Thursday, 30 October 2008

Review: Far Cry 2

Format: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC

Category: FPS
Players: 1-16
Publisher: Ubisoft

Roaming the Bush.

Now here's a game that looks at first to have it all. A grand arsenal of guns? Check. A vast and varied map? Check. Smart A.I? Check. However, let's look a little closer. Cover system? No. Satisfying gunplay? Nope. An actual sense of being lost in the wilderness? Never.

You see, Far Cry 2 is not what it at first seems. I was excited to begin with. Everything was in place. The graphics are certainly a cut above most FPS games and the clean and clear HUD made me smile. It basically looks like real life. The problem is once the bullets start flying this game falls apart. It just doesn't feel right. I can't explain it but I know many out there will just know what I mean. Shooting an enemy just isn't satisfying. Firing your weapon is a generic experience and there is just a total lack of intensity about the combat.

You do a lot of driving in Far Cry 2... until you discover the bus stops. Even after being teleported via a black loading screen to the bus' destination there is still a good deal of marching to be done. I say marching because jogging/running in this game is broken. Like the gunplay, it feels wrong. I guess the PC gamers out there (all remaining five of them) might have no issue with this whilst playing WASD style. Sadly, us console gamers do. Pressing down on the analog stick COD4 style to run is how it should be. However, not being able to easily change direction mid run is awkward. Also, a problem for all formats, comes the blemish that is the way that running means your vision will become blurred around the edges of the screen. This pointless effect seems designed with some aim of achieving realism in mind. However, this actually simulates nothing and just proves irritating and even enough to spark motion sickness with some.

There is no denying that there is a real exploration factor here. After the initial thirty or so minutes of missions that are indirectly designed to teach you the controls, you are free to do as you will. I took a vehicle, hit the road, and headed out into the wild. To begin with there was an amazing sense about this. The hot African sun bombards your windscreen as you negotiate thick foliage and ramshackle dirt tracks. The driving side of things is very well handled. You get a first person view of the inside of the vehicle and are free to look around whilst driving. You can also study your map, which you hold in your arms, and still move around. This simulated view is a far more immersive way of putting you in the driver's seat than something like GTA IV's bog standard external views and bizarre windscreen-mounted-cam view.

Your journey will eventually come to a firm halt whether on foot or off roading though. Regardless of what way you go, you'll encounter impenetrable rock faces that oddly seem to run parallel to the roads as if nature mapped those very paths. In other words, the map is sectioned up. It doesn't feel realistic. I wanted to just head into the bush with a pistol and a machete and just get lost in a wilderness. It just doesn't work that way. Head in a direction for long enough and you'll hit a mountain side. There is no way to climb rocks or devise elaborate methods of crossing over. The game just doesn't really give you that sense of battling against the elements and pulling through.

Far Cry 2 needed more in the way of an emphasis on survival. There should have been the option to buy a tent and deploy it whenever you wanted and use that as a save point. There should have been a way of collecting various resources in order to make stuff like primitive bows. I don't know. It just seemed to me to lack everything I wanted from such an African setting.

The missions with Far Cry 2 are your standard go and blow up some crates tasking objectives. To be honest, I didn't bother with many. Instead, I roamed the map and created my own story. I often 'pretend' things when playing these kinds of games. In my world, I was a lone sniper out to cause as much chaos as possible whilst remaining out of site. I moved from enemy checkpoint to enemy checkpoint and engaged with an old Springfield bolt action sniper rifle from a distance. After playing in this manner for several hours I had basically unlocked almost every location marked on the map.

It was certainly fun. However, it was rather a pointless tour of duty. Sniping is completely effortless, with no scope drift or bullet drop, and the enemy make no effort to hunt you down. I wanted to see a collective effort by them to track me. I wanted to see swarms of them rambling through the vines, coming to get me. Instead, I just saw a load of checkpoints; where enemies patrol and never budge from. Once killed, they eventually respawn, ready for it all to happen again.

Many reviews go on about the awesome fire effects in this game. Personally, I think it's pretty worrying when the best thing you can say about a game is that the fire looks cool. Sure, it spreads around a little, only to then puff out into smoulder before you've got yourself a forest fire. Nothing burns for long and no major structure is destructible. I'll admit that on one occasion I was very impressed by the way fire can be used as a distraction. I sneaked over a promontory of rock where I had an overhead view of a few bad guys patrolling a... shed. I hurled a molotov and it lit the grass alight. They all ran off screaming 'fire' whilst I sniped them one by one. It's all good but just not enough.

Far Cry 2 is let down by its gunplay. Death animations aren't impressive. The blood effects are also poor. I wanted to see pools of the red stuff under bodies and entry and exit wounds. I also just wanted to see more realistic enemy behaviors. The A.I isn't stupid but the enemies don't strike me as organised. Okay, they're a bunch of militiamen with AK-47s and not much skill. However, this is no excuse for the way they never seem to just do human stuff like call for backup, stay in cover, or just run away.

There is a possibility here that I'm missing something regarding the A.I. You see, I ended up playing this game on the easy/normal difficulty settings. This was because otherwise, I just kept getting killed by crazy enemy jeep assaults (see further below) or just found it impossible to survive with enemies charging me and the sluggish control handling making precision firing next to impossible.

Just to cover it, I may as well bring up the game's multiplayer offering. To be blunt, it sucks. It feels dated, much like Hell's Highway's recent attempt. Also, it is another game that suffers from its lack of any co-op mode. The idea of roaming this vast world with a buddy to share the experience with would have made it all worthwhile. The hyped map editor is all very well but I'm just not into map making. At first glance it just looked too complicated to me and I doubt we will see many console players embrace it. It's interesting to note that at the time of writing the most popular custom map was a user created 'Shipment' from... yes you guessed it, Call of Duty 4. To me this was yet another example of multiplayer gaming truth number one: map design makes or breaks an online game. Map editors are all very well but they need to be backed up by... good maps.

I'm going to round this up with my final few points. The whole, 'omg I have Malaria, best take my meds', feature is BS. It shouldn't have made it into the game. You have to make sure you are stocked up with pills or otherwise you'll suddenly find yourself wondering the jungles and thinking you're under the influence of eight dried grams.

It was also sad to see this game suffer from the Oblivion style 'bandit on the road' syndrome. Whenever you drive across the road you're bound to encouter enemies driving jeeps and riding shotgun with a fixed MG. In other words, you'll get shot up and f*cked up unless you, too, cruise in a vehicle boasting some form of turret. You die, you die, you die. All because some jeep smashed into you and you had no time to grab cover.

This is a game that boasts it all but the execution is just lacking. It's just not that fun or satisfying to play. Combat is overly simplified and the marvellous world you roam lacks any real sense of life besides the generic evil militiamen and the odd zebra. This title is more a showcase than it is a computer game. It's a tech demo with a hefty pricetag for admission. If you're that desperate for some African sunsets, just get saving for that real trip.


+Visually stunning
+Uniquely realistic fire
+Pretty limitless freedom
+/-(But the map is sectioned up via rocky borders)
-Combat is generic and lacking in intensity
-No real sense of getting 'lost in the woods'

7.8 / 10
With freedom comes generic content and a dated FPS experience

by The Critical Alien
© 2008

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good review. I literally cancelled my order for this after reading this. Guess I'll have to select another game for xmas!