52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 3
Far Cry 2
Release Date: October 21, 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Week 3 of my 52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming challenge brings me to a small unnamed African nation in the first person shooter world of Far Cry 2.
The game starts by allowing the player choose a hero from a list of 9 different mercenaries. None of the mercs offer any advantage over another so personal preference will dictate the character chosen. This chosen merc has been hired to assassinate a ruthless arms dealer called the Jackal. The story starts with a cool cinematic that serves as a quick introduction to what is going on in the game world. Towards the end of the cinematic, the Jackal ambushes our hero but does not kill him (good thing as the game would have ended before it began), but leaves him to die of malaria (Stupid mosquito! You go squish now!). Our hero merc does not perish from malaria but is seriously weakened and is now dependent on pills to keep the disease in check. The quest to stop the Jackal now begins.
After having escaped the predicament of the opening scenario, I was now free to explore the vast open world of Far Cry 2. The game is a true sandbox style game in that gamers have a choice about what they choose to do next. In fact I spent the first couple hours of Far Cry 2 just exploring and taking in the scenery and sounds. The game is a visual and audible delight. I have come to expect such trademarks from Ubisoft Montréal, but I think they outdid themselves on this game. While I have never been to an African Savannah, I have watched my share of the Discovery Channel and I honestly felt like I was there. As my chosen merc, an Irish sleeveen, walked in a grass field I could not help but stare in amazement at the lush and varied landscape within my field of view. To the right I could see where the grass ended and a vast expanse of sand began with only a few outcroppings and the occasional tree disturbing the perfectly flat landscape. To the left were cliffs covered in green vegetation (not everything is brown in this game). Ahead were a few zebras and gazelles quietly grazing in the setting sun. The sun vanished below the horizon replaced by a starry sky that quickly game way to dark clouds and rain. The rain quieted the ever present sounds of the local fauna. The illusion was so perfect that I could have spent another few hours just taking everything in if not for the bullets who started whizzing by my head. This was no time to enjoy the scenery as this was a war zone after all.
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Far Cry 2 is a first person shooter, and as one would expect from a shooter there are plenty of things to shoot, and plenty of guns to shoot with. Weapons come in 3 categories; handguns/pistols, shotguns/rifles and specialty weapons. Weapons can be obtained from fallen enemies, but these are of poor quality and will frequently jam up (always at the worst possible moment). These weapons should only be used in absolute dire circumstances and discarded as soon as possible. The preferred method of obtaining weapons is to purchase them from one of the local weapons dealer. The choice of weapons purchased is extremely important as only one weapon of each type can be equipped at a time. Switching to a different weapon will require a trip to a local arms storage house once the weapons has been purchased. Purchased weapons are in perfect shape, but they will not remain that way for long. All weapons in Far Cry 2 will degrade over time and eventually become useless. The good news is that each weapon can be upgraded to improve its quality. Once a weapon has been purchased, this will unlock an unlimited supply of this weapon (and any upgrade purchased for it) from the storage house of any dealer. Dealers also sell other various upgrades such as manuals to reduce the repair time of different vehicles available in the game, secondary storage cases to allow an extra weapons of each category to be stored at any safe house and the amount of medication-filled syrettes (think health packs) or ammo that can be carried by the hero.
A game cannot be considered a true Ubisoft Montréal game if it did not have some type of item to collect. In Far Cry 2 this item is diamonds. But this time there is a compelling reason (beyond achievements) to go around searching for these little gems as diamonds are the only recognized form of currency in the game. Fancy that nice new rocket launcher, that will be 25 diamonds please. Diamonds can be obtained by completing missions or by finding any of the 221 briefcases “dropped” throughout the game world. Unlike the flags in Assassin's Creed, briefcases all have tracking devices attached to them that can be tracked by GPS when in close proximity making finding diamonds an easier task than finding those pesky flags.
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The action in Far Cry 2 is at times quite frantic and the game is very fun, but it does have a few problem areas. I did not understand why is the main hero so limited with the amount of guns he can carry. I know the developers were trying for a more realistic approach (the instant heal syrettes killed that concept), but many missions really did require the use of a sniper rifle at first, then a good close combat gun to “clean up”, but both guns types are in the same category and only one could be equipped. This problem left gamers with the option to either choose a sniper rifle to pick most bad guys from a distance, then to pick up a dropped unreliable weapon from a fallen foe for closer combat and rely on syrettes when the gun will jam up, or to attack with a close range weapon and reply on the syrettes while trying to get close enough to start shooting. A good technique to use to to blow up red and yellow barrels with a few well placed bullets, but be mindful of the surroundings as they event may trigger a grass fire that can quickly turn against the hero. On the occasion where my chosen tactic failed, my merc was gracefully rescued by one of his merc "buddies" who was brave enough to drag both of them to safety, even outnumbered 10-1 in the middle of a blazing grass fire. For some strange reason this same superhero buddy, once in the complete clear away from danger, would fall dying from a single bullet and then needed rescuing in return. Another annoyance is that enemies just re-spawn once I left an area, so I never felt like I was gaining an upper hand. I could completely destroy an outpost, just to find it fully repopulated with baddies upon my return. This problem is compounded when each mission requires passing several outposts making the game suffer from needless repetition. But these complaints are just nitpicking as the game is exceptional and among the best single player experiences available for the Xbox 360 as far as shooters go.
Far Cry 2 does feature multiplayer gameplay, but these is little here that stands out from the competition to make it a must buy title. The offering is of the usual fare with the traditional deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the diamonds (capture the flag for everyone else) and uprising (take over territories) game modes over a modest selection of maps. Similar to other multiplayer games, Far Cry 2 uses a ranking system to reward gamers with new weapons and perks meaning that newbs will die often at the hands of other players with improved gear. The good news is that there are plenty of gamers playing this game at any time of the day.
I did not get very far in the game as I spent most of my time exploring and releasing safe houses. With over 15 hours of gameplay so far invested in Far Cry 2, I only managed to complete 15% of the game. This is a huge game that will take weeks to complete or more if you are among the unlucky few that are experience corrupt save games. I have yet experienced this problem. It could be because I installed the game to my HDD and using multiple save game files (or just did not play enough yet).
I will be sticking with this game for a while longer in between sessions of other games, as I am captivated by its story and I am really looking forward to taking out the Jackal..