FAR CRY 2 Review — A Diamond In The Rough

To set the stage, the Far Cry series was hatched in 2004 by Crytek Studios out of Germany, published by Ubisoft (back before they turned to meat-grinding shitheads looking to firehose poorly optimized allegedly triple-A games onto the market). The first game was based on the exploits of Jack Carver, a former Special Forces guy who ran a boating tourism business somewhere in Micronesia. He takes a journalist on a tour and she runs off on a jet ski. Mr. Carver goes hunting for the journalist (who later winds up being a CIA operative), gets his boat blown up, gets turned into a superhuman monster, and then goes on his quest for revenge.

While the B-movie plot about superhuman mutants being created by a man in his volcanic lair of the first Far Cry never left its various half-sequels and console reboots, the core mechanics remained much of the same into the rest of the series; our lone, player-controlled protagonist must resort to using stealth and the environment to tackle a vastly numerically superior enemy force in a free-roaming environment, and Crytek mastered this as its bread and butter for most of their offerings for the next few years, and electing to leave behind the high-flying superpowered shenanigans for its next mainstay series, Crysis.

Far Cry 2 leaves the tropical island settings for a slightly different locale and mission; a fictional, war-ravaged African nation (referred to as UAC, Unknown African Country), with the objective of killing a mysterious arms dealer known only as ‘The Jackal’. Before you can finish your scenic dirt-road tour to your hotel through a brush-fire, an animal crossing, and armed checkpoint, you contract instant malaria (give it a chance) from a mosquito bite, and stumble into your hotel to collapse. The Jackal finds you while you’re bedridden, providing exposition by reading your files provided by your unknown employer; that he’s the one responsible for helping accelerate the destabilization of a ruler-less nation by arming both revolutionary rebel groups, and that since your employer assumes you’re toast, won’t be paying you to do your originally intended job. No longer viewing you as a threat, the Jackal leaves you with your machete and a bottle of anti-malarial pills, as a firefight between the rebel groups outside erupts, and during your escape, you’re gunned down in the crossfire, fade to black. When you wake up, you are launched on a series of forgettable odd-jobs for whatever faceless lieutenant of one of the two factions that dragged your near-corpse out of the town to discover more about The Jackal, and whoever can grease the wheels to get to him.

Turns out, you’re going to need quite a lot of grease, because the name of the game is friction. Guns will rust, jam, and break, malaria will wrack your vision when you least need it to, everyone outside of a ceasefire zone is out to bathe in your blood, you’re gonna need to perform redneck improvised first aid as enemies encroach your position and you’re out of morphine syrettes, fires will seemingly spring up out of nowhere and sneak up on you, the checkpoint you cleared a day ago has fresh baddies out to kill you, you have to navigate the terrain by map and compass as the engine on your vehicle spews darker smoke with every new bullet it catches..Suffice to say, everything is out to kill you in UAC.

The currency in UAC is uncut diamonds, which you must earn through hunting GPS caches scattered in the wilderness, executing hit jobs given from tapping into nearby cell tower signals, or progressing the story by doing the dirty work of the friendly neighborhood warlords; you then spend your rocks on weapons and other murder-related gear, such as weapons manuals, ammunition bandoliers, vehicle maintenance kits, even a ghillie suit to increase your stealth factor at night and in tall grass. However, some things are more valuable than spending your time rooting around for stones or plugging mooks because a modulated voice told you there’s money in it for you over a satellite phone connection. Finding and helping various ‘friendly’ unallied mercenaries (that are all options for you to pick as your playable character in the beginning of the game) earns you access to a network of buddies who will throw you odd jobs to upgrade the safe houses scattered around the map, and build up your camaraderie with them to make sure they’ll have your back in the event you go down in a firefight. In addition, your malaria medication is limited, and the only way to acquire more of it is to hustle passports for a group of human traffickers called The Underground, that helps get people flee the UAC, who repay your kindness with life-saving drugs.

To put the cherry on the shit-flavored, russet-palette-d pie of the game, outside of the major plot events and interactions with the Jackal, the game is just flat-out..boring to play. Painful, even. Your objectives boil down to performing some act of violence on a person, place, or thing; shoot who you’re asked to, fetch a briefcase, burn down a village, it’s the same shit over and over, which is a theme in and of itself — the slow desensitization to violence as you slowly lose your morals and sink deeper into becoming the monster you set out to kill originally. And while there is plenty to chat about storywise, I’m still about the mechanics; this game follows the same line of punishing monotony that games such as Dark Souls have popularized. Enemies roam the roads, eager to ambush you in superior numbers on the way to and from your objective, the fast travel options are highly limited to the center and four corners of each of the two halves of the 50 square kilometer gameplay map, and the game almost requires you to use stealth at some point in your missions, denying you the chance to go full frontal. And to tell you the truth, I loved every bastard second I could’ve thrown my controller through my TV when I got nudged at 15 mph and died almost instantly, and I’d forgotten to manually save for about two hours (since there is no autosave, because fuck you.)

Despite the shoddy voice-acting and uninteresting supporting characters in the two factions (with your buddies only being marginally better), the Jackal’s relationship with your silent protagonist and your character’s writings in their log describing their objective, tenuous relationships with the leaders of the militias, and what the mercenaries think of our selected (anti)hero. As the game goes on, you betray and are betrayed by whatever faction you work for on that day, and you encounter the Jackal more and more. Eventually, you join forces with the Jackal to end the bloody madness of arming both sides of the same genocidal, war crime-committing coin. The country decides to have a cleaning of house of foreign military influence, and your infamy precedes you in being public enemy number one, and in the end, (SPOILERS), all of your former ‘buddies’ (including those that you thought died in the firefight! Cool enough though, those that die through the course of the game after requiring to be revived three times don’t appear) turn on you for refusing to give them a case of diamonds The Jackal gave you to hand off to border guards ensuring safe passage for the remainder of the country’s refugees. After the ensuing firefight, you are given a choice by The Jackal; to either take the diamonds to the border and shoot yourself with a handgun in the briefcase, or to manually detonate a shitload of explosives that will block off the valley the refugees flee out of, securing them from the APR and the UFLL’s bloodthirst, and to purge the UAC of the cancer of foreign military influence. (END SPOILERS)

In the end, Far Cry 2 is a lot deeper than its given credit for, in terms of realistic gameplay mechanics and depth of story, with parallels to Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness (the last location on the map is called the Heart of Darkness for fucks sake). It could have been an incredible game had more attention been given to the use of cutscenes (of which the game has very few) and a more dynamic mission set, as well as some minor tweaks to AI behavior (and just a FEW more stops for the fast travel systems), as well as improvements to the dialogue and voicing, and this game would have been a smash hit. In addition, it adds a level of difficulty and challenge that its successors, Far Cry 3/4/Blood Dragon seem to be entirely lacking — those games think by jamming a million outposts up your ass, investing in RPG elements and quick time events that a more arcade-y feel are inherently better and give more gameplay time, which is true of the neither; I felt more satisfied slogging through 40 hours of bullshit in Far Cry 2 than both Far Cry 3 and 4 combined.