|Far Cry 2|
|Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2-16 online & system link
Those of you who have been eagerly awaiting a true sequel to Jack Carver's antics in Far Cry will be disappointed. The first thing you'll notice that this is a sequel in name only, most probably to ensure commercial notoriety. In FC2 you play one of a choice of operatives sent into an unnamed African country to kill a secretive arms dealer known as 'The Jackal' - but not Bruce Willis from the film.
But that's not the only aspect to the mission. The nation you're trampling around in has problems of its own, with two warring factions literally fighting for control of the country. Military checkpoints cover nearly every major crossroad, armed patrols cover the routes to the main town, which is under a ceasefire and brims with tension. The whole country feels like it's going to explode at any moment and as soon as you stroll into town it does.
After a brief fire fight and a bout of malaria you're sent out into the world to start your mission. The open-world environment is massive, varied and looks great with other effects such as the amazing dynamic lighting. You can stand at the crest of a plateau and watch the sunset over the Savannah, creep through the early morning mist towards and unsuspecting checkpoint or bomb across the desert in a dune buggy under the scorching midday sun.
The missions told through the narrative have a great story and reason to them but when picked down they really equate to the same thing: 'go there, kill everyone, or destroy/steal something' and really have none of the originality or flexibility that missions in other sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto have. Being a completely open game the enemies are always the same type and difficulty, so there's no real difficulty curve as you play through the game.
The variation in FC2 comes from what you make of it. You can take the AK-47 and bag of grenades and go in blasting every time, but it gets tiring fairly quickly. The weapons are nicely varied to cater for every killing style, whether you like sneaking in with knives and silenced guns or attacking from a distance with sniper rifles and mortars.
Through the missions you gradually get introduced to a selection of mercenaries who are willing to help you out on missions or offer alternative ways to complete a mission. By fighting with your allies and helping them out your reputation goes up and gives you more goodies at your hideouts, such as health packs and ammo crates, which is always useful as the arms dealers are always out of the way when you need them.
Arms dealers are where you get all your weapons and the only place to spend your hard earned diamonds, which is the 'currency' of the game. As mentioned earlier the weapons available are varied but most are locked until you complete the arms dealer side missions. Unfortunately there are only so many ways you can attack a convoy which goes around the map in endless circles and along with the hitman missions you pick up from tapping into communication towers littered across the map they form a distinctly unimaginative batch of side-missions that could have been so much more.
Your objectives are all marked on a satellite map, which you pull out and read in real-time. Getting to and from your objectives is usually a driving affair because they're usually very spread out. You can tell it's a Far Cry game because the vehicles handle like greased-up shopping trollies and it really doesn't make a difference which one you drive. On roads the drive is unconvincing and off-road you'll frequently come a cropper in the middle of nowhere because your 4x4 (my arse) has got its wheel caught on a rock sticking 10cm out of the ground...
On the hardest setting they are pretty hard to get through and usually result in you using all your ammo and health packs you'd saved up for the mission you were heading to. Literally 70-80% of your time playing FC2 will be spent travelling to and fro, busting through checkpoints and diverting to get more ammo and health. Very little time is actually spent playing the missions. That's why it's always easier to use the local bus system to take you from one corner of the map to the other, which is much easier and faster but defeats the point of the game entirely, much like Need For Speed: Undercover’s massive map and warp-to-the-next-race ability.
The AI is a very variable thing; damned clever sometimes and laughably stupid at others. They will work together, talk to each other and search you out if they know you're about. They'll fire blindly in your direction if they don't know where you are but if they do they'll snipe you through layers of undergrowth with a crusty old rifle, which isn't very realistic. On the other spectrum soldiers will stand around while you pump shots into them, apparently oblivious of their own impending death. However the funniest is when you mix the AI and vehicles. When attempting to chase you they'll drive into everything along the way, usually getting stuck on a tree leaving you to pick them off. If they catch up with you they drive right up to you and sit in the car for a few seconds before deciding to get out and shoot you, also resulting in their death. When on the road soldiers in Austin Metros will turn around and chase you, gunning their engines angrily, even though you've got a bloody great mounted gun on your car. Idiots!
Far Cry 2 is a great technical development but such a missed opportunity - so much more could have been delivered here. Although the setting is nice, there's are no civilians despite the existence of settlements and a bus service, an unrealistic amount of impassable checkpoints, diamonds as currency and militia all over the place... With Far Cry 2 Ubisoft Montreal aren’t exactly doing much for the African tourist board.
The storyline is deep and engaging and the main missions are good fun, but it takes too long to get into them and you spend more time not doing missions than doing them, which makes each playing session feel like a chore as it feels like despite a lot of hard work and good intentions, you've accomplished nothing. A bit like Africa then.
With a thorough rework of a few essential aspects (AI, vehicles, collision detection) and giving you a bit more to see and do in between objectives (the environment is pretty empty until you get to mission areas) the next incarnation could be a really, really good game.
- Lovely graphics
- Giant ‘sandbox’ environment
- Lots of missions
- Totally different ways to approach them
- Varied weapons
- Engaging story
- Pretty good online
- Fun map editor
- Terrible vehicle controls
- Too many armed checkpoints!
- Variable AI
- Samey side missions
- Sparse environment
- No co-op
- Where are the civilians?
- Where’s Jack Carver?
- Where’s the pretty tropical island setting gone?