Far Cry was one of the most innovative titles of its time, heralded for its exceptional physics, graphics and environments along with a stunning open world.
Far Cry 2, developed by Ubisoft Montreal, is being touted as the true sequel to this original stunner, and expectations are extremely high. Far Cry 2 has dropped the science fiction, and really has very little in common with the original, but is nonetheless a game of epic proportions.
The game is set in a fictional African nation that is embroiled in open civil war. You have been sent to Africa to assassinate The Jackal, who is an arms dealer that has supplied weapons to two rival factions, the UFLL (United Front for Liberation and Labour) and the APR (Alliance for Popular Resistance). The UFLL and the APR have been fighting for months now, and have bolstered their numbers by hiring foreign mercenaries. These mercenaries simply work for the faction that offers the highest diamond reward.
The civil war has meant that money is no longer worth the paper it is printed on, and diamonds are the only real currency. The player has to kill the Jackal, regardless of the cost - the problem being that you don’t find the Jackal, the Jackal finds you. You are forced to play off the factions against each other, dashing between the two and completing tasks in an attempt to get closer to the source of the arms with which the factions fight.
Far Cry 2 features an open game world of over fifty square kilometres for you to move through, essentially as you please. There are two enormous districts with roads that snake through jungle and savannah and over rickety bridges. Rivers and lakes criss-cross the map, and riverboats are often at the ready for you to commandeer to head where you like. Vehicles litter the landscape from jeeps, trucks and cars to machine-gun boats and gliders. The range of vehicles is not vast but does serve to make the forms of transport variable, and in any case you can always take the bus.
There are also some beautiful things to see in the country, including a number of African animals. Combined with some impressive jungle noises that were recorded on location in Africa, the game pushes you deep into the dark continent.
The graphics in Far Cry 2 are superb. The landscape looks lush and interesting, and the textures are fantastic. Character models are exceptional, which really helps to immerse the player. The lighting effects are amazing, such as when the sunlight dances through the leaves during sunrise, and even racing down the river in boat looks spectacular.
A thrilling day and night cycle and dynamic weather push the limits of realism, allowing you to approach missions at different times of the day and in different conditions. The conditions will affect how wary the enemy are, and also things such as visibility. This is vital in Far Cry 2 as the enemy AI is a very sharp tack indeed. If you approach an enemy camp during the day, the likelihood of you being spotted and then flanked is pretty high. The AI are very active on the battlefield, shifting from cover and aiding each other. They also verbally communicate with each other giving you the odd audio cue as to what they are thinking. A partially injured enemy will also attempt to drag himself behind some cover where he will lie with his back to a wall and try to take you down with some final shots. At times, in fact, the enemy seems too smart, as sneaking up on them is quite difficult (although not impossible).
Clearing out security checkpoints is a blast, and very important if you want to gain access to more ammunition and health packs, but what is a bit disappointing is that a checkpoint that you have cleared is repopulated again only a short while later when you pass back through. At one stage we visited a mercenary buddy at a safe-house which was only a short distance from an enemy checkpoint. We cleared the checkpoint, visited our contact and headed back only to have to clear the checkpoint all over again.
You also have access to a map that you can use to scope out the world, including the ability to mark points of interest in enemy camps such as vehicles and ammo crates. All of this is made as realistic as possible, with your character pulling out a paper map which can be out on your lap while you drive or walk across the map. Marking ammo crates and health stations is vital, as you will be constantly running out of ammo and guns. You have an enormous array of real world weapons, across four categories. You have your melee weapon, your primary weapon, secondary weapon and finally your special weapon. These are a range of assault rifles, shot-guns, pistols, sniper rifles, flame-throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. You can buy your weapons off in-game arms dealers, but also pick them up off downed enemies. The weapons you pick up however are often plagued by reliability issues as they are rusty and damaged.
A special mention here is reserved to the effects these weapons have on the environment. Bullets will tear up trees and knock down small shrubs as they ripple through the brush. Flame throwers will light grass and trees on fire, and this fire will spread across the dry grass, propagating into a small conflagration. The fire reacts very realistically, spreading as you would imagine, and great care has to be taken to not be caught up in the rapid spread of flames. But it is an exceptional tool to trap unsuspecting enemies, and it has to be said, it’s a real pleasure to use.
Safe houses are also littered around the map for you to sleep in, which advances time, and you can also use them to save your game. As you complete missions for factions, you will be contacted by your mercenary buddies (who you free from UFLL or APR strongholds) who will offer you an upgrade on your missions, which basically will add a level of difficulty to it, along with the risk of losing one of your buddies during the mission. Naturally, this added danger substantially increases the rewards for you. In one mission you are asked to destroy a crops watering system, and your buddy suggests defoliating the crop with his plane to remove the enemies cover. If you accept, you will put your buddy in danger, and as your buddies are pretty prone to being taken down you need to have sufficient health syringes available to heal him again otherwise he will be gone forever.
Healing syringes will definitely be your most used resource in this game. You have a small stash of these and use them whenever you get injured. When your health gets too low, your player will dig bullets out of his hands and legs which looks pretty gruesome, but stabilises your health before you can use a healing syringe.
The way the open world has been created, you will spend a considerable time travelling from one part of the map to another to take in missions and to reach the various mission targets. Missions will either be taken from UFLL or APR headquarters, and also from gun sellers who need to get some new hardware into the country (usually involving destroying a convoy), or from cell sites where you intercept jobs from the cellular network. The beauty of an open world such as this is that you can play it how you want to play it. Every mission can be approached in several ways, which includes time of day and the weapons you take with you. These choices make a huge difference to the success of a mission, and you definitely want to be successful.
If you do end up getting taken down however, it's best to have a buddy on standby as they will run in and give you a helping hand. This involves you blacking out and being woken up by your buddy. The risk again here is that if your buddy helps you and is shot, and you can’t heal them, then its lights out for your unlucky companion, and the question is do you really want to be the one to administer the mercy shot? Its a disturbing choice you have to make.
The multiplayer is an area where Ubisoft have put considerable effort in. There is a map editor in which you can build any map from the ground up, so this is essentially a blank canvas for you to do with what you please. The maps then can be uploaded to be played by others online, which really adds to the community feel. When joining an online game with a player-created map you will be prompted to download the map, which only takes a few seconds. There are also several game modes to choose from. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Diamond (capture the flag clone), and Uprising, which is a battle for control points. These game modes are nothing truly innovative, but are a real blast in the massive maps that can be created. With up to sixteen players online you really can create your own carnage. The inclusion of the flame-thrower here too is amazing, as the effect is similar to the single-player and you will often trap players in the flames.
There are a total of six classes to choose from, and playing a class will unlock weapon packs as you gain skill in certain weapons. This encourages you to variate the classes you play, and it certainly would be recommended as each class has distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Overall Far Cry 2 is a superb sequel to what was an amazing game. The open world is enormous, and a considerable amount of time is spent travelling around the two large maps that the single-player story take place in. The graphics are awe-inspiring with a real sense of beauty and brutality that seems to go hand in hand with civil war on such a spectacular continent. The way the character digs bullets out of his hands and body is incredible (and slightly bone-chilling). The inclusion of a buddy system really works well and great care has to be taken to look after your buddies to avoid their untimely passing.
The story is very exciting and parallels can be drawn with many of the movies that have covered similar ground in recent years such as Blood Diamond. The multiplayer must truly have the most in-depth map editor that a console game has ever seen, and this means there are endless hours of game-play to be had with the sheer amount of options you have when creating the maps from the ground up.
Far Cry 2 is one of the top first person shooter experiences to date, and the number of missions and side-quests is off the charts for a game such as this. Far Cry 2 is excellent value and truly a must buy for someone looking for a bit more of a challenge and depth than your usual run-of-the-mill shooter.
Check out our Far Cry 2 trailers over at GP Downloads if you'd like to see the game in action!