Guest Author - James Shea
A rough departure from Far Cry 1, though similar in spirit, Far Cry 2 is a bitingly realistic sandbox shooter game about the rough nature of African civil wars.
Far Cry 2 takes place in an unnamed African nation in the midst of a civil war between two rival factions - the UFLL and the APR, who are indistinguishable apart from the missions that they give you. The player takes the role of 1 of 14 mercenaries (which mercenary is chosen only affects your body, which is only partially visible, and the mercenaries you don't pick become potential allies during the game) on a quest to kill The Jackal, the arms merchant who's been supplying the whole thing. However, you contract malaria before you can do so, and find yourself indebted to one of the factions' lieutenants (which one depends on where you collapse in the initial playable sequence). From there, you set about enriching yourself and making a name for yourself in the war-torn country.
The world is an open sandbox, meaning that you can go anywhere within the map's limits. Travel consists of walking, driving, river travel, and buses (which serve as fast-travel to selected map locations). There are guard posts set on roads and rivers, so it's nearly impossible to get anywhere without a fight. There are also safehouses that, once captured, serve as save points and, once you've upgraded them, places to restock your ammo and weapons. Theoretically, you're part of a war, but the truth is that everyone is hostile to you no matter who you do missions for. Therefore, you are always at risk, as your employers are quick to remind you. Your missions will send you to different points on the map, though luckily you usually only have to go to the place and don't have to worry about returning to collect your pay. Payment is in diamonds, which can also be found scattered around in suitcases on the map; these diamonds are used to buy weapons and gear at the weapons shop.
Missions from the factions are the most free-ranging and generally involve a wider variety of tasks and opposition. Missions from the weapons shop unlock more weapons for purchase and involve attacking rival convoys. Hacking into a cell phone tower will provide you with mysterious assassination missions. Missions from the Civilian Underground consist of deliveries in exchange for malaria medicine - these missions are required, as you'll get malaria attacks after a given number of storyline missions. Therefore, you cannot advance in the story without doing Underground missions.
The game is a first-person shooter that prides itself on gritty realism. Apart from ammo counters and health meters (which disappear when not in use, IE when you're not hurt or reloading), there are no heads-up displays of any kind - not even crosshairs, at least not on higher difficulties. Health is handled in a Riddick-like fashion, where you have five small healthbars and if you're injured, you only recover to the closest healthbar. To recover more you have to use medicine syrettes (which are luckily found in every first-aid box). If you're particularly injured, there is a short scene of you undoing your injury - pushing out a bullet, bending a bone back into place, cauterizing a wound, and so on.
Another part of the game's realism is mechanical failures. Guns that are used frequently will jam or break and vehicles that sustain damage will need to have their engine fixed. Guns used by mercenaries will be visibly rusty and will jam very easily, while guns bought from the gun merchant will be much cleaner and more reliable. It conceivably can get annoying, but it does add a really cool, gritty feel to the game, which adds a lot to the immersion value. Guns tend to be old, reflecting the nature of the war, and vehicles are only cars and jeeps - no tanks, no helicopters, no planes. Just a lot of low-tech, low-intensity warfare, which is pretty neat in its own right.
As mentioned, for the most part you're alone in the country. However, you've got a few mercenary buddies that you meet in some early missions. These buddies are taken from the roster of mercenaries who you did not choose to be your main character. Your best buddy (the first one you meet) will help you on missions by suggesting alternative solutions that make your main task easier. Your second-best buddy (the second you meet) will serve as a Rescue unit - if you run out of health, he'll come out of nowhere, drag you to safety, and help you fight. If a buddy is injured, it's up to you to save them by applying a syrette, and if they die in combat, they're gone forever. Luckily or unluckily, you can't bring buddies along normally - they're just special-use characters who provide only the two roles described above, in addition to giving you some side missions.
The enemy AI is really top-notch, not just in intelligence but in presentation. Enemy chatter is really fantastic; if you're hiding after a firefight, they'll panic, arguing whether or not to chase after you. They'll comment "Oh, he got the new guy, what was his name", and similar points - and it actually feels like real conversations instead of just random snippets. Enemies will hunt relentlessly for you, flushing you out with grenades and gunfire (though you can trick them). Observing mercenaries from afar or sneaking up on them, you can observe a variety of behaviors - smoking, leaning against buildings, checking weapons, talking to each other - that makes them seem very real. There is a reputation system that you build up by doing missions - the higher your reputation, the more people will fear you. With a low reputation, if you push a person in town, then they'll shove you away and yell at you. With a higher reputation, they'll step out of your way, move back and apologize, and whisper to each other about you from afar ("Don't look now, look who it is" "Oh, damn, what does he want?"). The fact that there are no factions is perhaps a commentary on the nature of civil wars in Africa, but for the most part the game does a really excellent job when it comes to your enemies.
The graphics are really great; the detail on guns and objects is fantastic, the mercenaries you face have a wide variety of gear and faces, and everything feels really realistic. Sound is top-notch, with great voice acting and immersive music / background noises. Technically, this game is really great. The world is very detailed, with wildlife (zebras, goats, antelope, gazelle) and a variety of terrain types from jungles to savanna to deserts. Explosions and fire are handled fairly realistically; if a fire starts on a grassy area, it will spread until the whole plain is ablaze.
Overall, the main shortcomings of the game involve the missions. Most of them are far too scattered around the map, and each is preceded by 10 minutes of driving through hostile areas to reach the destination, then in some unlucky cases 10 minutes to drive back and get your reward. There's not enough variety in what you can do, either; besides the fact that you lack the option to go prone or lean (both of which are in Crysis, an earlier Crytek game), there's not a whole lot you can do besides hunt for diamonds or do missions. It feels like there should be more to the game - more varied missions, a deeper infrastructure, actual factions instead of fake ones, civilians, or something. These problems detract from what is ultimately a fairly solid game, and are what may drive a lot of potential buyers away. The multiplayer, too, is basically worthless - standard team deathmatch that doesn't take advantage of the setting, plus there's no co-op in what would be the best co-op setting of all time.
Overall, Far Cry 2 is worth a 7/10.
Buy Far Cry 2 from Amazon.com