Review by Demonic Gerbil
"So beautiful and yet so bad."
Far Cry 2 is the sequel to 2004's Far Cry. Which I admit I haven't played, but from synopsis of the game they don't seem to be too alike except for the wide open and gorgeous tropical-climate environments you can go through.
Nominally Far Cry 2 is a first-person shooter, and the gameplay in just the shooter aspect is marvelous. However the developers (Ubisoft Montreal) grafted the first person action into a game that can't decide if it wants to be an open-world game (ala Grand Theft Auto), a shooter, or a poorly done vehicle combat game.
The game is absolutely beautiful. My system lets me crank the graphics up pretty high, and the lighting is gorgeous, the character models and vehicles pretty good, and the terrain itself is pure eye candy. One of the best moments I had in the game was piloting my boat across a lake and watching the reflection of the sunset upon the water. It felt very real. Those moments are constant, if not so dramatic, in the game, and they really serve to pull you into the environment and give you a feeling of being there.
Gunplay is visceral and brutal, and very lethal for the unaware. Constant awareness of enemy positions, and good use of tactics (flushing them out into the open with a grenade, suppressing fire, moving between shots while sniping) is required for many of the fights to be survivable. Sadly, and this will sound strange but I'll elaborate, there are too many fights in the game.
I know, that sounds crazy, right? It's a first person shooter, there should be a lot of fights. The problem is that 90% of the combat in the game occurs when you don't want it to, like when you're just driving around taking in the scenery, or when you're on one of the many 20 minute treks across the map to go spend 3 minutes on your mission. I understand, it's a civil war, lots of people shoot at lots of other people! But I don't think that every time a lone guy in a beat up truck goes driving by that everyone else on the road tries to kill him.
And that is a big annoyance for me: You spend most of your time in the game not doing missions, but killing random people on your way to the mission. I don't understand why this could have been considered a positive. There's no emotional investment in killing random people that have nothing to do with the task at hand. I could understand if every now and then, a random truck with machine gun would come after you, or if sometimes a checkpoint would be hostile to you right off the bat. But since you're not part of either faction in the civil war, it seems like some kind of peaceful means of transit should be available. I liked the busses and bus stops that you could use to bypass some of the pointless fighting; I would rather have a 'fast travel' system implemented that would take me to a predetermined place to start the mission from, and then progress through the carnage. It would save me time, and keep the intensity of the experience up.
Sadly that's not the case. You'll spend most of the game killing the three guys sitting around in the middle of nowhere, and their friend in the beat up two-seater car who comes barreling in from nowhere during the firefight. That's my single biggest complaint: it's a real mood killer to not meet people who aren't going to shoot you on sight when you're just out looking around.
Vehicles handle pretty horribly. And vehicle combat is a joke: if you want to kill the two or three trucks chasing and shooting at you, you have to stop, get out of your vehicle, and take them out on foot. Alternately, if your vehicle is armed you can use its gun, but of course not drive at the same time, and expose yourself to lots of gunfire and die. Stopping every hundred yards, getting out, and putting a rocket into yet another beat up truck gets very old, very quickly.
Thus the shooter section of the game is a success. There are lots of weapons to choose from, and enemies come equipped with a variety of gear and tactics. The first time I had an enemy calling down mortar fire on me was one of the most intense combats I've ever experienced in any shooter. The other portions of gameplay are somewhat failures, but at least mostly tolerable as a vehicle to transition you into additional fights.
I can't say the same about the plot, however, it is an unconditional failure. First, it is poorly communicated to the player. I honestly didn't know why I was doing things other than I had an icon on my map telling me there was a mission to do at that location. Second, the transition from first act to second act was an emotional betrayal: without spoiling too much, let me just say that you spend each act building up relationships with your 'buddies', the end of the first act sees all of your work swept away by the plot railroad and an infinite army of enemy soldiers that you can't escape. There's a repeat at the end of the second act, though this time with mere plot fiat instead of lots of people shooting you. And then the finale completes the emotional knifing from Ubisoft. I'm sure the finale was meant to be emotionally powerful, but by the time I'd gotten there I was merely playing to get the game over with so I could say "Yeah, I beat that."
As beautiful as Far Cry 2 is, and as good as the shooting action is, I don't think I'll be revisiting it any time soon, if ever, except possibly in multiplayer if anyone I know ever gets the game for me to play against.
Now for a quick scoring summary for those of you keeping track of the numbers:
Gameplay (Shooter): 10
This is wonderful, diverse, chaotic, and so on. Lots of gushing praise here. Whether I was sniping, or rushing in while chucking grenades, the AI was unpredictable and fairly smart. If you don't survey the battlefield before going in, the AI will out-flank you and you will likely die. I love it.
Gameplay (Everything Else): 4
Ugh. Why did they saddle such a wonderful combat engine with all of this other crap? The least they could have done was tie the hostility of enemies to your reputation: When you're at reputation level 4 (something earned by doing missions that doesn't affect anything) the text says you're feared, so why do random guys with no backup pick a fight with you? Sure, it makes for 'fun' gameplay for some people, but it gets old really quick. The vehicles are bad, the traveling is bad.
One word: Wow.
I didn't mention the sound above, but it's great. When tromping through jungle terrain, there are plenty of wild-life noises. The gun reports are distinct and loud. The incidental music fits the action. A+ here.
The single-player game is not replayable, despite their attempt to make it feel different with random buddy assignments and such. The finale really killed what enthusiasm I had left, and the ending is just... I'm trying to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say, that I generally like games which don't force false dilemmas on me. Far Cry 2's dev team seems to feel that you should never actually 'win' no matter what you do. That sucks. The open world portion of the game takes the fun out of tooling around. The railroading for the sake of... I don't know why the railroading was needed. Not playing single-player again.
I have yet to meet anyone that plays Far Cry 2 multiplayer. I don't know if that's because I just know the wrong people, or if there's a dearth of multiplayer gameplay out there, ergo this review doesn't consider the multiplayer aspect of the game.
Yes. A 6. You see all those 10's up there, but the game needs to go back on the burner and get streamlined before it's worth anything more. Graphics are impressive, but not everything.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/07/09
Game Release: Far Cry 2 (US, 10/21/08)
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