Ubisoft Montreal escapes the harsh Canadian cold for the warm blistering heat of Africa in Far Cry 2. Following the original titles ambition, Far Cry 2 swims away from a tropical paradise and mutations to bring us an impressive open-world shooter that will astonish any gamers looking for a change of pace. Far Cry 2 isn’t your average Lion Safari, this is the real deal, Africa in the midst of a civil war.
Far Cry 2 is a sequel only in name. The original game which starred Jack Carver doesn’t even get a peep out of the folks in Montreal. The original Far Cry (2004) featured a tropical battlefield filled with mercenaries has been replaced with dirt roads and desolate grasslands. Far Cry 2 is a shout out of innovation and a need for change in a genre that usually holds your hand as you glide through pre-determined scenarios. Far Cry 2 ambitious free roaming FPS action creates a new sub-genre in the shooter market, the open-world shooter.
Over the years, you only can expect so much out of your shooters and that is why Far Cry 2 is such a delightful entry into the genre. Thrown into a war-torn Africa your one goal is to hunt down and assassinate a vicious arms dealer named “the Jackal”. The Jackal is a mysterious character who is dealing instruments of death to both sides of an African civil war. In basics this sounds easy, almost too easy, but but as you can guess that is easier said than done.
A Dunia Born Africia
The open world of Africa is created by the Dunia Engine which was built by the Montreal development team specifically for Far Cry 2. What really makes the Dunia engine so impressive is that it attaches functioning physics to every object in the game space similar to Lucas Arts “Force Unleashed”. Adding realistic physics to each object in the world makes Far Cry 2 even more visually stunning. What this means is that you can blow off every leaf on a branch, or make the ground rumble when throwing grenades into an area. This makes jungle combat extremely satisfying and highly entertaining. When engaged in battle in lush surrounding the environment takes a heavy beating like your enemies. This is one feature that needs to be seen to really make an impact on the player. Talking about it is one thing, but having this level of destruction is a nice change from 2D tree limbs.
The Dunia engine keeps on pushing the envelope with gorgeous special effects, dynamic weather and fire propagation. Fire propagation is the real treat here. Like the newly worked physics you can use the weather to your advantage by setting brush fires to smoke out your enemies. By lighting the dry brush on fire it will spread according to wind direction. This helps by add greater value on the strategic element of fire. Since Far Cry 2 gives you a flamethrower right off the bat, you won’t have to waste any time experimenting with this great feature. Along with the dynamic weather, Far Cry 2 has a real-time night-and-day cycle that can be adjusted at save points by setting your watch. The point of this feature is to give the player the change up their game by playing in the night time or daylight.
The aesthetic value in Far Cry 2 also goes a long way of depicting a realistic look into smaller towns and villages in the country. This includes random roadblocks, cease fire agreements and curfews. UFLL soldiers drive by in machine gun mounted jeeps monitoring the roads and campfires burn in the distance in the night sky. The signs of war are apparent in this struggling economic nightmare with both sides of the civil war looking for dominance. The only real downside to the graphical contribution is some of the models like vehicles are not as sharp as other areas of the game. In a way, they can really look out of place when you’re not behind the wheel. Far Cry 2 also suffers through some framerate issues which mainly come up online. It’s not a game breaker, but it is worth mentioning.
Manipulating time and working within the 50km2 of African landscape is one treasure in Far Cry 2, and the other is the interesting weaving of the plot in this unstructured sandbox. You really feel alone and immersed in this world as you travel the countryside as an outsider in a country of turmoil. Your actions will cause both sides of the civil war to become up in arms and you’ll have to do your best balancing act to make it out alive. The combat is relentless and even though the body count can get fairly high, you will have to work for each kill.
From Machete to Assault Rifle
The weapons that will be used to fill body bags come from a wide assortment of real-world weapons. Mapped to your D-pad you are able to travel with four different types of weapons at once. One slot is for a melee weapon which is a machete by default. Then you have a small weapon, large weapon and alternative weapon selections. Starting off with the machete you will have a pistol, assault rifle and blowtorch which can be swapped out with found weapons or ones purchased from an arms dealer. Keeping with the trend of innovation, found weapons are prone to be dysfunctional or seize up from time to time, so it’s best to keep newer weapons on hand. You can tell a lot about the weapon by looking at it, if it’s fifthly toss it away or you might find out that it’s a stumper and jams at the worst time. From berserk machete onslaughts to stealth snipering, Far Cry 2 has enough variety to please any shooter fan.
Infused with in the action of Far Cry 2 are a number of role-playing elements that bring a little extra depth to the title. This starts off in the beginning of the game when you pick a representation of your character. During the game you also have the capabilities to upgrade your skills pertaining to each weapon and other statistics. Along with the character selection and upgradable abilities you will be able to interact with a number of NPCs during your African adventure. These characters are listed as Buddies in the game and can give you advice on missions, help you out in battle, or even pull you out of harms way. The buddies you acquire in Far Cry 2 shouldn’t be taken lightly as they can be killed and removed from the game. Interaction with your mates usually takes place in a safe house’s that are used to save your game, cache your weapons and provide rest.
Lastly we have online play with support user created maps. It is nice for Ubisoft to include the map editor with the console versions of Far Cry 2. You get so used to map editors being exclusive PC content, its refreshing for a shooter to go in this direction. The modes online are your standard affair, although the added elements of the environment and downloadable maps makes Far Cry 2 stand out. In a well balanced interface which includes lobbies, you will find a few a good gamers to test your skills again. User created maps can be downloaded and voted on, so you can save the ones you like and diss the ones you don’t. The only snag can to the online gameplay is minor framerate issues which I mentioned above. You’re not going to purchase Far Cry 2 for the multiplayer only, but it’s a nice addition to the robust single player campaign.
Ubisoft Montreal has done it again with another ambitious game that pushes the boundaries of what we have come to expect out of our games. The unique open-world approach to FPS genre makes Far Cry 2 a must for all shooter fans. Above and beyond the original Far Cry, the Dunia graphics engine truly feels next-gen with quality graphics and remarkable physics. The slower pacing might set some action shooters back a few steps; however once you get rolling through the African savannah you’ll be hooked. Far Cry 2 is a compelling addition to the shooter genre and one of the year’s best games.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.03.08