Review by Geistosan
Now in glorious Malaria-O-Vision!
Far Cry 2 is one of those games that had a concept I could really get behind. It was touted as a sandbox FPS with plenty of side missions, places to see, and above all else that tasty gun action all shooter fans crave. The first Far Cry was hailed as a terrific shooter and so was this sequel. Well, I have absolutely no idea what game the critics were playing but it sure wasn't this one. Far Cry 2 really sets the bar for most obnoxious mechanics to ever be crammed into a game.
I've never played the original, but that doesn't matter since Far Cry 2 has absolutely nothing to do with it. The game is set in Africa where you, after choosing from a list of predetermined mercenaries, have taken an assignment to kill the generically-named arms dealer The Jackal who is supplying both sides in a bloody civil war. It opens with you being driven through the countryside while the driver blathers on about the current situation in the region. It highlights the beauty and vastness of the setting but also the constant dangers and action around you. It's also so mind-numbingly long, pointless, and cliched that it makes trepanation look appealing by comparison.
Unfortunately, you didn't read that Malaria and You pamphlet they provided on the plane and come down with the disease. You wake up and The Jackal is taking care of you and lets you live despite knowing you were sent to kill him. And that's where the game begins as you're recruited by one of the factions and throughout the game have the choice of who you want to work for and tackle some side missions as well. You can do straight up missions, look for diamonds, or just meander a bit.
Now the problem with Far Cry 2 is that it piles on annoying bits and bad ideas and obnoxious mechanics as if somehow all those negative aspects will gel together and make a great game. But since I'm not a heartless monster, I have to give props that the game is A) gorgeous as all Xbox 360 games should be and B) ridiculously expansive.
That being said, the huge landmass for you to wander in is one of the game's many problems. As with most huge sandbox game, there's a need to balance out action and random skirmishes with lulls where you can just enjoy the little world the developers have created. By contrast, FC2 is all about having to deal with randomly placed guard posts who try to murder you with a fanatical zeal after taking a brief glance as you whiz by in your jeep. The reason for this is that you're working undercover for the chosen faction, but this happens right at the very first mission before you've even fired a single round. At which point you loot the post for whatever pathetic weaponry you can before all the soldiers respawn a few seconds later and the irritation begins anew.
Another issue is that you have to navigate all this terrain to get from one mission objective to another and there's nothing the developers love more than having you drive (or if you're really out of luck, walk) the distance of Dijibouti all the way to Botswana assuming they're being conservative. This is for every mission by the way. Oh, and you don't have an in-game radio or soundtrack to play while you're driving hundreds of miles, sorry, kilometers in every direction.
But the game's biggest problems are all tied to its devotion to infusing every gameplay mechanic with as much realism as you can stomach. There is an unspoken agreement between gamer and game-creator that when we say we want realism, what we mean is we want the occasional splash of it: a gun's sight going wonky when you aren't standing still or taking a few seconds to reload. What we don't want is it to infringe upon the gameplay experience which is why Far Cry 2 is so frustrating.
Rather than have a big map you have a GPS that's practically illegible, but at least you have your map that you can take out. Too bad your hands are full with that and you can't really see where you're going. One of the most common gameplay experiences is driving and taking out your map, your nose buried in it while haphazardly looking up once in a while to see you're still on the road like some dopey tourist/cellphone driver. You hit a tree, have to get out, pop the hood and fix it. Or you're in the thick of battle and are ready to unload a volley when you hear the hammer click but there's no boom. Your gun jammed, Tonto, and now you have to tap furiously on the X button while your avatar tries to troubleshoot it. These aren't isolated incidents, they are the bulk of the game. Even the most patient gamer (and if you're a serious shooting fan, chances are you aren't) will be tested with this. Of course none of the enemies have these problems, so most times you'll be shot down because you weren't paying attention while driving or your guns went out on you at a bad moment.
Though the main cause of my death(s) stemmed from times where I was trying to heal myself and every time I got shot, my avatar kept trying to perform self-surgery when all I wanted was for him to switch out of heal mode and into kill mode. To add to the misery, Far Cry 2 has abysmally long loading times and the problem is only compounded with constant death. And to boot the shooting itself isn't any fun, the setting is so massive and dense with vegetation that you're never really sure where the enemy is and vice-versa. Often times it feels like a game of Marco-Polo with guns. Two yahoos with guns groping in the dark to find each other. The aiming doesn't help, you literally have to buy an upgrade to make your character shoot straight. I thought they were supposed to be highly-trained mercenaries.
But to bottom-line, Far Cry 2's obsession with frustrating realistic gameplay mechanics really taint the experience. Hey Ubisoft, why not have the player get out of the car to check the tire pressure? Or how about a mini-game where you spend months in the hospital and go through intensive physical therapy after getting shot? You're already more than halfway there.
Far Cry 2 is one of the few games that has no visible glitches and I still would classify it as unplayable. There's nothing positive I can say about the gameplay. If the game had gotten the basics of good first-person shooting down I may have been able to overlook the needlessly bloated setting and shoe-horned free-roaming elements, but as it stands it's another Ubisoft game that I cannot possibly get into.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Far Cry 2 (US, 10/21/08)
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