Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Far Cry 2 (Playstation 3)

Ubisoft's ambitious Far Cry 2 takes you deep into war torn African jungles as you struggle against mysterious forces who are profiting from an endless civil war. It takes many of the conventions of FPS titles and turns them on their head. Instead of mindlessly shooting anyone in your way, you instead need to communicate and make friends as you play. The deep storyline unfolds gradually and gives you a stake in the outcome. This emotional attachment means you'll be forced to make sometimes unpleasant choices in order to survive. Visually, the game offers a splendid rendering of the continent, with brilliant environmental effects such as dust and dirt permeating everything. It makes for a solid, and surprisingly deep FPS experience that takes the series in a completely new, and yet more satisfying direction.

Forget everything you knew in the first Far Cry title, since this new installment takes place in a completely different continent with new characters, a revised sandbox structure and a much deeper storyline. The only major carryover is the first game's sense of depth and vision, which offers an incredible draw distance. Instead of a remote tropical island, Far Cry 2 is set deep inside Africa in a country that's been torn apart by a brutal civil war. Most of the mystery in the game surrounds a murky character known only as the Jackal, who's been selling arms to both sides in the conflict. Your ultimate goal is to put an end to his activities, but first you'll need to traverse through some extremely beautiful, yet incredibly dangerous territory. You begin as a lowly foot soldier performing basic tasks but as the game opens up, you're given more choices. Initial exploration is somewhat limited to the missions at hand, which makes the first stages feel linear. However, you are given more choices as you get deeper into the battle. Initially, you have only a few weapons at your disposal, and they aren't as simple to use as in the last game. You have a decent selection of weapons with rifles, hand grenades, flame throwers and others to use. They're a bit dirty and rusty and are usually jammed after awhile. This is particularly true if you pick up weapons from fallen soldiers. Their performance can be upgraded if you want, but you'll probably be better off purchasing new weapons if you want consistent firing. It can be frustrating to find yourself reloading and working out the kinks in your weapons, but you can get used to it after awhile. In addition to your weapons, you have other gadgets at your disposal including a handy GPS receiver, which serves several functions. You can obviously use it to find your location on the map, which can be quite helpful when navigating the game's expansive levels. However, it can also be tuned in some instances to locate objects such as diamond cases, that are scattered around. There's also basic maps that you can use to locate missions and other areas, which can be used along with your monocle to locate and mark areas and locations when scouting a new area. As you get deeper in Far Cry 2, you're inventory will also grow to include other items that can be used in battle or to keep your character healthy.

Staying alive in Far Cry 2 requires much more than avoiding enemy fire, since your character has been infected with Malaria since their arrival on this hostile terrain. It doesn't have an immediately noticeable effect on your performance, but if go too long without your pills, you'll find yourself staggering around until you collapse. At this point, you'll need to restart from the last checkpoint, which can mean a lot of backtracking. Fortunately, there are also frequent save points, though you need to know where to look for them. Injecting yourself with medical needles is another way in which you can stay alive. Between this system and the need to keep an eye on your weapons, Far Cry 2 creates a much more challenging and somewhat more realistic sense of the weight you'll carry throughout the game. As stated earlier, one of your key tasks in your adventure is to gain the trust and support of friends and allies. Its fairly simple once you start completing missions and helping them, they can aid you in a number of ways such as pointing you towards the next mission, providing you with valuable intelligence and giving you rewards such as extra pills or weapons. It makes for an immersive game where the other characters and how you interact with them can create a huge difference in how difficult it will be to complete your missions. Most of the Far Cry 2's objectives are fairly simple, and once finished, seem to unlock seamlessly into the next task. You can keep track of your progress in a number of ways such as with your cell-phone, where you'll receive updates and by reading and listening to the intelligence notes and audio tapes you find along the way. Not only do these reveal a lot about Far Cry 2's back-story, but they can also give you very important information that will help you complete your tasks and figure out what the other characters' true motives are. This helps to further put you in the middle of the action and makes for a fairly immersive experience.

While its initial levels are somewhat linear, Far Cry 2 quickly opens up with multiple branching paths and gives players a great deal of freedom in how they proceed. It's not as complicated as it sounds on paper, and the game's cohesive and massive environments are so richly detailed and impressive, you'll barely notice the minimal load times. This structure makes for an impressive FPS though there are some interesting ideas in the game that are both innovative and useful. The most important of these concepts are called Safe Houses, where you can not only save your game, but store other items as well. They are logically placed throughout the game and usually mark the end of a significant chapter in the storyline. Other save locations are available as well, and this helps to keep things at a good pace throughout but you'll still find yourself backtracking occasionally. The missions themselves are fairly straightforward and most objectives are easy to find on your GPS, making it easy to locate and find rebel camps and hideouts. Once you get into combat itself, you'll find the weapons are fairly easy to use in practice. Enemies in the game are surprisingly intelligent, so you won't be able to go in with both guns blazing and expect to make any progress. A better strategy in the game is to hold back a little, survey the surroundings, locate enemy positions and try and pick them of individually. Trying to take on more than one is a recipe for disaster. This is especially true if you alert others nearby who will swarm to your position. Once your infiltration has been discovered, you'll probably need to keep moving to stay alive. The battles can be pretty intense, but most of them are winnable if you strategize and keep one step ahead of their attacks. Far Cry 2's expansive levels make it easy to find cover and escape if you find yourself in a jam, and the use of vehicles allows for quick getaways. Since the character places their GPS on the dashboard, it's hard to become lost. Most areas are also well signed, so you should be able to find your destinations without much effort. Controlling the vehicles is fairly straightforward and most players get up and running seamlessly. There are many aspects to each mission, and it's a little daunting at first getting used to all these mechanics, but the game becomes more seamless and enjoyable with a little bit of practice.

As stated earlier, Far Cry 2's production values are simply incredible. Not only is each area richly detailed in terms of light-sourcing, environmental effects and layout, but the variety is quite impressive as well. With levels encompassing everything from dense jungles, to desolate hideouts and claustrophobic dust covered slums, you'll find yourself traveling through an incredible array of environments. Distant calls of wild animals, echoes of gunfire and disembodied radio programs help to create a constant sense of danger and unpredictability. It extends to the game's structure and pacing as well. Long stretches of quiet suddenly turn into violent outbursts that shatter the peace and put the player into immediate danger. Your mercenary character's ability to play both sides of the fence is important because it helps you to see the larger picture while not succumbing to it. On the other hand, your actions play a key role in how the story turns out, so while you aren't directly involved, everything you do has consequences. This approach makes Far Cry 2 an incredibly deep and challenging title that becomes more immersive and intense as you play it through. While it shares some superficial similarities to the first game, Far Cry 2 very much stands on its own and creates a unique experience that creates an adventure of incredible scope and unpredictability that rewards players who take the time to explore its nuances, communicate with other characters, fight its intense battles, and soak in its layered, sophisticated storyline. Some of the elements, such as your constant battle with Malaria and the need to watch your weapon's performance deteriorate become a little annoying after awhile, and some of the missions are a little tedious, but these problems shouldn't dissuade players from considering this excellent title. The mysteries that unfold throughout Far Cry 2 makes this a consistently engaging title that delivers an action pack FPS that brings many innovative elements to the genre.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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