by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Killing for cash
The basic set-up in Far Cry 2 is very generic: you are a mercenary working for whoever throws the most cash your way. You get to drive several different kinds of vehicles and use a wide selection of weaponry to punch holes through your enemies and blow their stuff up. Same old, same old, you say? Lucky for us, Ubisoft Montreal manages to bring Far Cry 2 a (relatively large) head over the competition by investing in the openness of the game world and a unique setting.
Taking out an arms dealer
Your main goal in Far Cry 2 is very simple: find and kill an arms dealer known as “The Jackal”. He is deemed the main culprit in a major conflict between two powerful warlords which has sent this unnamed African country into a downward spiral and made it a not-so-nice place to live for the locals. The Jackal has sold arms to both sides of the conflict, benefiting from the misery of others, so it should be very easy for the gamer to get motivated to hunt him down.
The only problem is that things don't go the way you planned it. As you take a taxi from the airport to the nearest town, admiring the beautiful scenery as the driver keeps on babbling about this and that, you suddenly feel very sick. As you find your way to the local hotel and collapse there in the throes of malaria, you are visited by the very man whom you were set out to kill. But instead of killing you, he merely warns you off and lets you live. Mysterious, eh?
The next thing you know, there's a gunfight in the town and your task is to try to get away while still dizzy from the malaria. This sends you into another meeting that will introduce you to one of the parties in the local war...
As you play the game, you will soon encounter friendly characters (familiar from the character selection screen at the beginning of the game) who will help you out in later missions, offer their advice or make requests when you are tasked with one or the other mission by one of the two warring parties. These advice and requests may affect the way you decide to carry out certain missions and also reveal you more about the motivations of the warring parties and your friends. Eventually, these will lead up to bigger and bigger choices that will decide the fate of the entire country...
Truth to be told, despite the dramatic setting, its true potential is never really reached in the story. One might have expected a bit more in-depth handling of the way people's lives are destroyed in the wars that rage in Africa. There would have been potential for a very emotional and eye-opening story here, but Ubisoft has decided to keep the main attention on the action.
Living in Africa
The African setting is refreshingly unique in a FPS game. The developers have clearly studied the real-world environment and locales in order to deliver a world that truly feels like Africa. Although I've never seen Africa first-hand, the graphics and environment immediately reminded me of films such as “The Constant Gardener” as well as several news casts we've all seen on TV. The level of immersion reached through great graphics, life-like scenery and realistic characters truly is unique in a FPS.
The immersion that you feel while playing Far Cry 2 is mainly due to the Dunia Engine that the game is based on. It is behind the destructible environments and all the pretty special effects that make the world feel alive. These include dynamic fire propagation and rain and storm effects, night-and-day cycle etc. The night-and-day cycle especially enhances the experience to an extent that it makes you just want to observe the scenery around you and admire the different colours that play on the trees as the sun starts setting, or rising again in the morning. The very minimal interface and great controls also help make the game more immersive and I have to thank the developers for paying so much attention to this aspect of the design.
Another quality that the game world offers is almost complete openness. Although RPG games such as Oblivion have offered open environments long before this, most shooters have relied on a linear plot and restricted movement in the game world. Even Crysis, which let you explore the surroundings and plan your approaches very freely was never quite as open as Far Cry 2. After all, you still followed a strict storyline with no chance of refreshing detours.
No Pros and Cons at this time