First Look: Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is supposedly the sequel to the 2004 multiple award winning game Far Cry, but, apart from the scale of the environments and that they’re both first-person shooters, the name is all they’ve got in common. The story, the characters, the setting and even the developer are completely different. All of this sounds a bit worrying as Far Cry 2 could have ended up being nowhere near as high calibre as its predecessor; luckily it looks like the new team has pulled it off.

Gone are the genetically modified chimps and crazy scientists, instead replaced by a more down to earth African environment with a story revolving around two war-torn rival factions; you are sent to find “The Jackel”, a mysterious arms dealer who’s fuelling the conflict for this own gain. And by all accounts this is a good thing; I found that the first Far Cry played best when you were shooting at real people and not foolish monsters, they removed the immersion I had with the game completely, a change of scenery is more than welcome. It isn’t ground breaking though, the story is good but there’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Due to the structure of the game (you can do most of the missions in any order, think GTA), story progress is limited, after the initial couple of hours, to what are seemingly unrelated missions. Having not completed the game, I can’t comment on the ending but I’m hoping it will start to pick up soon.

{{ quote Gone are the genetically modified chimps and crazy scientists }}

Even though you don’t feel like the story is going anywhere at around the 10 hour mark, it isn’t a problem. This game is fun! It’s fun doing pretty much the same thing for 5 hours straight! This isn’t because of the gripping story (al a Metal Gear Solid), it’s because you can blow stuff up and set fire to a lot of trees! Ubisoft Montreal has simply made a great game, both mechanically and visually, that has such a huge immersive world, you can’t help but be amazed.

A lot of FPSs don’t get this right but shooting people in the face, in Far Cry 2, feels good; I’m not a psychopath, it’s just that some games lack the weight and kick of the weapons that you’re firing, which leads to a very poor game experience. To be honest, Far Cry 2 nails it in terms of all of its game mechanics. It’s vehicle components are solid, on par with any other driving sections in an FPS, such as Halo; it’s health system is familiar but innovative, part regeneration, part health packs; and it’s in-game map is a new take on the old mini-map system (your character physically get’s out a map while you’re walking around). The environments are also dynamic and can be used tactically to flush out the enemy, the key feature being the use of fire. Most things in the game world can burn including the vegetation; if you’ve got a bunch of bad guys hiding in some long grass, simply set fire to it. They’ll either become visible to shoot or simply die in the flames. Other games have claimed to have had similar features but Far Cry 2 is the first in which they are truly a vital part of the experience.

It was the presentation that gripped me though. The game world is absolutely huge, to a point where it can actually be annoying if your mission objective is on the other side of the map; it really does take 20 mins, real-time, to drive from one end of the map to the other (luckily there is a transport system). The land ranges from African desert to tropical rainforest, with a distinct but coherent feel throughout the entire game. Everything is highly detailed with very good texture work that makes the game look fantastic. It was the weather that really made me think “wow”. I was playing the game late one night and it started raining in the depths of the rainforest section, combined with the sound and everything visually turning wet, I actually felt that it was raining outside my house. At this point I stopped playing as I was getting a bit too into it…

Even though Far Cry 2 is so different from its predecessor, I feel it’s still deserving of its name; to me the original Far Cry was awe-inspiring, the sequel doesn’t disappoint. There are some truly excellent moments that make this one of the best games of 2008; you should buy it right now.

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