January 16, 2009
The Far Cry series and myself have experienced a love-hate relationship over the years. The original on the PC, then developed by Crytek, was simply stunning in every way possible and the German studio showed how to make a truly impressive shooter. Yet the port to console some years later gave the original no justice whatsoever and put it to shame with a linear and stiff shooter with no imagination. Although Far Cry no longer has Crytek at the helm, the series looks to step away from the direction of Predator and Instincts, and get back to its roots. This time we head to Africa in a shooter developed internally by Ubisoft that tries to not only pick up where Crytek left off but attempts to leave them in their shadow. On the whole, mission accomplished.
Far Cry 2 leaves the tropical beach environments behind and heads for the savannahs of Africa, where you’ll step in to the shoes of a pretty much unknown mercenary whose primary mission is to locate and take down the Jackal. The Jackal is this African region’s local arms dealer who is fuelling the unrest between the two factions that occupy the land; the APR and the UFLL. It is your job as a merc to in infiltrate these factions and gain trust, eventually leading to the whereabouts of the Jackal. Far Cry 2’s story may not be Hollywood but it does a job, and that’s to introduce you to the environment and its hugely diverse terrains.
Far Cry 2 is essentially a sandbox shooter if ever there was one. Not only are there loads of main missions for the factions to contend with but you actually get to choose sides in the conflict or you can even play the field if you so wish. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then you can step up and do some assassination contracts or convoy takedowns if you so please. In addition there are a ton of diamonds (the game’s currency) stashed around the massive environment so that may even appeal to some. Doing the side missions do have their advantages of course; the hit missions pay pretty well and the convoy side missions unlock certain weapon ranges from the arms dealer. Doing this means you have a huge amount of weapons available for purchase which then are stored in your armoury. From your armoury, you can then plan your attack; stealth, all out chaos, the choice is yours and the huge amount of weapons on offer allows you to play any way you see fit. A personal favourite other than the completely silent stealth weapon set you can create, was an arsonist setup equipped with flamethrower, flare pistol and grenade launcher, where the outcome is flame-grilled in every sense of the phrase. The whole fire aspect is a nice addition by Ubisoft and once started, they really do spread fast through the dry grass but try not to think too hard about it because you can’t necessarily control the fire, just watch it expand. All in all, the weapons in the game are vastly extensive and all have their advantages; a great arsenal if ever there was one.
Part of the attraction of Far Cry 2 is the developer’s ability to create this living, breathing and hugely immersive environment. The game is a visual masterpiece and surely has one of the hottest looking environments that 2008 has to offer; now if only the same could be said about the character models. The full day-night cycle complete with varying weathers means that the dense shrub and African plains almost never look the same. Throw in some picturesque waterfalls, a whole load of wildlife, a hugely impressive draw distance with little to no pop-up and a view that never leaves the first person, and you can seriously get lost in the world and absorbed in its atmosphere.
The whole immersive view works well in some situations but not so well in others. Sure, it’s great to see your character pull out a bullet from some limb of their body to save themselves or even watch an old raggedy rifle jam, but it’s not so fun when you’re driving or even worse, reversing. The fact is, you’ll never leave the first person view at all in the game, not even for the story telling aspects, which probably the reason the story really isn’t that powerful. You’ll even have to access the map in real time pressing the back button, allowing you to use the monocular to scout out upcoming camps and add important points to your map, although the inability to add enemies you scout to the map is one thing the predecessor got right that the sequel surely didn’t.
Another core fundamental in Far Cry 2 is the buddy system, allowing you to pick allies up along the way to aid your cause. You can either set them to come rescue you when you’ve taken a beating or to help you subvert a mission that allows you to play missions differently and ultimately add benefits to your safehouses, either way, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them no doubt. The buddy mechanism is an interesting one that works on the whole. The problem may be however, that you never really get attached to them for several reasons; for instances, when they die, they stay dead, and there are so many around that they almost feel expendable. Ha, the life of a merc is brutal!
Far Cry 2’s ambition sometimes however is also its own downfall. The sheer size of the environment means that if you somehow get chased in to a corner and have to abandon your vehicle, that you could spend the next 20 minutes looking for a replacement ... Sometimes, it’s a long lonely walk as well. Would it hurt to have stuck a few extra jeeps or abandoned vehicles lying around; or even given your character the ability to move a bit faster, rather than the malaria ridden short sprints that they can muster up. Granted, there is some sort of fast travel to get swiftly across the island in the form of bus depots but these are few and far between and take some travelling to as well which means they are pretty much ineffective.
When you do have transport, navigating the island isn’t too much of a problem, although you’ll find yourself stopping every 2 minutes to shoot a few locals who tail you. This can get supremely annoying and tends to break up the gameplay considerably. The best way to get around, is to stick to the rivers which tend to be a lot faster and a lot less crammed allowing a smoother ride from location to location, but even then you’ll have to stop occasionally to take down a few enemy boats.
Part of the initial problem of Far Cry 2 is the repetition of its missions, whether you subvert them with a buddy or not, you essentially do the same thing ... Go to the HQ, speak to the boss, go somewhere, blow something up/stick a knife to someone’s throat ... mission complete. The lack of variation is frankly disturbing and not many will be able to sit through the long jaunts to the same missions that have the same consequences, although, the game does end on a high note with a mission that was one to remember.
The game unfortunately is not without its glitches either, but then again, when are games of this magnitude ever free of their shackles? The main problem here is that there is indeed a game ending glitch that I fell a victim to; thankfully, due to my anal saving technique, I lost no more than an hour overall. The well known “save glitch” seems to have the ability to damage save files so unless you save often in new slots, you could become a victim of this. There is no determined cause yet, although I suspect that mid-missions saves from in-game prompts is the root of the problem, and there is currently no patch available either. A frankly unforgiveable glitch that will undoubtedly spoil the game for a lot of people.
The online aspect of Far Cry 2 is fairly solid and will offer plenty of great action. The traditional deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag, sorry, diamond modes, are all included. The only real difference between Far Cry 2 and other online first person shooters is the Uprising mode, which is a combination of territories but with each team having a captain who must secure the zones instead. Games are fast and frenzied and almost lag free, however the ability for the host to ban players is a ridiculous inclusion, especially if that host is a sore loser. Throw in one of the most extensive map editors that has ever graced the planet and Far Cry 2 has great longevity, long after you’ve gone through the single player. The lush single player visuals are even present in the online field, which most definitely gives Far Cry 2 a leg up over some of its rivals.
The achievements in Far Cry 2 are ... how do I put this ... frankly quite evil. If you’re looking to get any sort of significant gain in this title, you’re going to have to put the hours in. You’re looking at between 30-40 hours to get the 650 single player points and well over 100 hours to get the 350 MP points available, which as far as I’m concerned is ludicrous. Sure, go ahead and make the achievements a challenge, but this is taking it a step too far. One of the hardest achievements in the single player carries with it a measly 10 points requiring gamers collect 221 diamond cases in a massive environment whilst completing all paid main missions and cell tower missions. Throw in a Rank 30 achievement that could consume your life and the list is more ambitious than the game itself if that was possible. Shame really, although the game has some pretty sweet tiles.
Far Cry 2 is a hardcore shooter if ever there was one, not hardcore in terms of difficulty although adopting a run-n-gun attitude rarely works, but if you want to get the most out of it, you’ll have to the patience of a saint and willpower of a person of the cloth. In order to truly appreciate it, you’ll have to look past all the monotonous travelling and the repetitive missions and get sucked in to the immersive world that Ubisoft Montreal has created. Most gamers won’t be able to look past those but if you can, Far Cry 2 is a more than solid shooter although occasionally letdown by its glitches ... and a big one at that!
The audio rarely puts a foot wrong; the clicking of bones back into place and the soft African sounds that intermingle with the missions are very fitting for the title. A case of decent but not too in your face.
Frankly one of the best game worlds we’ve ever seen not just in 2008, but ever. In the Top 5 best looking games of 2008 easily.
The game as a first person shooter is flawless with controls that are responsive and never sluggish; you’ll never have an issue with combat ... aside from the fact it’s hard to see your foes in all that shrub sometimes. The game however is slightly marred by its intrusive driving, and its slow moving and sprinting. But otherwise, great.
A real Jekyll and Hyde section here if ever there was one. Sure the game world is utterly immersive and incredible and delivered perfectly ... but the mission repetition and the long jaunts really do hamper gameplay. Plus ... a game ending glitch!? How did that happen!?
Utterly ridiculous. Asking people to invest 200 hours to get the full 1000 is not going to help anyone; in this gamerscore whoring world it will only act as a deterrent to some people. We don’t mind challenging lists, but this is way overboard. Did I mention it had sexy tiles? I'll be honest though, managing to get all of the single player achievements is an immensely satisfying experience, especially that 10 point diamond one, but it’s a lot to go through for 10 points.
A game that without the long jaunts, repetitive missions and game ending glitch would easily be scoring in the 90’s. If you can look past that and save wisely, Far Cry 2 is a hugely immersive shooter with a solid online mode. Fancy yourself as a budding architect? Well check out the map editior, it is utterly fantastic and puts every other map editor to shame. Great game which is kept back from being epic by a few key points. Still, the world is incredible.