mankind," he said. "If I could pick one city to protect, it would be New York... if the gamer cannot save New York, then no other city can be saved effectively."
The city's architecturally-accurate rendering of the city in shambles, gone white with dust and haunted in its shadows with the lamplike eyes of alien invaders, is visually arresting thanks to the new tech in Crytek's CryEngine 3 -- which also brings the Crysis franchise to consoles for the first time, meaning it will no longer be solely the domain of high-end PC players.
The tech demo showed off CryEngine 3's realtime lighting, dynamic time of day features, deferred lighting, color grading, procedural destruction and deformation, and integrated physics, among other graphical effects. Yerli says developers can now "live create" with the technology across multiple platforms at once.
The interaction and destructibility that will give Crysis 2's New York its "catastrophic beauty", as Yerli called it, "is driven mainly through technology." But throughout the demonstration event, special attention was paid to the game's Nanosuit 2, an evolution on the futuristic military bodysuit first introduced in Crysis that was touted with a dramatic full-size statue at the event.
Crytek focused on "streamlining the experience of the Nanosuit that people have been playing in Crysis and [making] it accessible, more visually reformed and also more empowered than ever before," said Yerli, adding that the team considered "how can a player express himself with less interface, less obstruction and more clear empowerment?"
EA Partners, which will be continuing its ongoing publishing relationship with the franchise, was enthusiastic to present it to the media. "One of the great things about the working relationship that we have with Crytek is that it's been extended over a long period of time," EA Partners' David DeMartini said at the event.
He said that many of Crytek's six global locations are contributing their resources to Crysis 2, and explained why, in his words, the publisher is "so excited" about the game. "A lot of it comes down to Cevat and his creativity and the vision that he brings to the franchise," he said.
"No one at Crytek is going be putting the B-team on this game. These guys are one of the dominant players in the shooter category, and they're taking this battle very seriously," he added. "They're going to be delivering the greatest product that is going to come out this year."
The team hopes that the input of lead writer Richard Morgan, a sci-fi author known for projects like Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, will lend the project sincere depth. At the event, Morgan described himself as a "crazy enthusiastic console gamer" struck by the potential for games to explore areas other media cannot.
Morgan, too, expressed enthusiasm for being part of Crysis 2. "I showed up in this kind of spoiling storm of creativity," he said, describing his role: "As lead writer, you're like a lens, and the idea is you've gotta take all this creativity and try and refract it through the lens of the story. It's very much a case of building something that supports the gameplay but also is integral to it."
After feedback on the first game that called the story "predictable," in Morgan's words, he says Crytek has tasked him firstly with creating something less predictable for the sequel. "It's hopefully a story where you don't know what's going on, and you don't know what's coming next," he said.
He's also energized by the New York setting, and says working with the location was another mandate for him from Crytek. "New York is probably the most iconic city on the planet, so immediately there's a massive emotional charge to that -- not just for Americans, I think, but internationally as well," says the UK author.
The third element Morgan focused on in his story work is the emphasized Nanosuit 2. "As a sci-fi writer, I'm interested in tech -- but what I'm really interested in is how it's kind of unpredictable," he teased. "It's a very useful and sharp tool but it can cut both ways."
"There's a mystery at the heart of it," he continues. "The technology is not what it seems; there's more to it than appears on the surface. The suit itself has a destiny, an endpoint, and that destiny gets entwined with the destiny of the city you're trying to save."