"Welcome to the Jungle"

Overview:
Far Cry 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the original Far Cry, and a sort of spiritual successor to the spin-off series Far Cry Instincts. The premise remains close to its roots: a mercenary (you) is dropped into hostile wilderness and must use a combination of stealth, firepower, and cunning to survive. Far Cry 2 implements a distinct new gameplay addition, however: an open-world environment.

Story:
Far Cry 2's story is sort of a jumbled mix between Blood Diamond and Apocalypse Now. If you've never seen either, allow me to break the story down: You, a mute and rather generic merc, have been tasked with travelling to a war-torn African country to kill “The Jackal,” the arms dealer who supplied both sides of the conflict. Within two minutes of play, the Nietzsche quoting Jackal has the player cornered, and leaves him for dead as the conflict between the UFLL and the APR (the game's two major factions) ignites. The player must then work for the two factions in order to hunt down the Jackal again.

Graphics:
Graphics have always been a focal point of the Far Cry series, and that's no different here. The African landscape is beautiful, if a bit repetitive at times. Character models are exceptional, with limited model repetition and great detail on even the most insignificant baddies. Fire effects are a joy to watch, and explosions are even better. Graphics add to the realism as well: rust on your gun means it's deteriorating, and red sores on your arm indicates that your malaria is getting worse. It's an interesting gameplay mechanic.

Sound:
The music is appropriate and comes on just often enough (around 40 percent of the game is silent if you aren't in combat or near enemies), but it loops the same six or seven tracks over and over. It becomes repetitive rather quickly. The voice acting is decent, but almost every character in the game talks with an extremely thick accent, making them hard to understand at times. Still, there's always the subtitles option.

Playability:
The controls aren't terribly confusing, and movement isn't clunky at all. In fact, it's rather easy to sprint, jump, slide, and shoot simultaneously. Vehicles control rather easily as well. The playability not only adds to the realism, but can set up some pretty exciting situations in-game. Unfortunately, this doesn't kick in for a while, as your character's ever-present malaria cripples him on a V-shaped curve: completely at the start of the game, none at the middle, and then completely near the end.

Gameplay:
Far Cry 2 is indeed the sequel to Far Cry. Despite the open world environment, missions are still very much a matter of sneaking around in the bushes, sabotaging things, and frightening the AI. Said AI works very well-they communicate, team up, and try to flank you when discovered. They'll even run away when you scare them bad enough. Unfortunately, the problems with this setup bring out the problems in the entire game: awkward design marrs the very realistic and innovative game structure.

To elaborate: this realistic AI is completely nullified for half the game because the main character is too easily discovered in shrubbery, tall grass, etc, until a little before the halfway point, when the player buys a camo suit upgrade, making stealth a viable option. The realism is broken by repetitive mission structure as well: upgrading your arsenal means doing the same old “attack this convoy” mission over and over until the weapons you want are unlocked. All side missions are the same way, with the exception of the “buddy” side missions, which ironically serve no purpose at all. Story missions aren't as bad, though they follow a similar and predictable path almost every time, which gets old very quickly.

The buddy system is also a nice touch gone bad. You meet “buddy” npcs in (sometimes scripted, sometimes not) events, and they all hang out at the same bar until you need them. Certain buddies are rescue buddies, who save you when you go down. Others are mission buddies, who call you with info from time to time (meaning at the same time right at the start of every story mission) and offer interesting and varied opportunities. The other ones are completely pointless (see the buddy missions note above). There are problems with each, however: the rescue buddies mysteriously disappear after each rescue, which could potentially be in a pointless situation. I once tripped off a ledge and had a buddy rescue me, and as soon as I was out of sight it listed him as “Wounded!” and then “Missing” despite the fact that there were no enemies around. With the mission buddies, it's in your best interest to keep them alive and they apparently got the reject AI, running into swarms of enemies with nothing but a busted shotgun. And allow me to repeat the fact that if you have three or more friends, they can't team up or anything, the third just becomes a freeloader, sitting at the bar and requesting your help for missions with no reward and absolutely no point.

Finally, in what's probably my biggest problem with the game, locations are so far in-between that you spend a good EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE GAME driving from location to location, being attacked (for no reason, I might add) and losing your vehicle multiple times along the way. Saying that it's irritating would be an understatement. As fun as the missions can be (they aren't always) there's always the realization hanging overhead that after you kill your target, you'll have to spend a few days driving back to town. It makes getting shot seem like a good prospect.

Breakdown:

Story: 6
Graphics: 9
Sound: 7
Playability: 9
Gameplay: 6
Overall: 7

Might be too long for a rental (27 hrs or so of play), but that doesn't make it a good buy. Great concepts are marred by shabby, repetitive design.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/09

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


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