In August 20, 2023, C.E.L.L. came under contract from the United States Department of Defense and were deployed to New York City to police the evacuation in place of the military, who were currently fighting the Ceph invasion. Despite C.E.L.L.'s asserted purpose, the P.M.C. was considered to be a brutal and corrupt organization, whose soldiers were increasingly trigger-happy and unprofessional in their handling of New York. C.E.L.L. operatives were witnessed of killing Force Recon Marines, and assisting in the "sanitation" of infected civilians.
Under the orders of C.E.L.L. Commander Dominic Lockhart, C.E.L.L. operators were sent to pursue and engage Prophet in an attempt to return the Nanosuit 2.0 to CryNet founder Jacob Hargreave. When Prophet gave the Nanosuit to Alcatraz, C.E.L.L. pursued Prophet's successor, mistaking him for Prophet. Eventually, Alcatraz was targeted after lethally engaging C.E.L.L. operatives. Commander Lockhart ignored Hargreave's orders to assist and protect the wearer of the Nanosuit.
C.E.L.L. authority was later rescinded by the Department of Defense. The United States Marine Corps were deployed in C.E.L.L.'s place under the command of Marine Colonel Sherman Barclay. C.E.L.L. forces, loyal to Commander Lockhart and the Board of Directors, splintered from Jacob Hargreave's control and were intent on hunting down Alcatraz. A number of C.E.L.L. units were placed under military arrest at Grand Central Terminal, where three C.E.L.L. soldiers can be seen behind bars.
The remainder of C.E.L.L. was headquartered in the Prism on Roosevelt Island, where they attempted to capture Alcatraz with an E.M.P. trap. However, Alcatraz was freed by Tara Strickland and terminated Commander Lockhart. The former C.E.L.L. units still loyal to Hargreave were given the order to aid Alcatraz's ex-filtration after the Ceph attacked the island as it prepared to self-destruct. During the chaos, a computerized PA announced to C.E.L.L. that their "employee duties are terminated."
Following the eradication of the Ceph incursion in New York, C.E.L.L. took credit for the victory over the Ceph and subsequently become more powerful and influential over the U.S. government. In 2047, C.E.L.L. recovered from its losses in New York by constructing Nanodomes across the world to contain and eradicate the Ceph infestation and establish a monopoly on the recovery of Ceph technology in order to develop a system that could provide unlimited energy. In reality, however, C.E.L.L. exploited this monopoly and soon gained control over most of the world's population. The provision of unlimited energy drove many people into debt with C.E.L.L. Those who were unable to pay were enrolled into the so-called "Work Away Debt" program. Debtors performed a variety of tasks, acting as 'volunteer' front-line soldiers to technicians under close supervision. Worse still, terms in the program were made such that the indebted can never really pay off his/her debt, thus serving a lifetime of slavery to C.E.L.L.
Furthermore, when Karl Ernst Rasch was forced to resign from Hargreave-Rasch Biotechnologies, he destroyed much of his Nanosuit research data. The organization resorted to removing Nanosuits from their former users for study. Removal of the Nanosuit, or "skinning", was a painful procedure, and most subjects died from heart failure due to the traumatic shock induced by the operation. Michael Sykes was one the few victims who survived the procedure and was later rescued by New York resistance members.
It was soon revealed that the source of C.E.L.L.'s unlimited energy, System X, was in fact the Alpha Ceph. Prophet inadvertently freed the Alpha Ceph, allowing it to create a wormhole to the Ceph homeworld in the M33 Galaxy, thus triggering a massive Ceph invasion of Earth. C.E.L.L. forces were immediately overwhelmed by the reactivated Ceph, which were under the full control of the Alpha Ceph. In response to the deteriorating situation, C.E.L.L. initiated their contingency plan Red Star Rising, involving their orbital satellite weapon Archangel to fire directly at New York, destroying the city and the Alpha Ceph with it. But unknown to C.E.L.L., firing at the Alpha Ceph would facilitate a chain reaction that would destroy Earth. Fortunately, Prophet and the resistance were able to shut the weapon down and killed the Alpha Ceph. In the aftermath of the Ceph insurrection and the loss of System X, C.E.L.L. was denounced by U.S. Senator Tara Strickland and C.E.L.L.'s remaining assets were frozen by the U.S. government as part of the global recovery effort. C.E.L.L.'s board of directors were later hunted down by Michael Sykes.
C.E.L.L. troopers, unlike the Ceph, have lower health and can be killed with relative ease. They often pause before reacting to the death of their fallen comrades and are slightly slower and somewhat clumsier than the KPA soldiers in Crysis and Crysis: Warhead. C.E.L.L. troopers serve as the main antagonists in the earlier portions of Crysis 2 and Crysis 3. The troopers encountered in Crysis 2 and Crysis 3 are also weaker than the alien Ceph troopers encountered later in both sequels. In Crysis 3, it is possible that most C.E.L.L. troopers were simply conscripted debtors serving in the Work Away Debt program, as opposed to professional mercenaries/ soldiers. However, they are still known to use grenades in order to flush enemies like Prophet out of cover. Troopers would sometimes fire randomly or spray bullets if they were unable to spot Prophet when cloaked or when pinned down.
They are often found in squads patroling key areas. While easy to dispatch using careful tactics, surviving troopers would call for immediate support in the form of additional C.E.L.L. troopers deployed by helicopter.
In Crysis 2, they wielded most forms of human weaponry, like the SCARAB, GRENDEL, and the Feline SMG. Some areas in the game were defended with armour support from C.E.L.L. armoured transports. In Crysis 3, the C.E.L.L. arsenal included the addition of Remote Turrets, C.E.L.L. Smart Mines, and C.E.L.L. High Altitude Guard Towers.
C.E.L.L. was a division under Crynet Systems, itself a major subsidiary of Hargreave-Rasch Biotechnologies. By time of Crysis 3, two additonal C.E.L.L. supporters were introduced into the Hargreave-Rasch Biotechnologies board of directors. During the events of Crysis 2, C.E.L.L. operations in New York were conducted under Commander Dominic Lockhart.
Tara Strickland was a "special advisor" and represented Jacob Hargreave in the field. It is unclear what rank she held in the organisation, if any. She appeared to have some authority in C.E.L.L. yet her authority was not well-received by Commander Lockhart and his men. She did issue commands to C.E.L.L. personnel but with mixed results in terms of compliance; ranging from grudging acquiescence to rude dismissiveness. A particularly contentious point was whether to kill Prophet (actually Alcatraz, but this was not known at the time). Strickland wanted him taken alive under Hargreave's orders while Lockhart (as well as most C.E.L.L. soldiers) was determined to kill him. Lockhart and his men were unwilling to take any further risks to capture Prophet alive, but more importantly wished to avenge their fallen comrades.
Like all military organizations, C.E.L.L. is made up of various military units. Presently known units are listed below. They seem to have a naming scheme involving colors. Groups are organized by colors and individuals in that group have a number, i.e. "Drab Fifteen", "Azure Seven", or "Blue Eleven".
- Azure Section - Contains Helicopters.
- Cobalt Section - All of the C.E.L.L. operators until Alcatraz reaches the LTVs before the crashed Ceph ship. Reduced to half strength by Prophet/Alcatraz.
- Blue Section - Guarded the crashed Ceph ship.
- Drab Section - Guarded the checkpoint where Alcatraz steals an ICV.
- Hazel Section - Guarded the Hargreave-Rasch Building.
- Maroon Section - Reduced to half strength by Ceph forces at Greenwich Village.
- Saffron Section - Guarded the Prism.
C.E.L.L. soldiers wield a large variety of weaponry during the events of Crysis 2. The different types of C.E.L.L. Operators carry the majority of weapons available, including the Grendel, SCAR & SCARAB rifles, DSG-1 and M2014 Gauss sniper rifles, Marshall and Jackal shotguns, Feline and K-Volt SMG's, M12 Nova, Hammer, and Majestic pistols, JAW rocket launchers, MK60 Mod 0 machineguns, L-TAG launchers, as well as fragmentation grenades. Players can see on C.E.L.L. demolisher troopers that they have small frags instead of the M17 Frag Grenade.
Some C.E.L.L. weapons feature a white and grey camouflage scheme, and on most weapons (such as the SCAR and Hammer), the iron sight color is changed from green to blue.
Weapons specifically developed by Crynet Systems:
- X-43 M.I.K.E
- Gauss Sabot Gun
- Main article: C.E.L.L. Assault Operative
In Crysis 2, there are five types of C.E.L.L. soldiers that are fought throughout the game. Each unit has a specific designation and task.
In Crysis 3, five types of C.E.L.L. soldiers are also encountered but with more variations between each type. Once again, each unit has a specific designation and task. Their uniforms have a darker green/grey shade as opposed to their Crysis 2 counterparts.
C.E.L.L. has a large number of light vehicles at their disposal, none of them are for heavy engangements though, as they are lightweight assault vehicles, with little to no armour to boot, but are still dangerous for any ground target.
- LTV (Light Tactical Vehicle) - Heavily modifed Bulldogs from Crysis.
- Repressor APC Transport (Armored Personnel Carrier) - A vehicle that can carry a lot more soldiers than the LTV and also comes equipped with a heavy machine-gun. Only one is encountered near the beginning of Gate Keepers. Based visually on the FNSS Pars.
- Bravo ICV (Infantry Combat Vehicle) - A very dangerous vehicle as it has a main cannon and rockets. Based on the Terrex IFV.
- AH-50 Hellcat Attack Helicopter - Has a heavy machine-gun and missiles. Usually if the gunner is shot down, it might leave but sometimes it might stay and fire missiles until it is destroyed.
- Orca - A fast ground vehicle that can roam in all sorts of terrain. It is equipped with missiles and is much more maneuverable than the LTV or ICV.
Known C.E.L.L Personnel
- Dominic Lockhart - A commander of C.E.L.L. forces in New York, later killed by Alcatraz in Crysis 2. He was a major opponent of CryNet's Nanosuit program, calling it an "obscene cyborg dream" of Jacob Hargreave. He is responsible for the elimination of Alcatraz (believing him to be Prophet, as he is wearing the latter's Nanosuit).
- Tara Strickland - Another commander of C.E.L.L. in Crysis 2, though she later reveals herself to be a undercover C.I.A. operative. After the events of Crysis 2, she becomes a senator who is strongly opposed to C.E.L.L.
- Mitchell Reeves - A C.E.L.L. operator leading his own team of soldiers loyal to Jacob Hargreave. According to Hargreave, he was "best of his men aside from Tara Strickland". Reeves and his team were killed by Ceph during the events of Crysis 2. Dead bodies of his squad members are found in the "Dark Heart" level. Alcatraz can find three surviving members of the squad in the alien-infested subway, but they are usually overrun by Ceph Stalkers. Reeves team was equipped with SCARs, Novas, Marshall shotguns, DSGs and AY-69s, but they also have a container with X-43 MIKE. The only documentation of Reeves' tale is in Alcatraz's recounting of the events in Crysis: Legion.
- C.E.L.L. of course is a typical example of the trope "Megacorporation" in a classical way in the likes of Weyland-Yutani from Alien vs. Predator franchise, the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil franchise and some real life examples.
- The name CryNet OPS was only a temporary name and is replaced by the name C.E.L.L. in the final version of the game. However, there is caution tape present in the retail release that reads "DO NOT CROSS - CRYNET OPS".
- The body armor worn by C.E.L.L. operators is based on early concept art of the Nanosuit 1.0 from the development of the original Crysis.
- C.E.L.L. info on the visor HUD states all operators are hostile and will use lethal force, even later in Crysis 2 when C.E.L.L. troops are supposed to be allied to the player.
- C.E.L.L. operators are far weaker than Ceph Troopers and in most cases only defeat alien units when they outnumber them or wield deadlier weapons.
- C.E.L.L. operators will make comments during higher alert phases and firefights, such as "He's cloaked!" or "If he's cloaked right now he could be watching us." They also frequently converse about Prophet's actions in the suit before Alcatraz obtained it, such as attributing him to the death of half of Maroon section.
- Some C.E.L.L. soldiers use sound recordings done by the voice actor Bruce Johnson, who also voiced the part of Samuel Redford in other EA games, Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
- Considering their complete occupation of New York and given their ability to perform quarantine operations while fighting off the invaders, it seems that C.E.L.L. forces could easily number that of an entire army theatre.
- C.E.L.L. has many similarities to the Korean People's Army from Crysis, in which they are all brutal and corrupt military organizations, and without any regards in harming civilians, which can also be hinted to the KPA of possibly killing civilians on the Lingshan Islands in Crysis.
- C.E.L.L. are the first antagonistic faction in the Crysis series, to be "American". In Crysis 3, C.E.L.L. becomes a multi-national government.
- C.E.L.L. operators are amusingly incompetent for the size, equipment and the military power they are supposed to have. This is possibly due to most of them either being freshly recruited or forced by the "Work Away Debt" program, which may be already active in Crysis 2.
- The Crysis 2 version of the C.E.L.L. operative is seen in Crysis 3, in the video in the C.E.L.L. Skinning Lab.
- In Crysis 3, C.E.L.L. official mascot meant for pre-schoolers is introduced, C.E.L.L. Bear.