In 2004, Ubisoft released one the best FPS games this decade in Far Cry. Several far less interesting sequels and spinoffs were produced for the Xbox and one for the 360, but now the series returns, but in name only, with Far Cry 2. Bearing no resemblance that I can detect outside of the name and the developer, Far Cry 2 casts players as a mercenary in the midst of a civil war in Africa. The African sun maybe hot, but the action is even hotter in this gritty, massive game.
Expansive And Action Packed
When I first began reading and looking at screenshots of Far Cry 2, I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite PC games, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. I recently reviewed the expansion pack to STALKER, so this style of open world, first person action was fresh on my mind. That's exactly what you'll get with Far Cry 2, although instead of being about 60/40 action vs RPG as it is in STALKER, it's more like 90/10 in Far Cry 2 – but that isn't a bad thing...
Far Cry 2 begins with players being able to choose from one of nine mercenaries. The available mercenary choices don't have different stats so much as just different appearances and origins, but I admit it took me several minutes to decide who I wanted to go with. The cool thing, I later found out, is that you will actually encounter the other mercs throughout the game that you can befriend or kill.
While Far Cry 2 includes over a hundred quests/missions total, there is one ultimate goal that your character is trying to achieve: assassinate The Jackal, who is responsible for distributing weapons to the warring factions of the UFLL and APR. The adventure begins with you being driven cross country by a talkative driver. During this five or so minute drive you get your first glimpses at what is undoubtedly one of the best looking games on the two consoles to date. Soon after, you get involved in one of your first firefights, but your efforts are in vain as you are overcome with a bout of scripted malaria, which actually rears its head throughout your adventure, requiring you to keep a stash of meds available. These meds are only available by running missions for the APR.
To advance the story, players must perform missions for the UFLL and APR, essentially playing both sides to serve their own purpose in getting to the elusive and deadly Jackal. You'll have plenty of opportunity to pick up other missions via your cell phone and through those mercs I mentioned earlier. The mercs can help you carry out missions by providing you with supplies or fighting with you, but they can also die, permanently, so taking them into battle is a double edged sword.
Speaking of battle, Far Cry 2 has it in spades. Your merc has the capacity to carry a near-realistic amount of weapons including a machete, grenade, assault rifle, pistol, and heavy gun like a rocket launcher. There are several varieties of all of these, including Molotov cocktails, higher caliber assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, etc. Weapons also degrade which present symptoms like jamming and, well, breaking altogether. You can take weapons from fallen foe or buy them. You can find and earn diamonds in Far Cry 2 by searching for briefcases and carrying out missions.
Open world games like this are massive and can take a long time to cross. That was one part about STALKER that I liked, but also loathed at times, is that the only way to get around was to walk, and when your packing a lot of gear, you get tired, quick. In Far Cry 2, your character doesn't have to worry about an inventory to haul around so much as his weapons, but your character will tire after several seconds of sprinting, resulting in blurred vision while you catch your breath. However, the important difference with Far Cry 2 is that you generally don't have to run very far before you encounter some mode of transportation like a car, boat, glider, or bus that can help you get you to where you're going. In fact, you'll get your first vehicle within the first twenty minutes of play that will save you a lot of shoe leather. Vehicles can of course be destroyed, by the way.
Getting around in Far Cry 2 is certainly made easier with vehicles, but the handy map is a huge help too. Players can check out their map by pressing the Back button, and when you do, your merc will hold up his GPS unit in one hand and the map in the other – I love that you don't have to go to the Pause Menu to see your map. Important points are marked on the map as well as a general arrow to show you where to go. Vehicles can also display a mini-map while you're driving like a dash mounted GPS, which is real handy to help you get where you're going.
Far Cry 2 has several other unusual or interesting mechanics about it that make it stand out even more. For one, players have to keep track of time of day. Players can access their weapons storage boxes, and even sleep at safe houses to pass the time. Time of day is an important aspect of battle in that it's easier to sneak around and get away in the dark. You may choose to use this method when facing a particularly well armed encampment that you need to either clear out or steal from, for example.
The health system in Far Cry 2 most closely resembles that in Resistance, whereby the health meter is broken up into distinctive chunks that refill themselves so long as there is any amount left in said chunk. Should you get very injured, you will need to do things like set your own bones and remove broken glass from your body before you can hope to move again, but these moments are as interactive as you might hope. Even then you'll need to jab yourself with some meds if you want to stay alive.
I keep comparing this game to STALKER, but I think it's a very fair comparison, and furthermore I think it speaks volumes for how good Far Cry 2 is. Another comparison I was going to make, however, isn't quite positive. This isn't something that I noticed until much later into playing, but the difficulty and enemy variety with Far Cry 2 doesn't really progress much. In fact, you don't really take on new, more powerful enemies so much as you fight the same type of enemies continuously, except later on they are often better outfitted and come in higher numbers. Still, once you turn that intangible corner somewhere relatively early in Far Cry 2, the difficulty plateaus, although that's certainly not to say that the fun stops, just the evolution of the enemies. In STALKER though, enemies changed significantly as you moved throughout the Zone, which made for a more continuously fresh experience.
Far Cry 2 also features sixteen player multiplayer with all of your standard modes including deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. A level editor is also included for gamers to experiment with, although I haven't spent much time with this editor.
Lastly, while I haven't played the PC version yet, from what I've read online there are some significant differences between the PC version and its console counterparts. The biggest difference is most definitely in the save system. For the consoles, you can only save at predetermined locations throughout Africa, on PC, you can save whenever. For me, that makes a huge difference in how I'm going to play the game. I'd much rather have the option to save whenever if I'm going to try to experiment because few things are as frustrating as trying something for fun only to be punished by having to go back five, ten, fifteen minutes or more to the last save spot. Being able to save anywhere is one reason why I've spent well over forty hours on STALKER, because I love the chance to try all kinds of crazy approaches to situations and seeing how the game will react. Beside that, the other major difference is said to be in the visual quality; while the console versions are no slouch, a solid PC rig running Far Cry 2 trumps anything you will see on your 360 or PS3.
Ultimately, Far Cry 2 is a hell of a game. There is so much to do and so much to explore in the African setting that you could easily spend thirty-five or more hours playing through this expansive, nearly all-action campaign. Depending on how your campaign goes, there can definitely be some temptation to take another run at it, try your hand at making a multiplayer map, or take the fight online.