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As you may or may not know the first Far Cry is very different than the rest and it’s also the only game in the series to be developed by Crytek. Personally, I find it to be a very frustrating game, often times bordering on feeling outright unfair. After the release of Far Cry, Ubisoft acquired all the rights to the series and Ubisoft Montreal became the primary developers of the future titles and Far Cry 2 marks the start of the open world design the series is known for. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft, Far Cry 2 was released for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October, 2008. For this review, I played the PC version. I did consult the game’s PCGamingWiki page before playing and did download and install the FC2 MultiFixer which comes with quite a bit including bug fixes, it unlocks machete skins and allows the player to change the field of view among other things. I did adjust the field of view which resulted in one small eyesore as far as I could tell and it was nothing I couldn’t live with. Far Cry 2 does come with a multiplayer component which I did not get to try so this review will only focus on the single player.
Set in an unnamed African nation, the player is put in the shoes of a mercenary who is sent to the country to kill an arms dealer known as “The Jackal” who is distributing weapons to two political forces engaged in a civil war, the United Front for Liberation and Labour and the Alliance for Popular Resistance. The story is primarily conveyed through interactions with NPCs and features almost no cut scenes. I do think there is an interesting plot somewhere in here but most of the characters you meet and interact with are very uninteresting and forgettable minus The Jackal, himself, and the buddies.
I think Far Cry 2 is an interesting game because I do think it’s fun but I also think it’s not for everybody. It seems like the developers were aiming for some kind of realism to immerse the player into the world and atmosphere. I don’t even know if “realism” is the right word but I do think they succeeded in making a unique experience. But in the end, Far Cry 2 is a simple game. It’s repetitive and navigating around the world can be tedious. I feel like this game is a great foundation or framework for the modding community, something other than what’s on offer here. There are some cool ideas, some impressive stuff is on display for the time it released, and it makes for a cool action sandbox but I can also see some elements turning people off. I tried getting into Far Cry 2 many times before and failed and there are reasons for that.
As for the immersion, I think the developers did a pretty good job. Before playing you must choose your mercenary and they’re all of different ages and come from different places around the world and have different backstories. The HUD is minimal and you can turn off the crosshair or play on the highest difficulty where it’s off by default. When low on health, the mercenary will tend to any wounds before being able to use a syrette to replenish health. Weapons can get old, dirty and jam and enemy weapons are typically dirty so it’s always wise to acquire new clean weapons from the armory. You can find and drive vehicles, boats, and utilize hang gliders to get around and bring up a map and use a GPS to figure out where to go. If vehicles take enough damage, you’ll need to repair them to keep them going.
Those are just the immersive gameplay elements. Far Cry 2 is atmospheric and immersive for other reasons as well. For its time, Far Cry 2 was notable for its physics and environmental effects. Fire ain’t no joke. It will spread and burn foliage and trees and it is impressive to witness even today. An explosion or molotov can result in an entire area slowly going up in flames. It’s very cool stuff. Furthermore, the gunplay looks and feels pretty good. In general, I would say the action is excellent primarily due to the visual effects and audio work. Weapons have good feedback, blood squirts when enemies are shot, most firearms sound powerful when fired and explosions look awesome and sound booming. Over time firearms will actually become dirty and scratched and look worn. It’s a nice little touch that helps add to the immersion.
As cool as a lot of stuff in Far Cry 2 is, not everything is great. For starters, malaria is something you have to deal with. The mercenary acquires malaria early in the game and will need medicine to keep it at bay. As you’re playing, the mercenary will occasionally get malaria attacks and as long as they have medicine, they can prevent themselves from passing out. I find that this mechanic really adds nothing of value to the gameplay. Nothing fun at least. It’s just something you have to deal with and there are mods out there that remove the mechanic altogether. I’m assuming malaria was implemented as a way to add tension but it fails. From what I read, the amount of medicine you have is based on story progression so if you don’t complete story missions, you’ll have an infinite supply. Ultimately, all this mechanic does is require you to go out of your way to get more medicine. It just becomes annoying and feels unnecessary.
Another thing I think is a little odd is how mounted weapons are handled, specifically on vehicles. Many vehicles come with mounted weapons and you can switch between the driver seat and weapon at the press of a button. However, you do everything solo despite having buddies. The way things are designed, it really would have been nice to be accompanied by an NPC, preferably a buddy, that could utilize the weapons on your vehicles or boats instead of you having to switch between driving and firing the weapon. There’s no way to defend yourself while driving and I see that as a flaw. The game features assault trucks and typically there’s two enemies in them. One drives and the other is on the gun. They will chase and shoot at you and the only way to defend yourself would be to stop driving to shoot back whether it be the vehicle gun or getting out and using your firearms.
Buddies are characters you meet throughout the game and will offer you optional objectives for bonuses. These include ammo and health at safehouses and upgraded vehicle weapons. Some buddies will even rescue you if you fall. There will be times you will have to defend them and maybe even save them from dying. But you do have the option to abandon or kill them. Because of the bonuses they offer, there’s really no reason not to complete their objectives. Whenever you accept a story mission, a buddy will call you and offer another opportunity which is typically just an extra objective. Complete it and you earn a reward.
Now I’ll talk about one of the game’s biggest problems, the mission design. Most missions feel the same. Story missions progress the story. Assassination missions reward you with diamonds. Underground missions reward you with malaria medicine. And Arms Vendor or Convoy missions reward you with more weapons to purchase. There are some other side missions but they’re no more memorable than most other missions in the game. Most story missions have you going from A to B to destroy something, retrieve information, or kill someone and they always play out the same. There are some exceptions but it typically goes like this; accept the mission and receive diamonds as payment. Go to the location, kill a bunch of enemies, complete the objective. If you meet with your buddy, he’ll give you an extra objective but it’s the same thing, just something extra you have to do. Assassination missions are always the same. Visit a cell tower, accept the mission, go to the location, assassinate the target and receive diamonds as a reward. Underground missions are always the same. Accept the mission, travel to another underground location, kill some bad guys, deliver the documents to an NPC and receive medicine as a reward. And Convoy missions, as you can probably guess, are also always the same. Accept the mission, travel to where the convoy is and destroy the truck.
Needless to say, Far Cry 2 has a serious lack of variety. It’s not so much the simple objectives I have a problem with. It’s the design. There’s nothing to mix things up. There’s basically no set pieces, few scripted sequences, and little going on in the world around you. There’s no traditional boss battles and all enemies kind of feel and behave the same. Sure, they will carry better weapons the further you progress but there’s no clearly defined types that require specific strategies to eliminate. They all run, shoot, and shout things. Much of the game consists of driving and shooting. After a while, I realized the only real variable was me. How I approached enemies and what weapons I brought with me were the only things that really changed how things played out.
Some missions deviate from the typical formula but they’re few and far between. What I think makes the gameplay fun is all the freedom you’re given. You can use any weapon and approach any objective however you want. This is why I feel Far Cry 2 makes for a good foundation or framework for something other than what’s on offer here. Freedom and action are clearly the primary focus and I feel there should be more to this. You’re free to do whatever you want, can shoot plenty of enemies, and cause all kinds of destruction. That’s all good fun. But the actual missions, the structure of the game, is just simple and repetitive.
The world consists of two large territories, each with numerous regions or areas. There is a fast travel system in the form of bus stations. You can only fast travel to other bus stations and there’s only about a handful in each territory. Enemy guard posts are littered all over the world and if you clear them out, enemies will simply respawn after you leave so there’s always going to be bad guys to shoot and you can encounter enemies driving on the roads. I can’t say the enemy AI is super smart but not super dumb, either. They will run around and shoot at you, often times running out into the open but they can also flank you and enter vehicles and chase you which can become annoying after a while. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t defend yourself while driving and enemies can be relentless. They frequently forced me to stop whether it was to use my vehicle’s gun, get out and shoot or repair my vehicle. In many instances, I would end up fending them off and then continue on my way only to reach another guard post to start the process all over again or encounter an enemy vehicle on the road that would begin chasing me as soon as they saw me.
A lot of the action in the game occurs at guard posts because they’re everywhere and the world contains many roads surrounded by rock formations and trees so often times there’s not many ways to go around or avoid guard posts. But it does depend on where you are in the world. Some areas allow for easy off-road shortcuts. I feel like the game tries to encourage you to scout guard posts before jumping into firefights but after a while, all that does is slow things down. Furthermore, all the guard posts feel the same and you don’t have to travel far before enemies respawn which can become annoying if you need to travel back and forth.
Guard Posts consist of a bunch of enemies standing or patrolling around, some vehicles parked and maybe one or two weapon emplacements. If you have the camo suit, you may be able to sneak around or get the jump on enemies but trying to get anywhere on foot will be slow and time consuming. Driving vehicles is the fastest way to get anywhere but it also makes you easier to spot. At a certain point, I decided to stop at each guard post to eliminate the threats because almost every time I took the risk to drive through them, I was usually unable to outrun any pursuers unscathed so I would have to stop anyway to fend them off and then repair my vehicle. In the end, travelling anywhere consisted of a lot of stopping. But on the flip side, if enemies didn’t respawn, the world would eventually become super boring to navigate. I think the solution would have been to add a respawn time frame or maybe extend the distance you need to travel before they respawn. Remember, you don’t have to travel far.
Diamonds are the game’s form of currency. They are given to you for accepting story missions, awarded to you for assassinations and can be found in the world. Diamonds and Jackal Tapes are forms of collectibles and are the incentives to explore. Diamonds can be spent at weapon shops to purchase new weapons, upgrades, and equipment. Any weapons you purchase can always be retrieved from the armory. I will say I find this weapon unlock system to be somewhat addictive. It’s one of the things that kept me going. I was constantly on the lookout for diamonds and was eager to accept missions just to acquire more so I could buy new weapons and equipment. Far Cry 2 offers a lot of cool weapons allowing for all kinds of experimentation and ways to approach situations and cause destruction. You can run around all guns blazing, blow everything up, set fires, or even try to be a sneaky sniper. How you go about your business is all up to you and that kind of freedom is one of the best aspects of the game. You can purchase accuracy, reliability, and ammo capacity upgrades for weapons, repair upgrades for vehicles, syrette upgrades, a camo suit to improve your stealth capabilities, and weapon storage crates so you can retrieve any weapons you place in them from safehouses.
I do think the world, itself, is well designed, at least from an atmospheric perspective. Getting to certain places can be a pain in the ass because you may have to take specific routes and if you don’t stick to the roads, you risk crashing into obstacles like trees and rocks and sometimes my vehicle would get stuck on things in the environments. Plus, due to the lack of a minimap, I would bring up the map constantly just to make sure I was going the right way. The world consists of desert and jungle, animals roaming around, multiple towns and villages, and all kinds of areas to explore. You can roam around the world freely but, unfortunately, there’s not much to do outside of the missions. You can look for Diamonds, Jackal Tapes and engage enemies. That’s it. On the flip side, looking at this as an action sandbox – getting into firefights, destroying shit and starting fires can be a ton of fun. It’s just a shame there’s not more to it.
Visually, I do think Far Cry 2 holds up rather well. The African landscape on display often looks gorgeous and the world is packed with details. Bullets will rip through objects and destroy foliage and it’s cool seeing explosions send objects and debris flying through the air. Some aspects definitely look dated but, overall, I would say the presentation is still pretty solid, especially when viewing things from a distance. Visual and particle effects look great, the weapon models are detailed, and I really enjoy some of the reload and unjam animations. As for the audio, weapons fire sounds great, I enjoyed listening to the screams of dying enemies and when you’re not shooting bad guys or blowing shit up, you’ll get to listen to atmospheric sounds which does help add to the immersion. The soundtrack consists of solid tunes that help elevate tension and fit the tone and situations, ranging from sounding dramatic to intense. On the technical side, the game did crash on me whenever it had to load something, several times. It usually occurred when I would fast travel and a few times after initiating a quickload.
I had fun with Far Cry 2 but it definitely has problems. However, I do think it is a unique game, not only in the series but also in the genre primarily because of the immersion and atmosphere but some of the design choices are just poor. I like the idea of playing as a mercenary and being thrown into a world with plenty of freedom. It’s just a shame the gameplay is so repetitive. It took me about twelve hours to beat Far Cry 2 but I beat it over the course of a couple of weeks and that’s because I would get tired of doing the same shit over and over again and had to stop. Some days, I would only play in short bursts. I would play for a while, complete a mission or two, and then accept the next one and take one look at the map, see the destination is on the opposite side of the map and then just stop. I knew it would be a pain in the ass to get there and take an unnecessarily long time just because I would have to fend off enemies at the numerous guard posts along the way and probably a second time if I had to travel back the way I came. It doesn’t matter if I was going to the destination, bus station, safehouse, or weapon shop – it would be the same shit every time.
I admit the developers made a cool sandbox but it could definitely use more variety. Having a lot of freedom means nothing when there’s no variety. There’s really not much to do except engage enemies but even they don’t offer much in the way of variety. If there were no Diamonds or Jackal Tapes, there would be no reason to explore. Most missions feel the same, all guard posts feel the same, enemies respawn almost immediately after you leave a guard post, much of the gameplay consists of driving and shooting and getting to a destination can be time consuming and a pain in the ass and neither of these things are ever alleviated much. But the atmosphere and immersion only carry things so far. I wouldn’t mind travelling long distances if there was more to see or do along the way. Shooting enemies and destroying shit is fun but becomes repetitive because that’s the only form of excitement the game has to offer. Clearing out the same guard posts five, ten, twenty or more times becomes tiring. You’ll basically see everything the game has to offer after about an hour or so. Ultimately, I think you really need to enjoy shooting shit and have patience to enjoy Far Cry 2.
I would recommend Far Cry 2 because it is a fun sandbox to play around in. I played this game numerous times over the years and really struggled to get into it. This was the first time I actually beat it but I admit I had to push myself through the final stretch. Far Cry 2 does take the series in a different direction and I do enjoy it more than the first game but the repetition is a big issue. There’s no variety to the action and it does get a tiring well before the end draws near. As I said before, I really feel like this is a good foundation for mods and from what I understand, there’s quite a few out there. In the end, Far Cry 2 is a flawed but fun game and definitely worth checking out if you enjoy open world sandbox shooters.