Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Soldiers of Fortune are usually a B-list affair in video games, hanging around with the likes of western stars, boxers, and poorly written thug types that populate games like Saints Row 2. Yet so many games actually star a mercenary, be it one man or a team. Let’s take a look at some of these games, and see how they compare.
It is interesting to see how skewed the views of a game developer, yet how accurate their gameplay becomes when you actually study the region the game takes place. “Far Cry 2” a game made by the guys from Ubisoft, takes the realistic approach based on Crytek’s engine and ups it further by accidently capturing how realistic the events that may occur in a war torn African continent may be.
You star as one of twelve unique mercenaries who is tasked to find an arms dealer known as “The Jackal,” who is supplying guns to both sides in a war against the fictional country of Leboa-Sako. Your task to find “The Jackal” is thwarted early on by malaria sickness and after a rather interesting cut-scene where you’re mocked by your mark for being sick; you wake up in the middle of a civil war, and get tangled in the events as a gun for hire in a war-torn world.
To say the game is immersive would be a gross understatement, because the game’s biggest triumph, and ironically flaw, is the total immersion you feel solely based on how realistic the world is. To check your map, you need to hold it to your face, to drive a car; you sometimes need to fix the radiator that’s smoking under the hood. The weather changes on a whim, Another great aspect is the use of fire in the game, either started by you or by your enemies, can be devastating depending on how the wind is blowing.
This immersion does come at a price, however. Driving, for one, is very hard to deal with mainly due to the fact that the cars in the game are fragile and can’t take too many bullet hits. For some reason, all of your other mercenary enemies have lasers for eyes, shooting you miles away with pinpoint accuracy. Another problem is the constant respawning of enemies at checkpoints. These seem like minor nitpicks, but they can cause the game to go into a slow grind, making tasks lugubrious at best.
Perhaps the most damaging yet paradoxically accurate aspect of the game is the mission structures. You can do work for both factions for diamonds, the only good currency in the game, but in the end you really make no progress with either side. You fight both groups to the ground, until you meet new resistance groups and do the same missions for cut diamonds.
As a sidebar, this is kind of the picture in many African states today. The conflicts in Africa today are hampered by corrupt governments, economic issues, and near interchangeable resistance movements attempting to gain control of everything for various reasons. It is hard to know who to trust and which side is really in the right, if at all. This is where the gameplay’s own paradox lives.
The games multi-player follows a Call of Duty mentality of having six gun classes that can be upgraded as you progress in rank, with standard death match, capture the flag, and other forms of online entertainment you would expect in any FPS now days. The game does shine however with a really clever map editor program that adds some replay value online.
The games strongest point is the graphics, which, despite some low detail on the characters that populate the world, the environments are breathtaking. From sunrise to sunset, the landscape is almost an orgasm for your eyeballs, with lush jungles, long stretches of savannah complete with animals grazing, and vast deserts packed with an oasis or two for good measure. The game does so well graphically it puts powerhouses like Gears of War and Fallout to shame, which says something about the team at Ubisoft.
The game also sports a well used soundtrack, despite being “stereotypically” African. The sound effects are also fairly generic but translate well in the game, in particular the “ambiance” sound effects, such as the rummaging of foliage in the jungles or the splashing of water as you swim or trek the river ways. And despite a few annoying quirks with the voice over’s, namely the fact that everyone talks like a used car-salesman; fast and smooth, the performances by the generic faced mercenaries is actually done fairly well.
Far Cry 2 is not a perfect game, but it is a game that does its job in creating an immersive experience, albeit some fairly flawed gameplay aspects. As stated, the paradox of the gameplay is that, despite being hindrances to the experience, it adds to the realism of the games subject matter, with some liberties. If anything, Far Cry 2 is a great experience with a lot of good ideas, and despite a few hiccups, is an adequate first person shooter that will provide an entertaining experience to those who go the distance.