We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn!
Ah, Africa. There’s nothing quite like taking in the sunset over the veldt: A herd of zebras in the distance rummaging for food in the last few moments of light. The wind kicking sand up around you. A breathtaking scene if there ever was one. But it’s not reality; it’s Far Cry 2.
[image1]Hands-down, this is one of the most visually stunning games that you are going to see this year. From the deserts and oases, to the thick jungle forests and to those extremely flammable plains, this game looks fabulous and it knows it. I have never stopped to take in a sunset in a video game before now.
It’s not all beauty and serenity, though. You’ve come to Africa for a reason. There’s a civil war brewing between rival factions - the United Front for Liberation and Labor (UFLL) and the Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR). And it’s all being fed by a war-profiteering arms dealer called “The Jackal”. You play as one of several mercenaries hired to take him out. But wouldn’t you know it, you get a bad case of malaria, get captured by one of the factions, and are forced to do some dirty work to get intel on "The Jackal".
Dealing with your malaria is an interesting and unique feature that can make for some intense moments. It hits you at random times and can add a lot to the difficulty factor of a mission. Yes there’s nothing quite like raiding a fort, charging head-on like Vin Diesel, killing dudes left and right, only to suddenly have everything go crazy-'60s-psychedelic on you as you fall to your knees in agony.
Fortunately, you can do sub-missions in order to get medication to keep your disease under control. Then it’s no more trouble than popping a pill while under heavy fire, so you can get back to popping caps in asses. It’s a good idea to make sure you always have enough meds or you're going to have a harder time completing missions than Michael J. Fox playing Operation.
[image2]If you do end up getting shot one too many times, one of your buddies may come bail you out of trouble. Buddies are other mercs you’ve befriended in the game, and they are a great resource to have, but must be treated with care. If a buddy dies, they’re dead and aren’t coming back, like that time your dog died and your parents bought you a new one and never told you the truth (surprise!). So if a guy has saved your life four or five times, it can be hard to watch him die in your arms as you try desperately to keep him alive.
Beyond helping you out of tight spots, buddies hook you up with sub-missions that can make your final goals easier to achieve (So make sure they don't die.). While it can add a lot of time to a mission, it’s usually worth it.
Missions vary in their goals but for the first half of the game, it’s a lot of "kill this" or "blow up that". But it’s not so much the type of mission that really matters, it's how you choose to play them out. If you prefer the ninja stealth approach of silencers and sniper rifles, you can go that way. Or maybe you like to light things on fire with a flamethrower and watch chaos ensue. The signature standout is that you can watch as the flames are carried across the plains in the direction of the wind. Laughing as your enemies are burnt to a crisp is (not) optional. I enjoy sneaking into most places through the back and then letting loose with an all-out berserker barrage of bullets and grenades.
You’ll have a lot of weapons to choose from as well, but most have to be unlocked instead of being bought through the arms dealer. Everything is paid for in diamonds, as traditional paper money has become worthless wipe-your-ass paper, and diamonds are sparse. You'll never be rolling around in so much money that you don't know what to do with it. As such, you’ll have to make intelligent decisions as to where to blow your
wad stash. Finding briefcases full of diamonds is like searching for hidden packages in a Grand Theft Auto, except it has an immediate use.
[image3]You can also earn diamonds by completing certain missions or finding them hidden throughout the massive open-world map. There is plenty of environments to explore and there’s loot hidden everywhere. It can take quite some time to get from destination to another, as there’s always blockades or random guys in Jeeps trying to run you down. Learning to read your map and find shortcuts to avoid unnecessary shoot-outs can be essential.
Once you get through the first half of the game, you realize that it was all just training for what awaits you in Act 2. Things might have seemed intense before, but now it’s just nuts. The mission where you have to defend the carrier boat full of ammo? Holy crap, is it ridiculously awesome. You will not want to stop until you’ve played every single one of them, and since there are two factions to work for and you can work with whichever one you want - even flipping between sides - each playthrough is different.
There’s only a handful of vehicles, but they range from an old beat-up compact to a Jeep Wrangler with a machine gun turret mounted on its back. Cars handle somewhat awkwardly at first and take a bit of time to get used to, but the learning curve is not steep at all. You can actually hold your map in your (virtual) hand, so there are a lot of times when you’ll have it out while cruising. Just make sure to keep one eye on the road. I have run into a lot of trees while paying too much attention to the map.
There is a tremendous amount of fine detail everywhere you look. Character models are varied to the point where it seems no two people look the same [According to the developers, literally no two people look the same. ~Ed]. Guns get covered in rust and scratches over time, and can jam up. Pulling bullets out of your arm with a Leatherman before you bleed to death looks as painful as it sounds.
[image4]The game's multiplayer is a fairly standard affair of traditional deathmatches and capture the flag (they call it "capture the diamond"), but it also throws in a Battlefront-esque base capturing game called Uprising. The multiplayer is solid but extremely traditional in execution. All of the modern luxuries of leveling and upgrading weapons is there but not much else.
While the multiplayer is your basic meat and potatoes affair, there is one interesting aspect that as far as I know, is unique. This is the first console multiplayer FPS I’ve ever seen that includes an in-game map editor. I made myself a badass destruction derby level with a ton of explosive gas tanks and machine gun bunkers. It’s very user-friendly and there’s not much you can’t do with it, but a tutorial still would’ve been helpful with all of the finer details.
Also when I finished my level and tried to submit it for online approval, I discovered that it did not meet all the qualifications. While I realize that will cut back on a lot of the crap levels or the laggiest levels out there, it is a bit heartbreaking to have my hand-crafted map, that I made with love and care, rejected for having too many physics objects.
My only other complaint about Far Cry 2 is that the plot is a bit light and can be hard to follow at times, especially after spending almost an hour on some side-missions. However, the plot speaks volumes about the harsh realities that are being faced in certain real-life African nations, where there is a lot of beauty to behold but also so much corruption and greed that innocent people suffer. And while there might not be any direct references to anything going on right now, the message is there and delivered subtly enough so as to not be offensive or pushy.
Far Cry 2 is a shining diamond like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue (I couldn't help myself, Dio rocks too hard). Something is coming for you and your free time. Between the open environments and multi-branching plot of its story mode and designable maps for multiplayer, there is a ton to do and be seen in Ubisoft’s latest endeavor. So pack your bags and get ready for your trip to the motherland.