Winter was already half over and I was beginning to wonder when a big and awe-inspiring game would finally come along. Luckily enough, Bioshock was finally released on the PS3, along with Far Cry 2 a week later. Unfortunately for Far Cry 2, it was a week late, as I was already well in to Bioshock. It’s hard to explain my anger with Far Cry 2, I had always been hyped up for the Far Cry games in the past, but this one released on the week of my exams.
I blamed Far Cry 2 and to this day I don’t know why I did. Having ordered the special edition (because I’m a sucker for any extra garbage) I took the liberty to open up the wooden box, smell it and then go back to conquering Bioshock. I’ve never done that before, to refuse a new game over an old one, but it felt awesome. Weirdly awesome. So awesome that I did the same thing the very next week, I refused to play Fallout 3 until I had collected all the audio tapes in Bioshock, which I actually failed at doing, then fell in love with Fallout 3.
Anyway, time to actually talk about the bloody game. Far Cry 2 was the sequel to one of the best looking video-games of all time, and it decided to go in a completely new direction. Changing from the lush, colourful and bonkers-mad tropical world (with genetic mutation laboratories) it went to Africa, Fictionia to be exact. A new fictional country in the heart of Africa.
This is something I’ve got to dig at here, because I can, Far Cry 2 is like a semi-detached house. The only difference being that it has totally different things inside it. By totally different I mean… imagine a pineapple and another pineapple. Now imagine that the 2nd pineapple is actually a quite solid first-person shooter set in a war-torn African state, see how different that is? It has no relation what so ever to Far Cry 1. Aside from an elegant setting, over-the-top immersion, a sense of intensity and a downright disregard for gunplay. Oh and the Map Editor… which is actually pretty darn good.
The comparison between FC1 and FC2 sort of becomes clear when you think “Would anything be different if they changed the name?”. Think about it, then think about what they could have called it. “Captain INSERT NAME HERE and the Dreaded African War-Torn State.” “A Barrel Of Bullets and a Politically Unstable Country.” “Some Guy Was On A Tropical Island, Now Here’s Africa.”, “First Person Shooter.”. Thousands upon hundreds of thousand upon hundreds of billions of names could have been stamped on this thing and still make it work, but not change anything. I can’t see any difference at all.
So now you’re in an African country and then the development team goes and gives you malaria, and that’s when something becomes apparent… it’s a bloody good shooter. Generic shooters often just slam you into block after corridor after block of enemies, but it all seems… real. Real to a scary sense too. The more realistic you make a shooter, the more intense that the gunplay can become, this doesn’t just have to be from a solid plot or likeable characters either (although the dialogue holds pretty solid).
The plot, by the way, is this: you go into Fictionia to kill an arms dealer, except that you get malaria and nearly die. Simple? Strangely enough I didn’t even imagine that Far Cry 2 would decide to go all balls up with the plot. Instead of hunting, tracking, researching and ultimately finding the arms dealer: you end up just tottering into odd jobs for people. I think a game as intense as this, as epic as this and downright as enjoyable as this would actually be a lot better with ‘the hunter’ aspect. Imagine having to creep up a mountain and rest for days with sniper rifle in hand, then wrestle against the grass to get a lucky shot of the arms dealer as he drives his jeep.
It’s something which I call “Alone in the Dark syndrome.”. It’s a game which has huge potential to be a real stand-out on the market. But in this case it wasn’t the plot, characters, epic gameplay devices or anything you could possibly see that made this a stand-out title. It was the setting. Stuck in a war-torn African state, with your bare instincts and a gut filled with malaria to guide you into a tale of hunting. Hunting the arms dealer. It could’ve been a real contender, but instead it still came at as a solid shooter.