Crysis came out in 2007 for the PC and it was widely praised for its open-ended first person shooter gameplay and its amazing graphics, even if it did bust a few vid cards along the way. Grabbing it on Steam last month, I was surprised at how well Crysis holds up even 3 years later and I thought it totally deserved all of that praise. When the Crytek team in Frankfurt, Germany, started work on the sequel, CEO Cevat Yerli wanted to take the greatness of the first game and make it fricking awesome for the next one. Before presenting the first in-game demonstration of Crysis 2 to a room full of journalists at the Tribeca Grand Hotel this week, Yerli said one of the problems was that no one cared about the jungle of Crysis as a setting. Palm trees and pretty beaches didn't mean anything to the gamer. That's why he decided to set the game in the streets of the most iconic city in the world, New York City.
"New York is symbolic for the pride of mankind," Yerli said. "If I would pick one city to protect, it would be New York. If the gamer cannot save New York, then no other city can be safe effectively."
I've heard Americans, especially New Yorkers, express this sentiment before, but Yerli himself is Turkish and he is the head of the biggest game studio in Europe. Most of the Crytek team, from the head writer to the art director, are not from the United States at all. To hear them discuss setting Crysis 2 in New York City, where I lived for ten years, as such an integral part of their design was heartening.
"It's possibly the most iconic city in the world," said lead writer Richard Morgan, who is British. "And not just for Americans. It's massively iconic for people everywhere. Everyone knows New York."
From the first fragments of music heard in the first Crysis 2 trailer - hosted for your convenience above - it's clear that the decision to set the game in that city had paid off. A breathless child-like voice sings, "Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today," as we see a poster board spattered with messages of lost children and lovers from an alien attack in Central Park. A soldier wearing the Nanosuit 2 looks at the iconic Flatiron and Empire State Buildings while a group of flying alien creatures, which you might remember from the endgame of Crysis, stage a devastating ambush on American military helicopters. Through it all, that voice sings over plunking piano notes, "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere - It's up to you, New York, New York."
It's sad and emotionally evocative in a way that Crysis wasn't. I couldn't help but think of September 11th, and how it felt to live in the city that day. The similarity of imagery is not lost on the creative team behind Crysis 2.