We here at That VideoGame Blog aim to bring you game reviews as quickly and succinctly as possible to help you make informed choices as consumers and players of gamers. Unfortunately, the American/UK postal services couldn’t care less, which is why for the last two or so weeks our coveted review copy of Far Cry 2 has been floating around somewhere in the nothingness of space. Well, three weeks, two irate phone calls and one hefty customs charge later here we have it!
“A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power. Nothing else matters.”
Any game that wants to get off on the right foot with me need only do one thing, quote Friedrich Nietzsche. This little gem of 19th century wisdom sets up the world of Far Cry 2. This is world held up by a shoestring, where the line between man and beast is a question of opposable thumbs and nothing more.
The protagonist, whose particular face and name you’ll select quite redundantly from a portfolio of available characters before starting, is launched headfirst into this world of competing amoral wills. And as he rolls into the heart of the game world for the first time, the tension is undeniable. However, no sooner are you introduced to the game environment and its competing factions than you are struck down by malaria.
From your bed, and through the lens of your malaria induced fever, you have you first meeting with “The Jackal”, the notorious arms dealer come entrepreneur perpetuating the ongoing conflict by arming both sides – the very man you’re sent here to kill. Helplessly, you look on as he gloats and asserts that he, like all good villains, will never be beaten.
You’ll spend the rest of the game, hiring yourself out to both factions and working your way back to that optimum position.
It is obvious that what Ubisoft wanted to create in Far Cry 2 was a pure wilderness. Untamed, brutal and unforgiving. Yet beautiful and poetic. Furthermore, you’re an alien in this world and it is obvious that it doesn’t want you. Whether the malaria, aggressive militia, labyrinth of the jungle or hot sun bearing down, every part of this environment – from the microscopic through to the cosmic – wants to see the end of you.
In any open world game, where each step of the player cannot be scripted or predicted, there is the challenge of how to make that journey from A to B challenging and interesting. Far Cry 2’s answer to that problem is, inexplicably, to make everybody hate your guts. When traveling from one point on the map to another you can almost guarantee that you’ll bump into an outpost, patrol or just a passerby who happens to want you dead. This is probably the most frustrating element of Far Cry 2, that at any moment, anyone who even catches a glance of the protagonist will open fire, regardless of whether they could have realistically identified him or not. Though as the game progresses, enemies learn to be fearful of the protagonist, this unwarranted anarchy early on completely kills the tension established in the first few minutes.
A further let down lies within the game’s soundtrack. Un-dynamic and un-engaging, the pat of hand drums and other generic clichéd examples of traditional sub-Saharan music. This is a great shame considering the wonderful rhythmic complexity and potential inherent in that style of music. The voice acting, while fit for purpose, is also equally flat and unrealized – with characters meeting their own particular social stereotype and little more.
While each random encounter may feel completely arbitrary the diversity and intensity of combat more than makes up for it. The smallest of impromptu skirmishes can quickly evolve into Armageddon. More often than not however, it is the environment that creates opportunities for entertainment rather than the sluggish and sometimes idiotic AI. That said, the ability of the game to surprise the player whilst still giving them room to riff and improvise is invaluable and provides that for the enterprising player willing to experiment, combat will never get boring.
Far Cry 2 is so much like one of the roughly cut diamonds around which the currency of the game world revolves. Beautifully drawn, from rugged mountain top to river basin, yet periodically scarred by shanty towns and militia outposts, the environment is a sight to behold. The map manages to cram about 1,000,000 square kilometers of real world Africa into about 50 of game territory.
Throughout the game there is this running theme of powerlessness. No matter how deep the protagonist seems to embed themselves in the conflict, he is never able to do anything more than observe, clambering through trying to find his mark. This is worked deeply into the game mechanics, at any moment malaria may overcome you, a gun may jam, fire from a Molotov cocktail may catch the wind and run rings around your position. These random elements are intensely frustrating, and especially so when they break the different between surviving a particular encounter or not. However, they balance the combat and will compel the player to strategize ahead of attacks, make the most of cover, survey exit routs and create contingency plans.
Finding a foothold of power in this wilderness is an ongoing challenge. As the game progresses and the main character obtains better equipment, safe houses and allies he finds his own will to power asserting itself on the environment. The friends made throughout the experience offer another compelling dimension to the game. They will give you missions and often come to yours aid should you have to take one for the team out in the field. On numerous occasions, however, you’ll find their fate in your hands. Whether you do the honorable and spare them or let the brutality of the world get the better of you, you will be instrumental in how the story unfolds.
Far Cry 2 also comes with the obligatory online modes. Aside from a versatile map creator, which will keep the more creative player busy, the online mode features the standard fare of deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag (or in this case, diamonds) etc. Online combat feels somewhat sluggish by comparison to offline combat, however there is an amount of depth to character customisation which should provide at least a few more hours of play beyond the offline experience. The main point to be made about the online mode is that it does feel somewhat redundant when compared to the overwhelming depth of Far Cry 2 proper, which contains enough bang per buck to give anyone their fill.
Picture perfect and brutal, Far Cry 2’s take on Africa as a gaming world is, if nothing else, unique. Luckily for the game it is so much more. And while at times the nature of this open world may make the conflicts and challenges faced somewhat contrived, there is more than enough to keep players involved and engaged. Ironically, there is so much that this game can create out of nothing that at times it is hard to not get distracted in the vicious wilderness of Far Cry 2.
- The wilderness of Africa is captured beautifully, the gameworld is truly beautiful to look at and explore. Map editor will keep the creative mind busy for quite some time.
- Wide selection of weapons allows for plenty of variety in gunplay (and more coming via DLC)
- Heavily talked about fire element works as advertised
- Poor enemy AI (can see you and hit you with insane accuracy through bushes etc)
- Horrible voice acting (you’ll shake your head in utter disbelief most of the time)
- Mostly very repetitive (spend 10 minutes driving, get a mission, spend another 10 minutes driving to mission location, kill 5-10 bad guys, repeat.)