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Far Cry 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft

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PC Review - 'Far Cry 2'

by Jesse Littlefield on Nov. 7, 2008 @ 2:42 a.m. PST

Far Cry 2 immerses players in a new kind of gaming experience, featuring a new game engine built from the ground up. Players will discover a true open world gameplay set in one of the most beautiful environments in the world, Africa.

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: October 21, 2008

Far Cry 2 is a game that I really wanted to like. The idea of being let loose in an African country in the middle of a civil war and being given a single vague objective sounded like it could be a fantastic game experience. Building on the open level design established in Far Cry seemed like a fantastic idea, but the end result is something that doesn't have very much in common with the original Far Cry. Gone are Jack Carver and the supernatural element of the story and gameplay, and in their place, you have a moderately realistic political setting in Africa. Far Cry 2 ends up feeling like something that more closely resembles a "lite" version of Grand Theft Auto from a first-person perspective, and it doesn't work nearly as well as I would've hoped.

In Far Cry 2, you are a nameless mercenary who enters a war-torn African country with the goal of killing an arms dealer named "The Jackal." Things go terribly wrong within the first 10 minutes of the game, and your character ends up with a bad case of malaria and is forced to work with the two warring factions.

Unfortunately, the story and gameplay are almost completely separate from one another. If there's anything story-related going on, it's in a safe room, and as soon as you exit, so does the story. You're back in the same world that you were in before, except with a new cluster of enemies at a map location. The only element of the story that carries into gameplay is the malaria, which requires you to frequently find medicine to deal with the random attacks. The implementation isn't particularly good, and the medicine-finding missions end up feeling like an artificial way of extending the game's already-lengthy campaign.

After a tutorial that introduces you to the game mechanics, you're thrown into the world and let loose. For a game in which you're supposed to be able to go anywhere and do anything, there's not very much to do. Scattered around the map are missions you can accept from gun dealers, your war buddies, factions and radio towers. While the missions are delivered in a variety of ways, the missions themselves are structured in very similar ways. You're given a location on your map where there are a lot of enemies ? or a specific person ?to kill, or there's an item to take or destroy.

With such a huge game world, it can be very easy to get lost, and thankfully, Far Cry 2 delivers an almost magical map system that makes sure you always know exactly where you are and where you need to be. Several levels of zoom and perfect integration with gameplay make it one of the most useful maps I've ever used in a video game.

However, the way the game world is set up makes traveling from location to location extremely frustrating. Scattered about the map are a lot of security checkpoints that have been established by the two warring factions. The problem is that as a mercenary, whenever you get close to any of these guys or the patrols, you're going to get shot at. Even if you're doing a mission for one of the factions, you're supposed to be a secret weapon that never gets any support. As a result, getting from one end of the map to the other can often be a ridiculous and tedious process that requires you to go through a half-dozen checkpoints and ring up a pretty large body count before you can get to your next objective or start a mission.

Making it a little more annoying is that you can't take many bullets before you go down. There are a few ways to heal yourself, but the most interesting method is "stabilizing," which can be enabled when your health gets really low, you pull out a bullet, or twist something back into place. It looks sickening, and it delivers the intensity of the scenario wonderfully.

However, if you do die, death is not the end. There's a buddy system so when you die, an NPC will often swoop in and rescue you, dragging you to safety while taking out some enemies in the process. It's a great system, although the "history" you develop with your buddy seems completely and utterly useless. You have two buddies at a time, and one will come and rescue you, while the other will contact you when you take faction missions and offer you an alternative task to the mission, which results in a much better reward ? and a lot more work. Generally, it's a good idea to do what your buddy suggests.

While there are a lot of annoying checkpoints in Far Cry 2 to deal with, the gunplay manages to be pretty fun, especially when you start using the fire element. Much of the grassland or jungle can be set on fire, and a little fire can quickly grow into a fiery blaze that can drive away enemies. Adding a little more strategy to the gunplay is weapon degradation. Taking weapons from enemies often results in using old dirty weapons that have a tendency to jam or break. Having your gun jam in battle can be deadly, and every time you hear it, you dread it and find yourself hunting for cover.

Far Cry 2 is over 25 hours long, and much of that time is spent traveling between objectives. Even with several map changes that split the game into acts, the story takes far too long to get going, and it never develops into anything interesting. It makes wading through the tedium of constant security checkpoints very difficult to keep playing through. Once you've gotten five or six hours into the game, you've seen most of what Far Cry 2 has to offer.

Far Cry 2 does a number of things extremely well and leaves fantastic impressions in a number of areas, the biggest of which is the game world. It's enormous and intricately done, and as you wander around, you'll find herds of zebra running in the plains, incredible weather effects, and an impressive graphics engine at work.

While the game doesn't reach Crysis in terms of graphical caliber, it's still fantastic-looking and scales wonderfully for both high- and low-end computers, whether you're watching the sunlight creeping through tree branches, your headlights illuminating the savanna at night, branches flying from trees when an explosion is nearby, or the wind dynamically playing with the trees. Admittedly, some things look kind of out of place and awkward, such as the rippled sand dunes in the first map. As you play Far Cry 2, if you have a computer that can run the game well, you'll frequently find yourself stopping to just look at the amazing country that Ubisoft Montreal has given you.

Another one of the title's strong areas is the audio design, which features top-notch sound effects and music. The sound effects give guns a real kick, and the explosions manage to impress each time you hear one. The music fits the game perfectly, making heavy use of drums to really heighten the action. Even the ambient sound is brilliant, and seemingly little touches, such as the whistle of the wind through the trees, end up adding a lot to Far Cry 2.

Not everything about the sound design is great, though: The voice acting is almost universally bad. Most of it sounds like people are reading their lines off a disjointed script, with the cadence changing between just about every sentence. The lone highlight is the game's antagonist, "The Jackal," who has his fair share of awful voice-overs but manages to generate some fantastic voice work among the carnage.

The multiplayer component of Far Cry 2 has some impressive elements to it. The map editor allows you to easily create some intricate and fantastic-looking maps. While the multiplayer portion can be fun, there aren't that many people playing online, and the system of finding a multiplayer match doesn't work very well on the PC. It's set up similar to what you would expect out of Xbox Live, but you'll often find yourself cycling through seven or eight servers before finding a game that you can connect to.

Far Cry 2 looks and sounds great (voice acting aside), but it has some gameplay mechanics that make progression through the game world a frustrating task. Far Cry 2 overstays its welcome and then some, dumping you into a world where everyone wants you dead and it's unfortunate that the objectives become repetitive during the course of the game. It's the norm for big-budget titles to offer fewer than 10 gameplay hours, so in this area, Far Cry 2 provides excellent gameplay and replay bang for your buck. While it has several interesting features, Far Cry 2 is not going to reinvent the FPS genre, but if leaving a trail of bodies in your wake is what you're craving, look no further.

Score: 7.4/10


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