Review by ChettTheAngry
"Far Cry 2? More like Will Cry 2"
Far Cry 2
I admit that this is my first (and last) experience with a Crytek game, partly because this year has been the year of the teat-milking sequel but also because Crytek have been kind enough to take pity on those dateless losers with puny computers i.e. me by releasing a game on a console. I was fully hyped for an epic and memorable gaming experience after reading Run, swim, drive and fly your way through 50km of open terrain on the back of the box and seeing the graphics that were like admiring the view from my window and thought Holy rusted metal Batman, this might be even better than Fallout 3! Sadly I think Crytek are upset that they've had to cater to the lowly peasant console gamers and have decided to make this a very stressful experience.
Far Cry 2 starts off with letting you choose what mercenary you want to be out of a herding pen of several weathered veterans whose previous experience must be made up of entirely black ops missions because the previous work section on their CV isn't longer than a few sentences. This really is ominous foreshadowing of some of the game's main problems because it doesn't really matter which one you pick as they're all the bloody same. For all the diversity in nationality and age in our guild of murder machines there isn't one practical element that sets them apart like in Oblivion or World of Warcraft, which feels like an insult when they include this teaser of character development and who you want to play as really boils down to which nationality you're the least prejudiced against (for the record I chose to play as the northern Irish bloke because I thought I could make a humorous GTA 4 fanfic out of his bare bones back-story).
I know I'm probably over-analyzing the game already but this is a good example of where Far Cry 2 goes wrong, it creates illusions of varied and expansive gameplay to hide the pointless and puzzling design choices. Once you choose your character you're never actually referred to by name, even by your mercenary buddies, so it feels like they could've just as easily switched out the mercenaries with Harrison Ford and you still wouldn't be able to tell the difference. If sandbox games are about making your own content they should've at least let us name our own characters because what they've given us, a minimal outline of the character and expectations to finish it off ourselves it feels like the writing staff are making a half-assed effort. We're gamers, not assembly line workers. We want the finished product, not receiving somebody's uncompleted work, adding our own touch and then sending it along for someone else to do whatever they want to it.
To give my argument more credit I should move onto actually judging the gameplay. I started off on my quest to assassinate that wicked arms dealer chap, who supplied weapons to the warring factions in Anonymouseria. I was being driven to my hotel in the nearby town under a ceasefire via gentleman's agreement and my yappy cab driver informing about the current situation and the surrounding area although neglecting to tell me why the factions were feuding so I guess we're supposed to fill that part in ourselves as part of the unique subjective gaming experience so I suspected that Group A had insulted Group B's mum and never apologized for it.
Predictably the elephant dung hit the crop duster propeller in town when I arrived and I was rescued from certain death by Group A and forced into doing their bidding as repayment. My first task was to take out a guard post immediately south of my position and I was trusted with the custodial duty of the car out front. Quicker than you can say Judas Iscariot I thought bollocks to you lot, I'm going to go make my own destiny like a good atheist! and drove off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Until I was hit by a malaria attack. No I'm not joking. Your character has actually got to play through the entire game whilst suffering the ailments of malaria. I can understand this is to boost the immersion factor by reminding you that you're in Africa but COME ON! It's such a poorly thought out way of doing it. Surely these goons you play as would get inoculated to prevent such a possibility from happening? I mean school kids going over to do charity work in Africa would get vaccinated against these diseases and the majority of today's youth are morons who wouldn't know one end of the syringe from the other so surely a self-respecting mercenary would do his best to try to stay alive? Either my Packie McReary impersonator is too desperate to prove his manliness by taking on one of the world's deadliest diseases or the design team is made up of reclusive sheltered idiots who don't know how the real world works.
Fettered by malaria's dominance over my immune system, I begrudgingly set to work for my employers. However, the more missions I did just revealed more and more bad game design. I cleared out that guard post to the South and was riding high on the esteem it gave me until I drove through it a couple of hours later to discover it had gone through a time loop and was like I'd never been to the place.. This really does put up a barbed wire-enwrapped brick wall between you and the game merrily skipping hand in hand down to the local registry office so you can get your marriage license because you soon realize you're making sod all difference in Anonymouseria since it all reverts back into its original state as soon as you vacate the area. For example, in the second act I escorted an arms shipment into a town under a ceasefire to reignite the fighting between Group A and Group B who gladly exercised their itchy trigger fingers as soon as I docked but I saved my game at my safe house, returned to the battleground I'd created only to discover that everybody had regressed to the previous state of cautious tranquillity! WHAT THE FUDGE? This isn't 1984! Wars don't just stop and start like a roller coaster with faulty brakes. I really felt let down and that my presence there was absolutely pointless.
The same thing happens with EVERY single guard post you clear out through the game and to add to the frustration factor you have to drive through at least one guard post to complete your mission objectives. Normally I wouldn't find this to be a problem but the guards are more powerful and more numerous than you so near-death experiences happen far more frequently than I'd like. Despite the region having enough trees to keep a paper mill running for a decade or two enemies seem to pinpoint your location no matter where you're hiding making the best combat approach (stealth) completely futile. Their ability to hit you from no matter the location of them and yourself makes combat feels like you're mummified with hot water bottles and the enemies are using heat-seeking bullets whilst sporting invisibility suits which robs of you your chances to have sweet revenge.
If the programming of the guards and the planning of the factions had been handled better combat wouldn't nearly as frustrating. When you take on a mission from either faction you are told that you won't get any assistance from their troops because your assignment is top secret and far from getting help from their grunts, they actually hinder you at every opportunity by shooting at you on sight. Other reviewers have already pointed out that friendly A.I. is harder to program than malignant A.I. which is fair enough but an ideal solution would be to just have the guards of whatever faction you're working for to not shoot you. Surely the leaders of the faction would realize the best way for them to defeat the opposition is to have larger numbers than them which could be achieved by not shooting at your own soldiers? For god's sake, I thought we'd left the crazed days of Field Marshall Haig well behind in the past where it belongs. Of course the factions look like disorganized mobs so they can't be distinguished from each other meaning that the pigeonhole system I just proposed will never happen because giving players a chance of playing the game for more than 10 minutes without dying is obviously spoon feeding them and not letting them blossom on their own /sarcasm.
Far Cry 2 has for all intents and purposes been marketed as a sandbox game where we are supposed to make our own decisions about who we give our allegiance to and what we want the final outcome to be but that's just empty talk because it follows a linear mission path. Even if for some reason you develop a soft spot for one selfish murdering faction you can't spend all your time helping them to establish their supremacy because they run out of jobs for you to do, forcing you to do the other faction's missions to advance the plot which seems a little nonsensical to me as if I was trying to take over a country I'd want to make sure I monopolized all of the best soldiers but hey, that's just me. I hear sabotaging your own efforts for victory is all the rage in private armies these days. But to get back on track, it's time to focus on the 3rd group of job assigners, the Underground. The missions for these crusaders of the people consist of giving papers to families fleeing the war zone in exchange for malaria medicine to prevent the attacks from killing you and stealing the joy from the soldiers who turn up 10 seconds later and finish the job. These missions really made me resent the malaria aspect of the game because if I'm supposed to be a big bad arse mercenary who chooses my own path then why am I forced to help out these poor saps? Shouldn't that be my decision if I want to give them sympathy and help them out? This is just more and more of Far Cry 2 flying the flag of free choice and then wiping its arse with it when everybody's giving it attention.
I feel I should mention that Far Cry 2 isn't completely devoid of choice. If you've made some mercenary buddies on your rounds as the angel of death they'll present you with an alternative route to completion when you take on a mission but it's not really worth it because it usually involves taking onboard a lot more work than you need to do so they can make their own gains and then they have the bloody cheek to require your assistance withdrawing once everything inevitably goes chesticles up which is where they usually die anyway, leaving the player with the feeling that the time they spent doing their buddy's poncey missions would've been much better spent on something else, like taking a cheese grater to their genitals.
In a nutshell that really is the key failure of Far Cry 2. It doesn't understand that the reason anybody does anything is that they expect to get some sort of desirable reward for their endeavours. For all the frustrations and toil I put into playing Far Cry 2 the only thing I got to show for it was some upgrades to my safe house which would sustain my war-mongering. I felt like I made as much impact as a protest for human rights in China and that it really wasn't worth my time playing the game if I wasn't going to get any reparations for spending my time on it.
So far this review has been completely one sided and I'm going to mend that now because there are some positives that stop me from using the Far Cry 2 disc as a component in my home made solar panel. The graphics are gorgeous, as is the norm for a Crytek game, although in need of brightening up a bit due to the used teabag lens rendering the enemies invisible enough as it is, the vehicles in the game really do add to the feel that the map is as massive as it is and the weapons are quite varied for a modern day FPS which is aided by the appearance of the usually not-so-welcome magic backpack that allows you to lug half of the national armoury around on your person and remains the only unrealistic gameplay element that is actually wanted due to forced scraps with the guards becoming much easier when you possess high grade explosive propellants.
To sum up, Far Cry 2 had potential to be a decent game but instead of advancing towards the promised land of perfection it decides to move by taking one step forward, shooting itself in both feet, then taking 2 steps backwards and shooting itself in both feet again. The graphics and the sheer scale of the map should've made for wonderful landscapes to be appreciated but because everything was mapped out from the start and I knew which areas held objects of interest I had no desire to go explore the world like I did in Fallout 3. The bad writing and design make the game an unsatisfying, directionless mess. The story constantly leaves me scratching my head in bemusement while the soulless missions take too long to complete with too little in the way of compensation and the game generally just feels like being stuck in a moving hamster's exercise wheel, with you being forced to carry out the same monotonous task until you run out of enthusiasm and will yourself to drop dead on the spot. The only major redemption of the game was the landscape and even that can't be enjoyed because of the omnipresent guards smelling blood whenever you're near and keenly scouring the landscape until they've hung, drawn and quartered you.
Far Cry 2? More like Will Cry 2 amirite?
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/09
Game Release: Far Cry 2 (EU, 10/24/08)
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