Far Cry 2 has been worrying me ever since its inception. The original game was developed by FPS specialists Crytek, and was the precursor to the stunningly beautiful Crysis – as well as having utterly fantastic gameplay, too. Here though, Ubisoft waded in with its huge cash resources and bought the rights to the Far Cry saga.
Suddenly, a game being developed by FPS addicts had been absorbed by a multinational conglomerate, and it would have been very easy for Far Cry 2 to have been lost in the shuffle – canned after a long and difficult development, or emerge as a deeply mediocre title that bore no resemblance to its groundbreaking predecessor.
Thankfully – and somewhat surprisingly – Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2 is an absolute masterpiece. My previous fears have been demolished by one of the most absorbing, attractive and atmospheric games the world has ever seen.
Plenty has changed from the original – the tropical island setting has gone, replaced by an African republic hewn apart by civil war. You arrive with one goal in mind: find and assassinate The Jackal, an unscrupulous arms dealer who provides weapons for both sides for his own profit.
However, that’s not all there is to Far Cry 2. The beauty to this fantastic game is that you can do whatever you want. The 50km squared of African savannah is littered with towns, villages and characters who you can talk and interact with. Several of these will become your friends and can be found hanging out at bars, ready to give you side-missions and other tasks to complete that work well at distracting you from the main plot.
The open-ended gameplay is a joy: repair a car and take off to the nearest town, but run in to a checkpoint, full of rebel fighters, half-way there. It’s all well and good using grenades to polish them off, but the game’s incredibly realistic fire will spread, engulfing the land around you and your car, too. It’s genuinely unnerving to be surrounded by lifelike flames and a reminder of just how atmospheric Far Cry 2 is.
Not that you need a reminder, as the game’s palpable atmosphere never lets up. Travelling between towns is fraught with potential problems, and the settlements themselves bear various hallmarks of war: roads blockaded by gun-toting troops who shout abuse if you get too close, buildings half-destroyed, bullet-holes littering walls. A plane streaks across the sky, but you’re told that it’s the last one out of the country for a while.
The characters also help to build atmosphere. As well as providing missions, they’ll rescue you if you fall during battle, and are wonderfully voice-acted: you can hear the intimidation that The Jackal has created in some of them, whereas others speak defiantly about their future plans. Each one, while somewhat clichéd, is a definite character in their own right, and you find that you end up genuinely caring about them as the game goes on. It makes things even more harrowing when, inevitably, some of them become casualties.
The open-ended gameplay is magnificent, and the graphics aren’t bad either. Ubisoft’s attention to detail is chronic, and Far Cry 2 is far more realistic than the somewhat cartoonish, desert island setting of the original game. Characters look superb, environments ooze foreboding and the world really, really feels like a war-town country. It’s a genuinely menacing place to be, and Far Cry 2 is all the better for it.
Problems are few and far between. Sometimes travelling between missions can get a little tedious: riding a car from one edge of the huge map to the other can take a long while, and you’ll run into plenty of distractions along the way – such as those pesky, troop-filled checkpoints. It’s debateable, but Far Cry 2 could have benefitted from an Oblivion, or Fallout 3-style option to click a location on the map and travel there instantly.
That’s the only issue, though, and it’s so minor as to almost not matter. Far Cry 2 is an absolute triumph: one of the most atmospheric, absorbing and exciting worlds to have ever been crafted in a game coupled with stunning, open-ended and addictive FPS gameplay. Go out and buy it – right now.