I played through Far Cry 2 on the PS3 back in 2009 and consider myself to be a pretty big fan of the game, which means I couldn't resist getting the Ubisoft Weekend Deal on Steam yesterday when I saw that FC2 was included in it. Separately the game is normally priced at around 12,5€ and that's a bit steep for just one game that I've already finished, but the inclusion of Bound in Blood and Vegas 2 - both of which I haven't played - sweetened the deal quite a bit.
Much like Mirror's Edge - another one of my absolute favorite games from the past few years - Ubisoft's radical departure from Crytek's original (and largely forgettable) Far Cry is a brave but not always successful attempt at redefining what the first person action genre can and should be all about. The constant guard patrol skirmishes, awkwardly procedural narrative structure and pretentious references to Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness are among the game's most notable flaws, but Far Cry 2 features what's easily one of the few truly memorable and genuinely meaningful open worlds of any video game thus far. On a superficial level, the African settings provide a healthy dose of escapism and showcase an impressively modified CryEngine capable of producing a lot of vegetation, complex fire effects and huge draw distances. Even the stupid diamond scavenging is curiously addictive thanks to the lively, detailed and atmospheric environments in which they are situated. From a mechanical standpoint, most open world games are either dumbed down RPGs or generic action adventures, but Far Cry 2 builds its open-ended exploration on top of solid foundation of robust shooter gameplay which compares favorably to most linear FPSs in terms of basic controls and overall design etc.
More subtly, though, the relentless brutality of a game world in which everyone who lives and breathes pretty much is guaranteed to be hostile combines rather effectively with the sheer gruesome physicality of the action (pulling bullets out of your own legs, succumbing to creepy malaria attacks etc.) to produce a relentlessly grim experience which reinforces the plot's otherwise heavy-handed message about the senselessness of modern combat in the third world. At the end of the day, there's a real sense that the game doesn't merely use an exotic location just because it can; but that the gameplay and settings are instead purposefully integrated to produce a certain effect and atmosphere.
It may be difficult to discern at times, but Far Cry 2's enemy AI also has a bit more realism to it than most shooters. It's not necessarily more difficult - although it can be - but the AI has something approaching a normal field of vision, which is definitely a rarity within the genre. In most action games, as soon as the enemy knows someone is shooting at them they are able to magically pinpoint the player's exact location and immediately start their counterattack. In Far Cry 2, a sudden explosion is just that; a clear indication that something bad is happening, but unless it is completely obvious where the attack is coming from the enemies are simply going to be scared and confused (at least for awhile, anyway). And as I understand it, the time of day and plays a huge role in determining both enemy FOV and the different behavorial scripts being applied to any given situation, making Far Cry 2 a game that feel like a dynamic open world in more ways than one...
Also, what's up with that crazy high-tech fire-spewing crossbow thingie? I don't remember it from playing through the PS3 game so I assume it's part of the Fortune Pack DLC (which I don't think I ever got around to buying).