Review by sfcalimari

"A graphically polished and fun game with a bit too much unmet potential"

The original Far Cry made a pretty big splash in the fps gaming world when it was released in 2004 or whatever. Big lush jungly maps, loooong draw distances, kinda cool vehicles. Clearly any sequel would be hugely anticipated. I liked the original, though it had some annoying aspects like too many cramped interior levels and some annoying enemies. So I was anticipating the sequel, and when I read some reviews that said you could do all kinds of things in attacking the enemy like setting fire to their camp or dropping a mortar on them, that sounded pretty good to me so I picked it up.

For the most part I was pleasantly surprised. The graphics and sound are excellent, and go a long way to recreating an African environment. The weapons are really cool. The map is largely open so you can approach the enemy any way you want.

But there are a lot of flaws that I can't overlook. The story is dumb and doesn't make sense most of the time, so you really don't have much motivation to do your missions. The missions are largely very repetitious. The enemies can be either very cheap and deadly or very stupid and easy. And, honestly, the game has ZERO to do with the original Far Cry, which is just odd.

If you want more detail, read on.

Graphics

The graphics in this game are definitely excellent and some of the best I've seen in a pc game, and I have quite a few new pc games. Enemies and other characters are generally modeled very well. The natural environment is really pretty breathtaking, whether you're in a jungle or out in a desert. Shadows and textures are very detailed and look very realistic, especially the shadows. And I don't even have a top-shelf graphics card (just a 8600GT) and the game runs very smoothly and looks fantastic at the settings I use.

Some stuff is kind of lame though, like the way that standing water looks like painted-on concrete instead of some sort of liquid. Also the physics in the game are not very realistic—for example if you shoot a giant rocket launcher at a shed made out of crappy sheets of tin, nothing will happen to it. You'd think it could explode into pieces at least. The fire effects in the game are really amazing though, like when you set fire to a large swathe of grass. Burn, baby, burn!

Sound

I don't usually care much about sound, but I do have to say that the sound effects in this game are top-notch, especially the ambient sounds like when you're walking around in the jungle or running across a desert, or setting fire to a grass hut.

However, as I've seen in a lot of other pc games, the distance perception (if that's the correct term) for the sound seems really messed up. Enemies who are way on the other side of a canyon sound like they are right next to me. Once I was under attack from an enemy mortar that sounded like it was firing 5 feet away from me. I looked all around for it while getting bombarded from above, and finally saw it like 2000 feet away on the other side of the valley I was in. Then if I am talking to an NPC who is right in front of me, he sounds far away and I have to turn up the speakers just to hear him.

Also one of the worst aspects of the game is that the voice acting is atrocious, mainly because everyone speaks so fast that you can barely tell what they say. It especially stands out when you're getting missions from certain characters or are talking to people in between missions. They literally sound like they just drank a Big Gulp of coffee and are on the way to the bathroom. This really takes away from the presentation of the game and makes it hard to take the game's story seriously. I don't understand why Ubisoft went through the trouble of creating detailed and generally amazing-looking characters who move and gesture realistically, and then gave them the voice acting of someone on crack.

Gameplay

Well this is what it all comes down to. The gameplay is pretty refreshing at first. This is an fps game, with the usual view and the usual types of weaponry. Most fps games are set in linear levels, one after the other, where you move down a certain path without much chance to try something different. This game is instead set in a large map that is completely open (other than the borders at its edges that you can't go past). Also you can drive vehicles, which is pretty unusual for fps games. You still have a first-person view when driving, which maybe sounds a bit awkward, but it works pretty well.

Having finished the game I still don't quite understand what the story was about. Basically you're in some unnamed nation in Africa, and you're working as a mercenary. Your main goal is to complete missions for two rival guerilla factions. Doing these missions progresses the game and you get diamonds as payment, which can be used to buy better weapons and various upgrades. Also you can do side missions for the gun shop dealers, who unlocks weaponry for you to buy when you destroy convoys of rival weapon sellers. And you can do hit contracts if you find a satellite tower which somehow connects you to a mysterious caller on your cell phone who tells you to kill someone in exchange for some diamonds.

Having now finished the game, I found that unfortunately the missions are simply too repetitive. The secondary missions like the hit contracts and gun shop missions might seem cool at first but are always more or less the same thing and often require you to drive to the other side of the map, which can take a while. The main story missions are also way too repetitive. Pretty much all of them require you to go to some locale like a post office or a small rural airport and do something like release a hostage or pick up a briefcase. There are always enemies swarming at these locations, just waiting for you. You don't have to kill them to complete the missions, in fact in some you can just fire one mortar shell or RPG to blow something up and then run away without facing a single enemy. But the enemies can kill you very fast especially if you're surrounded by several of them at short range, so it's usually best to take them out as you assault the mission area. So yeah, sometimes these missions are pretty fun and intense, especially at first, but after doing several you'll get a creeping and disappointing sensation that the missions are pretty much all the same. They really should have made them feel more unique, like in Mercenaries 1 or any GTA game, where almost any mission has a different objective and has you doing different stuff.

What are the basic gameplay mechanics like? Well fortunately this is one of the best parts of the game. There are a ton of weapons, like assault rifles, uzis, pistols, grenades, sniper rifles, RPG's, etc. Plus some kind of unconventional ones like a flamethrower, a dart gun, a mortar, and an IED that makes a big explosion and is useful to take out enemy convoys. Just shooting things in the game is very fun, and the variety of weapons means you can attack the enemy any way you want. The completely open map also means you can usually use the terrain in any way you want, which is a lot of fun. You can use the flamethrower or molotovs to set a massive fire to the dry grass around an enemy base to smoke out the enemy, then go in and take out the survivors. You can camp out up on a hill and snipe the enemies with a rifle. You can fire a mortar at them from far away. Or you can just go in with a machine gun or shotgun and kill anything in your way at short range.

In terms of health, you have a life bar that is in 5 sections. If you get hit a bit, the first bar will decrease, and if you can get out of the line of fire that bar will regenerate after a few seconds. If you get hit more, you'll lose more and more bars. You can use syringes to replenish your health, or drink a bottle of water if you find it. If your health dwindles to the far end of the bar, you have to do something more drastic like use pliers to pull a bullet out of your arm, or pad yourself down because, um, your pants are on fire. If you don't, your health will go to zero and you'll die, and unfortunately when your health is almost at zero, you're usually surrounded by angry enemies, and usually when I try to fish out the bullet or pat down my fiery clothes, I get shot up and die anyway, which is sort of annoying. But overall the health system is a good compromise between having a regenerating health bar and having to use medicine to replenish your health, also you can replenish your syringes pretty much anywhere.

Also throughout the game there is a kind of weird system where you have various allies, known for whatever reason as your “buddies” (what is this, Kindergarten?) who help you out. You meet them as you progress, and apparently the ones you will meet are randomized every time you start a new game. One of them will call you up whenever you're assigned a mission by the two warring factions, and the buddy will offer to meet you and give you a different set of goals. Like instead of attacking a guy at the airport, you'll instead steal something from his well-guarded house. This gives a bit of variety to the missions, but I didn't find that the optional buddy methods of doing the missions was all that different, plus they always seemed to end up with the buddy demanding you save him or her from attacking goons, which is a bit annoying. Also if you lose all your health, a different buddy will rescue you from death and revive you, sort of like having an extra life in store. This is kind of a cheesy feature but it's useful because it's very easy to get overwhelmed by the enemy even if you're careful. Overall the “buddy system” in the game doesn't seem very well thought-out or useful; for example you can do other optional missions for them that don't seem to do anything useful and don't net you any diamonds.

Oh yeah, and you have malaria. You'll get malaria attacks about every 30 minutes and have to pop a malaria pill. When you run out of pills, you can do missions for priests or doctors who have you bring passports to people who are hiding in a house surrounded by attacking bad guys. Kill the bad guys, see the people inside and give them the passports, and you get your pills. As with the other missions these are pretty repetitive.

Conclusion

So what is the final analysis? What can this be compared to? Compared to your average fps game, Far Cry 2 is definitely very polished and just fun to play. The environments are amazing. The open map and the rpg elements like being assigned missions and collecting weapons makes it rather like a streamlined version of STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, but without the bugs, complicated item system, and lack of polish. But the lazily-told story in Far Cry 2 is kind of like that of STALKER. If anything Far Cry 2 feels to me like a sort of watered-down sandbox game, like GTA or Mercenaries, but with missions that aren't as unique and fun to do. To me it seems like a game that tried to experiment with something new (malaria, the buddy system, massive grass fires, etc) but the result feels unfortunately half-baked too much of the time. I had a lot of fun playing it, especially at first, but when I was finished I felt let down because I knew the game showed a lot of promise but didn't do everything it should have done.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/08

Game Release: Far Cry 2 (US, 10/21/08)


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