Review by CrimsonGear80

"The best *driving down dirt roads* simulator ever made!! Oh, and you shoot things, too."

I have never played the original Far Cry. Never played it, never cared about it. However, when Ubisoft announced that the next-gen sequel would be totally unconnected to the original in every way, and be a open-world sandbox FPS, my first thought was: what a blatant use of name recognition to sell your product! After that thought went by, I then thought that the game looked pretty fun and interesting, I mean, how many sandbox FPS have you played, right? After months of hype, Far Cry 2 was released, and after picking at the game for over a month and finally beating it, I can honestly say…

A CRYING SHAME…

The story is simple: you play as some kind of agent sent into a fictional African nation that is currently in the middle of a civil war between two factions: the APR and the UFLL. However, your assignment is to find and eliminate a man known as the “Jackal” (how original…), an American arms dealer that has armed both sides of the conflict and escalated the bloodshed. However, in order to find the Jackal, you'll have to make some friends and play both sides of this war.

Where do I start? First of all, before you start the game you can choose to play as one of nine different agents, with some of the agents you don't pick appearing in the game randomly as your buddies. Unfortunately, every single one of these guys are devoid of any character and emotion. It doesn't help that your character stays silent throughout the entire game and no one calls him by name. Silent protagonists are fine (see Half-Life and Dead Space), but without anyone properly acknowledging them, it seems like your playing as empty drones, basically going through life one place at a time. They should have let you create your own character, at least that way it's impossible to not connect with someone who is basically you, even if no one calls you by name. The lack of any character or emotion in the game makes the story a whole heap of “don't care”. Yes, it's terrible that African nations are in civil war and innocent people get hurt or killed, but Ubisoft should have done a better job of telling the story and making me care. Also: Lamest. Ending .EVER!! Well, hopefully the gameplay makes up for it… *starts to cry*…

HANGING MY HEAD NOW…

FC2's controls are typical for an FPS, so shooting veterans should feel right at home with the mechanics. Ubisoft gives you're a few presets to choose from…but no custom controls. Yeah, be prepared for more of the disappointment you must be feeling right now. As previously mentioned, you can play as one of nine agents throughout your stay in Africa, and each one has a different skill that can be helpfu-oh wait, NO THEY DON'T! You would think that with nine characters, Ubisoft may give each dude a special perk to allow the player to use, like one guy may have faster reloading, or one may repair vehicles faster, one may be better with heavier weapons than others, and so on. Nope, Ubisoft makes everyone EXACTLY the same, so it doesn't freakin' matter who you play as. What a waste of what could have been something to give the game a strategic feel.

Well, as it's been stated, FC2 takes place in a pretty big open world split into two sections: North and South. You start off in the north, and as you progress through the game you unlock the southern section where the game ultimately ends. So it's basically like GTA, except instead of a living, breathing city, you get to see brushes, trees, and big mounds of dirt for 20+ hours. Yay! Nah, that's not really fair, the game will take you to areas like towns, villas, warehouses, prisons, and other places where you get to shoot fools. The game also has a pretty realistic day/night cycle. Pressing the select button in-game will have your character bring up a map of the area he is in, along with a GPS device in case you needed even more…maps. The GPS device does have some use though, as a green light on it will blink faster and faster if you're near a hidden diamond (the game's currency) briefcase somewhere in the environment, and will stay solid when you're facing in it's direction. Beyond that, the GPS is useless since it doesn't actually show all possible points of interest on it. So while it will show the locations of safehouses and places to get your main missions, it won't show weapon shops, extra mission locations, and most importantly, guard posts. This sucks because while in vehicles (and believe me, you WILL be driving, more on that later) the GPS is positioned right in front of you without the need to hit select. However, with key info missing from it, you're resorted to bring up the more detailed regular map with the select button, and having to look at it while driving or shooting is very annoying.

That little tidbit aside, one area FC2 does get a few things right. Your character will always carry a machete on him at all times, but your also able to carry one main weapon, one sidearm, and one heavy weapon as well, which are chosen with the d-pad. You can also carry grenades and Molotovs as well. The amount of weapons FC2 features is pretty staggering, with all kinds of assault rifles, shotguns, handguns, and the like available to you. When you find one of the many weapon shops strewn about the world, you can go in and purchase new weapons and take missions that allow you to unlock others to buy (once again, I'll get to those later). You can also buy various upgrades to each individual weapon as well, including accuracy, reliability, and ammo upgrades. After buying a weapon, they will always be available to you in the armories that are located right next to the weapons shop, so you can always stop buy and grab them as many times as you want. You can even buy special crates that allow you to store a weapon and them pick that same weapon up from a crate in any of your unlocked safe houses…like magic!! All weapons I used in the game felt great to fire at fools, and players will probably get some fun out of using them all. The worst part about the weapon system is picking up and using weapons from dead enemies. These weapons are usually old and rusted, and prone to jam on you, causing you to hit the square button repeatedly to unjam it. Further use of the weapon will cause it to totally break. Seems like a cool mechanic, until you realize that weapons NEVER jam on your enemies, then it becomes unfair and lame. Weapons bought from the shop will also eventually start jamming on you, but at least they last a whole lot longer before they do.

I also liked the games health and buddy systems when it comes to death. Your health bar is segmented into five areas, and as long as your health doesn't drop below the last area in the bar, you can press the circle button to use one of your available med syringes to bring you back to full health. However, if your health drops below the last segment in your bar, you have to be quick and find a shady spot out of danger, because it's times for some field surgery! Pressing the circle button in this state will cause your character to perform a petty brutal self-surgery to get his health back, including pulling lodged bullets out of his arm with a pair of pliers, popping bones back into sockets, and closing up wounds Rambo-style with a handful of matches. Fail to do this in time, and your characters health will deplete and it's game over. However, if you've made some friends in this war-torn country (which you will, by default), then you can be given a second chance at life. Going to any of your safe-houses you've unlocked during the game will cause one of your buddies to become “rescue-ready”. this means that when you die in the field, a long animation will begin depicting your buddy fighting off enemies and helping you get out of the area to heal yourself, giving you another chance to fight back along with him/her. Your buddy can become rescue-ready again by visiting a safe-house again, but until then your vulnerable to death. This doesn't apply only to you, as your buddies aren't invincible tanks either, since they too can fall in battle with the enemy. When this happens, you can go up to them and use your meds to heal them, or if your out of meds or your buddy is just way too injured to go on, you can put him/her out of their misery with a single gunshot. Seriously, if there was no buddy rescuing in this game, I would put each one of these emotionless idiots down to pasture every chance I got.

That's what FC2 gets right…now here is where the fun starts. Look up the word “repetition” in the dictionary and guess what... It says “Far Cry 2”. Your missions in the game are spread between the main missions (running errands for the two factions), and the side missions that include assassinations, buddy favors, safe-house unlocking, guard post liberations, weapon shopkeeper errands that unlock more weapons for you to buy, and special…”envelope” missions, let's call them. Seems like a good amount to keep you busy, that is until you get to the end of the game and realize that you've done a total of THREE things to get to where you are: drive, shoot, and blow things up. Even Assassin's Creed had at least FIVE repetitive tasks for the entire game, but Ubisoft decided to out do themselves in the boredom department here. Let's start with, unfortunately, what you'll be doing for most of your FC2 playtime: driving down dirt roads! You see, Ubisoft has created a pretty big open world here. Not a whole lot going on in it, but big nonetheless. Now, for whatever reason, maybe we didn't buy enough copies of Assassin's Creed, maybe Ubi didn't like the flak Haze got…maybe they just don't like us. But no matter what mission you do…in this entire game…the objective you have to get to will ALWAYS be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay on the other side of the freakin' map where you currently are. Very rarely, and I mean like three times or less, was your objective less than 5 minutes away from you. So, your going to have to find a vehicle and drive your ass there, and Ubisoft does give you a couple way to help with this: vehicles are actually pretty plentiful in the game, and the majority of them come armed with a mounted gun of some kind. Secondly, both sections of the world have 5 bus stops each: one in the center city and 4 on each corner of the map, which is supposed to allow for faster traveling. However, you still have to drive to these damn bus stops, and you still have to drive from the bus stops to your objectives, which once again are never less than 5 minutes away from the stops. Throw in the fact that many of the missions include multiple objectives in totally different spots on the map, and chances are more than half of your play time will be behind the wheel. It doesn't help that the driving routes are designed to make you take the longest route possible, rarely letting me cut across fields to create my own shortcuts because of rivers, cliffs, and mountains that adore the entire game world. I'll give Ubi the benefit of the doubt: the cars do control and handle fairly well. As for your missions, that's where the other two come in: shooting and blowing stuff up. Yep, every mission in the game that's what you do. You kill a bunch of guys, you blow up a convoy driving in the same pre-determined circle, you shoot more guys, and 25 hours (well, 8 hours if your just counting the shooting and blowing stuff up) later it's over. Some people may jump for joy when I say that, but in a sandbox game where Ubisoft claims you can “do anything and go anywhere”…well, you really can't.

Now comes the worst of the worst. The enemy AI here in not really the worst, but it is still a mixed bag. While enemies will take cover from fire and hide, they will also stand out in the open, not react when someone else gets shot, and all that other good stuff. Also, don't expect to ever take the “stealthy” approach in any of your missions, as these guys seem to be the newest model of Genome soldiers, able to spot you from any distance in any environment. Thanks for telling me I had that choice and then taking it away, Ubisoft. So that's not the worst…but this is. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Far Cry 2's ultimate “**** you!” to every gamer out there: “The Guard posts”. Throughout both sections of the world, there are a total of 57 of these guard posts placed on the roads. Your objective when you come to these is to kill all the guards posted there and then scout the post to see what kind of ammo (ammo, gas, or explosives) or med dump they house. You can then go back to these posts anytime you need a refill of something. Sounds OK…until your realize the enemies will always RESPAWN at these posts EXTREMELY AND UN-NATURALLY QUICKLY!!! You can literally scout a guard post, drive 20 feet down the road, go back, and the enemies will be back at that same guard post!! When objectives take you all over the map driving from one end of it to another, you'll be going through and re-going through many guard posts, and you HAVE to keep taking out these dimwits all the time! I know what your saying: “just drive through them”! NOPE, not going to happen, as the enemies always have access to an armed vehicle that for some reason is always faster than whatever your driving, meaning they will always catch up to you! FC2 also doesn't let you save anywhere, only at certain save points and after you complete objectives. So let's say you complete an objective and now have to make your way to your next one, going through many guard posts along the way, and one idiot just happens to have a rocket launcher and blows you and your vehicle to hell. Hopefully your buddy is rescue-ready, or else you're going to have a super fun happy time reloading your last save and going through those guard posts AGAIN!! Should I mention that your character contracts malaria at the beginning of the game, forcing you to deviate from your course every once in a while to complete a lame side mission to get more pills to keep the disease in check? I really don't have to, as by now you must realize: Far Cry 2 is one of the most tedious, boring, and frustrating games I have played in the last few years.

Finally, Ubisoft had added a fairly fun, if not very average, online multiplayer mode for up to sixteen players. Modes are basic, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the diamond (flag) modes in either ranked or unranked flavors. You have different weapon classes to choose from (assault, heavy, sniper, and so on) and you can upgrade them with diamonds you earn through ranking up to give yourself better weapons in each category. Voice chat and leaderboards are fully supported as well. The game also comes with a pretty robust map editor that I didn't really get into, but quite a bit of custom maps are available for download, so it does have it's audience. Unlike the single-player game, the online mode does make for a worthwhile distraction…as long as you can stomach in-game ads for Punisher: War Zone.

EYES STARTING TO WATER…

The eyes aren't watering because FC2 is ugly, oh no. Ubisoft have managed to make a very impressive looking game here, even if the gameplay didn't quite match up. The African world is excellently designed, with very good looking trees and brush. The world is also highly interactive, sporting some phenomenal physics that blow a lot of other games away. Throw a grenade near a tree, and the blow back caused by it will cause the tree and surrounding brush to sway. Firing your guns into the environment will always cause something to happen, whether it's kicking up bits of dirt or blowing apart huts. Then we come to the games highly touted fire effects, which deserve all the praise they get. Star a fire anywhere, with Molotovs or the very cool flamethrower, and that fire will spread quite a ways and leave anything in it's path smoldering. Weapons and their effects look good, character models are great, and explosions look phenomenal as well. However, the game still has some wrinkles, including a good amount of screen tearing (which isn't too bothersome for me in FPS games). What was bothersome though was the framerate chugs, that can seemingly happen out of nowhere. It can be from multiple explosions on the screen at once or just driving down a road, the framerate can and will go bonkers on you. Still, the game ran at solid 30fps for most of my playtime, but even so the framerate drops did get distracting.

The games sound is pretty much just as impressive. Guns sound very good and very realistic here, and the African tribal-like music that plays every once in a while is pretty good. All other sound effects get the job done as well, and will really give surround systems a workout. However, a couple things did bother me. For one, gunshot sounds will every once and a while just drop out. It didn't happen a whole lot, but it happened enough to notice. Finally, the games voice acting, as I've pretty much stated, is delivered without any emotion whatsoever. Everyone in the game sounds like they were just phoning it in. The voice actors also don't seem to know what a “.” does, as every talks in run-on sentences without any pauses. It's like: “INeedYouToKillThisManHeresYourPaymentGoodLuck” all the time with anyone you talk to. I also strongly suggest you turn on subtitles, because you won't be able to understand what a few of these guys are saying.

*FACEPALM*

I'll cut to the chase: just doing the main missions here will probably take you between 20-25 hours…20-25 very boring hours. If you actually find driving down dirt roads and shooting clones super exciting, then doing everything the game has to offer will take you at least 50 hours. To it's credit, the game also supports trophies. A word of advise though: the game has no new game+, so create a save at a safe-house before entering the final area of the game, because you can't go back to the open world one you enter the final parts of the game. Finally, the online mode does provide some hours of fun…until you inevitably go back to Resistance 2 or Gears 2 or a Call Of Duty game.

Talk about a disappointment. Far Cry 2 seriously looked great and had a ton of potential, but all that potential went into the tech side of the game. I honestly don't see how many pro reviews liked this game so much. I guess Ubi got lucky and drew the reviewers who find “driving down lifeless dirt roads and occasionally creating roadkill out of Zebras” the pinnacle of one's life. They also drew the reviewers who enjoyed Assassin's Creed and wished for something even MORE repetitive. Rent if you're really interested, otherwise don't bother. Seriously, a real shame.

KEWL
+Cool weapon selection and shooting mechanics
+Vehicles handle and control well
+Health and buddy rescue systems are unique
+Online multiplayer is decent
+Map editor may find a decent community
+Phenomenal graphics and physics engine
+Overall great sound
+Trophy support
+The game will last you a while

LAME
-Crummy story with emotionless characters
-The GPS device is badly implemented for navigation
-Driving…and driving and driving and driving….
-Missions get boring once you realize you're doing the same three things the whole game
-Framerate issues
-Mixed bag AI
-DAMN. RESPAWNING. ENEMIES!!
-Desperately needed a save anywhere function
-Crummy voice acting
-Just plain disappointing


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/23/08

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


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