Far Cry 2 Review
Although you can't say the same for the plot, Far Cry 2's first-person action squeezes every last drop of potential out of the unique African setting.
The sheer variety of weapons plays a big role in your ability to craft a personalized approach to each mission. For every situation, there's a weapon ideally suited to delivering mercenary justice. From the AK-47 to the Molotov cocktail and the remote-detonated improvised explosive device, they all feel like weapons that could easily be plucked from the civil wars of Africa. Furthermore, your weapons will cycle through an authentic level of wear and tear, particularly those picked up from ragtag militiamen; secondhand weapons will show dirt, frequently jam, and eventually break, which means that it's best to buy them from the shop. All of the above makes for a uniquely desperate and makeshift style of combat compared to other first-person shooters.
If there's one drawback to the combat, it's that it tends to be a little too forgiving after the first few hours of the game. Your health is divided into several individually regenerative bars like Resistance: Fall of Man, but once it gets low, you can inject yourself with a syrette for added health (though if it's really low, you'll first need to perform a slick self-heal such as yanking bullet shells out of your leg or snapping a broken arm back into place). You can eventually upgrade the amount of ammo and health you have to further tip the odds in your favor, and even have a buddy rescue you whenever you die (though you need to keep an eye on him because he can be permanently killed in a scuffle). Most of the challenge arrives when you're looking at your map in search of the next mission and then get surprised by a bunch of roadside bandits while you're driving one of the game's numerous run-down SUVs or river boats (which exist alongside hang-gliders, trucks, licensed Jeeps, and dune buggies as the types of vehicles you can operate). However, there are still very few moments when you don't feel like an everyman caught in a nasty situation, and that sort of improvised payback is what makes Far Cry 2's combat so engrossing.
Visually, Far Cry 2 is a stunner. Though not as technically amazing as the jungles of Crysis, Far Cry 2's depiction of the sprawling African wilderness makes up for it with environmental diversity and intimidating scale. Several landscapes are represented here: dense forests, rolling plains, arid deserts, craggy badlands, and even shantytowns and hut villages. You'll see trees swaying, the charred remains of a brush fire, and several forms of wildlife running around. It all looks incredible in the transitional period of the day-night cycle when the sun is falling or rising through the horizon and everything is cast in a warm glow. The game also sounds great, with tribal music accompanying you at all times, from a relaxing ambience in calm situations to a rapidly escalating roar of drums in battle. The voice acting during mission briefings feels strangely hurried (as if it's some trick to squeeze more dialogue onto the disc), but that's largely offset by excellent enemy banter during combat.
Adding to Far Cry 2's value is the 16-person online multiplayer. The gameplay modes on display are nothing terribly special (you'll see variations of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Territories), but the fighting captures a lot of the appeal of single-player, including vehicles, fire-based weaponry, and a great sense of scale in each map. But what sets the multiplayer apart is that you don't need to settle for the included maps; each version of the game comes with a deep but intuitive map editor capable of letting you create everything from dense urban locales to sprawling forests. And downloading new maps is simply a matter of seeking out featured selections or hitting "download" when a Quick Match search lets you know that you don't have that one yet. Such uninspired gameplay modes are certainly a letdown, but the map editor has great potential to inject loads of lasting appeal into Far Cry 2's online component.
Although the original Far Cry was available only on the PC for the first year and a half of its existence, Far Cry 2 will see an expanded audience with the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions all available out of the gate. However, its roots are clearly on display when taking in the differences between the three platforms. Far Cry 2 looks best running on a PC, with clearer textures, better foliage, and less pop-in. The console versions also suffer from the occasional loading hitch when you're driving into a highly populated city. Another key difference is that the PC version lets you save anywhere you want, whereas the 360 and PS3 games only let you use predefined save points. However, the latter difference isn't quite as lopsided as the graphical disparity; saving anywhere gives you more room for experimentation in approaching your missions, but the console versions provide a more clearly defined sense of consequence that adds extra tension to the combat. You'll definitely want to go with the PC version if you've got a system capable of approaching the hardware requirements, but the differences aren't so great that you won't have a blast with either console version (which are virtually indistinguishable from one another).
Overall, Far Cry 2 is a game in which you can quite literally get lost for hours at a time. But that feeling of exploration is precisely what makes the game so much fun; your creativity never feels stifled when approaching a mission, and the game's overall structure of side tasks, friends, rewards, and upgrades is a diverse ecosystem rivaling the landscape itself. No matter whether you're a PC fan whose played through the similarly structured Crysis or a console owner new to the world of open-ended first-person shooters, you won't be disappointed by Far Cry 2.