Steam sales are an evil, evil thing. Games that I’m only slightly interested in suddenly become attractive thanks to their limited-time-only rock bottom price. I’ve been repeatedly seduced into buying games that I don’t really have time to play and sadly have amassed a nice collection of un-played blockbusters.
No more. I’ve made it my goal to start getting through these games and not let those purchases go to waste. One of those untouched games I’ve picked up is Far Cry 2. You play as a mercenary dropped into a war-torn African country with a mission to kill an infamous weapons dealer. You cruise about dirt roads cut through thick forest and hire yourself out to the highest bidding faction for whatever contract work they throw your way.
Far Cry 2 earned a lot of critical praise for its “emergent” game-play. Situations in the game can be resolved in different and often unexpected ways. Attacking an enemy camp you can assault it head-on, guns blazing, or try a more creative strategy. A fun approach, among others, is to light nearby brush and let the wind encourage the fire through the dry landscape, forcing your terrified enemy from their entrenched positions for easy pickings. Far Cry 2’s fire propagation mechanics are incredibly developed so this strategy is a favorite of mine. After several hours of playing, however, I found that the game wasn’t quite as flexible as some have declared. Gunfights often fall into a formulaic narrative and what were unexpected events at first become commonplace. When an errant grenade blew a hidden ammo stash, chaotically spewing bullets everywhere and killing an entire camp of enemy soldiers, I was flabbergasted. But after the third time I saw that event happen it didn’t seem nearly so revolutionary.
Thick forest, rolling desert dunes, and murky rivers leaping off of high cliffs make up a small part of the beautiful world that is Far Cry 2. Once time I was driving a dirty jeep down a narrow road, pursued by gun-toting thugs. Busy looking over my shoulder, I crashed into a herd of antelope crossing the road and was forced to fight with only a rusty pistol through the enemy soldiers who now surrounded my smoking vehicle. It’s a scene played out over and over again in Far Cry 2: beauty marred by violence.
Part of the story that’s explained to you at the beginning of the game is that the citizens of this country are being held hostage by warring factions. You’re portrayed as a “good guy” of sorts, above the low level of the murderers and thieves who control the region. But after a while, you don’t really feel like it. I wish Far Cry 2 had regular people trying to live their lives while a war rages around them. Since the game is devoid of actual civilians and everyone you meet seeks to take your life, you develop a “kill or be killed” mindset. You’re never forced to check yourself – is the person walking along the road a murdering guerrilla, or just some guy on his way to work? Unfortunately, in Far Cry 2, the answer is always the former.
Standing and watching the world burn.
Far Cry 2 is great at keeping you in its world with small details, like how it handles its interface. If you need to look at the map while driving, your character pulls out a map while keeping one hand on the wheel and the action continues; most games pause to show the map or embed it into the interface. This basic idea feels very real – I can only imagine the statistics on the increased number of car crashes when players are trying to both look at their map and hurtle down the road at high speeds.
Far Cry 2’s plot, while ham-fisted at times, was interesting enough to keep me playing. Like many games of its size and “open-worldlyness”, it’s very easy to get sidetracked on missions not relevant to the story and when I found myself getting bored with the game I had to remind myself to keep pursuing the main story.
While certain shortcomings take you out of the experience, Far Cry 2 provides an incredible experience nonetheless. I thought I would quickly burn out with the game, especially after seeing much of what it had to offer, but I found myself returning to see it to its end. Far Cry 2 was a great purchase, especially considering how little I actually paid for it.