|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
It's a delicate undertaking trying to achieve a sensible equilibrium between the pursuit of pure aesthetics and artificial intelligence. Many games get lost along the way, forfeiting one for the other. That's why Far Cry 2 is such a resounding achievement: it not only marries beauty and brains, but throws in a significant amount of player choice into that delicate mix.
His voice is a little hard to hear over the puttering of the engine and the clatter of the tires meeting the dilapidated wooden bridge, but your guide has an agenda to cover. As the jeep cuts through the countryside giving you a proper view of the scenery, he tells you about the two warring factions The United Front for Liberation and Labor and the Alliance for Popular Resistance (and their partner in habit), an arms dealer known as the Jackal. The middleman always comes out best: by supplying both warring sides with weapons, the Jackal is able to control the purse strings of the conflict for maximum profit. That's why it's your job to stop him.
The closer you get to your hotel the more you realize something isn't right: sweat isn't uncommon in this kind of heat, but you're pouring buckets and feeling nauseas as you clench the seat in front of you. Top that off with some blurry vision and all you want is sleep. The guide says it's malaria and not to worry it happens to everyone, but you're going to need medical help soon. You pass out and wake up in your hotel room. Theres only one problem: it's on fire! Instead of the townsfolk rolling out a welcome mat, they've decided you're not wanted. One case of malaria, a local shootout, and a thoroughly toasted flophouse that's the first ten minutes of the game.
Far Cry 2 uses the introductory train rides in both installments of Half-Life as a thesis and gives it an action-coated spin. The comparison with Half-Life provides a reference, but a full analogy to Half-Life would be incorrect. The opening section of Far Cry 2 is an on-the-leash setup in a two-fold manner: like Half-Life, it's setting the stage (in terms of plot and environment), but it also wants to play around with diametrical conventions. The developers are saying, There's a time for the chaperon led experience and we demonstrated that. From here on out, we let you take on anything in any way you choose.
Choice tagged to variety that's always been the power of the Far Cry series. Players of the first game had fun discussing how they tackled a mission in their own manner. It wasn't uncommon to hear a person claim, Oh, well I crawled through the brush, taking out one guard at-a-time, only to hear another say, That's not exciting. You've got to strap an explosive charge to a vehicle and ram it into the nearest guardhouse. In Far Cry 2, varied choice returns in an even more developed form.
You start with missions you can accept from either faction. There's always a straightforward objective, whether it be more supply oriented such as destroying a weapons cache or more jugular, like an assassination. Let's use the first category and an example mission to show how choice is deeper. One of your first missions has you destroying a faction's latest shipment of weapons. You can run in, guns blazing, but that requires a lot of firepower and will be a drawn out affair. Another option is to venture to a safe house (which functions as a save point) and set your alarm for late at night. Now, when you go in, many of the guards will be lethargic, giving you a leg-up on the situation. Then there's the always-present third option: you can use your new friendship with a mercenary buddy to good effect. He can create a distraction, luring half the troops out the base, and in turn making your assault a more manageable proposition.
Keeping tabs on all those options (and many more) isn't a problem thanks to your capable inventory. The map, which features multiple levels of zoom and GPS, make it easy to keep tabs on objectives, where you are, and where you need to be going. You can also do your own form of tagging. By scouting out positions early with the monocular, you can mark important points of reference on your map, like health stations, vehicles, ammo piles, and mounted weapons. Don't assume the wilderness breaks the telecommunications barrier. Your in-game phone allows you to get proper updates in the middle of missions. Even though missions are spread apart, your transportation options aren't limited to your own two feet. You can commandeer vehicles and, even if they get shot up, there's always the option to hop out and repair them. There's also a bus system that teleports you across vast sections of the map.
As you're wandering the 31 miles of in-game wild, you won't be able to ignore the scenery on display. Not only is the draw distance fantastic you can literally see for many in-game miles but normal barriers to immersion presented in many other games simply aren't there. When you push through a dense patch of jungle, it feels that way. Instead of sliding through the bush (as if it has no mass), your character pushes aside branches and flattens smaller plants and, realistically, they swing back to their original positions. Effects like the sun obscuring your vision, the fast-forwarding of time when you rest, and fire that spreads across patches of dry grass, complement the realistic environment on display.