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Far Cry 2


If you're familiar with shooters, then you already know that the original Far Cry was a huge success. Ubisoft's popular franchise landed in 2004 and many upgrades and installments after the fact across just about every console worth noting. Full of primal powers and a campy story, Far Cry's legion of fans were thrilled when they heard that Ubisoft was releasing a second game and they wondered if it would be anything like the original. As it turns out, Far Cry 2 has absolutely nothing to do with the original, and when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

Far Cry 2 is developed by Ubisoft Montreal rather than Crytek, so right away it's a different feeling game. It takes place in Africa, doesn't feature genetically altered powers, and doesn't bring any of the familiar faces from the first game back into play. For all intents and purposes Ubisoft attached the Far Cry name to this project in an effort to draw title recognition. It works, for the most part, but it will certainly leave many heads being scratched depending on the expectations of the individual.

When you fire up Far Cry 2's single player, you're given the option at the outset to select a character. This feature is rather paper thin as the person you pick doesn't really have any sway over the story of the game. Even so, it's nice to know that there are options as far as whose forearms you're going to be staring at for the rest of the game. It detracts from the narrative somewhat, but I suppose it does immerse you more into the story by involving you in such a manner. As far as the story is concerned this time around, the game takes place in an Africa which is being torn apart by different factions and mercenaries. Fittingly you play as a mercenary and it's your mission to track down and kill an arms dealer named "The Jackal".

Gameplay


While you're playing through the single player campaign the game does offer you quite a bit of variety. You are able to choose which side you want to support, what missions you want to take, who you want to save, and how you want to approach just about every situation. Rather than stick you in a game which is rigid and linear, Far Cry 2 tosses you into an open world environment (with roughly 20 miles to explore) where your choices affect your surroundings and path of the game. Some events you perpetrate will have lasting influences on the environment and may even cut you off from accepting other missions. It's a nice change of pace for a first person shooter and it's definitely much different than the original Far Cry.

Traveling around the massive environment will eat up most of your time. Whether you approach it on foot, behind the driver's seat, or via bus, there're plenty of places to explore in the game. The world is huge and quite honesty this is probably one of the most expansive first person shooters I have ever played. It's not all fun and exploration though, there are plenty of enemies scattered around for you to kill as well of course.

The gameplay in Far Cry 2 feels like you'd expect it would, which is to say that it plays like a finely polished FPS. With the game's focus on gunplay more than feral combat and abilities, things in Africa feel much grittier than in the first Far Cry. Sneaking through the savannah, coming across a pack of enemies, and unleashing a hail of bullets upon them works just as you'd expect it would. Thankfully it feels much more realistic here as well so the campy action from the first game is a non-issue.

The selection of weaponry stands out as being more functional than flashy and there are no real surprises here in terms of armaments. Machine guns, pistols, shotguns, grenades, and rocket launchers are all standard fare, but there are plenty of things that help separate the high grade equipment from the crap. For instance, if you pick up a gun from an enemy, chances are very good you can expect it to jam at the wrong time. However, if you hit up a weapons merchant you can get some quality stuff that is simply a cut above the rest and will serve you well.

Going back to the jamming weapons thing, Far Cry 2 has a very unstable element that works to its favor. No two battles will ever go the same way and there's a spontaneous nature to combat that will keep you on your toes. This holds true even through some of the game's effects such as fire. Lob a flame grenade or set fire to the grass somehow and you'll watch as it turns unpredictable and sends enemies running. Just be careful that you're paying attention to the blaze as well because fire can't be controlled.

Further unpredictability comes from a plot device in the game which infects your character with malaria. Every once in a while you'll be in a gunfight only to have the screen blur as you get sick with waves of nausea. Once that happens you only have a few moments to pop some pills and make the symptoms go away. During the game you'd best make sure you have a decent supply of meds or else you'll be dropping dead from disease rather than bullet wounds. Luckily, even if you are injured there are plentiful amounts of syringes around to heal up with so you can get back out to the deadly savannah.

Once you've had enough of the single player campaign there's a decent multiplayer component to immerse yourself in as well. With matches up to 16 players and modes such as Deathmatch, team Deathmatch, capture the diamonds, and a king of the hill variant called uprising. Granted it's mostly standard fare, but Far Cry 2 also implements an experience system that allows for level increases and the ability to upgrade weapon classes for new armaments. There's a decent variety of options here, but the biggest kicker is the inclusion of a solid map editor with the ability to make, edit, post maps, and download others.

All around Far Cry 2 is a solid first person shooter, and it's safe to say that it's far better than the first Far Cry. Ironically the two have nothing to do with each other, but don't let that deter you from trying this one out. I must say that Ubisoft may have made a mistake releasing this title when it did. While it's a solidly produced experience all around, it doesn't quite have enough to stand out amidst the holiday blitz of A+ titles. Games like Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Call of Duty 5, Resistance 2 (PS3), and Mirror's Edge simply have much more of the media's attention. There's still a lot going for this title and it's a shame that it will most likely be swept aside. The single player campaign is awesome and expansive, the multiplayer is robust yet traditional, and the map editor is a fine addition. Add this one to your play list if you have the time!

Graphics


With support up to 1080p, Far Cry 2 is quite the stunner on the 360. While the game is undoubtedly slightly more polished on a high end PC than Microsoft's console, there's no denying that this title stands as one of the better looking shooters on the system, in certain departments that is.

Far Cry 2 excels at producing an immersive, realistic environment with outstanding weather, water, and fire effects. Whether you're walking through the savannah, watching trees sway to the breeze in the distance, or lighting up a field with a torch there are so many things going on around you at all times that you'll simply stop and star in wonder. I don't think I have ever seen a gaming environment so rich in detail before and there are moments that are simply photo-realistic. Unfortunately the enchantment wears off after a while when you realize that there's a fair amount of pop-in, animation glitches, generic character models, and inconsistent textures. None of these "flaws" are to a degree where they make the game look bad, but it's safe to say that they do stand out amidst the beautiful Africa that Ubisoft Montreal created.

Sound


Like the graphics there are many strong points to the audio presentation, but there are a few weak ones as well. For the powerful stuff that this game offers you can expect a fantastic musical score, great ambient sound, strong effects, and an all around intelligent sense of immersion. You'll really be drawn into the action at times and the development team did a heck of a job capturing the sound of trekking through the wilds of Africa. Sadly the pervasive voice acting is the game's weakest point with some poor voiceovers, cheesy accents, and some lame dialogue. Regardless of that fact this game sound very good.

Conclusion


Thought it may be a sequel in title only, Far Cry 2 is a fantastic shooter worthy of finding a home in any FPS fan's library. The gritty action is just what the genre needs and shooting is the main focus. Set in Africa the game feels alive and dangerous, and whether you're playing single player or multiplayer there's plenty to love and tinker with. It's a shame that Ubisoft released this title when it did because it seems to have been swallowed up by the hype of so many other titles. This is a solid FPS all around and it's definitely one that any lover of the genre should consider highly recommended. Just come expecting gritty firefights and weak storytelling and you won't be disappointed in the least.