The trend of releasing tie-in novels for computer game titles has had a huge boom in recent years, with stories such as Halo: The Fall of Reach becoming a game itself, the Mass Effect novels expanding its universe and now we have Crysis: Legion, which accompanies the action packed shooter Crysis 2 released earlier this year.
With the front cover stating that Peter Watts is a Hugo Award winning author (as voted by the World Science Fiction Convention), expectations are high early on; it’s also worth noting this was not written by Richard Morgan who wrote the story for Crysis 2.
Crysis: Legion follows the gameplay and story of Crysis 2 very closely, starting out on the shores of Manhattan with Alcatraz getting gunned down in the early scenes and Prophet handing him the Nanosuit 2 to save his life, and hopefully New York.
The story is paced well with Alcatraz reminiscing and giving his opinion of events that occurred. Rather than have the whole novel based from his point of view, the story is interspersed with recordings of radio chatter, interviews with survivors and PR reports about the Nanosuit 2 which inject a little dark humour and also a fresh perspective on the action.
With the pace of the game being rather furious, the literary format provides the opportunity to flesh out previously skipped over plot elements. For example, the viral attack on the citizens of Manhattan was only touched upon in the game whereas here, we gain a lot more insight into what it was for and also the terrible effects it had. On the flip side though, areas where you would have struggled for hours on defeating CELL and Ceph enemies in-game are skittered over in a few lines – especially the huge battle with a helicopter in a block of apartments near the start of the game.
Of course, as in any story there is the main protagonist, and in this case it’s the man in the suit, Alcatraz. As the story progresses, one can see why many big name gaming heroes are bereft of any speech or thought. This is so you can inject your own thoughts and actions to fill in the gaps as you fight. Once you start to add voice (or in Alcatraz case, his thoughts) to the story you start to judge the character and that is not a good thing for Alcatraz as he is a bit of a douchebag and extremely one dimensional – to the point where you seem to care more about the Nanosuit than who is in it.
The real star of the show is again, as mentioned in our Crysis 2 review, the Nanosuit and how it reacts, changing Alcatraz from the filthy mouthed grunt to a more interesting puppet. The effects it has on his body and how it reacts and tells Alcatraz how to behave really gives the book some intrigue and also gives the game more depth than ever before.
Crysis: Legion is certainly not for kids due to the amount of bad language and its dark moments. It also lacks a little in the action department which comes across a little limp; however, the back stories and snippets of reports from other perspectives gives the book depth and should be read as more of an accompaniment to the game once completed.