2008 Reviews

Far Cry 2

  • Review Date: 2013-11
  • Release Date: 2008-10
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Rating: 7.5

Far Cry 2 is one game where Metacritic has a large difference in rating from critic vs users, 85% vs 56%. User ratings aren't always accurate - fanboys will give a game a 10/10 even when it's flawed, but then many people who simply didn't like the game will stupidly give it a score of 0/10. In this case I think it deserves a middle-ground.

Far Cry was a cult classic, although flawed and a bit amatuer in areas such as the models. Crysis fixed that and was professionally done in every aspect, making it one of the best games of the decade. Even 2008's Crysis Warhead, although just a mission pack, was still a great blast.

So what happened to Fry Cry 2 for it to fail so badly in users eyes? Ubisoft for one, since they're the developers rather than Crytek.Far Cry 2 has absolutely nothing in common with the original game at all, apart from the name. It's just a cash in on a good-selling franchise. The same studio that bought us one of the most overrated franchises still being developed - Assassin's Creed. It's pretty clear to me that Ubisoft is a studio that gets extra treatment from the critics. Do they pay for higher scores?

But it's not the art and design that fails. The Africa plains and jungle looks fantastic. Probably not quite as good as Crysis, afterall it's not the same engine. Far Cry 2 uses Dunia, an evolution of CryEngine. Avatar also uses the same engine which probably looks better than Far Cry 2 with it's dense rainforest and more fantasy settings. Far Cry 2 still looks fantastic though. When I first started the game my initial thoughts were that it looks a bit colourful and cartoony, lighting too flat, not real enough. But as I played through it I don't know if I just got used to that a little. But also the changing weather conditions helps, especially when you get some more moody weather. The last section of the game where I was on foot I played as the sun was slowly rising, so everything was washed in yellow and a murky fog. It looked incredibly, albeit slightly difficult to see.

The weather isn't always ideal, I played at least 20% of Far Cry 2 at night, and it's very difficult to see sometimes at night or in low level lighting conditions like sunrise/sunset. At times you end up just stearing your vehicle and just hoping the road goes this way because it's so poorly lit that you can't really tell. Then you'll curse as you come to a sudden stop on a tiny rock, flimsy palm tree or indestructible road sign and now have to get out to fix your damn vehicle. By the time you get back in, some asshole enemy will come flying up in front of you, ramming you and requiring killing. Then you'll have to fix your car again! I'm getting ahead of myself now though, back to the design...

There aren't really any epic set pieces. You play across two large levels but without a map you'd have no idea where you are most of the time because it all looks so repetitive. I suppose the few more interesting areas are where you get to a bit of water. But nothing where you look out over fantastic scenery. Real life Africa is probably more interesting!

The obvious comparisons are S.TA.L.K.E.R. and Fallout 3, because they're both sandbox RPG shooters. Far Cry 2 should already have the advantage here because jungle, islands and rivers will always look better than a desert wasteland. But Fallout 3 certainly had more epic scenes in it. I guess Far Cry 2 does have the prettier details and a nicer engine. . In fact I could probably add White Gold in here as well, another first-person RPG shooter based on a tropical island. That makes all four games (Clear Sky and Fallout 3 GOTY edition) released within eight weeks of each other in late 2008. Far Cry 2 is certainly better looking than Clear Sky and White Gold.

Where Far Cry 2 fails is obviously the gameplay. The aforementioned games were very popular among gamers. S.TA.L.K.E.R. despite being an amateur buggy mess is still a cult favourite (though not with me). Fallout 3 is one of the best games released up until 2008 - EVER. So you can't help but feel Ubisoft had, on paper, a game that should be popular. You can travel wherever you want, take different missions in whatever order you want and easily waste dozens of hours in Far Cry 2.

The problem is we've gone from a standard first person shooter in the original, to a FUCKING DRIVING SIMULATOR in Far Cry 2. You can't go anywhere on foot, the walk-speed is just too slow. You have to drive, which means taking care of your vehicle and constantly fighting off enemies from your mounted machine gun. But you can't drive and shoot at the same time, Ubisoft wanted this to be realistic. So you have to come to a complete stop, shoot your enemies from afar, before continuing. Every mission requires you driving usually quite some distance - never is a mission close to where you are. But the zone is littered with checkpoints full of enemies that re-spawn. This is Far Cry 2's biggest issue, the re-spawning checkpoints. You can go through a checkpoint, taking five minutes to kill everyone, return just minutes later and they've all re-spawned. Even the fucker with the heat-seeking rocket launching. What happens is you lose all sense of progression. There's no points trying to kill everyone at a checkpoint because they'll all be back when you return. So it ends up being a rinse-and-repeat effort of trying to get through the checkpoints without stopping and taking minimal damage.

Then there's the enemy vehicles. Most checkpoints, even when you do get through, you'll have to stop shortly after because another vehicle will be chasing you down. They ALWAYS seem to catch you even though you have the same vehicle and if you happen to watch them without being seen they'll usually be ramming every rock and tree in sight. I can understand why they needed checkpoints to re-spawn, because otherwise your game would be filled with too much Sunday driving without action. But it needed to be far less common, maybe one re-spawn per day, not within minutes. A few times I even had them re-spawn while I was still at the checkpoint looking around.

The enemies do have good AI. They often won't come directly at you, instead flanking around and before you know it they're behind you. It's bloody annoying, but smart. However, enemies being able to see through flora provided no shortage of swearing. Numerous times I was being shot at through walls and bushes where I couldn't possible see who was shooting me. Some of the weapons can also be rather useless. The mounted machine guns on vehicles must be the single most useless in the history of gaming. Enemies can pick me off from hundreds of metres away with a single bullet while my MG spray across the entire outpost seems to miss everything.

So in general , far too much driving and shooting from your vehicle in Far Cry 2. I must have spent a good 60% of this game just driving. I did start to get used to using buses a bit more, which allows you to jump large portions of the zone. But you've still got to drive to the bus stop and then only get a shitty vehicle once you're dropped off.

The RPG elements failed completely. I did several side missions. They were all pointless and more trouble than they're worth, just about all the weapons are unlocked as you play. In the end I had far more money (diamonds) than I could spend. I could purchase more and more weapons, but what's the point when you only get three at a time. With the uzi and sniper rifle, I didn't need anything else. That's about all you can buy.

The actual missions were mostly all the same, even the main missions were just a matter of getting some place and killing someone or blowing something up. The one memorable mission was the on-rails "defend the barge" mission. I certainly didn't feel the need to play any side-missions when they're all just the same thing, over the same area, and for little reward.

I'll rush over the story. It's some poorly told dribble about faction vs faction and some guy you're supposed to stop who's selling weapons to both. There were far too many characters to remember (without at least some decent cinematics and story behind them) and none of it seemed to have much to do with the weapons seller. Don't bother playing Far Cry 2 for it's story.

Overall, according to the in-game statistics I played Far Cry 2 for 14 hours. Which seems quite short, I guess that doesn't take into account all the reloads (and there were a lot!), so I'd say more like 20 hours at least. Even then, at most games I'm bored and just waiting for it to finish by the ten hour mark, but with Far Cry 2 I still wasn't bored by the end. I could easily play some custom missions now. So that's something. But it's also telling that the best part of the game (for me) was the last few missions where you're on foot, there's no damn vehicles around and it's gone linear.

Far Cry 2