The original Far Cry, a game that has been remade countless times since its release, wasn’t exactly a hard act to follow for Ubisoft. With its gimmicky ‘feral’ skills and mediocre gameplay, Ubisoft could have easily churned out a boring sequel and called it a day, but Far Cry 2 certainly is no average shooter. Improvements abound, and boy does it look beautiful.
For the first few missions, you’ll be lucky to retain enough self-control not to throw your disc against the wall. The first few missions, particularly on the harder difficulties, are absolutely brutal. Your lack of firepower and inexperience in the game will lead to your downfall at least once. But it’s all part of the learning process. Far Cry 2 is a very intellectual game and requires thoughtful planning as well as quick gunning skills.
In the opening scene of the game, you’re introduced to Public Enemy Number One: The Jackal, a Nietzsche-quoting arms dealer who is inciting conflict in the unnamed African country you’ve been sent to. He is your target, and he haunts you in a unique way throughout the course of the game. For some, he’s a compelling character, for others a mysterious target, but for all, he is your ultimate goal. And it’s quite a journey there.
Your first real mission sends you to a lumber yard to rescue a very important target from the clutches of a gang holed up in a lumber yard. Here begins the rather intense baptism by fire. If you walk or drive right in, the jungle will erupt into led and tear you to shreds. After a death or two, you’ll play it smart. Set off an ammo crate or two as a distraction and pick off a few guards before running-and-gunning or your goal.
This is the entire premise of Far Cry 2 is to use the environment to your advantage. The exploding tanks and crates are one thing, but soon after you get your mitts on the fire-based weapons, you begin to fully grasp the brilliance of the game. In the same situation as described above, tossing Molotov cocktails onto the sides of the lumber yard will funnel the enemies into the area not affected by the fire, leaving the pack of them vulnerable to a grenade or an exploding pile of ordnance.
The frequency of these occurrences is both a blessing and a curse. It’s truly enjoyable to stalk out an enemy camp, wait until nightfall, fire a couple of well-placed flares into the camp, watch the inhabitants burn, then run in, snag supplies, and high-tail it out of there as the camp blazes behind you. The sheer variety of ways you can take down a camp or checkpoint is amazing, but it can get significantly annoying as you traverse the desert on your way to the next mission objective.
Travel has its ups and downs as well. Thankfully, you’re never at a loss for where to go thanks to clear map system. Objectives are clearly marked, as camp on each road. For assaulting each of these camps, your map gains extra intelligence about it in the form of a special marker that indicates what can be found there. The downside to these camps is that there’s no option to skip through them. If a camp is on the road to your goal and it’s surrounded by mountains, you’ll have to kill everyone there.
If you drive straight through hoping to avoid a fight, you will wind up being shot from behind by enemies who have an uncanny ability to get into vehicles and catch up to you instantly. And with only 4 bus stations, you’re bound to encounter plenty of these camps and roving patrols, which get tired after a while, as do the annoyingly-long drives to some objectives.
This kind of unrealism is not welcome in such a realistic game. Every move you make is in first-person, from switching seats in a vehicle to healing yourself to picking up weapons and ammo to looking at your GPS and map. Your guns even jam from continued use, but this can be more annoying than realist at times. Guns jam a bit too frequently, and often in the worst places. A rush attempt on an enemy with a shotgun can end in a quick death if the gun that just jammed a minute ago sticks again. It’s unforgivably realistic, which can lead to a lot of frustration or a joyful smirk at the game’s realism – it’s all about context.
The game offers you a variety of tasks other than these roadside checkpoints; in order to scratch the surface of Far Cry’s massively deep, almost 25-hour campaign, you will need to do ‘Faction Missions’, varied tasks that guarantee never to disappoint. Faction Missions are miniature wars between the UFLL and the APR, the power-hungry factions in Africa. Later on, the roles shift slightly, but the quests stay true to their addictive nature. Whether you’re retrieving an item, killing a target, or blowing up a location, you’ll have a great time doing it thanks to all the weapons you can unlock by, you guessed it, doing side missions.
If you’re diligent, you can quickly work your way up to an RPG-toting badass who can spread fire and terror through an entire camp with a single flare, and then pick off any survivors with a sniper rifle. Or you can be a stealth warrior, sneaking through a camp and retrieving a package without killing anyone, if that’s more your thing. Of course, you could always just work with one of your many friends (who are a big help during intense firefights and provide truly genuine moral conundrums that should be discovered on your own) and undermine these missions and earn a bit of extra reputation and money.
Being a game with a massive open world, Far Cry 2 has some exploration side quests that will send you hunting for extra money hidden in all sorts of places around the world, along with places you can go to get more missions to keep your cash stockpile up.
Far Cry 2 has so much to offer. It’s sort of a variety show in the story mode, but in the best possible way; none of the facets are underdeveloped, and they effectively provide a means to complete the game your way.
Of course, the multiplayer option is no slouch either. It features Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, and two unique modes called Uprising and Capture the Diamond. Uprising is a point control mode that centers around the team leader, who must be protected in order to capture the three control points around the map. Capture the Diamond mode is simply Capture the Flag mode with a Far Cry-ish twist.
But the coup de grace of Far Cry 2 is the map editor. On consoles, it is the single most amazing feat ever brought onto a home system; on PC it is a contender for a deep, fulfilling editor that allows players on any platform to create professional-quality maps in 90 minutes or less. But it doesn’t stop there. There is an infinite number of both conventional and zany maps to come, and the ‘Map Community’ option allows relatively simple, in-game access to all community maps. While it’s not the Bungie game like Halo 3 or Destiny 2, it’s close, and it’s satisfactory.
Far Cry 2 delivers in almost every way possible. The weakest aspect is the multiplayer gameplay, which suffers from spawn-camping and other typical problems of many FPS’s, but it’s not much worse than any multiplayer-based shooter. It may not be a contender for the Game of the Year, but its enthralling atmosphere will always keep players coming back for more.