Review by umbratile

"A great game, despite some annoying flaws"

UbiSoft has worked hard to make this game look and feel like a real African country, and they certainly have achieved that. In Far Cry 2, you're a mercenary in one of gaming's biggest, most open worlds – the developers claim it's as big as 50 square kilometres. It's a huge space, all of which you're free to move around in. Well, except a lot of un-climbable mountains.

So, what do you do here in Africa? Well, there's certainly not much of a story. The first thing you do is select a character, which doesn't change anything at all except your hands – I picked a guy named Hakim for his large quantities of backhand hair, although to be honest I had no idea who he was when I was finished with the game. Once you're in the game, you get a simple mission: Kill the infamous arms dealer “The Jackal”, who seems to enjoy making people kill each other mindlessly. After a brief cab ride to the city of Pala, you're suddenly struck with malaria, and the next thing you know, the Jackal has a little chat with you. After stumbling out of the hotel, you're finally kicked into the main game.

With the exception of the opening missions, Far Cry 2 focuses a lot on the freedom of being able to do any mission you want at any time. You can choose to do story missions (you'll end up doing quite a few missions for both the two rival factions, the UFLL and the APR), which serve to advance the story, or you can do buddy missions with your fellow mercenary friends, or you can do bonus sabotage missions to get extra weapons. It seems like this brings a lot of freedom, but the cold, hard truth is that no matter what, the story missions are the ones you want to do to make progress – the side missions never affect them. Supposedly, which faction you favour will affect the outcome of the story, which I guess is good – but then again, all that means is you'll be doing some slightly different missions than others. In other words, the hyped freedom is not really as impressive as you might have expected.

On the subject of missions, here comes the first big problem: They're so monotonous it's not even funny. The object is usually to kill a specific person, or to blow something up, usually within a dense enemy territory consisting of a crapload of houses. The sabotage missions required to get new weapons always – ALWAYS – see you blowing up a moving truck (with C4 on the ground being your best bet, as a huge pack of explosives apparently is invisible to truck drivers) and its guardians. Hardly anything new or exciting no matter where or what you do, in other words. But then, perhaps you don't mind doing the same types of missions multiple times?

What do I know? The fact that you get to choose whether to use stealth or raw firepower to accomplish your goals helps a lot. Either way, this is no issue compared to the game's major failure: The fictional countries of Leboa-Sako and Bowa Seko could just as well be called Uncanny Valley North and Uncanny Valley South. The thing is – this game tries very hard to be realistic, and while it accomplishes a lot, things that are clearly not realistic stand out a lot.

Here's an example: The AI is actually not very bad. The problem is that because you would expect them to act like real persons due to their appearance, it completely shatters the immersion when you can stand in front of them for three whole seconds before they let out a confused “hm?” and look in a random direction, before they suddenly calculate that they're supposed to see you, and attempt to fire their AK-47s at you while you plunge a machete into their crotches. The believable setting is beautiful, but it makes everything else that is ever so slightly “gamey” come across as incredibly stupid, which as I mentioned kinda breaks your immersion and relation to the game.

Not only is there bit of “uncannyness” in here, but a few of the attempts at making the game realistic just fall on their faces. Having to search for and take malaria medicine every now and then provides no fun gameplay elements at all (it doesn't help that bad guys apparently are able to hear people take malaria pills across large ravines). The same goes for the weapons, which tend to jam or just explode if you don't go and get yourself new ones in the weapon shop's storage house. You've probably heard about the tedium of having to drive several kilometres between every single landmark. Not only does it take ages (there are five bus stops in both of the game's two areas, but you'll often be so far from one, you'll be disgusted at the thought of driving there), but you'll come across enemy camps no matter where you go, where you WILL have to fight a bunch of enemies to progress – if you don't, they chase you. It's kind of like a 20 minute interactive loading sequence between each separate mission.

There's also a multiplayer mode, which consists the painfully basic deathmatch/CTF/control points game types seen in every single shooter in the world. It's not revolutionary or unique in any way, but it's very fun if straightforward fragging is your thing, just don't go as far as to buy the game for the multiplayer – it's not worth it. The game also comes with a very friendly map editor. It has a lot of features and you can create some really complex, great map with it. Unless you happen to be an experienced mapper or modder, it will definitely satisfy you.

By now, you probably think I hate Far Cry 2. I don't. While it's got a lot of issues, you can enjoy and love the game from beginning to end of its 20-30 hours (depending of the number of side missions you do) if you have the tolerance, not to mention it technically looks stunning. The rays from the sun, stretching across a beautiful African savannah while the tall grass blows in the wind is nothing less than a truly wonderful view. It's a very good game. While it's sad that it's plagued a bit by stupid errors and a few bad design choices, it's still a game a want to recommend. If you have the heart to forgive some of it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/13/08

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

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