Far Cry 2 is set in a fictional African setting full of lush jungles, intense savannahs and desert plains. The wilderness is home to roaming zebras and buffalos who wander the landscape. This setting is hugely refreshing and unique to the genre, as the saturated shooter crowd is filled to the brim with grey, diminished cities and industrial fortresses and dilapidated villages. This setting is an appealing quality of Far Cry 2, something that makes it stand out among the shooters of today. The story follows one of several characters who must eliminate a gun runner who is arming two distinct factions in an embroiling political conflict. Between the ULRR and the APR, you must undertake missions for both, maintaining the ensuing violence and get to the heart of the madness. It's a story that doesn't develop into a memorable plot whatsoever, never taking advantage of its politically intriguing ambitions and setting. It slowly fades into the distance while the gunplay and setting steal the show. The visual design in the game is mostly good. The beautiful greens, tropical vistas and narrow rivers are the eye-catching sights of a decidedly colourful and evocative art direction, bringing memories of "The Lion King". It is definitely the game's best quality, in spite of some screen-tearing and framerate issues that can sometimes hamper the game. Excluding those quirks, Far Cry 2 nails its look. The game also has many immersive qualities, such as in the way the game lacks a formative HUD. This design decision works brilliantly, as it pulls you into its setting, placing you in the into the shoes of "that" character. The minimal interface, and many actions like driving, looking at your weapon, weapon jamming and even malaria – all of which maintain a first-person perspective – really sell the appealing qualities of the title.
The sound design is also fantastic. The sprawling landscapes featuring immersive effects like chirping birds in the distance, the wind blowing against trees and the clicking of guns. The sounds of each weapon are really great, in addition to impressive explosions and enemy chatter. Voice work for the main characters is solid, with different accents and personalities mixing things up. Some of the African voices in the game (like the faction leaders) can sound a bit forced, but for the most part the voice work is handled relatively well in the game. There is also a very effective and unique score to go hand in hand with the game's presentation. Using African drums, guitars and other exotic instruments make the soundtrack feel exciting and engaging, really selling the feel of the world. It's like nothing I've heard before, and it doesn't intrude on the gameplay at all.
Far Cry 2 is based on pure gunplay in a large open world, which is a refreshing take on the shooter formula. The game's setting allows for many open approaches to situations. There are dozens of enemy outposts scattered around checkpoints of the game world, which contain multiple soldiers each time. They man turrets, use vehicles and snipe. Taking them out and scouting the area will clear the outpost of enemies. There are 57 of these in total, so clearing them all out will make your life easier. One complaint about this, is that enemies respawn at every outpost you've cleared after a certain amount of time, which makes the effort feel somewhat in vein. The enemy AI overall is generally good. These guys will hunt you down most of the time, and when they attack in numbers, things can get tense. They mercilessly follow you in vehicles, crashing into you and also trying to ram you if you are on foot. These represent fun but often tiring sections of getting out of your car, throwing a grenade and wandering off, exploding the enemy truck in the process. These patrols add weight to the game's setting and political ongoings, though, and make it feel like you are the stranger in someone else's town.
The shooting mechanics feel good and taking down enemies is satisfying, despite some relatively erratic recoil on weapons. You'll have to maintain a balance when aiming, but enemies can get the edge on you because of this, which is a little annoying. There are times when weapons can jam, which makes firefights even more interesting. It can happen at random moments, forcing you to seek cover, try different guns and hope to find other weapons along the way. This gives a realistic feel to each situation, making you think about what weapons to use and using them wisely. There are weapon shops situated throughout the world that offer missions in exchange for the availability of new weapons. These tasks involve destroying guarded convoys, which in turn yield guns and items on the shop's computer. Once you've purchased a weapon, you can upgrade it, choosing accuracy and recoil upgrades, as well as the bandolier and weapon manual for each gun, which increases its usage.
There are multiple ways to take on missions. In addition to different paths, you can choose to go guns blazing or stealth, with different weapons and items depending your decision. Whether it is attacking an enemy village from afar with a mortar, burning everyone with a flamethrower or hunting down enemies with a machete and dart rifle, there are many gameplay opportunities in Far Cry 2 that elevate it above many linear shooters. This sense of choice is heightened by the many different missions that you can accept. Though the main faction missions are the way to go, you can also find the weapon dealers, cellular towers from a mysterious contact to kill different targets, taking over safehouses from guards and buddy quests.
Buddies are guys who assist you in battle. Once acquainted, one of your buddies will help you if you are taken down by enemies, and will fight them while you recover. The other buddy will appear at safe houses to give you different alternatives to missions. If a faction leaders tasks you with killing a target, a buddy may, for example, give you co-ordinates to find a different target in order to scare the main enemy, allowing you to ambush them. These increase your reputation and friendship history with them, subsequently giving you bonuses like vehicles and weapons at each safe house. However, just like you, your buddies can run into dangerous situations, and will also require your help. If a buddy is downed, you can revive them using a health syrette or you can leave them to die. If they die, they are gone forever. A new buddy will appear for you to meet.
The game map is huge but has several issues. Though the design of the world is great and allows for open play, traversing the world can be mostly detrimental. Using vehicles is the quickest way to get to each objective or mission point, and whether it is a truck, buggy or car, the handling and weight feel the same. The actual driving is okay, but you will often have to stop and repair the engine, which can be annoying. You can also drive into rocks and other surfaces, forcing you to travel the rest of the way on foot. This leads to the biggest problem – it's often tiring. Sprinting from one point to the next takes a long time, and doing this all the time gets tedious. There are bus ports situated in different areas that speed up the travelling process, but most of the time you'll be slogging to each mission time and time again.
Another issue, which may prove divisive, is the save points. They are situated only in weapon shops, Mike's Bar (where your buddies are located) and other specified buildings, and can be a nuisance if you die and restart from half-an-hour back. You can save after each completed mission and time reset (changing the time from a safe house), so this is a counter-measure to the overall problem, but its still something you should keep in mind if you are accustomed to frequent checkpoints in games.
The game also features a multiplayer component that features standard modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Diamond, a CTF variant. There is also a mode called Uprising, where players must defend each team's "captain" while they capture control points. Once the points are taken, players are tasked with eliminating the enemy captain, resulting in an XP payoff at the end. XP yields levelling up, and this in turn grants diamonds, which are spent on weapon upgrades, which affect the gameplay. The map designs are quite large and allow for the same approaches as single player, which is nice. There are around a dozen maps, and several classes to choose from. In addition to the multiplayer component, there is a robust, deep map editor that is sure to achieve popularity, and rightly so. Everything you could want is here, from vegetation, terrain building, wildlife, objects and buildings. You can adjust the type of weather, implement different types of land such as deserts and savannahs, and can also generate a base map if you so desire, effectively cutting out the middle man. This will be a welcome feature to editing beginners, but the creative auteurs will likely form many interesting and complex designs. Some of the designs I've seen from the online community are simply fantastic, ranging from re-imaginings of Normandy, Call of Duty maps and even the Deathstar. This will give you some indication as to the opportunity for creativity here.
Far Cry 2's campaign will last you over 30 hours, which is great for a first-person shooter. The story takes a long time to get going, and gets somewhat interesting towards the end. The game looks great, is immersive, and plays very well, and is a really great experience. If you're looking for something unique and different in this saturated genre, look no further than Far Cry 2. The setting is involving, and the map editor is brilliant. This game comes recommended, and is simply a breath of fresh air.
Replay Value 8.5
Overall – 8.5/10