So, the other week I decided to get a couple of chepoish games as I'd gotten a little bored of playing Fall of Cybertron. Yeah, yeah I know, heretic and all that, but hey, I've completed it and have got as far as I can with multiplayer, so it has gotten a little stale.
As most high street video games stores tend to have these days, Grainger games (http://www.graingergames.co.uk/ - everybody gets one freebie) have a range of pre owned games at fairly good prices, some of which are multibuy offers, but unlike some shops, the multibuy games they have are generally decent games that you've heard of, so I picked up Fallout 3 (more on that some time later) and FarCry 2.
As I enjoyed the original FarCry on PC, I thought id give this entry a go as the science fantasy setting of the original worked well for me and I still do a play through from time to time.
So, the games story is that in an unnamed central African republic a civil war has broken out after the collapse of the countries government. The war itself has been largely ignored by the outside world as the pseudo socialist "United front for liberation and labour" (UFLL) and the "Alliance for popular resistance" (APR) square off against each other in a massive pissing contest that gets nowhere fast and just proves that both sides are as bad as the other.
If that were all there was to worry about, the war itself would be of no consequence, but the arrival of the enigmatic international arms dealer known only as "The Jackal" accompanied by containers filled to the brim with AK-47s and other former soviet bloc weapons complicates matters somewhat, especially so when he starts selling them at knockdown prices to both sides.
Enter the mercenary -YOU- hired by a group with business interests in the region with a single mission goal, to hunt down and execute the Jackal as soon as possible, as his meddling in international conflicts has caused a lot of headaches for those looking to make a quick buck off the back of someone elses misery.
It seems like an easy enough contract, but as your your first day on mission begins you begin to suffer debilitating malaria symptoms and pass out just as your taxi reaches you hotel. You awake to find the Jackal gloating over your supine form, and although he has the opportunity to kill you there and then, for some reason he does not, and simply leaves after providing you with a pistol and a machete, just as the UFLL and APR begin open fighting in the town. You manage to find some medication which relieves your symptoms, but not before you again lapse into unconsciousness and are saved by a UFLL lieutenant, who immediately demands that you repay him by performing some tasks on his behalf. These tasks complete, you are free to begin your search for the Jackal himself......and you're gonna need some help.
The first thing I noticed about this game is that, unlike the original FarCry (and its pseudo sequels in the form of FarCry Instincts et al), FarCry 2 has completely abandoned the sci-fi elements which made it stand out from its contempories, in addition, where the previous FarCry titles were semi linear in their game play, FarCry 2 is a "sandbox" type game, with approximately 50 square kilometers of simulated environment to explore, and a non linear plot which consists of the player actively deciding which missions you will take, which are gained from visiting either the UFLL or APR headquarters, taking side missions from any available buddies, arms dealers or underground members, or by taking assassination missions by intercepting signals from mobile phone transmitters.
A thing of particular note is the amount of realism that has been included in the game, but not too much realism that the game becomes a tedious book keeping exersize, after all, this game is a first person shooter, and not a role playing game.
The first noticeable element of this is the way in which your weapons behave. Unlike many other FPS type games, simply "spraying" bullets at enemies doesn't really get you anywhere fast, instead, the game encourages you to aim down the sights and make short controlled bursts. in addition to this, weapons degrade when over used, thus the game encourages you to not only switch weapons every so often, but also to return to one of your safe houses or an arms dealer so that you can save your game and re-equip yourself.
there are two types of weapon to be found in game, "bought" weapons (ie, purchased from the arms dealer) and "looted" weapons (picked up from the corpses of fallen enemies). Looted weapons are almost always in poor condition when you find them, and thus tend to malfunction quite often, even exploding in your face if they are pushed too much, but weapons bought from an arms dealer (you only have to buy them once, after that, whatever weapons you have purchased will be available to you whenever you visit an armoury or safe house) are in 100% perfect condition, and you can then purchase instruction manuals for them which upgrades their efficiency and accuracy, in addition to purchasing general upgrades such as ammo pouches, body armour and vehicle upgrades.
Speaking of purchases, in game you are warned right at the beginning not to accept local currency from anyone, as it is completely worthless, instead, whenever the player completes either one of the main missions or an assassination mission, they are paid in uncut African war diamonds, which are generally considered to be adequate tender in any shop you visit. Completing missions for arms dealers will unlock new weapon purchase options, and completing missions for the underground movement will provide you with anti malaria drugs, which you need to take one pill approximately every 30 minutes of real time or your character will succumb to the illness and die. Completing missions alongside one of your in game "buddies" will grant you upgrades to your safe houses, allowing you to restock with more ammo, medical supplies and grenades.
In addition to earning money from doing missions, you can also find diamonds that have been "lost" and hidden in places by homing in on the tracking signal emitted by their carry cases by using your GPS unit and map.
Your in game buddies prove invaluable at times, as depending on who you are friends with, and if they are still alive, can open up alternative options for completing main missions which generally make doing them easier, but as a consequence they end up taking longer, and usually end with you having to rescue your buddy who almost always nearly ends up getting over run by hordes of rampaging bad guys. One of your buddies, generally you "second best" buddy, can be asked to watch your back, thus if you are almost fatally wounded, they will run in and rescue you, but they will only do this once per save, if they have rescued you you will need to save your game before they will help you again. In either case, your buddies can be killed by the enemy, and if you do not have any available medical supplies, you will either be forced to put them out of their misery, or simply leave them to die.
Another element of realism with regards to your weapons comes in the form of you only being able to use weapons which you would expect to be generally available in a third world country, for example, this game does not feature any FN SCAR rifles and other such trappings of modern warfare, instead, the player only has access to relics such as the venerable and ubiquitous AK-47, the H&K G3 and FN FAL rifles, the Uzi and MAC-10 sub machine guns and the RPG-7 rocket launcher. Vehicles do feature in the game but these are mainly old cars or jeeps of some kind, including some "technicals". and the occasional boat of some description if you decide to travel somewhere by water. As with the games weapons, the games vehicles also degrade over time, although they can be repaired, each subsequent repair degrades the vehicle to the point at which it simply will not work, or will just explode spectacularly if it takes any damage form enemy fire.
The other method of travel around the game world (besides walking) is by bus. At several points in the game world are bus stops, which allow you to travel to the corresponding bus station almost instantaneously (and also allowing you a chance to save your game), although these bus stops can quite often be a long way form your objective, and will require you to find a vehicle locally if you don't wish to foot slog your way there, and possibly leave yourself open to a random encounter with an enemy patrol.
The final element of realism is the fact that the game has a fully functioning day/night cycle, which you can use to your tactical advantage as a night or dawn/dusk attack on somewhere can make things easier on you because any guards will not be able to see you if you approach on foot, but on the flip side traveling at night can be difficult as the unlit jungle trails can often lead to you getting lost, crashing your vehicle or falling off a cliff that you couldn't see.
So, now that I'm over explaining about the good stuff, lets do the bad stuff...
As I have said, the game attempts to be as realistic as possible and as such, the games A.I is very challenging at times, with groups of enemies actively and intelligently working together to overcome you in a firefight, this is great, but when you are traveling from one place to another you will almost always end up getting tangle up in a random encounter, which usually takes the form of a couple of bad guys in a jeep or a car attacking you seemingly from out of nowhere. as you can only either drive or operate the vehicles machine gun (if it has one) it can get a bit tedious when you're on a long drive and have to keep stopping every couple of minutes to fight off a randomly spawned enemy patrol that appears behind you, and in most cases, it ends up with both your vehicles getting destroyed and thus leaving you stuck in the middle of nowhere without a means of travel other than walking. You do not particularly get anything from killing enemies, other than any ammo they may drop, provided its compatible with whatever weapons you are carrying at the time, so more often than not, the enemy encounters end up being a time and ammo wasting annoyance.
Your in game buddies are a useful tool on occasion, as they will assist you in completing missions (usually, the alternate path they suggest fulfills something in their own personal agenda), but in the aftermath of a successfully completed mission they ALWAYS end up needing you to come to their rescue, and if they are killed, you have the choice of either carrying on without them, or going back to an earlier save and trying again. For some reason, the games A.I does not apply the same intelligence to your buddies as it does to the enemy, so more often than not, you will find your buddy standing in the open and randomly firing at enemies, before then stopping to reload and leaving themselves open to attack. They also have a tendency to wander into your field of fire, or wander a bit too close to where you have just thrown a grenade, thus requiring you to rush in and administer first aid if you have any spare medkits, which when you're under fire can lead to either you getting killed yourself, or to them dying before you get to them.
Also, your character, although portrayed in their individual bio (there are 7 to choose from) to be a rock hard invincible commando ninja mercenary bastard doesn't seem to be very athletic or sure footed, as quite often your dude will not be able to simply step over low obstacles such as rubble or tree roots, much less jump over any wall higher than waist height. This makes finding hidden diamonds and/or interview tapes difficult in the extreme on some occasions, and don't get me started about how when you're trying to run and hide from a horde of rampaging enemy punk ass bitches while struggling to unjam your gun your guy suddenly stops and begins running on the spot because you have got stuck on a tree root that is sticking up a mere two inches from the ground. What usually follows that is a swift death and lots of swearing.
So, all in all, FarCry 2 is very different to the original, so much so that they might as well have not bothered calling it "FarCry", instead, they should have called it something like "Banana Republic" or something along those lines, but even with its bizarre A.I and character capability failings, its not a bad game, its not a good one either as it cant seem to decide whether it wants to be an FPS or an RPG, but for a cheapo bit of intelligent machine gun blasting its not a bad option.