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Far Cry 2 is a follow up to the ground breaking first game made famous for its jungle habitat and map making capabilities. Like its predecessor, Far Cry 2 succeeds because of its ability to create a sense of place. Much of the action has been seen before - but rarely with so much care and appreciation to the locale in which you play.
Shooting games present a world in which the character must shoot their way out of dangerous situations. They provide the player with an array of weapons tailored to specific tasks. This unavoidably involves a combination of fisticuffs and gun based fighting that dictates the violent nature of these experiences. Beneath this harsh exterior though is often an intricate tactile game - and this is usually what drives the player.
The most advertised feature of Far Cry 2 is its unique modelling of fire in the environment. More than a simple realistic looking blaze, fire in Far Cry 2 jumps from tree to tree and house to house so that if you are not careful a inferno can cut you off in seconds. The novelty of this feature is perhaps the biggest danger as I found out to my cost by inadvertently torching my mode of transport - having to complete the rest of the early stages on foot.
However, realistic Fire is not the only thing Far Cry 2 brings to the shooting genre. The attention to realism and detail is reflected in the game's wider concern of creating a believable environment in which to play. The extends beyond the physical modelling of the dusty bush locale, to the chatter of the local radio, the nuanced narration from cab driver at the start, to the incidental moments that wordlessly convince the player that this world is in social free fall.
The main game itself is loosely structured around a main story driven - something that fits the game's strong characterisation. Perhaps most telling is the quality of the cut scenes (both writing and voice work) which intercede the shooting. In fact this open ended (sandbox) design drives the game towards the adventuring end (almost GTA IV 360) of the shooter spectrum - although without loosing sight of the core shooting nature of the series.
Add to this the multiplayer game modes, that also take advantage of the detailed environment modelling, and you have what a very strong package. Not only that but the famous map editor returns from the first game, and again enables players to quickly and easily create their own levels to play and share with their online friends.
Players are drawn to Far Cry because of its shooter credentials, and the new infusion of fire related gun play. But, as we have outlined above, it is the narration and fleshed out habitats that keep players playing.
Crawling down a hill to free a hostage from a hut at the bottom, you are aware that all about you is teeming with life. Insects and greenery abound, all waiting to be set alight by a wind driven bush fire. Then you approach the enemy and overhear their chatter as they discuss how best to deal with you.
Once the guns and dust and killing have dies down, the feeling that stays with you is a sense of having passed through a place rich with history. And as you watch it fall apart around you there is a real sense of loss, and what might have been.
Far Cry 2 is a game that benefits from a substantial investment of time. Those that try and squeak through in one hour sessions will both struggle and not get the best experience. If you can set aside a good evening's play - you are much better placed to engage with the game on its own terms. Both the shooting and the story take time to develop - and to get a grip of.
That said, save points are generous and (once found in game) allow you to return to your current mission at a later date - although progress through the particular section may be forfeit.
Young and beginner players may be wowed by the visuals but there is no escaping the fact that they are ill-suited to get much further with the game. By their nature shooters are violent war based games - and Far Cry 2 is no exception. However, it is the language and psychological aspect that most likely awarded the game its 18 certificate.
Intermediate players may find the game takes a little while to get started. But this in built tutorial is essential for them to progress later on. Once through the initial stages the game soon opens out and should engage most gamers.
Experts are most likely to revel in Far Cry 2. Both on and offline there is plenty for them to get their teeth into. Add to that the geeky shooter features such as the fire modelling and impressive array of arms, and sand box game structure and you have a strong title for experienced players.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: