REDUX: Far Cry 2

Thursday, March 3, 2016

As I dive further into Far Cry Primal with my modified difficulty settings, I am reminded again and again of Far Cry 2 and its influence on my taste in shooters. I rank Far Cry 2 with the original X-Com in the games that most influenced the games I choose to play today. I've said on numerous occasions that it is my ideal shooter. Difficult, open, dark and thought provoking, Far Cry 2 has not, in my opinion, been matched. Reading my original review of the game, it's easy to see why.

On Wednesday, October 22 we received a package from Ubisoft. Contained within was a copy of Far Cry 2, complete with the pre-order bonus missions and spiffy bubble wrap. Jigs were danced, bubbles were popped and the sounds of an African dystopia were heard long into the night. Far Cry 2 is a game I will play for a long time, but for reasons I didn't expect.

When I first heard about Far Cry 2 I was, shall we say, a little underwhelmed by the idea of a Far Cry game set in Africa. The first game had been a solid enough shooter but left few lasting impressions. In the name of fairness, I did look into the game a little more as more material was made available. It was this trailer that first caught my eye. I wasn't sold on it yet, but I was interested.

When Ubidays hit a few months later, I watched the tech demo on Gametrailers more times than I know. I showed my wife, I showed my friends, I was hooked. Propogating fire, day and night cycles, an open world approach to missions, large array of weapons, and more than twenty hours of gameplay was more than enough to sell me on it.

Now the game is here and I have yet to feel shortchanged by any of the features. Everything I was promised, I have been given. So far, I've tried to play it quietly, sneaking into camps and past guard stations. I completed one assassination mission without alerting a single guard to my presence (not even the three I killed on the way). It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

You'll remember I said I'll be playing Far Cry for a while for unexpected reasons. What I mean by that is that besides being enormous and nigh unrepeatable, the game makes me think about what I'm doing. It's dark stuff, and I'm finding more and more that there really is no moral high ground to speak of. I can't come out of this feeling like a hero, I can only hope to come out alive. If Joseph Conrad had made a video game, this would be it. Forget Brando and Apocalypse Now, the Jackal is a modern day Kurtz.

The game does borrow heavily from the themes and plot of Heart of Darkness, there's even a reference to it in one of the achievements. That said, the tone can be pretty weighty at times, so much so that you may -like me- stop to think things through before you complete a mission. I was tasked with killing a man said to be largely responsible for the condition of the country. Before I could bring myself to complete the mission, I researched what little I could about the man. I had to be certain I wasn't making things worse by eliminating him.

Succession is something to worry about in Far Cry 2. Every faction has a chain of command. Kill the leader and the guy behind him steps in as the new warlord and so on down the totem pole. It's just one more thing to think about before you go shooting everything in sight.

I didn't expect to feel so lost and worried about the game's environment. That I do feel as such is a testament to how realistic and immersive the game really is. I feel the weight of each step, flinch at each hit and panic when a buddy goes down. I wish I was speaking metaphorically. I am truly grateful to in game characters that save my life from a slow painful death. I owe these people something. I begin to identify with them and even like some of them. (So you know, Josip is a very good friend to have)

If you're able to, give Far Cry 2 a shot. If you let it, the game will suck you into its volatile world and you too may feel as I do. The choices you make will stay with you, the faces of those you betray will haunt you. The scars are permanent. Trust me on this one, it's a game you won't soon forget.