The original Far Cry came out of nowhere and vaulted the German developer Crytek into the forefront of PC gaming. Both the gameplay and the visuals were something different - great first-person shooter action set in lush jungles with some realism and style. Crytek went on to make a sequel of sorts, but as Ubisoft owns the name, that sequel ultimately became Crysis. Ubisoft now responds with their "real" sequel 2186 from Ubisoft Montreal, Far Cry 2.
But is it really a Far Cry sequel? The setting has moved from a tropical island to Africa and the story places you in a middle of a regional conflict as a mercenary sent in to hunt down and kill a notorious arms dealer, The Jackal, who is supplying both sides with arms. Very quickly it becomes obvious that the only thing Far Cry and Far Cry 2 have in common is the fact that both have game engines that render some lush tropical forests with impressive draw distance and in both games you run around shooting people. So this game really is "Far Cry 2" only in name.
But that's just a name - it's best to ignore it as shameless marketing. Even if this is not a real Far Cry sequel, the most memorable bit of Far Cry has carried over - visually Far Cry 2 is very pretty, with astonishing attention to detail and immersion in many places. It's unfortunate that it doesn't quite carry the game all the way, but more about that later.
Welcome to Africa
Far Cry 2 starts off with a quick introduction to the basic gameplay elements, points out the major players (UFLL and APR - two different organizations, both shooting at each other for who-knows-what reason), starts the storyline related to The Jackal, gives you a couple of contacts and buddies for missions and support, teaches how to unlock additional guns and then lets you loose to do as you please in the open game world.
To actually advance the story, you are forced to do missions. To imitate choice, each mission gives you the option to visit one of your contacts for a side-job that might change the primary mission. In general, each mission involves shooting or blowing up things around the country that at least initially in no way relates to your personal mission to find and kill The Jackal. The theory is that doing these mercenary gigs for the people you happened to meet (the only ones in the whole country not firing at you) gives you reputation and opens up contacts and opportunities that might help you find your primary target. I guess I've seen worse reasons to randomly kill people, but overall the story is not that impressive. Character design and actual presentation of the implausible storyline is fine - it's just that it feels odd that a hit man sent to smack down one person would start running around the country as errand boy, killing people by the truckloads.
In addition to giving out alternative goals, your buddies also act as lifesavers - should you get killed, they'll show up and rescue you, giving you covering fire while you patch yourself up. Not that they are needed much once you figure out the basic gameplay - Far Cry 2 happens to use the incredible regenerating health bar as a game mechanic and hands out health packs like candy. Just make sure you fight in a spot where you can duck for cover when needed and retreat a bit if things get crowded.
In case you feel like your gun doesn't really pack a punch or has trouble actually hitting anything, just get by until you score a sniper rifle. After that you can just kill everything with headshots from range as the AI runs around like a headless chicken. I'm sure the AI is very complicated and in theory it responds intelligently to your actions - it's just that the standard response seems to be either "run around randomly searching for the source of bullets without any regard towards personal safety" or "run at you, guns blazing, without any regard towards personal safety". At least the AI attempts to run away from grenades.
Games: Far Cry 2
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