Gangs of New York / Games of New York? It's a pun, guys. It's a pun - you get it, right?
Aside from my awful puns, there's a bit of housekeeping to do to explain this. I'm writing this from my holiday in New York, and as I have to write from New York, I think it might be nice to write about New York. So, here we are, the best of video gaming New York, written from the place itself. How about that?
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Freedom Fighters launched in 2003, an afterthought to IO Interactive's Hitman series that used the same engine, but focussed on a different kind of conflict: the plot was simple, the same one used in Red Dawn - the Soviet Union has invaded and your rag-tag band of American freedom fighters (hence the title, I guess) has to try to fight them back.
It's about as far from a Hitman game as you can get. Where in Hitman you were the aggressor, coming into a strange land with murder in mind, here you are controlling the other side - combat is squad-based and your revolutionaries are New York natives, rising up to swat away the Russian menace trying to settle over the Big Apple.
It's probably a bit of a turd now, but at the time Freedom Fighters was excellent, a squad-based shooter with interesting mechanics that blew my teenaged mind. If you blew up the helicopter pad at the fire station, you could conduct your assault on the supply trucks without pesky helicopters trying to light you up. If you took out the supply trucks, your assault on the enemy guard-post would see you fighting Russian soldiers ill-equipped to deal with your soldiers emerging out of the sewers before them. Everything was connected and it made playing the game hugely satisfying.
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Crysis 2 is so close to being a 10/10 game it's almost painful, but instead it's plagued with the same problems that caused the original to be a near miss.
Aliens, man. The thorn in the side of every Crysis game. One thing it gets right is its treatment of New York, though. New York has been evacuated after an Alien invasion, while Manhattan itself is under quarantine because of a mysterious virus. You're a super-soldier in the closest thing to a 'magic' suit the U.S. government can produce. It lets you jump higher, punch harder and sometimes turn invisible. I totally wanted one for weeks after playing the game.
The story is actually pretty good, written by Richard Morgan of Altered Carbon fame, and the moment to moment gunplay is fantastic. Using your suit gives you the edge against most of your enemies, and each engagement feels like frantic, explodey chess - often starting with a chance for you to look over the situation beforehand and choose how you want to approach it. Crysis 2 is one of my favourite FPS games of the last decade, it's just a shame about those aliens.