Set in the war-torn and poverty-stricken continent of Africa, Far Cry 2 drops you in the middle of militia driven chaos. In this free-roaming action role-playing game (this is not just an FPS), you are given the objective to take out the elusive and highly dangerous arms dealer known as “the Jackal.” The United Front for Liberation and Labour (UFLL) and the Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR) are embattled in a civil war, and the Jackal is selling to both sides, continuing to escalate the all-out brutality. Your main objective is to take him out, but it’s going to take a lot of work to make that happen.
Far Cry 2 promises over 50 hours of gameplay, offers massive maps with no load points, has amazing graphics, is set in a unique environment for gaming, and allows the player to accept missions in any order. It is quite a great gaming experience and definitely stacks up as one of the better PC game releases of 2008.
The lesser of two evils
First, though, just how did we end up with Far Cry 2? There isn’t even a Jack Carver! The original Far Cry seemed to have come out of nowhere and held its own as a decent first-person shooter for its time. As you know, Crytek ended up in an agreement to do business with Electronic Arts for their future games and did not develop this sequel. I have never been much of fan of Ubisoft, so I don’t have a hard time understanding this decision. Ubisoft uses controversial DRM, and they’ve completely ignored us and other sites and publications when it comes to review copies – and this goes all the way up to publications such as Electronic Gaming Monthly. Similar to other situations, it’s natural to root for the underdog – Crytek – in this situation.
However, Crytek certainly isn’t immune from its share of my dissatisfaction either. After changing the face of the FPS genre, they develop and release Crysis, knowing that was more or less unplayable to a large portion of the PC gaming audience thanks to extremely steep hardware requirements. This was certainly the reason that I wasn’t interested in touching it. Then you have Crytek’s President and co-founder, Cevat Yerli, stating in and interview with PCPlay that piracy was to blame for the semi-lackluster sales numbers that the game achieved in the first few months after the game’s release, and that piracy is the PC gaming industry’s core problem. In my opinion, the core problem with Crysis was the requirements, and, the last time I checked, first-person shooters are a disaster to control with a gamepad. Piracy is, of course, a problem for companies in many industries. However, you don’t hear Valve or Blizzard complaining about it.
So what is there to make from all of this? For me, I’ll continue to play the better releases that the companies develop, but I’ll do so with a bit of resentment. I’m more in favor of companies such as Stardock, who have more recently come out against unintelligent use of DRM and have published a Gamer’s Bill of Rights. It sounds a little corny, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction and should really be applied to other forms of digital intellectual property as well.
Back on track
A portion of what had me anticipating the release of Far Cry 2 was the simple fact that it was taking place in Africa. The only other game I’ve played that is set in Africa was Wild Earth, a child-oriented African safari game where you take pictures of animals. I’m someone who can really experience the adventure and exploration of a new virtual continent (I’m also a fan of the adventure genre), and I really like the originality of the African setting choice. The Ubi dev team apparently traveled to Kenya for two weeks to do research on the setting, and I believe they’ve captured it very well, even though I’ve never been there myself. It seems like more often than not we see far too much borrowing and copying, especially with the FPS genre.
The other simple draw with Far Cry 2 was that it promised to have a more realistic storyline. The original Far Cry, and the direction that Crytek has taken the Crysis games, is more sci-fi themed. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with sci-fi, it just seems to be a bit overdone in the videogame world. What may seem odd, though, when it comes to the story, is that there doesn’t really seem to be any connection to the first installment. Driving and thrashing your way through the jungles feels somewhat familiar, but beyond that I’m not really sure why they didn’t just title the game something else.
A First-Person Shooter? Wait a minute…
It should be noted that Far Cry 2 isn’t just a first-person shooter but much more of an action role-playing game. You pick between a few characters at the beginning, and you can choose to sleep (but it isn’t required). You can also interact with several characters, pick which mission you want to take next, and choose to take on missions directly by yourself or get help from your in-game pals.
The story, on the other hand, doesn’t seem all that I was hoping for. You get little bits here and there, but it doesn’t seem all that spectacular. After hearing about the long-lasting gameplay, I was hoping for something more immersive.
By land, by sea, or by air
Transportation is a huge part of Far Cry 2, and there is a variety of ways to move about in-game. The primary way most players will wind up traveling is by jeep or car. The game offers a classic open jeep with a gun turret mounted on top, a Jeep Grand Cherokee-like vehicle, a coupe, a dune buggy for those extra fast trips, trucks, busses (automatic loading), boats with mounted guns, and even a hang glider if you can find one.
Vehicles seemed easy to control, worked without any glitches, and were essential in a game with maps this large. It would have been nice if more vehicles had weapons on-board, but in keeping with the realistic theme, I guess it makes sense. You will have to repair your vehicles because after getting shot up or running into obstacles, they will be damaged. If you don’t fix them, the vehicles will catch on fire eventually and then explode... and, from my experience, you don’t want to be standing next to an exploding car.
An arsenal fit for a mercenary
Far Cry 2 has a nice assortment of all kinds of weapons that are all realistic. You can obtain them either by spending money at the gun shops or by taking them from militia that you’ve killed. There are also a few nice weapons in some of the safe houses, which are basically save points for the console version of the game; you can save at any point in the PC version. Weapons that you pull off dead soldiers or find strewn about won’t be in very good condition and have a tendency to jam. You can fix the jam by simply hitting the reload key, but you quickly find out that it’s much better to purchase weapons because they are new and are much more reliable.
To purchase these guns, in addition to upgrades and enhancements, you of course need to pay. Diamonds are the currency of the land, and you earn them by completing missions. There are also many diamonds hidden throughout the maps in briefcases. You can find those with the in-game GPS on both the vehicles and your personal GPS unit. I enjoyed the variety of weapons in Far Cry 2 and think that one of the highlights is the way that fire can be used as a weapon. Not only does it looks great and work well, but fire can be used as a weapon with the flamethrower, Molotov cocktails, and the rocket-propelled grenades, all of which cause everything to light up.
A stealthy challenge
Being stealthy is somewhat achievable in Far Cry 2, but it’s difficult. As soon as you drop an enemy, be it with the machete, the silenced pistol, etc., the other guards always seem to take notice. I’ve seen a video or two of people being stealthy in-game, but let’s just say I didn’t find the camouflage stealth suit, priced at 45 diamonds, to be all that worth it. I tried, but the AI always notices. Apparently, you need to move very slowly and stay low in order for it to work. I don’t know if I’m just impatient but I really would have liked to enjoy a bit more of a stealth aspect, or at least to be able to camouflage myself and car as a militia group so I wouldn’t get shot at every single guard post. Using the dart gun long range is probably going to be your best bet when it comes to stealth.
What immediately struck me about Far Cry 2, and probably everyone that has played the game, is how beautiful the environments are. The graphics in this game, for the most part, are absolutely incredible. When the game begins, your character is riding in the back seat of a jeep. After looking down at the seat in front of me, I couldn’t believe how great the textures looked. Ubisoft has really done an excellent job of portraying the varying African terrain and climates, and texturing everything that goes with it. You experience harsh arid deserts, mountainous cliffs and rock formations, along with lush jungles and swamps.
However, my eyes started to feel funny after playing for a while, and it turns out that the “widescreen” resolution is just a scaled vertical resolution. At a time when widescreens are all the rage, this resolution decision is certainly something that I just can’t agree with. Thankfully, “Racer_S” posted a Field of View modification on the WideScreeGamingForums that allows you to set the X and Y FOV. I’ve been using it since I noticed the issue, and Racer_S has been releasing new versions after the patches. It should be noted, however, that Punkbuster may kick you for using it online. You can choose to use it or not when starting up the game, so it’s really not much of an issue. Hopefully, Ubisoft will fix this issue themselves. Until that point, thanks to Racer_S.
Sound and music are also very well done in Far Cry 2. Music plays throughout the game and, as you’d expect, grows more intense when the shooting begins. You hear the wind, the animals, the water; everything that you’d expect in a realistic environment. When you get inside of a car, outside noises are muffled, and going underwater produces a similar realistic effect.
There were a couple of issues in the sound department that I noticed, though. One thing that bugged me was the voice acting. After listening to it for a while, I came to the conclusion that the actors must have taken lessons from the Gilmore Girls TV show. NO, I don’t watch it, but I do have a sister, and I overheard a few episodes back when I was living at home. Actors in-game spoke so fast that it just sounded strange after a while, and it bugged me. The other sound issue that I experienced was a directional one. For example, when you get close to a diamond briefcase, a noise starts and usually you can just follow your ears to find it when you’re that close. However, I had problems doing this because the sound didn’t always seem to be coming from the correct direction. I noticed it most with the briefcases, but there were other situations as well.
Less than perfection… repetition, resurrecting guards, and retarded zebras
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Wow, Ubi has really created a great game…”, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case; there are flaws. The biggest negative in Far Cry 2 is repetition. Many of the side missions, and even some of the primary missions, are just much too similar. For example, every mission to unlock a gun is practically the same, just in a different location. The same is true for other types of side missions, as well.
With the huge maps and all the traveling back and forth across them, the other main downside in the game consists of the guard points. No matter how many times you clear out a guard post, there will always be soldiers and mercenaries waiting for you again when you return. It’s so unrealistic that all I had to do in-game was go behind a very close land-mass and come back to find the point fully supported again. It gets really annoying, and even if you try to avoid the guard posts or whiz through them, guards will chase after you in vehicles and start shooting. After a while, I actually preferred to travel by boat, because the water ways seemed a bit less hostile. The boats are pretty fast; so you can get by some of the smaller posts.
And how about this bug: I come up on a guard post, quickly dispatching all opposition from my jeep’s mounted gun. I’m just sitting there at rest and notice a couple of zebras, who start running away, and the next thing I know, one runs SMACK into the front of my jeep and rolls over dead. I just burst out laughing! The AI, especially the animal AI, definitely has a few glitches. Another example I can give is this: at another point in the game, a guard, who was facing away from me, was shooting… and it was hitting me. That one was more aggravating than humorous.
Another minor issue was the fact that I couldn’t re-map a couple of the keys. I’m an arrow key gamer, and always have been (an editorial is in the works on the pros of using the arrow keys… stay tuned). I wanted to re-map the “change vehicle position” key, for example, but didn’t seem to be able to. The default is “c” but nothing else seemed to work, and I would always end up having to re-map it to “c.” There were a few other functions I would have liked to re-map, but it didn’t seem possible or it wasn’t listed. It’s minor, I know, but it’s still worth mentioning. Hopefully it will be fixed in an upcoming patch.
Far Cry 2 is a very enjoyable game and has many great aspects. It has its shortcomings, but it still makes its mark as one of the best releases of the year, at this point. The graphics and setting alone make it a real stand-out, and I like the fact that Ubisoft tried to go after something a bit more unique in a genre that is known for rampant replication. Ubi may not be my favorite company, but I definitely have to recommend this game.
1. According to Edge, the Stardock is developing a new DRM solution for external companies; not their own IP.