Let’s get one thing straight before proceeding: I hated the original Far Cry. It was a long, soul-sucking siege in a Hawaiian shirt that would have made Mother Theresa shank a kitten. So when I heard about Far Cry 2 being developed, my first thought was “Bloody hell, didn’t they play the last one? They should know better.” Then I saw the first screens and instantly knew it would be different.
Far Cry 2 is a sandbox title that throws you into the heart of Africa with the echoes of its former and current strife lending a subtle air of credibility to its storyline. As a merc, you are tasked with taking the head of a local arms dealer/terrorist/warlord by the name of The Jackal. No, not the real Carlos the Jackal, but I got over it. I suppose terrorists don’t really insist on image rights or intellectual property infringement.
As you set off to whack The Jackal, you need to build up the requisite war-chest to buy even better weapons, ammunition, and equipment. Itemization in this game is key, and just like anyone in the military can tell you, a gun is just a tool, and you need the right tool for the job in this game.
Weapons in Far Cry 2 are wide and varied. Indeed, you can get lost in the selection of more than 30 weapons. Stealth weapons, however, are basically limited to your machete, silenced Marakov PB 9mm, and a silenced MP5 SD submachine gun. This is fine late at night but problematic when the lead starts to fly during the day. Thankfully, your arsenal allows for some tactical foresight. I preferred a shotgun over the submachine guns for clearing hootches and CQB, just for the stopping power. Sniping is where weapon selection really shines, though. I spent hours shooting, relocating, shooting, relocating, shooting, and relocating, just picking off tangos from range.
While much has been said about the flamethrower, I can’t say I was a huge fan. In Far Cry 2, fire can run away from you. More than once I would try and set up with the flamethrower outside a village with the intent of creating a wall of flame between me and my sniper perch, only to find the fire on top of my position in moments. I realize fire spreads, but the rate in which the fire physics spread seemed a bit much.
For my part, I don’t understand why the gaming world is still so against the idea of including bags of dirty tricks. Mines are practically non-existent except for the magnetic mine which you remotely detonate. In fact, everything except the Molotov cocktail is remotely detonated, which is sketchy in combat. Claymores, anti-tank mines, and bouncing-betties would have made for a more realistic approach to laying traps or sabotage. But the fact that you have to take the time to detonate your explosives was just a little tedious.
Enemy AI is sketchy, and by far my biggest gripe in the game. The original Far Cry commandos could see you through a hill and dense swath of jungle to hit you with their magic rifles — so good at their job you thought they could have been on the Grassy Knoll. In Far Cry 2, however, the AI is disappointingly easy to outmaneuver and set up on, which lets down any tactical enthusiast. There were times when I was sniping that I would dispatch a tango in an enemy squad and his mates would just stand there as if a contentious fountain of blood was the most normal thing in the world.
What the mobs lack in intelligence they certainly make up for in stamina, as these fuckers can take a hit. Ironically, they can even take a hit bare-chested with my rifle and still summon enough strength to fight back. I can’t imagine that designer Clint Hocking intended to allow shirtless men to be able to take a 7.62 burst from an AK-47 to their chest, fall down, get up, dust themselves off, and then dance the tarantella. That’s just bad design.
Raids on villages and towns can be fun. I found the amount of pure bedlam I could dish out on a hideout of vicious militia was extremely satisfying. Revving up my jeep to top speed, I would bail out at the last minute, sending it careening into the village square full of explosives which I would then detonate. As you wade through your enemies, you pick up rifles of varying worth and durability which is vitally important in this game.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many rifles would jam or malfunction on me right after I picked them up off of a still-twitching enemy. The fact that his gun worked perfectly well when he was filling me full of lead seconds earlier made me sneer with disdain. I just pick up a rifle and suddenly I’m jinxing it? Once again, this strikes me as another example or poor design. Having spent a portion of my life behind the sights of an AR-15, I know that weapon malfunctions occur for a variety of reasons — it doesn’t happen just because you touch it.
Weapon upgrades are available, with options to take your favorite rifle and, after acquiring a manual, learn how to un-jam your weapon with alacrity. This is critical, especially in a game that is just one big firefight. Doing side-quests for weapon dealers is just as important as the main story, if not more.
Vehicles are essential in this game. Other reviewers have talked about just driving in to a militia compound with a mounted .50 cal on your jeep and just blazing away. Big mistake.
Losing my wheels when they were shot out beneath me, I basically had to hoof it from the fight. Walking in this game is an exercise in futility. From then on I would park my jeep off the road. My advice to you is to protect your motorized means of transportation at all costs because the world is absolutely huge, and you aren’t going to want to trek it on foot. There are buses that will take you to remote areas in a matter of seconds, but they are few and far between. Trust me when I say this: if you lose your jeep, be prepared for a long, long hump out in the bush.
The world itself is rendered in strikingly beautiful detail. I wish to God they would have spent as much time with the enemy AI as they did with the landscape, which is phenomenal. Watching the sunlight filter through jungle canopy for the first time brought a smile to my face. Ubisoft Montreal made the most of the Dunia engine, creating a living, breathing world that will have anyone who plays this game stopping to smell the roses between gun battles.
To say that Far Cry 2 is more of a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. than the mutant monkey that was the original Far Cry is accurate. Factions, weapons load-outs, gear, and a gigantic map full of people that want to give you a terminal case of lead poisoning lends itself to the Russian shooter. Alliances with “buddies” was convenient at times but ultimately became annoying as the AI governing their behavior told them to look at something shiny for five minutes rather than fight.
Far Cry 2 is fun. It could be called a shinier version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but the enemy AI problems are too rampant to really make the game glow the way it deserves to. For a game that tries so hard to let the gamer experience realism and immersion in every other aspect of the game, having the AI be little more than semi-bright lemmings rushing to their destruction is a sin. Far Cry 2 is a good game, but the AI causes too many problems to recommend it without pause.
Having spoken with a few other writers, it would seem that these issues are much more prevalent on the PC version than the console version, which is odd. I would recommend picking it up on console instead of PC unless you are a total graphics whore, in which case the PC version will suffice.
Look for our console review of Far Cry 2 soon.