Tired of run-of-the-mill shooters? Far Cry 2, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, is far from generic. More of a spiritual successor to the original game than a sequel, Far Cry 2 plunks you down in a 50 square kilometer slice of Africa and sets you free. Is it the journey of a lifetime, or the stuff of nightmares?
Far Cry 2 features an acceptable narrative with astounding atmosphere to compensate. You’re a mercenary hired to kill the Jackal, an arms dealer fueling the flames between two warring factions. You play as one of nine characters, though you’ll know your silent protagonist primarily through his graceful first person animations and slick looking gloves.
Anyway, what truly makes the story shine isn’t the script or voice acting — not that either of those are poor — but the astounding setting accompanied with an incredibly cinematic presentation (which for a game that never leaves the first person perspective is quite a feat). This is Africa – snaking rivers, perilous jungles, arid deserts, rutted dirt roads, roaming wildlife, shantytowns and all. It’s evident that the developers made good use of their trip to Kenya in 2007.
Not only does Far Cry 2 feature a stunning recreation of Africa, it lets you tear it to bits. You are a mercenary, after all. In Pala, a central hub town, you can take missions from either the UFLL or the APR, the area’s rival factions. Right after you accept a mission from either side, you often get additional or conflict offers from one of your ‘buddies.’ These are people you befriend throughout the game, and it’s worth getting on their good side, as they’re the folks that save your hide when things get rough. On the flip side, when one of your buddies is ailing, you can come to their rescue, or at the very least ease their passing. Be careful though, because once they die, they’re gone permanently.
The missions, while described differently each time, usually consist of traveling somewhere on the map and wiping out hordes of enemies. The travel times can be annoyingly lengthy, but that’s expected in a game with such a massive area. When you get to your objective, though, it’s all worth it. Combat is supremely satisfying. Using the four weapons mapped to the D-pad — primary, sidearm, special, and machete — you’re free to take out your targets however you wish. Just make sure you’re not carrying shoddy, low-grade guns prone to jamming, or worse, exploding. Tread stealthily and eliminate foes one by one, head in guns blazing and partake in an epic firefight, set the surrounding area ablaze and watch the fire propagate naturally to surrounding structures and individuals, or just blow everything up with an RPG. It’s entirely up to you.
Whichever course you take, you’ll meet some resistance along the way, but it’s not always the most intelligent resistance. The enemies in Far Cry 2 are meatheads. Sure, they’re fine half the time, but you’ll often find foes wandering aimlessly, shooting at you on the opposite side of an impenetrable wall, staring at you without taking any action, or otherwise spazzing out in some hilarious manner. To counterbalance such inconsistent A.I., Ubisoft Montreal effectively made your adversaries into human bullet sponges. On the normal difficulty setting, they can likely take 10 pistol shots to the torso before they go down. Headshots are pertinent.
There are some oddities with your health as well, but these are intentional, and turn out to be surprising successes. The game features a partial-regeneration health system similar to Resistance: Fall of Man, but there’s a big twist. You can heal yourself with any syrettes you’ve got on hand, and if things get too hairy, you have to hunker down and literally perform self-surgery, like tearing bullets out of your flesh with a pair of pliers. If you ignore a critical wound for too long, you’ll bleed out and die. The animations and visual effects linked to this mechanic are gruesomely gorgeous. The other gameplay element is even odder, but is arguably more effective in crafting a believable setting. When you arrive in Africa, you’re infected with a bad case of malaria, and frequently need to monitor your health with medication. Bouts of sickness can come at any time, and you must make sure you’ve got plenty of preventative pills left, or the consequences can be dire.
Still, dying isn’t the worst thing, if only because you’ll get another chance to look at the world. To put it simply, this game is jaw dropping. While that’s an overused phrase, your jaw will rest squarely on the floor when you experience your first African sunrise, and approximately every 10 minutes thereafter. Far Cry 2 continues to impress throughout the entirety of the experience thanks to its revolutionary Dunia Engine. The list of features speaks for itself. Destructible environments? Check. Dynamic weather? Yes. Dynamic fire propagation that’s influenced by the weather system? Present. Dynamic vegetation, including growth and re-growth of vegetation? Indeed. Full day/night cycles? Absolutely. Radiosity (non-direct lighting)? Yep. And so on and so forth. All you need to know, however, is that it’s really, really pretty.
With such an intense single-player campaign, many people don’t even realize that Far Cry 2 has multiplayer. It’s clearly not the primary focus of the title, but it’s a decent distraction nonetheless. With four modes, 16 players, and upgradeable classes, it’s a worthy addition to the title, but will become even better over time due to the brilliant map editor built into the game. While not nearly as user-friendly as LittleBigPlanet’s ‘Create’ mode, Far Cry 2’s map editor appears to be of comparable power, and that alone says a large deal. It should be interesting to see what the community creates in the coming months.
Far Cry 2 is an explosive entry in the first person shooter genre. It meshes high-octane gunplay with open world gameplay, and it does a damn good job. Outside of a few minor quirks, Far Cry 2 proves that two oversaturated genres can be merged into one fresh experience. There’s a lot of great games coming this holiday season, but don’t let this one fall off your radar.