Far Cry 2

FBT plays the Cry that Far forgot.

FC2 is the forgotten Far Cry. It wasn’t as original as the, erm, original, and it wasn’t as involving as the third. It wasn’t a copy n paste like the fourth (or fifth), or as mad as Blood Dragon or as interesting as Primal. So what is FC2? It's one of those games that has nothing wrong with it but you still just ‘meh’ your way through.

We begin by picking which merc we want to be – pro-tip; don’t pick the one you like, since they all play the same anyway and the ones you don’t pick make reappearances within the game. Once that’s done, we’re in a taxi driving through an incredibly well realised African country which is in the midst of a civil war being waged by two factions, while the locals are caught in the middle.

Our hero has been hired to kill an Arms Dealer who’s supplying both sides, known only as The Jackal; but is it Bruce Willis Jackal or Edward Fox Jackal? I don’t know, I didn’t actually finish it. It’s not a rage quit, just a ‘found something better to play and never went back’ quit.

The main story largely consists of doing missions for one faction or the other, as they each try to outdo each other and pin down the Jackal themselves. When not working for them you’re free to do whatever you want, but there’s not a lot to do, and you’ll mostly be doing personal admin.

No sooner has our hero arrived when he’s struck down with malaria. We’re rescued by one of the factions who sends us to do some odd jobs which give us the lowdown on the area and gameplay; once we’ve done a few chores, secured a safe-house and collected some malaria medicine, we’re finally free to go cause some trouble. Except we’re not really free.

You constantly need malaria pills, which happens at the most inconsiderate times and forces you back to a town to do an odd-job for more pills. Once that’s done, you’re off again except you need weapons, which you can buy from local arms dealers, but it’s easier to get them off all the dead bodies you leave lying around. And there’s a lot of those because they keep respawning like it’s Borderlands. Still, now you have your weapons. Except, the weapons you find are old and rotten and jam or break mid-firefight.

If you want to get new weapons you need diamonds, and those you find using your map. Which the hero uses in real-time and walks about like a tourist. So many times I was looking at the map and got shot. Once you find your diamonds it’s off to find a local dealer for a new weapon that won’t break. Once that’s sorted, we’re finally off! Unfortunately, malaria kicks in again and so we jump in a car and head for a dealer, but get shot to hell along the way and have to pull over and fix the car because they’re thin on the ground and despite FC2’s sprawling wilderness there’s nothing out there to make treks interesting and we’re on the clock here anyway.

We push through more patrols or checkpoints, which have to be dismantled because they’ll follow you for miles and you wind up swapping weapons because your ammo’s gone so you’re dealing with weapon jams again. Finally, you’re literally back where you started and in the same condition. It’s as realistic as it is laborious.

There’s various other side missions you can do which net malaria pills and diamonds, such as helping an underground refugee group and doing missions for ‘Buddies’, the other mercs who have been similarly trapped. They offer up their own contracts and doing them means they save you during firefights. They also offer alternatives to main missions, which usually include them supporting you in some way, and always result in you having to save them in some way. If they get killed, they stay killed, so either save them or make new friends.

As things progress, you’re forced to reevaluate your position – in many ways this plays a lot like 3 Kings where you’re only here for the money but eventually have to face your conscience; you going to help folks escape or pay for your own escape?

The realism doesn’t stop at the gameplay or the story; the environment is too - there’s a day-night cycle that actually helps/hinders you; prowling at night makes it harder for you to be seen, but the guards are twitchier, while in daytime they’re more likely to be found dozing in the shade, their guard down but you can be spotted easier in the grasslands. Scaring the local wildlife can tip off the guards, or they might discount your rustling as an animal foraging. It’s all tactical, logical, considered; all the things my digital self isn’t.

Even the weather can be utilised; set fire to the savanna and the flames will be affected by the wind. None of this is explained to you, I only realised because I accidentally set fire to grass while scoping out a checkpoint, then ran away and later got told I had a new safehouse. Totally meant to do that.

FC2 is a great game. It looks fantastic and it’s believable; above all else, it’s brave. It does have some odd technical quirks, the missions are practically all the same and the harshness of the place turns it into a grind, but it’s still an epic achievement. It's just not very compelling; even when you can see the DNA of FC3 and some stuff that really makes it stand out, it feels a bit dull. Most RPG/Open-Worlders offer a fantastical experience where you’re a lawless Tarzan type but FC2 is a realistic situation that’s dangerous and unpleasant; you have to work hard at it to survive.

But for me, it just takes itself too seriously. It’s a constant struggle to get through. I kinda miss the leads from FC1, I liked Jack’s back-chat and Val’s feisty Spielberg heroine thing, and they could easily have gone onto other adventures. I didn’t miss the crappy mutants from FC though – I’m assuming they’re not in FC2, I didn’t make it that far.

Eventually I just stop playing, promising I’d go back and never do. I really wanted to get into FC2 but just couldn’t crack it. I kept playing like I would any other Open-World game; like a loon, leaping about and behaving unprofessionally. FC2 is about being an actual gun-for-hire, dealing with real problems and deciding if you’ll remain mercenary, profiting from a struggling population; it is brilliant, but I’d rather just muck about.

2008 | Developer, Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher, Ubisoft

Platforms; Win, PS3, X360