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Although this at first glance appears to be yet another addition to what seems to have been the year of the sequel, Far Cry 2 actually has absolutely nothing to do with the original Far Cry from 2004.
Instead the game takes place in an unnamed African nation which has descended into anarchy as the result of an arms dealer called ‘The Jackal' and its your job to track him down and kill him. Overtones of Apocalypse Now are further enhanced as the shadowy Jackal makes various appearances throughout the game - with his first being to actually save your skin shortly after your arrival.
Progression through the game involves the completion of missions provided by either of the warring factions which generally entail assassinations and theft in return for ‘conflict diamonds', or more ‘honourable' missions on behalf of locals which grants you much needed malaria tablets, Yes malaria - shortly after arrival you contract this debilitating illness which will plague you throughout the game. Trying to run for too long brings on bouts of weakness and blurred vision, and you'll also suffer the occasional more severe attack where you'll be more or less helpless until you pop a pill. I found this mechanic a trifle annoying, but actually felt it brought me more into tune with the character.
I was really pleased to find that I could approach each mission in, largely, a way of my own choosing.
You'll use your blood money to purchase new weapons, upgrades and other items, though you can only carry a fixed range or weaponry at any one time: a machete, a side-arm, one main weapon such as a machine gun, rifle etc, and one special weapon such as a rocket launcher or flamethrower. The more exotic weapons are, as usual, only unlocked as you progress through the game.
I was really pleased to find that I could approach each mission in, largely, a way of my own choosing. You can use the machine gun mounted onto your jeep to mow down your targets, pick them off from a distance with the sniper rifle, or sneak around taking them out one at a time (my preference). Add to that the ability to smoke ‘em out with a carefully lobbed Molotov cocktail or simply blow them to pieces with your rocket launcher and you'll see that there's enough there to satisfy most gamers. Your weapons at the start of the game are pretty poor though, and are prone to jamming and even blowing up in your hands.
I did find the early levels took a while to get used to - while trying to creep up on the enemy it's hard to determine whether your in cover or not, and if they see you it can be hard to actually catch sight of them through the foliage as they unerringly target you. They also seem incredibly tough to kill; I don't know if that's because I chose to play on hardcore difficulty, but it seems you can empty a whole clip into them sometimes and they still come back for more. Luckily the enemy AI is rather lacking so you won't face a combination of sneaky tactics and almost invulnerable opponents! Although one rather peculiar occurrence is that you'll often see the enemy facing in the wrong direction, firing, and, amazingly, still hitting you!
The glorious realism of the African scenery is what made me want to play the game in as realistic way as possible; I didn't want to go charging in to situations taking hits and just managing to kill everyone before I was killed. Although on the harder difficulty levels I suspect this is more or less impossible anyway and I seemed to lose health pretty rapidly when I got caught in a shooting match. Let your health get too low and regaining it comes at the cost of witnessing a rather gruesome ‘medical' procedure, as you extract bullets from your flesh with a knife. Follow this with a quick injection of good old health potion and you're as good as new. This process however does take several seconds to carry out and will be interrupted if you get hit again so it's pretty risky to let it get this far.
Gorgeous African environment, fantastic fire propagation effects and the freedom to play it how you want to.
Getting around the 50 square km region can be done by foot, vehicle, boat or even bus and you will end up doing a fair bit of travelling as you progress through the game. All this travelling may be one of the slight problems with Far Cry 2, but the driving mechanics have been done really well and there are always the couple of hundred diamonds scattered across the landscape to keep you interested. I have the feeling that the mid game may get a little repetitive; indeed both my children have currently stopped playing Far Cry 2 and moved back to other games. It's unusual for them to do this, but it's also true that this is a longer than usual game so I'm sure that they will come back to it in time.
All in all Far Cry 2 is a superb game; gorgeous African environment, fantastic fire propagation effects and the freedom to play it how you want to. Not only this but it also provides an intuitive map maker (which entertains one of my sons stacking explosive items on top of each other and then blowing them up), and a challenging multiplayer. I can't understand why this game has been discounted so heavily in the lead up to Christmas, but, if you haven't got it already and you are in any way a fan of shooter games, go grab an absolute bargain now.
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