The drums are tense but low as you make your way to the crest of the hill. Easing up over the tall grass, you spot the guards, you spot the machine gun nest, assess your chances. As you prepare to act, you hear an engine screaming toward you, bullets zipping by as an enemy vehicle barrels off the road, its grill yearning for your face. The drums rise. Your next action seals your fate.
This is combat. This is Africa. This is Far Cry 2.
Far Cry is an FPS whose chief ambition is to transcend the FPS genre, in terms of storytelling, design, and level of immersion. It does so with more than a modicum of success, and more than a little bit of frustration.
In the game, you play a mercenary sent by, presumably, the CIA to eliminate a troublesome arms dealer, known only as The Jackal. Once arriving the fictional African nation of Port Selao, your mission quickly goes sour; waylaid by malaria and without a job, you quickly find yourself running missions for the warring parties, the UFLL and APR. What this game is definitely not is a direct sequel to the original Far Cry; in this game, there are no mutants, no cartoonish villains, no faux-open-world gaming. While the original Far Cry had only the faintest notion of, well, coherent plot, FC2 has a fairly rigid if open-ended mission structure.
The missions are varied, but not by much. Attack this, kill this person, grab this case of something or other, wash, rinse, repeat. Your "buddies", NPC's you meet along the way, offer you secondary objectives, but these usually fall into one of the aforementioned categories. While the specific mission objectives themselves are somewhat repetitive, the saving grace is the varied terrain: only a few missions, at least in my first playthrough, took place in an area more than once. No two locations are remotely similar. The diamond mine requires a different tactical solution than the post office or the airport or the fort. What can get repetitive is driving around the map and eliminating checkpoints which immediately respawn their guards, but I found it repetitive only in the early stages. Later on, each checkpoint was practice for a new strategy, a new solution to the problem.
Each mission is the tactical equivalent of a word problem: if you have Molotov cocktails, a light machine gun, and an RPG, how do you use those tools to maximum effectiveness? Far Cry gives you almost no shortage of option for levying destruction. No less than six assault rifles, three each shotguns, pistols, and sniper rifles (technically four, the dart rifle does long-range work but it's qualified as a "special weapon"), two light machine guns, two submachine guns, an M79 grenade launcher, IEDs, a flamethrower, and a man-portable mortar.
Each weapon degrades over time to the point where they will start jamming and then eventually blow up in your face, though you can purchase reliability and accuracy upgrades that make a significant difference, and this can add an element of desperation if a person fails to properly prepare for their mission. If you're a member of the Preparedness Patrol, like I am, this is resolved rather simply by swinging by the not-all-that-conveniently-located weapons shops and swapping out your equipment. Further, I'm rather impressed by the realism with which Ubisoft approached the weapons selection and modeling; with the exception of the fact that all the weapons are left-handed (as evidenced by spent brass extracting to the left), they are all dead-on with regards to look, feel, and sound. The AK rattle and the RPG especially gave this old infantryman a flashback or two, and the IED's are incredibly realistic, what you see in the game is what it looks like in real life.
This attention to detail and complete immersion is a hallmark of FC2's gameplay. The player never leaves the first-person perspective in the game, which makes for some jarring moments. The map system is entirely in-game; hitting select whips up an adjustable-scale map and GPS-unit, which helps to keep the massive environment from being overwhelming. Weapons repair, vehicle repair, navigation, story-telling, everything takes place in the first person, keeping the game immersive, but the illusion is lost in certain areas.
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