Far Cry 2 is a first person shooter unlike any other. Not everyone will like all of the changes it makes to the genre, and it definitely has flaws, but its undeniable that the game is just different, there isn’t anything quite like it. You might wonder how it can be so unique, given that the game is a sequel itself, as sequels don’t usually stray far from their predecessors.
However, Far Cry 2 isn’t like most sequels: in fact, it doesn’t really have anything in common with Far Cry 1 other than that they are both first person shooters, and that they both have palm trees. Basically everything else about the game is completely different; the setting, the story, and the gameplay. Far Cry 2 was also made by a different developer, Ubisoft Montreal, while Far Cry was made by Crytek. Given all these differences, many gamers wonder why Ubisoft even titled the game as Far Cry 2 rather than making it an original IP. Whatever the reason, Far Cry 2 is more than capable of standing on its own. Far Cry 2 was released for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC platforms on October 21st, 2008.
Far Cry 2 is set in a failed African state, littered with mercenary checkpoints and ceasefire zones in larger settlements. Ubisoft Montreal has done an incredible job making the setting feel completely authentic: everything about the setting is consistent and makes you feel as if you are actually there. The development team flew to Africa to get an understanding of the environment there, and it definitely shows in the game.
Far Cry 2’s plot is straightforward for a shooter: the protagonist is a foreign mercenary who has just arrived in the African nation. The player can choose from a selection of eight different mercenaries, but the game plays the same regardless of who you choose. Since the entire game is first person, you will only ever see the hands and arms of the person you chose, so the only difference is in what gloves or tattoos they have, or don’t have. Choosing the character is a purely superficial choice, which is unfortunate, as the concept of choosing your own player character had a lot of potential to change gameplay or even the story as well.
Essential to the story and gameplay of Far Cry 2 are the player’s “buddies”, his mercenary friends who are there to look out for him. There are seven potential mercenary friends in the game, all of whom need to be rescued from various predicaments to become the protagonist’s allies. These allies will suggest alternate solutions to missions, giving the player a choice between the default way of accomplishing a mission and the friend’s suggested way. However, this decision is superficial as well: whether you choose the suggested alternate solution every time, or not at all, the story will remain the same. The player’s allies provide only an illusion of choice, not a real one.
Despite this, the friendly mercenaries can be very helpful, especially during the beginning of the game when the player has little idea of where to go in the massive game world. The other mercenaries help give the player a sense of purpose and an idea on where to go and what to do in the early stages of the game. They will also help the player directly, by rescuing him when he is severely wounded. Of course, the other mercenaries can only rescue the player if they are not dead themselves, and it is possible for the mercenaries to die, either through enemy gunfire or through certain events in the story. And if the player doesn’t make an effort to meet the other mercenaries and help them out, they won’t receive any help in return. Overall, the player’s allies don’t make a difference in how the plot progresses, the story itself being linear despite its illusions of choice, but they are a positive influence on the gameplay and add a lot to the experience.
What is more important than the mercenary allies, and probably more important than anything else to both gameplay and story in Far Cry 2 is the setting itself. The wartorn African nation is huge and truly open ended, allowing the player to go wherever he wants in an area of over 50 square kilometres. The environments are filled with variety, as lush jungles, arid deserts, and wide savanna all merge into a consistent, believable world. From colonial era towns to mud hut filled villages, the setting feels alive and unique. Heavily armed mercenaries patrol the terrain in open topped jeeps, some of them equipped with heavy 50 caliber machine guns and even extremely deadly automatic grenade launchers. Throughout the game, a skilled player will learn to recognize the sounds of distant vehicle engines as well as what direction they are coming from. On the other hand, careless players might find themselves incinerated by a grenade launcher or RPG armed patrol they drove into, especially on higher difficulty levels.
The setting is also more interactive than in most shooters: fire plays a huge part. A grenade going off, or a propane tank being destroyed near flammable materials will result in a realistically growing fire. If the fire starts near dry savanna grass, it can grow much faster than one might expect, surrounding enemies or the protagonist himself. Many times throughout the game I found myself racing to start a vehicle and drive away before a wildfire would surround me. And even if the player escapes the fire unscathed, if his vehicle is destroyed by it he could be stranded literally miles from civilization. This is especially important because the player can save only in “safe houses” on the console versions of Far Cry 2. The player will feel quite a bit more pressure to stay alive if he saved an hour ago and risks losing all that progress, than he would in another, more standard shooter where he would respawn at a checkpoint thirty seconds back if he was killed.
Even the time of day plays a major role in Far Cry 2. The player can choose to wait any amount of time at a safe house, so he or she can choose to venture out when the lighting conditions are what the player wants. At night, enemy vehicles are easier to spot from their bright headlights, and the player will be able to hide from enemies more easily. Of course, the opposite is true: the player’s vehicle will also be illuminated by his own headlights, and the enemies will be harder for the player to see. The time of day that the player chooses to operate at will also interact with his preferred playing style. A player who likes to run and gun with heavy machine guns, grenades and rocket launchers would probably have the best success during the day, when enemies are easy to see. A player who prefers a stealth style of play, with silenced weapons and sniper rifles will find it easier to ambush opponents and avoid detection at night.
As you’ve probably already realized, Far Cry 2 is so different from the average first person shooter it’s hard to describe it with genre norms. Linear shooters that funnel the player down a narrow corridor, with a few cutscenes to develop the story, have very little in common with Far Cry 2. It is essentially the first open ended first person shooter, the first to introduce the kind of freedom of movement that RPGs like Oblivion and Fallout 3 have. The biggest difference this makes is that everyone will experience Far Cry 2 in a different way: everyone will go about their objectives differently, everyone will use different weapons, and everyone will have a different experience as a result of the dynamic nature of the setting. This is in stark contrast to a highly scripted, linear shooter such as Call of Duty 4, where every player experiences a very similar game.
One person who plays Far Cry 2 might have assassinated a target during the day with a sniper rifle from a distant cliff, while another might have snuck in with a silenced MP5 at night, or even left a remotely controlled explosive near the target. Others might have used the assistance of the other mercenaries to blow up a bridge the target was under, and others might have simply fired RPGs at the general area until the job was done. While everyone who played it accomplished the same objective, they all have a different story to tell about how exactly they did it. That freedom is still quite rare in videogames, but it is becoming more popular as successful open ended games are released.
Far Cry 2 is first and foremost a shooter, but it does introduce quite a few RPG elements. Early on in the game, the player will have little choice in weapons, as enemy weapons are decrepit and will jam and eventually fail entirely when used. As the player progresses through the story, he will accumulate payment in rough diamonds, which can be used to acquire more weapons. The weapons that the player chooses to buy will affect the playstyle: going out into the wilderness with a AS50 50 caliber sniper rifle will result in a very different gameplay experience then going out with a light machine gun and auto shotgun. By the end of the game, the player will have more heavily equipped vehicles and a much more potent arsenal to choose from, so in that respect, Far Cry 2 is similar to an RPG such as Fallout 3.
Far Cry 2’s single player mode is quite lengthy, with a great deal of objectives and environments that will take most players at least 20 hours to complete. I personally took around 30 hours to finish the game, but as in all open ended games, much of that time is being distracted by optional sidequests or simply hunting for additional diamonds to buy that next desirable weapon. A player who does only the required story objectives as fast as they can will likely complete it much faster, but that kind of player probably wouldn’t enjoy the game much anyway, as it isn’t intended to be played like a strictly linear game. Those who enjoy open ended RPGs like Fallout 3 and Oblivion, and also enjoy shooters like Call of Duty 4, like myself, might appreciate Far Cry 2’s merging of the genres. There isn’t anything like it, and the singleplayer adventure definitely deserves a try. The story is unremarkable, but the gameplay experience is unique.
Far Cry 2 does have a standard set of multiplayer versus modes, with ranked matches and weapons that can be upgraded as the player gains experience. However, the multiplayer modes are hampered by unbalanced weapons and a poor matchmaking system. Unlike other multiplayer shooters that balance each weapon with every other weapon, Far Cry 2 has weapons of varying rank, some that are superior in basically every way. In theory, the beginning class weapons in the multiplayer game are balanced with the higher level unlockable ones, but in practice, it doesn’t hold up. Certain weapons, most notably the AR-16 assault rifle, basically beat out almost all of the other ones by a vast margin. The end result of this is a game where everyone uses the same weapon because it is the most powerful.
Unfortunately, this unbalanced weapon system, combined with the time consuming and ineffective matchmaking system have resulted in a deserted online community. There is basically no choice of server on the Xbox 360 version of the game, as only one or two ranked servers will be available to join, with only a few players in each one. This can be contrasted with the hundreds of thousands of Call of Duty players who are online at any time on the Xbox 360 versions of those games. Far Cry 2’s multiplayer modes had a great deal of potential, and could have been just as popular as those of the competition, but at this point, only 8 months after release, the online modes have very few people still playing them. Two of the four modes, Capture the Diamond and Uprising, usually have no servers at all, meaning that you couldn’t play them even if you wanted to.
However, there is one aspect of Far Cry 2’s multiplayer that stands out positively, and it is the Map Editor. The term Map Editor doesn’t really do it justice, because Far Cry 2 offers the first real map creating tools available on a console game. They are extremely powerful, as almost anything feasible in a shooter map can and has been created by the skilled mapmakers out there. Anything from massive floating rollercoaster like race courses to recreations of the Eiffel Tower have been made, and made well, by skilled mapmakers. Player made maps can only be played in “player” matches, matches that are not ranked. There are quite a few more people playing player matches than ranked matches in the Xbox 360 version of the game, a testament to just how good the player made content is, and how powerful the map creator is. Maps from other shooters have been recreated accurately in Far Cry 2 with the editor, as well as famous locations from movies, such as Isengard from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s a great feature, one that isn’t found on any other console game, and anyone who enjoys making something creative and new should have a great time with Far Cry 2’s map editor.
Far Cry 2 is a beautiful game, both in technical terms and in art design. The high quality textures and lighting system are superior to their counterparts in most other console first person shooters, and the weapon, vehicle and environment models are all made extremely well. Despite this, the game runs at a solid framerate almost all of the time: only when you blow up several vehicles at once will the framerate fluctuate. Far Cry 2 is easily one of the best looking games available on consoles. On a high end PC, the game looks even better, second only to the visually incredible Crysis. The sound effects are of similarly high quality, with distinct and unique weapon sound effects, but also very immersive ambient sound effects of various animals, whether you’re in a rainforest or a desert.
Far Cry 2 is a difficult game to describe in a few words. But this trailer, from last year’s E3, depicts what Far Cry 2 is all about. The game has flaws holding it back, as any do, and it doesn’t quite live up to the incredible potential the concept has, but it’s a unique game nonetheless, and one that every shooter fan, and even every open ended RPG fan, should try.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com