Far Cry 2 wants to involve you. Envelope you. Throw you into its universe and lose you there. That much is certain from the very beginning as you sit in the backseat of a jeep while your cab driver converses with locals, points out attractive scenery and gives you some background info on the leafy surrounds of a war-torn Africa. Your first person perspective lets you take it all in the way you want. Ubisoft's game is certainly attractive... even when strange things start happening...
In a land Far, Far away...
It's that early sense of the sinister within the cinematic opening that starts to create an excitement in the first person shooter that is Far Cry 2. As you travel closer to your hotel, your initially normal and passive surroundings become more menacing. Aggressive foreign militia roam the dusky roads. Village outposts burn with abandon. And then your vision starts to yellow and blur from fever-induced malaria and things literally don't look too good...
Far Cry 2's visually striking and slick opening engages you in an interactive way thanks to your control over the protagonist's viewpoint, and soon you realise just how expansive and alive the environment is. Animals graze in the savannah. The weather and time of day changes as you play. Inhabitants suspiciously gaze at you while you walk, with stern words of caution if you bump into them. It's all wonderfully convincing.
Even incidental details are great, such as the character's appearance during the game reflecting who you choose at the start (from a selection of nine) - something easily taken for granted when you typically only see the hands and arms of your lead in a first person shooter.
Cause and effect, Far Cry 2 style
These niceties extend to the larger sense of the game as you start to get involved in Far Cry 2's open-ended exploration style. The main objective is to find and kill an arms dealer called The Jackal, and the game's massive map houses a plethora of missions such as repairing a vehicle and driving to a certain point, sabotaging an item, eliminating targets or sometimes just convincing them with a little bit of weapon based cohesion. With a cast of dozens, there's plenty to do while you hunt for your main target.
It all plays brilliantly too, thanks to some slick controls and the feeling of truly affecting the world around you. Friendships can be created to help you out of sticky spots, dragging you from near death scenarios and aiding at the right time - and then you have to make sure they permanently don't lose their lives, too. Foliage bends, rustles and breaks around you, even burning if you get a little too adventurous with fire, potentially causing raging infernos that consume friend and foe alike.
The battles you engage in are all privy to these things, making the action spontaneous and exciting, even when it doesn't go your way, as a large factor that makes Far Cry 2 fun is your own choices having consequences. Stealth is rewarded by a lack of enemy reinforcements, yet driving up in a jeep and bazooka has value too. Even picking up discarded weapons has its perils - old and rusty guns tend to jam or misfire compared to shiny new ones. All the more incentive to buy fresh armaments using your accumulated wealth.
The lion sleeps tonight
Complimenting Far Cry 2's captivating single player is an intense multiplayer mode that includes many of the dynamic gameplay elements from the former, such as being able to set objects and structures ablaze. With various deathmatches, a Capture the Flag iteration (where a diamond is the desired object) and more, the FPS takes on some of the best in the genre through its use of vehicles, and a deep map editor to create your own multiplayer levels.
It's this diversity, mixed with a class based system that allows you to utilise and unlock appropriate weapons (for example, the Gunner class will excel in explosives and fire, whereas a Sharpshooter specialises in long range weaponry) that rounds off the Far Cry 2 experience nicely, making it something that offers a pleasing amount of longevity with friends as well as solo - a great package in its entirety.
Atmospheric and addictive, Far Cry 2 is a wonderful affair that pulls you into an expansive and convincing world of action. Its fresh gameplay elements offer plenty of excitement and variation, covered in a lovely looking and well designed production. Welcome to Africa - take a deep breath... and take in all its beauty.