Set in a fictional country in Africa, you begin Far Cry 2 as a just-landed mercenary sent to kill a notorious-but-elusive arms dealer. After a relatively lengthy opening and an introductory mission, you’re thrown into the open world with a knife, a gun (along with the ability to buy more), and a map and GPS unit that conveniently point the location of all available missions.
From a graphical perspective, traveling through the world of Far Cry 2 is a joy: trees and bushes react so satisfyingly to the character, the vehicles, and bullets, that I found myself going out of my way to drive and walk into them; the buildings, grass, and animals all look fantastic; and I could spend ages simply guiding a boat down the world’s various river networks. Taken on its own, the world is an environment that is truly immersive, and that’s why it’s so disappointing that the developers saw the need to use almost every other element of this game to break that immersion.
The most obvious place to start is with the NPC characters. Aside from your mercenary buddies (who only appear in a few select locations and situations) and the people in the world’s one small city, the entirety of the NPC population is male, armed, and hostile. In your day-to-day traveling through this world, every single person you encounter will try to kill you, and will recognize that they should be trying to kill you the second that they spot you. And you run into a lot of people in this game. The world is absolutely littered with guard posts, both on- and off-road, so even when trying to avoid a guard post marked on your map, chances are you’ll run into one that isn’t. Because of this, whenever you have to travel between any two points in the world, you will inevitably do the following:
- Constantly watch the map for the next guarded location
- Stop your assault jeep (the only vehicle with a gun turret, and as a result, the only vehicle you’ll be using consistently in the game) some distance away from the post
- Shoot everyone
- Leave your smoking Jeep behind and take the same-model-but-different-coloured Jeep from the guys you just killed because it’s faster than fixing your own
- Drive for a few minutes (constantly watching the map) and then do it all again
After performing this series of actions for the hundredth time, you’re going to get the urge to speed through these outposts, but since your enemies will chase and gun you down in their own Jeeps, its best to just kill them all beforehand.
The enemy NPCs aren’t all that smart either, but what these guys are missing in brains, they make up for in aim. And God help you if there’s a sniper among them. I play on an SD TV, and though the distance at which NPC snipers can pick you off when in the open is realistic, it’s maddening (not to mention anti-immersive) having to spend minutes letting yourself be shot, using the shot-indicator to find their general direction, and then scanning that direction for a little white stickman who’s recognized you as a hostile from miles away. This becomes infinitely worse when you’re in an environment with trees, because they can see you when you can’t see them. Throughout the game you’ll find yourself shooting blindly into trees and bushes hoping that you’ve hit whoever’s shooting at you enough times to make them stop.
The vision and accuracy of the NPC’s in Far Cry 2 is offset by a generous health and death system. Your health bar is separated into segments, and they will regenerate as long as you haven’t dropped below that particular segment. You also carry around a number of syringes with you that will fully heal you, and the number that you carry can be upgraded by a couple of levels. Finally, if in spite of all this, you still don’t manage to stay alive, one of your merc buddies will revive you and drag you out of harm’s way.
Although all of these death-prevention mechanics balance out the dead-on accuracy of the NPC’s, none of them are particularly elegant. I can’t imagine how large a quantity of self-injected drugs are flowing through my character’s blood stream, and it’s innerving knowing that my “best friend” (who was randomly assigned by the game, and who I dislike tremendously) is watching my every move, waiting to swoop in and pull me out of danger. These design decisions make even less sense when you consider that the unarmored NPC characters all take an ungodly number of bullets before going down. Why not just make enemies easier to kill and remove the voyeur friend with the hero complex? Speaking of NPC’s going down brings up another design decision that makes little sense: sometimes when an enemy absorbs twenty bullets and finally falls, he doesn’t actually die, but crawls away slightly and then proceeds to shoot you with his pistol. Finding enemies is hard enough in this game, but finding enemies that are sitting on the ground in a grassy, hilly environment as they slowly shoot you with a pistol? How is this positively adding to my gameplay experience?
I could go on: every single mission is exactly the same (travel to location marked on map, kill everyone, take shining yellow thing/blow up weapons cache/assassinate target), you can jump between the driver’s seat and the gun turret on the jeep with one button press, but can’t on the assault boat, zebras crumple like paper if you drive anywhere remotely near them, hang gliders are extremely disappointing to use, cars break down and explode like crazy—if the game areas didn’t frequently reset, every single road would be packed with wrecked and smoking cars that I’ve left behind in favour of a non-smoking or non-exploded version (that was promptly abandoned when it too inevitably broke down).
This isn’t a bad game. It has a fantastically immersive world and art design, competent gunplay, repetitive missions, and whole bunch of annoying design choices that break any and all immersion. If you’re looking for a shooter and have already played Gears of War 2, COD 4, BioShock, The Orange Box, Halo 3, Left 4 Dead, and Rainbow 6, you could pick this up, I guess.