I'll start this short blog with a forewarning - this is going to be my last blog for a while. With essays starting to encroach more and more on my free time, I'm simply not going to have time to blog over the next few weeks. Although, I'm not going to have time to play too many games either, so it's not as if I'd have much to write about anyway. Before you ask, that goes for episodes of Enduring Final Fantasy VII, too - all forms of my blogging activity will resume properly in May. Now that small disclaimer is out of the way, let's talk about Far Cry 2.
One aspect of the game that I hadn't given much thought to up until today is its buddy system. From the outset in Far Cry 2, this system was forced on me as I met an Indian mercenary by the name of Quarbani Singh. I was told by the game that he was my 'best buddy', which didn't sit particularly well with me at first. Surely I should have some say in who my best buddy is? A few hours later, I'd pretty much accepted that the buddy system was simply a way for the developers to offer up multiple methods of completing the game's main story missions, as well as serving as a sort of second wind should I get caught in an awkward combat situation. I worked my way through the first few missions of the game quite happily, turning to Quarbani for help in carrying out the tasks at hand. His assistance in gunfights was appreciated, and we looked out for each other when things got particularly harrowing. Every time we met up, the game told me that my History with Quarbani had increased, and I genuinely started to feel like he was my only true ally in a foreign land where everybody else seemed out to fill me full of holes.
This morning, I pressed on with a main story mission, and as usual I turned to Quarbani for some assistance. The mission culminated with a pretty heavy shoot-out in dense undergrowth, in which both Quarbani and I took a pretty severe beating. After all our attackers had been dealt with I scanned the environment for signs of Quarbani, and spotted the telltale blue smoke that meant my buddy was in trouble. I raced over to where my fallen comrade lied and took his injured body in my arms. It was at this point that I realised a grim truth - I was out of syrettes. With the nearest guard post a fair distance away and nowhere near enough health to survive another assault, I was now faced with what felt like a very real dilemma - I could either abandon him, or fire a bullet into his brain and put him out of his misery.
It's at times like this that I usually take a step back from the game, assess the situation impartially, and decide to reload an earlier save to aim for a more favourable outcome. As a gamer, nobody wants to lose an ally who's provided constant, reliable assistance throughout the game. I'm sure anybody who checked an FAQ to ensure their entire party survived the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2 can empathise with that. With Far Cry 2, however, I found myself physically unable to take that step back. The game had succeeded in completely immersing me in its world, to the point where I couldn't break out of it and do what made most sense from a gamer's perspective. Instead, I found myself making the decision that made most sense from the perspective of a hired gun lost in a war-torn African nation, with his closest ally dying at his side.
I opted for the second choice. I felt like after everything he'd done to help me, I owed Quarbani that much - a swift passing with his best buddy at his side, rather than simply leaving him to die slowly and alone. As the camera looked away and the sound of a single gunshot rang through the arid African air, I felt my heart sink. It felt like everything I'd done up to that point had been cancelled out. I was back at square one, alone in a foreign land where everyone wanted me dead. It was an incredibly profound moment with a hell of an impact. I even stayed beside his body for a while, before moving back out to the nearest safe house to save my game and render the course of events completely unalterable. Even as I write this several hours later, I'm still wracked with guilt and can almost feel the blood of Quarbani Singh on my hands.
It's not very often that a game is able to affect me to the point where it stays with me even after I turn off the console. Up until today 2010 has been a year of emotion-free gaming for me. Admittedly, it's difficult for a game like Just Cause or Banjo-Kazooie to have a lasting emotional effect on the player, but I don't think that should detract from the feelings that Far Cry 2 has managed to instill in me today. Regardless of the quality of the game's mechanics or its on-off relationship with realism, there's no denying that it has an ability to affect people who get drawn into its world, and that to me is the mark of a truly great gaming experience. In terms of what lies ahead for me with Far Cry 2, there are two very different stances I'm adopting right now. The gamer in me wants to see how things will pan out now that relying on my best buddy's help in missions is no longer an option. On the other hand, the part of me that's become engrossed in this beautiful, compelling world is wondering just how I'm going to cope without the assistance of that great man and loyal friend, Mr Quarbani Singh.
Thanks very much for reading guys. I look forward to giving you an update in May. In the meantime, see you around.
Currently playing - Far Cry 2 (X360)