Forget EVERYTHING you knew about the first Far Cry as well as Instincts. Far Cry 2 has NO resemblance whatsoever to it's roots. In fact, forget classic Far Cry altogether; Far Cry 2 is not related to the previous stories in any way shape or form, even the characters. Of course, Ubisoft were no doubt trying to reinvent the series with a new, fresh setting, and I suppose it's fair enough even if (at least in my opinion) the previous settings, gameplay and story still had plenty of life left. Did I say Ubisoft? Yes I did. Crytek had nothing to do with Far Cry 2, and that's probably why the game is a far cry from Far Cry (hur hur...).
I could rant on all day about how ludicrous it was to completely abandon Far Cry's roots with this game, but those would just be a fanboy's words. It's difficult not to keep bringing up the game's predecessor's into the review, but I'll do my best not to completely judge the game because of what I've just been saying. Besides, even if Far Cry 2 is a a reinvention of the series, that doesn't stop it from being a good game, surely? Erm, let me explain...
First of all, Far Cry 2 indeed sounds great on paper, despite what I've said. It's an open world FPS (first person shooter) with at least 50KM squared terrain to explore. There's plenty of missions to keep you occupied, lots of weapons at your disposal along with a fair amount of customization for them. There's vehicles to drive, different types of environments and you can even choose which character you want to play as at the beginning of the game. Sadly, there's just so many issues regarding gameplay that (including the fact that this isn't related to the original Far Cry) it's difficult to keep track of them.
The story is of course, more in-depth and intelligent than it's predecessors (compared to before), which were, admittedly a bit silly really. Basically there's a civil war raging between the UFLL and the APR factions thanks to an illegal arms dealer known as 'The Jackal', and it's your job to assassinate this guy by whatever means necessary, in other words, by working for the factions. Not exactly Far Cry material, but as a different game it's an acceptable plot. Trouble is, Far Cry 2 is FLAWED beyond relief.
First of all, the good news. The African setting is actually pretty awesome, and the map itself is large and extremely detailed, making it one of the most realistic video-game environments I can think of. There are deserts, jungles, savanna and run-down urban locations throughout, and this does have an effect on the gameplay. The terrain and structures are very nicely designed and mapped out, and provide lots of great hiding places, vantage points and are even just nice to look at, which brings me onto Far Cry 2's biggest selling points...
It is by far one of the best-looking games out there, visually. The Dunia engine is incredible, especially with DirectX 10 rendering enabled. The textures are superbly detailed, the lighting is absolutely sublime and the effects are top-notch. The shadows cast from trees and plants are particularly impressive, and it all looks amazing at the end of the day. The weather effects are probably the best I've ever seen; if the wind picks up, every last piece of greenery sways, and you can even hear the leaves rustling. Water ripples majestically. Characters look great; they animate very well and most of them look different from one another. It's spectacular, and if your PC is ready to max out all the settings in the huge variety of video options available, you're in for a real treat, and with the all the patch updates today, the game is more or less bug-free. Honestly, I can't really fault anything in the graphics department.
The same can also be said for the sound. I already said that you can even hear the weather having an effect on your environment. The voice acting, while nothing especially groundbreaking, is still above-par. The sizzling and crackling of fire is great, and just the ambient sounds of nature is well-executed. The music, while fairly repetitive and not particularly noticeable out of action, is still pretty good and sets the mood of the game well.
The game boasts some of the greatest pyrotechnics and fire ever seen in a game. Although not perfect by any means, this is still true. Lobbing a Molotov at, say, a patch of dry grass will eventually set the whole field ablaze, and if the wind is blowing, expect any trees or buildings nearby to burn too. This makes for some really cool tactics, like being able to lure enemies out of structures or cover. Fire is an advantage! Of course, pyrotechnics aren't exactly the game's selling point, but this was probably the first time I've really felt satisfying when throwing fire bombs in a game.
Sadly, the gritty environment, graphics and sound are the only things I can really praise Far Cry 2 for. While there's a lot of interesting ideas to be had throughout the game, which I will explain, most of them have been badly implemented; the game is poorly executed. For a start, the missions are pretty uninspired and nothing you haven't seen before. They mostly consist of blowing up certain things around the map or taking out a person of significant 'importance'. While there isn't especially anything wrong with this as such, it's just been seen in countless other shooters. While Far Cry 2 doesn't deliver it's missions badly as such, there's certainly other games that have done it better. The biggest problem I have is that it never feels like you've really accomplished anything important when you do complete a mission. It has little to no effect on the game world, and nothing is particularly emphasized; you just do the mission and move on.
The biggest problem I have with the game however, is not it's missions, and it's not the fact that it owes nothing to it's predecessors either. Believe it or not, but traveling in the game is my biggest gripe. Put simply, Far Cry 2 is in DIRE need of a fast travel or even taxi system, much like you get in Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3. Seriously, you'll spend way, WAY more time traveling than ANYTHING else. Of course, you probably won't mind for the first hour or so of play time, as you'll no doubt be gawping at the beautiful sights the game holds, but honestly, it just gets boring. That's right, BORING. Every time I accept a mission, I dread the journey there because it becomes so tedious and repetitive, it gives you little motivation to even continue on with the game.
Example – your objective is three or so miles away, and on the way there you come across at least two, if not more, enemy camps. Your jeep gets shot up to the point where it's undriveable every time you go past an enemy outpost, forcing you to wipe out all enemies at the camp EVERY time as well having to repair your jeep with your magic socket wrench each time. Why not just drive off road you say? Because you'll slow down to a crawl, probably hit many trees and by that point your foe will have caught up with you. And lets not forget that enemies also have the ability to use vehicles so you'll also be chased by several other trucks with mounted machine guns on the way too. This happens on EVERY mission you travel to, whether you be driving a car or boat. Of course, it's fun at first, but do you really want to spend God-knows how many hours doing this every single time you head ANYWHERE? I don't that's for sure. It would have at least been nice if you could fast travel once you've found a location.
What really makes no sense to me is why is 90% of everyone who inhabits the map an enemy? There is no such thing as a civilian camp in the game – so as I described in the last paragraph, when you drive past anyone, they WILL shoot at you. You know how there are supposedly two factions at war with each other? Well the only person who gets shot at is you! You never actually see any fighting going on, and this is a big shame. Also, the AI is pretty redundant, and enemies don't really use cover that well. Not to mention the fact that they RESPAWN once you move on! So clearing out an enemy guard post is meaningless, as the cycle continues. Really it just feels like it's a war against you and your buddies. Ah the 'buddy' system...
Far Cry 2 features a so-called 'buddy' system. You one 'best buddy' who will call you up when you accept a mission and provides backup if you so desire, but this requires driving somewhere else on the other side of the map before-hand to plan an attack. Seeing as this requires EVEN MORE traveling and EVEN MORE stupid fights before getting anywhere near your objective, I NEVER accept your buddies' assist. Why you can't just meet them somewhere closer to the objective I don't know. Any other buddies you have are there to drag you to safety when down, but this only happens occasionally. While I did at least like this side of the buddy system, it's nothing to get worked up about.
I said earlier in the game that you can choose a character to play as before starting a new game. This could have been interesting had there actually been more point to it. You get to choose from a wide selection of mercenaries to play as, all with different combat backgrounds and experience as well as being born in different countries. However, the only effect this really has on the gameplay is who your buddies will be. Play as one character and another you could have chosen will be your buddy, and vice versa. Seeing as whoever you play as will never speak a word anyway, it just doesn't seem to have any relevance to anything. This is just a minor complaint I suppose, but it is true that there is little point to this option.
The fact that your character has malaria throughout the game plays a much larger role than you might think. At first it seems quite cool and unique to the game in that every now and then you'll suffer and be forced to take a pill. Trouble is, you run out of pills way too often, and this requires you to get more, thus, MORE traveling is required as well as more generic missions to complete. And the fact that you HAVE to gain more pills to survive is just a joke, and adds to Far Cry 2's seemingly endless list of flaws. If you could just buy the pills instead I wouldn't have had much of a problem with this concept.
The game's weapons are your typical arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns, machine guns, Uzis, pistols, snipers, rocket launchers, and you can carry one primary weapon, one sidearm and one heavy weapon (i.e. rocket launchers) as well a machete. I actually quite liked this system as it at least provides some kind of tactical edge of the game. They all feel quite nice to shoot, and none of them are completely useless all in all. But naturally, this drags me on to yet another problem the game faces. Put simply, your guns jam. Brand new, unused guns will function for an adequate time before rusting and jamming, but eventually the guns get so bad you throw them away. You can pick up dead enemy guns, but every single one of them is rusty and on the verge of disposal. Don't get me wrong, I actually think that damaged weapons can work in a game (it worked in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.), but here they get rusty far too quickly, and it can be infuriating when you've lined up by getting an enemies' head in your scope and your gun fails to shoot. OK, so while this isn't a huge issue as such, it is still irritating for the most part.
You can buy guns and weapon upgrades as well as vehicle improvements, including reliability fixes, bandoliers and more, and I suppose there isn't really much to complain about in this respect. If you buy one gun, you'll never have to pay for that particular gun twice, as you'll always have brand new ones spare at the weapon dealers which are spread around the map. While I did like this concept, it should also be noted that you can actually work for these weapon merchants too. For whatever reason, the only missions that they offer are simple 'take out the convoy' objectives. Accepting one of these missions is pointless and a stupid to say the least, as the convoy will just drive around in circles endlessly until you destroy it. What you get instead of dough is a weapon upgrade of some sort, and it really isn't worth it to be fair.
You can store weapons in crates at safe houses if you so desire (if you've purchased one), but this idea just seems like it was randomly thrown in the game to give it more depth. I never have the patience to travel all the way back to a safe house in the middle of nowhere; why bother when you can just get another brand new gun at a merchant's? Safe houses are scattered all over the map and allow you to sleep until a desired time as well as save your progress (even though you can save whenever you desire in the PC version), and I never see myself using safe houses. For a start, heading out at night seems to have little effect on combat than it does in broad daylight, and it's a shame as you would think that darkness would provide more opportunities for stealth. So really the time of day has no relevance to the gameplay, and this is just wasted potential if you ask me.
I guess one thing that is functional within the game is the game's currency. Diamonds act as your cash, and you actually get paid before a mission instead of after (thank the Lord). Weapons, upgrades and such are fairly-priced for the most part, despite the fact that they jam. Unlike a lot of games, I rarely found myself short of cash, but I never had too much either. There are various briefcases hidden around the map containing diamonds in too, and you can track these using the sensor on your GPS (a flashing light that flickers faster the closer you get to a briefcase). Although some of these briefcases just aren't even worth going through the hassle of finding (the tend to only have one or two diamond value), at least it occasionally feels like you've earned something of value during those endless attacks on the way to a mission. Saying that however, it nowhere near makes up for these repetitive, boring fights that I've been droning on and on about.
Far Cry 2 does offer a few extras to go with the single-player experience, such as your fairly bog-standard multiplayer and a map editor. I haven't spent much time with the multiplayer, as I'm not a particularly competitive gamer, and this also means that there hasn't been much reason for me to use the editor. From what I did play of the multiplayer, it was adequate enough, just your basic deathmatch and CTF (capture the flag) affair with an added ranking system, and the editor seemed plausible. Nothing to get excited about, but enough to satisfy a online fanatic.
At the end of the day, Far Cry 2 is a deeply flawed title that serves as a sequel to the excellent original Far Cry in all but name. It seemed like Ubisoft intended the game to be groundbreaking within the FPS market, but fell short. They certainly succeeded with the game world; it's beautiful, and I have to admit that it does capture the African feel it set out to do. However, the ideas implemented within the game are just too inconsistent; most of them feel either unfinished to the point where they just make the gameplay annoying or they have little to no effect on the game whatsoever, which renders them pointless. It also felt like it was trying to be realistic for the sake of being realistic (and failed of course). And let's not forget the fact that you'll spend of most of the game traveling, the majority of the missions are boring, the combat is tedious and over-repetitive, the characters are uninteresting and forgettable, and, if I'm perfectly honest, I was often confused as to what half the missions or characters even had to do with the whole civil war plot concept. The fact that the game has the Far Cry name slapped on it's case is seriously misleading.
Maybe if the game had been released under a different moniker my opinion would differ, or maybe I'm just missing the point entirely, but I think Far Cry 2 fails completely as the open world game it wants to be. The way the game looks and feels is flawless, but the gameplay is a flat-out mess and was a chore to play if anything. Would I recommend it? Of course not, but at the same time, if you can appreciate what Ubisoft were trying to do with the game's apparent realism, you may enjoy it. I haven't given up all hope on the series, but I sure will if Far Cry 3 turns out the same as this...
+ Stunning visuals and game engine
+ Some decent gunplay to be had, as well a nice arsenal of weapons at your disposal
+ The game world is vast and feels realistic
- 'Far Cry'. I mean, seriously? THIS is supposed to be a FAR CRY game?!
- Endless, boring travelling sections to be had whether you like it or not
- Generic missions that have already been done better in other titles
- The whole malaria business is just a nuisance that hinders gameplay
- Weapons jam and rust far too quickly
- Character choice is a wasted oppurtunity
- The whole game is a mistake, albeit a very beautiful one