Far Cry 2 is the sequel to the highly popular original title (the PC version, not the poor spin-off titles found on consoles). The game could have been called Close Laugh 13 for all that matters, as the game has taken a completely different direction from the original in all departments, even including the developers. The team behind the original Far Cry had moved on to fresh soil for various reasons, later going on to develop Crysis. Ubisoft, obviously not wanting to waste their IP, placed a new team of development for the sequel; resulting in an experience which is a far cry from the original (I am so sorry for how cheesy that line is).
The games main premise revolves around freedom to play as you desire, allowing you to step into the shoes of several different characters and complete the story without linear paths (which are typical with the genre). The game takes place in a fantastic representation of a central African nation, on the brink of destruction thanks to a popular arms dealer ,“The Jackal”. The Jackal is notorious throughout the lands, providing an endless supply of cheap weaponry to both sides of a continual war. The only remedy is obviously to put a bullet between The Jackal’s eyes.
As you progress through the game you will need to get close to The Jackal in order to take him out. This is done by working for both sides of the conflict, and even the arms dealer himself. From completing missions you will be rewarded with unique diamonds which can be spent in a range of ways, such as upgrading your trusty sniper rifle, or increasing the amount of ammo you can carry. This is done by a cleverly designed weaponry computer which can be used at several locations in the world in order to purchase new upgrades, which will then be stored in a building close-by.
Such a simplistic concept would typically leave much to be desired, but this is not your typical first-person shooter. The open ended nature of the game completely changes how you typically play a first-person shooter. The game would best be described as a sandbox shooter, a game in which you decide the course of your character, the speed of progression and the order of events which unfold. We only hope that if Far Cry 2 achieves nothing else, it manages to make this style of genre appeal to other developers.
After a ‘short’ (sarcasm for extremely long) introduction to the story and controls, you are dropped right into the middle of a sprawling chunk of replicated Africa. The chunk comes in at around 19.3 sq miles, which basically means bloody huge! You will soon find that trying to run to locations on the map is laughable. You will need to use the bus service (which is not fantastic as there are only a few locations) and vehicle travel to get around efficiently. Unfortunately this is as much a marvel as it is a downfall of Far Cry 2. The massive amount of exploration and choice available is unbelievably fantastic, but having to spend 10 minutes in a jeep driving down a dusty path gets old, fast. One thing, which is certainly worth its praise, is the fantastic load times for everything. I am still amazed that they have avoided so many loading sequences on a console, for all the depth available.
One upside to all the monotonous driving is just how visually remarkable the land you are driving through is. Ubisoft have done an amazing job recreating a living environment which puts to shame the majority of competition. The graphical prowess and attention to detail throughout the game is astonishing, something which proves how capable the little box in front of the TV really is. From this the engine alone deserves a mention, as once again for lack of a better word, it’s astonishing. Anyone who has played the spin-off Far Cry games prior to this title will be thankful that a completely new engine has been developed, named Dunia.
Since Far Cry 2 is a sandbox gameplay based title, the engine is extremely important. After all you will spend a large majority of your time manipulating the advanced features on offer to your amusement. Impressive features are packed into the engine, such as realistic destructible environments, dynamic storm effects, non-scripted artificial intelligence and a real-time night-and-day system. All of these, however, fall to the feet of the dynamic fire propagation effects which simply put means “you can burn down the jungle baby!” If you were to set fire to a small patch of grass in front of you, it would quickly and spontaneously engulf the areas surrounding, taking over trees, bushes, buildings and vehicles in one huge inferno. Whilst it is possible to use this effect to your advantage in battle, you will find it is typically the opposite as the impending heat throws panic into the equation of combat.
Well how does this all fair in the gameplay itself? Well, extremely enjoyable for the majority. Unfortunately no number of fantastic features will help lift the game up during the many repetitive missions and continual barren driving throughout the game. Some of the games missions are fantastic and really suck you further into the game, and others do the complete opposite. After the tenth mission pick-up, which requires you to drive from one side of the huge map to the other just in order to throw a grenade at a target driving a vehicle, you will become tired… very tired. At this point the game does well at offering alternative objectives thanks to the open ended gameplay, but eventually all options available will hold a degree of repetition in them.
Jumping online can help relieve the feeling of repeating actions, by repeating actions more-so but with other human players! I was hoping for something fantastic from the online mode, something which can pull me away from the fan favourites of Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3; but unfortunately it looks unlikely. Whilst there is nothing technically wrong with the online portion of Far Cry 2, the hammer just seems to miss the nails head. The games are lag free, lively and action packed. They’re well presented, balanced with a good range of classes and thanks to community maps endless in variety. There is just something holding back to formula of combat when faced against human opponents, as the control mechanics really are suited to mouse and keyboard precision when enemies are moving at speed spontaneously. You will be able to play the game on a console, and play it well. I managed to top the leaderboard on the majority of games, but this did not change the feeling of wanting more responsiveness from the controls and tighter bullet control in combat.
Concerning the map editor available in the game, it is not what I expected at all. When I first loaded up the feature I was expecting the typical dull and lifeless pre-made templates and struggle of trying to create anything even remotely original. I was instead greeted with…. Yes, I was a little shocked. There was nothing on the screen, other than a flat piece of land for my map. Was I creating a small multiplayer environment or perhaps a slightly larger war zone? No, with the block of land I was given I could recreate the entirety of another games entire environments. The sheer scale is ridiculous, I literally spent an hour with all the insane amount of options, tools, items and textures available. The result? Well it was a bit crap to be honest (I fail at creativity), so I quit out and downloaded some of the communities work. After playing a few random map choices, I was amazed at the level of creativity random players managed to muster up. Ubisoft deserve a round of applause for finally giving console owners a chance to develop just as well as those pesky PC gamers.
So in a nutshell, a rather large one, that is Far Cry 2; a bustling and beautiful paradise which is held back by small conflicts of repetition and control. Fans of the genre should consider if they are happy with being lead down the path of progression, or if they wish for freedom to explore; this should answer their desire for a purchase. On the other hand, if you are simply eyeing up Far Cry 2 for the creativity of map creation and online play, you have not been wronged! You may have seen the style of Far Cry 2 done before on another game, but I can bet it was not in a world even remotely as immersive as this. All in all, Far Cry 2 is bursting with entertainment, of which any gamer will find a piece of happiness.