Far Cry 2 Reader Review
I just finished playing this game recently. I thought it was great and refreshingly different to many others in the genre, both in terms of story and gameplay.
One of the best things about it was the convincing feeling of being in this grimy and corrupt African republic. It's dog-eat-dog, with murder and betrayal around ever corner and jungle path. The only thing you can be sure of is that someone's going to stab you in the back sooner or later.
Not only are you fighting against two rival factions, but you are struggling against the land itself. Unreliable equipment, malaria, heat exhaustion - everything conspires to grind you down and kill you. These are mechanics that will divide opinion. While I thought these were really good ways to create immersion, others may find them annoying. I had some great, unscripted moments lining up a shot on an speeding jeep driver or unwitting merc. only to have my gun jam or my vision go blurry. Getting out of these situations was often as much fun as when things went right.
While the game world is brutal, it is worth mentioning that you can team up with friendly AI characters known as 'buddies'. These characters often have their own motivations, which generally coincide with yours. They can also help you out in desperate times, dragging your bullet-ridden corpse out of a danger zone while dealing out some payback. They don't say a whole lot but I did feel a bond when my 'best buddy' lay bleeding, me trying desperately to save his life with several needles of adrenaline.
Respawning is a big part of Far Cry 2. This is something I usually hate in games, it's a cheap trick to keep you busy instead of giving you a meaningful goal. In this context however, I think it actually works. Once you stray a certain distance from an area you've just exploded into tiny flaming pieces, it will 'reset'. All of the enemies and scenery become magically whole once more. Being as there is a lot of driving and backtracking, the world would start to feel pretty empty if everything stayed blown-up. It's not really a problem anyway, if you don't feel like fighting you can just take the sneaky or speedy option and avoid it.
Graphically and atmospherically, the game is a treat. The day/night cycle and weather system is very impressive, making for some gorgeous vistas and atmospheric conditions. It also has a direct effect on the gameplay; you can creep quietly into a camp at night, taking people out stealthily or break out some napalm in the morning to make a big, noisy mess of exploding vehicles and gas tanks. Another thing I should mention, is the sound. The music is some of the best I've ever experienced in a game - it just fits so well. Simmering with tension during quieter moments and building dramatically in the heat of battle.
As far as story goes, I found it to be mature, philosophical and understated. The characters in the game don't say much but they have personality. I really enjoyed listening to the fragments of the interview with the main antagonist, the Jackal, whom you are ostensibly hunting throughout the game. The writers clearly drew inspiration from the character of Colonel Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness (AKA the film, Apocalypse Now). It doesn't try to ram the story down your throat like a lot of other games do with cut-scenes. It's entirely up to you if you want to look for tapes and do side-missions. The reward for doing so doesn't really progress the story so much as fill in some of the gaps and creates a real sense of place. The ending was also refreshingly un-game-like and satisfying in my opinion (although I can see that some people will just not 'get it').
I can understand that for some this game could seem repetitive and lack a sense of overall purpose. In a way, this is almost the point. You are in a war-zone, trying to survive and find clues to help you track down your mark. As you become more involved in other people's dirty work however, your goals and priorities start to become murkier. Far Cry 2 may not appeal to everyone, especially if you prefer playing more tightly scripted, cinematic shooters. However, if you're open to an alternative spin on a traditional FPS this is a fantastic slow-burner of a game, punctuated by some intense combat, subtle story exposition and tons of atmosphere.
8 / 10