Far Cry 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2-16 online & system link
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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.

There's no direct route to the Jackal so you have to start by completing some missions for both sides of the civil war: the APR and the UFLL. Neither side is intended to be better than the other and they're both fronted by pompous arses, each convinced of their supreme right to rule the country. You're employed on the sly so even if you are working for, say the APR, even they will try to attack you when you're out and about. You really are out on your own.

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.

A new innovation in FC2 is the way fire is used in the game. Set fire to some brush with a molotov or flamethrower and you will start a wildfire, which spreads out rapidly. Get the wind on your side and you can send a wall of fiery death right into the enemy's base without having to fire a shot! But try not to roast any Zebras while you're doing it; that's just plain nasty – scorching your own arse is also a constant possibility, so beware.

If you start off sniping and fancy swapping for some close-range guns mid-mission you can pick up the dead soldiers' guns. However they are old and rusty and will frequently jam, resulting in some pant-filling moments trying desperately to fix it right in the middle of a fight. Health isn't some wussy self-regeneration system either - take too much damage without healing and you will die. Healing is similar to that in Battlefield: Bad Company-the magic syringe, but you may even need to pull a bullet out of your body by hand, apply bandages or put out flames if you're on fire, which is a nice touch.

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...

The other problem with driving is the constant checkpoints. As mentioned earlier, there is an armed guard post at almost every crossroads with a couple of guys and mounted machine guns and you'll have to get past a couple at least to get to your objective. Unfortunately there's no option of getting through one peacefully; apparently people in this part of Africa are confined into a 500 square-metre living block and are gunned down if they try to visit their auntie in the next town.

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.

If you need a break from the epic single player mode you can head online and duke it out with up to 16 players. As usual, the gameplay isn't half as sneaky and stealthy as the single-player; most people will be running around firing the grenade launcher all over the place, but it's fun nonetheless. Top this off with the user-friendly map editor and you've got almost endless multiplayer possibilities. We have friends who have disappeared into the depths of Far Cry 2’s map editor never to be seen again... And how about a co-op mode? Tha main story is perfectly tailored for it, and so many other games have incorporated drop-in/drop--out co-op modes successfully that a Far Cry 2 co-op mode would seem to be a natural inclusion. Ah well...

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.

Best Bits

- Lovely graphics
- Giant ‘sandbox’ environment
- Lots of missions
- Totally different ways to approach them
- Varied weapons
- Engaging story
- Pretty good online
- Fun map editor
Worst Bits

- 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?

by: Crazypunk

Copyright © Gamecell 2009