Far Cry 2- It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times...

Sam Hart

2008-12-07 06:09:19

I've been playing a lot of Far Cry 2 lately on my 360 (in case you can't tell from my gamercard) and I've been struggling with a very simple dilemma: Do I actually like this game?

On the one hand, it is an absolutely gorgeous game. The engine renders incredibly believable jungles, wind swept savannas, and dune-filled deserts. It produces the most realistic fire I've ever seen in video games which can race across grasslands and leap from tree-top to tree-top. And explosions shake, shatter, and shred the flora in spectacularly devastating ways.

But on the other hand, this game is one of the most repetitive pieces of shit I've ever encountered. Every mission contains 90% driving and 10% action- and that 10% action feels like the same 10% action for every other mission. Also, the story shares nothing with the first Far Cry game. Unlike Final Fantasy games which have different stories but similar settings and accouterments, Far Cry 2 is militantly Alzheimeric with regard to what has come before. Mutants and Dinosaur suggestions? That never happened! We've been in this unnamed African country the whole time!

So, do I like this game, or really, really hate it?

For those who don't know, Far Cry was a game released in 2004 in which you played a mercenary for hire who becomes caught up in a crazed scientist plot to breed a race of super humans. Ed Wood influences aside, it was an excellent FPS which had stunning graphics and had several atmospheric touches which really set it apart from other FPSes (including frightening noises from some unseen larger creatures- presumably Dinosaurian- which follow you much of the game but which never actually appear). It was a very fun and highly memorable FPS.

Far Cry 2 is the supposed sequel, however it is sequel in name only. Far Cry 2 does not continue or even reference the first game in any way, shape, or form. Gone are the mutants, the crazy scientists, the unseen monsters, and the tropical island. In their places are normal humans, a dangerous arms dealer, harmless wildlife, and a fictional African country in the midst of a civil war. Whereas the original game had a strong science fiction motif, the sequel is firmly grounded in realism. While the first game was a linear FPS, the sequel is an open world sandbox. Really, if you were a fan of the first game, it's hard to suggest you'll like the sequel flat out because it is such a different game.

That being said, if you can take Far Cry 2 on its own (and really, this is the only way to take it since it isn't really a sequel to the first game) it has a lot of aspects which are nice.

For one, the open world nature lends itself to a lot of freedom, both in the way you play the game and in the way you solve each mission. Do you sneak into the enemy base at midnight using a silenced pistol to quickly and quietly dispatch the guards? Do you light fires at the opposite end of camp to distract while you enter through the front? Do you go in with guns blazing like Rambo and fuck everyone up? The game allows tremendous freedom to accomplish your goals in nearly any way you chose.

The gameplay is solid with realistic guns and equipment. Guns don't hold unrealistic quantities of ammo and each has a distinct kick based upon rate of fire and how you pull the trigger. Your character is not a super-soldier who can shrug off any damage by finding a nice quiet corner to recuperate. Damage must be dealt with using medical supplies or even prying bullets out of fresh wounds.

Enemy AI is generally brilliant, but not in a "I can see you through walls" kind of way. Enemies behave fairly realistically, even losing you if you hide in adequate cover. There are the occasional AI glitches that leave enemies shooting at nothing or obliviously staring into space after witnessing their friend's head pop off from your sniper fire, but these don't detract.

The game also has one of the most brilliant map editors I've ever seen. It seems to have the power of the Unreal Editor but with an easier to use interface. Additionally, the quality of the community maps thus far has been surprisingly high.

But each of these strong points that the game has are countered by equally weak points that can make the game unbearable at times.

The open world nature that allows such freedom comes with its own set of problems. For one, it means that every enemy you encounter is basically the same- and while the battles are usually intense and exciting they still start feeling repetitive. For another it means that missions can jump all around the world. One mission might require you to trek from one end of the country to the other, with the next mission requiring you to trek back. This wouldn't be so bad if you had some sort of fast travel, but you don't. This problem is compounded by the fact that strewn throughout the country are enemy checkpoints that must be dealt with every trip. Couple this with random patrols and it makes getting to your missions arduous and dull.

The realism that makes guns behave realistically also makes them wear down and break. This means that guns have to be replaced often. Additionally, ammo is not universal, which means finding ammo for that special gun you love can be difficult and usually you're forced to just settle for whatever junk the enemies are using. The realistic wounds also mean that you often have to try to heal yourself in the heat of battle, which often results in your death. Additionally, your character has malaria and must constantly stop to treat it or else die. This seems like an interesting gimmick at first, but very quickly becomes horribly annoying as your malaria "flare-ups" seem to happen at the least opportune times.

The enemy AI is brilliant, but this unfortunately means the enemy knows how to pursue you as well as gang up on you. If you must pass through five checkpoints on your way to your mission you must stop and deal with the enemies at each checkpoint. If you do not, they will pursue and add to the enemies from the next checkpoint. Even if you do make it to your mission you will have a small army of enemies on your tail. This makes it so that doing anything in the game involves a lot of "stop-and-go" sequences where you make it a mile or two and then have to stop to deal with an attack. This stretches out even the most simple missions into lengthy and tedious experiences.

The game has a brilliant map editor, but that doesn't matter if no one is ever actually playing the multiplayer games. Far Cry 2 multiplayer is, in a word, dismal. It features all of the latest multiplayer modes... circa 1997. The entire multiplayer experience feels dated, and there's really not much here to keep players coming back beyond the novelty of a new and interesting user-made map.

In the end, I think I'd have to say that Far Cry 2 is a game for FPS-nuts... and them alone. If you're not a rabid FPS-fan this game's flaws will likely turn you off entirely.