Review by Millsy_Xbl

"Expected a diamond, received a disappointment..."

Far Cry 2 is an open-ended FPS developed by Ubisoft Montreal, set in a fictional district of Africa. This is the first game in the series to abandon the tropical setting and the main character of previous games, Jack Carver. Instead, the player assumes the role of a mercenary sent to Africa to take out a notorious arms dealer known only as 'The Jackal'. The player chooses their character from a list of nine mercenaries. An interesting aspect of this is that the remaining mercenaries become friendly NPCs (known as Buddies) within the game world, with whom the player can interact. Other NPCs with which the player can interact include the leaders of the two warring factions in the game, the United Front for Liberation and the Alliance for Popular Resistance. The player works for these factions in an effort to get closer to The Jackal, who has been supplying each side with arms.

So how does it play?

The control scheme is very similar to other shooters, and shares many of its button mapping and aiming mechanics with Call of Duty 4, such as aiming down the sight of your gun. Unfortunately, the one thing it doesn't share with Call of Duty 4 is a fluid aiming system. Even with the sensitivity jacked all the way to the max, it feels very sluggish and seems to jerk about too much, which isn't too bad after a while but it does take some getting used to. The auto-aim is also badly implemented and feels very restrictive. I found myself doing much better after switching it off, which sort of goes against the idea of assisted aiming in the first place. Overall, the control scheme and aiming system does it's job, but it does take some getting used to and I can't help but feel that it's a poor attempt at copying Call of duty 4's aiming system.

The weapons in the game are quite varied and have some interesting mechanics. Every weapon in the game has a degree of reliability which results in how it performs. For example, an AK47 picked up from an enemy will be of poor quality, appearing in the form of rust and general wear. Such weapons will suffer from jamming (requiring the player to repeatedly tap X to clear the blockage) and may even explode after prolonged use. This encourages the player to purchase new and much more reliable weapons from the weapon stores scattered throughout the landscape. An infinite supply of purchased weapons can be found within the armouries neighboring the stores and the player can place these weapons within supply crates which can be accessed from any unlocked safe-houses. A larger range of weapons can be unlocked for purchase by completing missions for the owner of the weapon stores. All of these are purchased with rough diamonds acquired either by exploration (finding briefcases dotted around the land) or by completing missions.

The gameplay itself has strengths and weaknesses alike. The most striking feature is the freedom the player is given compared to linear shooters. After a few short tutorial missions introducing the player to the controls, the player is free to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, the games biggest feature is also it's biggest disappointment. The vast landscape within which the player can roam is almost completely devoid of content, defeating the purpose of having such freedom in the first place. The player is pretty much given the choice of playing through a series of linear missions to further the story and unlock new weapons, or running off to explore the land which has very little to explore, primarily guard posts full of murderous soldiers of the APR or UFFL (guards which, incidentally, happen to re-spawn within minutes of being killed). Some people may take issue with my description of the missions being linear due to the open area in which they take place, but they would be wrong. Every mission consists of the same basic procedure; drive to location, kill someone / destroy something, drive back. Rinse and repeat. The only variety comes in the form of Buddies, those remaining mercenaries who look after you and provide you with intel on your missions. When you accept a mission, you will receive a phone call from your best buddy, who will meet with you and give you another mission to be carried out before your main objective. However, the same basic rules of 'drive there, destroy this, drive back' still apply and these extra objectives seem only to lengthen each mission for no apparent reason.

The lack of real variety in the missions would be forgivable if the story itself was interesting enough to keep the player interested, but despite being set in a place with such potential for a gripping plot, the story somehow manages to be flat and uninteresting. I expected a compelling and provocative story to rival movies such as Blood Diamond or Lord Of War. Instead, I was left with an unexciting and emotionless pursuit of a sociopath gun runner, a story told through the eyes of a sociopath mercenary. And when I say emotionless, I really mean it. The characters you meet throughout this quest all come across as completely lifeless, due to the very poor voice acting. The accents are convincing enough but the monotonous tone does little to engage the player, and every line is spoken so quickly that it feels like the developers were trying to save space on the game disc. I'll give you an example without spoiling the story (as if it could be spoiled any further). I was given a mission to travel to a certain location and assassinate a high-ranking official. After slaughtering all of his guards, I entered the building in which he was hiding and found him standing around in an office. Expecting this person to be screaming for his life and trying to escape, I kept my gun trained on him as I approached. I stopped a few feet in front of him and aimed my pistol at his head. He stood there staring at me, and every few seconds he would mutter a scripted line such as 'You shouldn't be here...' and 'What do you want?'. I shot him square in the head and he didn't even let out a scream. Utterly devoid of emotion.

There are also some severe problems with the game mechanics which detract a great deal from the enjoyment of playing. Regardless of the difficulty level, every enemy takes far too many shots before dying. Only headshots result in a one-hit-kill and even then, most of the guns are so inaccurate and have such poor range that headshots are only possible if the target is not moving. A more realistic health system for the enemy should have been implemented. The player health system also has it's weaknesses. It manages to be too forgiving at lower difficulty levels and at the same time too punishing at higher levels. On Easy and Normal, enemies do a decent amount of damage but an over-abundance of health packs means you would have to do pretty poorly to be in any danger of dying. However, on Hardcore and Infamous, enemies deal a lot of damage very quickly, meaning you usually die well before you have the opportunity to heal yourself. The enemy AI is fairly convincing and provides a decent challenge in most circumstances, but it does have its moments of silliness. One time, I was sneaking around outside a guard post and I made too much noise, causing two of the guards to start looking for me. They slowly approached the bush I was hiding in and I, thinking they were about to start firing, shot one of them in the head. His partner somehow didn't see me firing even though he was standing 5ft away and staring right at me. There have been other times when I would drop an enemy from a good distance away and every other guard within a kilometre would start firing right at me. It's also very difficult to see enemies through all the bushes and vegetation. Often I wouldn't know where an enemy was unless he was firing at me. However, that brings me to the best aspect of this game.

The graphics. Visually, the game is stunning. The landscape features deep forests, lush jungles, barren deserts and everything in between. Realistic weather and incredible lighting really makes the environment feel alive. The weapons look great and the explosions in the game are amazing to behold. The fire effects are particularly impressive. I also loved the Ramboesque animations when you have to patch yourself up after a particularly rough fight. Graphically, this game has a lot going for it. I look forward to seeing more from the Dunia engine in the future.

The audio is mostly very well done. Despite the poor voice acting of the story NPCs, the voice acting of the enemy militia is very well done and quite humorous at times. The weapons also sound amazingly realistic. One of the things that really annoys me is when an FPS features weapons that sound weak and unrealistic. This is not one of those games. When I fire a gun in this game, I could swear I was listening to the real thing. In my opinion, the immersion which comes from the visuals coupled with the incredible audio is what really makes this game. There's nothing like stalking through the jungle in the dead of night, trying to listen out for enemy militia over the sound of your own footsteps rustling through the undergrowth. Those are moments when you really feel like you are there, and that experience makes this game worth playing.

I could go on forever, but I think I've said plenty already. Overall I'd say this is certainly a game worth playing at least once through, if only for the incredible experience of stalking through a thoroughly realistic and convincing African environment. Rarely does a game create a world as impressive as this. It is unfortunate that the game has so many flaws (enemy respawns, too many patrols, weak story, not enough content etc etc), especially since a lot of these flaws could have been ironed out if some features were better implemented. Even so, the game does manage to immerse the player totally into its world and the experience itself makes up for some of the shoddy gameplay. Now that they have a solid foundation upon which to build, here's hoping that Ubisoft address the bad and improve upon the good when it comes to Far Cry 3.

Story: 6/10
Could have been so much more considering the setting. Poor characters and missions that didn't seem to tie into the story at all made it rather lifeless and dull.

Gameplay: 7/10
The best bits were amazing, and the worst bits were annoying. Some great ideas that could and perhaps should have been better implemented.

Graphics: 10/10
Incredible graphics and visual effects. Plenty of moments where I felt like I was there. Not once instance of pop-in despite the vastness of the landscape.

Sound: 8/10
Great ambiance and realistic weapons. Let down by poor voice acting of the story characters.

Overall: 7/10
A decent game that is worth renting at the very least. Could have been so much better but let down by flawed gameplay mechanics, weak story and lack of other content.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/11/08

Game Release: Far Cry 2 (EU, 10/24/08)


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