Name: Far Cry 2
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
Watch the video review.
Far Cry 2 is a follow-up to the PC title of the same name, which followed Jack Carver as he fought against mercenaries on a tropical island. As the game progressed, a trite plot revealed itself, where an evil scientist was turning people into mutants. The story was wholly lackluster, and the future Xbox, Wii, and Xbox 360 ports did very little to help that. If anything, they added insult to injury, dropping the graphical content down and adding unnecessary mutant powers. Ubisoft seems to have learned from its mistakes, and have removed all the aspects that made the original so unpopular. What was left was a game so unlike the original as to be barely recognizable.
Far Cry 2 has much more of an Apocalypse Now feeling than its predecessor. It takes place in a fictional region of Africa during a once small conflict, now turned large by The Jackal, an arms dealer who is supplying both sides (The United Front for Liberation and Labor and the Alliance for Popular Resistance) with weaponry. Both factions are lead by warlords, neither more noble or respectable than the other; and the average mission involves earning money by destroying a water treatment plant, burning medical supplies, and other, horrible crimes of war. The employers are savages, and so there is little difference between the two. Your job is to kill the Jackal, and the only reason you are working for the warlords is to get information on him to prevent him from continuing the trend of arming the unarmed and escalating conflicts for profit.
Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it might sound, as upon arrival you’re stricken with malaria, and need to make time to look for medicine as you progress. Churches and underground resistance groups will gladly exchange medical supplies for delivery missions, and you need to be sure to regularly check back and keep a full supply of medicine with you at all times, since you can never tell when you might start feeling the effects of your illness.
You can choose between several different characters, but the decision is fairly cosmetic. Your character is essentially the same regardless of your choice, but whichever characters you opt against will populate the world as “buddies” who can give help on missions or resurrect you once you have fallen in battle. They also call upon your aid from time to time, and you can choose whether or not to help them. Ignoring their pleas usually results in an upset phone call, but can occasionally end in their death, with their blood on your hands. They are removed from your “buddy” list and odds are you won't run into them anytime soon.
Far Cry 2 has a minimalist heads up display, and the only on-screen indicators are health and ammunition. The radar is replaced with a map and GPS device, which track your character as he progresses through the game’s massive world. At first the map is pretty cool, but before long you’ll need to use it nonstop, and it sort of defeats the purpose of minimalism. There are different sprawling landscapes, which take several minutes to travel across, and are filled with jungles, deserts, and cities to explore.
To heal your character, you need to use a syringe, which brings your health to full. If you are below a certain point you are considered to be dying, and need to complete a healing animation to prevent an imminent death. There are literally dozens of these cinematic moments, and each is cringe-inducing and brutal. Snapping your fingers into place after a car crash, pushing a bullet out of your arm and shooting it out the other side, or pulling a twig out of your leg will heal your character, but may cause irreparable damage to the psyche of the player as he watches this all happen in first person.
Fire effects especially might be the best ever seen in gaming. Igniting fires and watching them spread and set other objects aflame turns the battlefield into a scorched wasteland, destroying buildings and vehicles in turn. Far Cry 2 is the first sandbox game to actually use fire as a tool, and the enemy’s AI is smart enough to know that the fire is hot, and they’d be best served trying to avoid it. Lighting a fire in the middle of a camp by shooting a gas tank will cause it to spread, kindling permitted, burning houses, grass, trees, cars, and other inflammable objects. It reaches the level where it isn’t a gimmick anymore to include features like this, it’s just part of life, represented in the game.
However, there are aspects of the game that do seem to suffer from its console port. Current generation consoles just can’t capture the full possibilities of the Dunia Engine and it shows. Textures are inconsistent, and shadows are grainy and strange. Framerate drops do occur from time to time, and objects will occasionally disappear from the world, never to be seen again. These aren’t regular occurrences, but will pop up from time to time, breaking the flow of the game. The soundtrack is fittingly slow, and sound effects bring the game to life well. There can be issues with when the “action” music kicks in, but it does little to take away from the experience.
The story missions themselves only come in a few varieties. You go to one of the different factions and accept a mission, which usually involves trying to screw the other one over, and are paid in the game’s currency – rough, uncut diamonds. They almost all involve taking the mission, driving to the location, and killing someone or blowing something up. From time to time, a buddy might call you and you’re able to expand the mission, helping them complete their goal while they help you complete yours, but the entire process does get repetitive. That said, the combat itself is fun enough to prevent that from becoming a problem, and there are side quests which can help break up the monotony. Going to large towers will begin assassination missions, and destroying vehicles transporting weapons will unlock more weapons and upgrades from the different stores. The game is fun enough that these are just as fun as the story, and it takes a lot to make explosions and sniping boring.
Far Cry 2’s real brilliance is in its use of an open world environment. The map is massive and filled with content. There are dozens of outposts to scout, hundreds of diamonds to find, and limitless ways to tackle any situations. It features a day/night cycle, which can be used to approach missions in different ways. Though the missions might be fairly repetitive, you’re able to use the tools the game gives you to play each a different way. Enemies' viewing radius is lower at night, so you might want to sneak around and kill them with your machete or silenced weapons. Daylight makes it easier to see, so sniping from hundreds of feet away might be more worth your time. There is also a sense of strategy on how you get to each location. You could run there, taking cover and hiding as to not attract attention from passing guards or outposts, you could take a car, and kill anyone on your path, or you can take a boat, and hope to not run into any patrols on your way. Far Cry 2 really takes advantage of the large, open world environment, in a way that shooters haven’t even tried in the past.
There is an expanded multiplayer from the original, with four different modes and six classes. The rules of the single player game carry over to the multiplayer, so blowing up buildings and using fire as an ally both apply. It’s quick and fun, and while it will likely not take you away from Call of Duty or Gears of War it should expand the experience a good amount, especially considering the game ships with a robust level creator, and the ability to share your created levels online.
This sequel has so little to do with the original that there was no reason to keep the Far Cry name. The plot has no ties, and the gameplay is so far removed it would be difficult to call it anything more than a “spiritual successor.” That said, Far Cry 2’s gameplay is solid, and it works as both an open world game and a shooter. Its plot is light, but deep, and will make you rethink the way you look at real world conflicts like the ones represented in the game. As with most sandbox titles, there is a huge amount of content, and there is at least twenty hours of gameplay in the single player alone. There are enough different ways to play that it isn’t hard to justify a second playthrough. The game is fantastic, even in this dense holiday season, every gamer should make time for this trip to Africa.