The original Far Cry came out around four years ago. The box art featured an intense Alec Baldwin, swimming in a body of water. Aside from how sexy that sounds, the game itself was far from that iconic image. Its multiplayer was underdeveloped and its enemies were unbalanced, and the ports were a travesty.
A lot changes in four years. Ubisoft Montreal’s Far Cry 2 is a spiritual successor of sorts to the original Far Cry, which was developed by Crytek. Although mutated apes have gone to the wayside, Far Cry 2 emphasizes the two outstanding features of the original game -- scale and length. It also features grass and water.
In truth, the name means practically nothing other than brand recognition. FC 2 concentrates on the above features while wrapping players into its immersive African environment full of violence, treachery, malfunctioning weapons and zebras. Alec Baldwin no longer graces the cover of this title, but perhaps it doesn’t need him.
Hit the break for the full review.
Far Cry 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft
Released on October 21, 2008
Options define Far Cry 2’s single-player experience. One must choose friends, safety, betrayal, mission parameters, and weaponry. First, players must choose their character, which is a lot easier than Bethesda made it in Oblivion. There are several pre-designed characters, and the ones you don’t pick will become the major agents in the game’s storyline. In this way, the cast of the game feels instantly familiar, and players will come to welcome that feeling after driving those endless miles through the game’s representation of Africa.
These characters, sprinkled throughout the missions, will represent the vast amount of choices present in the game. Your character’s motivation is made instantly clear upon booting up the game. You’re in Africa to kill a man named the Jackal, who has made a living supplying cheap weapons to countries on the brink of conflict. The Jackal isn’t necessarily a mysterious fellow, but his motivations are not clear until the climax of the game. While the goal is clear, the lines of conflict aren’t. In trying to get to the Jackal, players must do missions for the two rival factions in the game. Your motivation is to move up the chains of command and eventually get a swipe at the Jackal.
Each mission started for one of these factions is almost always immediately followed by a cell phone call made by a buddy. The buddy always wants to obscure the guidelines of the mission for mutual gain. The choice is that by helping the buddy, you gain a relationship that can be quite beneficial -- namely, that buddies can drag you out of battle once death occurs. Buddies can’t help in the game’s side missions, but there really isn’t any need. Side missions entail taking jobs from gun sellers to earn new equipment and assassination missions that will take you into familiar and dangerous territory to kill a guy in a suit. You’re rewarded with diamonds for your services, but they feel somewhat tacked on. The other string of side missions quickly becomes a necessity within the course of the game. Your character is brought into the game’s world with malaria and requires pills to suppress the illness. After initially getting a bottle of pills, the player must seek out new bottles wherever the good doctor directs him.
The game has a decent health system, composed of your character pumping syringes into his arm upon being shot multiple times. Interestingly, FC 2 has a brilliant and visceral injury system, which involves having to remove bullets with rusty pliers and straightening broken joints. It’s ferocious to witness the first few times. As for the weaponry in the game, it’s standard simulation shooting fare. A wide assortment of realistic explosives like RPGs and grenades, and guns like MP5s, is available to the player after buying the weapons with diamonds scattered throughout and given in the game as a reward for accepting missions.
Most players will prefer driving to objectives than walking, which thankfully, is a great time. Cars handle well but occasionally have an issue with getting stuck in some of the environment’s geometry. If under fire, the car begins smoking heavily before ultimately igniting. There is an easy fix to this that feels almost tacked on. A broken car (either riddled with bullets, dented from impact or a combination thereof) can be fixed with a magical wrench applied to the radiator.
A notable omission to the game is that there is the lack of a HUD and mini-map. Players will have to look down at a map in their character’s hand while driving in real time. It takes some getting used to, but works well and is an insanely immersive tool.
But, there are some problems with this package. FC 2’s world is large and sprinkled with numerous choke points controlled by one of the rival factions. Often, particularly while beginning or ending a mission, it feels like every few feet of road is met with one of these points. At the beginning of the game these are particularly stressful. Your car is a shitty pinto and your mastery of weaponry is subpar at best. Later in the game, when accuracy and reliability is upgraded, these points can hit at the most inopportune time -- mainly, when health supplies are low or when a buddy needs to be saved after a mission.
Aside from the choke points, the world can occasionally seem entirely too large and underpopulated. Other than your few friends, mercenaries compose everything. The only intimate interactions in the game happen when you’re hacking a guy with a machete. Part of that feeling comes from having to drive the spectacularly long distances between missions and side missions where only zebras and choke points can be found. Another issue within the game is the amount of times you have to shoot an enemy. Wifebeaters are Far Cry 2’s equivalent of Kevlar.
That’s not to say the gunplay isn’t solid. It’s just that enemies take a decent amount of damage before falling down. Once accuracy upgrades are available in the stores, the game becomes increasingly smooth. Strafing will become your best friend when forced to hit the game’s numerous faction hideouts and a judicious usage of Molotov cocktails and explosives is encouraged within these confrontations. Your character can carry up to four weapons at the same time, making sure that each assault is fruitful. That’s not to mention that any gun lying on the ground is fair game -- but they’re also prone to jamming issues, as the Jackal doesn’t necessarily seem to care that he’s selling rusty weapons.
As with any game, there is a learning curve. FC 2 doesn’t walk you through the motions of its gameplay very well. The first few hours of the game will be a mess for new players -- the A.I. will seem too frantic, the gun jamming irritating, and the map functionality ridiculous. As you progress, these issues will clear up. Instead of learning what you can do in the game, you’ll be learning what the environment can do to you and your weapons. Once prepared with upgrades and learned in the fine art of staring at your lap for directions without hitting a tree FC 2 becomes an enjoyable experience.
The game’s multiplayer functions much like Call of Duty 4. Action (kills, assists, objective recovery) nets experience points that will allow you to earn weapons and upgrades. There are four game modes available to players -- Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Diamond and Uprising. Capture the Diamond is a simple play on capture the flag -- except with diamonds. Uprising is a mode geared towards guarding and capturing tracts of lands for points. The catch is that only one player on the team, the Captain, is allowed to do so. There are also several character classes players can pick from, each a staple of any shooter.
Multiplayer is outstandingly solid. Matches can be created quickly and lag is minimal among ranked matches. It seems as though the amount of bullets players can take was drastically reduced compared to the single-player mode, and it’s much appreciated. Most kills are quick affairs and superb hit detection aids in the experience. The game modes have a tendency to feel a bit stale, but levels in the mode are no longer a concern. Far Cry 2 is packing quite the level editor, which allows users to have their own exceptionally violent LittleBigPlanet experience. Spectacularly large assortments of objects are available to use and the tweaks on those objects seem nearly infinite. Players can submit their completed levels through a verification system, where peers decide if it is a worthwhile endeavor. Because of the insane amount of options, level creation can be a massive undertaking. Couple that effort with the lack of precision from a controller and we have something that will probably require too much time for many gamers.
The game has an inspired presentation. The visuals are bright, vivid and realistic. The sound sets up the atmosphere quite well, but players will occasionally hear phantom cars and bullet whines. Fire effects are particularly brilliant, especially when it catches in the dry brush. Explosions look great, and characters look great. One of the biggest problems is running animations, but it’s easy to ignore that within the window of the entire game.
Far Cry 2 is a great game that does everything a first-person shooter should. It has a great presentation, good shooting mechanics, decent AI, a long single player experience, impactful choices, an enormous multiplayer component, and some of the more memorable injury scenes ever witnessed in a videogame. The pitfalls come with the redundancy of some missions, the sparsely populated world, and awkward saving system that can often throw players miles away from objectives with nothing but a long, pointless drive to look forward to. Overall, Far Cry 2 is an awesome game that is worth its price in rough diamonds.
Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)