Making an open-ended game with an expansive playing area can’t be easy. It’d be so much easier to make things linear, to guide the player every step of the way. So it’s always impressive when a developer pulls off a sandbox title that remains entertaining while giving the player freedom to muck around. Far Cry 2 is one of those titles, and while it’s not perfect, it’s worth looking into if you want a decent first person shooter experience.
Graphically, Far Cry 2 is very impressive – and it’s the first thing you notice. From the vast savannahs to the verdant forests, everything is lush, detailed, and animates nicely. It’s very easy to simply absorb yourself in the world – it’s clear a lot of effort went into it. A lot of effort also appears to have been put into the explosions and other pyrotechnic-related effects – blowing up the beautiful world around you is almost as much fun as looking at it.
The game encourages you to soak in the atmosphere – by parts peaceful and chaotic – through the opening sequences. The premise that gets set up is actually pretty intriguing: you’re a mercenary who’s been sent to a fictional African nation that is in the midst of a bloody civil war. Apparently some jerk has been smuggling in all sorts of weapons, and it’s up to you to knock him off. Of course, things don’t work out so well straight off the bat, and you end up having to perform errands and gain the trust of various different factions. Oh, and you have malaria, which is a nice touch, but the periodic bouts of giddiness can get a tad annoying in the middle of a firefight.
These firefights are frequent, and often enjoyable, but there are some annoying quirks that keep popping up. The enemy AI ranges from average to terrible – sometimes they try and flank you, but other times they’ll just run and gun. Unfortunately, they seem able to take quite a bit of lead before going down, almost as much as is needed to finish you off. This gets a bit frustrating when there are several coming at you from different directions – so advanced planning is thoroughly recommended. Circling an encampment with a sniper rifle is generally more effective, and the game can get pretty fun if you get into the whole tactical side of things.
You’ll have a lot of opportunities for such tactics – the gameplay area in Far Cry 2 is pretty big and open, much like Stalker or a Grand Theft Auto game gone wild. It really delivers in this regard – although if you don’t like going back and forth a lot, you may find all the travelling tiresome, particularly if you don’t have a vehicle on hand.
Unfortunately, the game’s plot doesn’t really fulfill its potential. The political themes available sit just beneath the surface, and are never explored as much as I would have liked – but maybe that’s just my desire for video games to actually tackle serious themes head on, rather than devolve into a run-and-gun action smorgasbord. Still, if you don’t really care about weighty issues, the plot is well polished enough to satisfy.
There are a number of annoying parts of Far Cry 2, but things are more than held together by both the presentation of the game, and the sheer absorbing joy of exploring the world that has been put together with so much care. The new development team has done a great job of taking some of the original Far Cry’s better elements, putting them in a new setting, and giving them a few twists. You’ll need to invest some time before really getting into the game, but if you’re after a good first person experience for the holiday season, this one’s up there with Resistance 2.