Last night, I finished the single-player campaign of Far Cry 2.
Steam shows me that I spent 50 hours on the game. That should already raise some eyebrows. Who spends 50 hours on a game? That’s ridiculous. That’s a whole work week. Though in calendar time this took me several months, I started some time in May.
I played the game because I remember the original Far Cry to be the most beautiful game that I had played at the time (mid-2000s). I was expecting the same from FC2. The reviews on Amazon might show that this game is pretty bad. And, yes, it definitely does have some downsides, so let’s go over those.
What annoyed me most is the endless respawn of enemies. Respawn is a trick that many games use to balance the game. In FC2, you end up driving the same roads over and over, which have a series of checkpoints. When you kill all the enemies in a checkpoint, and later return, they have respawned and you need to keep clearing the same areas over and over again. This just gets annoying.
The other mentioned problem is the long travel between missions. It’s not actually that bad if you learn to use the travel mechanisms available to you. You can just drive a vehicle, take a bus over long distances on the map, take a riverboat, or walk and run. But, yes, it takes a little while to get to places.
Thirdly, the bad reviews mention the shallow story and backstory. Well, yes, what can you do. It wasn’t a Kubrick movie. It’s not deep. But it accurately reflects the desperation of some parts of the world—ultimately, regardless of who you consider your friend and enemy, there’s no real hope and no way out.
Fourth, enemies can take a ridiculous amount of damage without dying, putting you at a disadvantage. You can hit them several times from a large-caliber car-mounted machine gun, and the next second, they get up and shoot right back at you.
Despite all these problems, you can see in Wikipedia that it has solid scores from critics. And I agree with the high ratings—to me, it was a solid, enjoyable experience. What makes it so great then?
Beautiful environment and dynamic day/night. By far, this is the most beautiful game environment-wise that I’ve played. The freely explorable environment is nicely done and a great mix of desert, savanna, village, and jungle. I have not seen the day/night rotation before and it greatly added to the experience. When night was falling, I was looking for a safehouse to take a night’s sleep. It’s not strictly necessary and you can keep doing your missions through the night and there are advantages to doing this. But I found that I like the daylight better.
Tactical planning. The missions in FC2 were the most tactical that I had ever done in an FPS. It’s basically a series of mini-battles, and the enemies are concentrated in checkpoints and villages, with not much happening inbetween. Your mission often involves either killing someone or fetching an object from an area that’s heavily populated with enemies. Direct confrontation is an option only if you are lucky and can strike out many enemies quickly. I found that the sniper rifle is my best asset and taking out enemies from a distance helps me clear the areas most quickly. But to make it harder, many missions are surrounded by a high-grass jungle environment. So I ended up either scouting out a sniper position around the village and doing my business from there, or alternatively many villages have a watchtower or other elevated position. So I could fight my way through to the elevated position as quickly as I could, and just take out enemies from there.
Weapons damage. An interesting aspect. Your weapons take damage, jam, and finally explode to your face. If you buy them from a weapons shop, they have better quality than when picked up from enemies, but eventually, they all degrade. So you must keep going to weapons shop to fix them.
Malaria. This can be an up or a down, but I found it to be adding realism to the game. You keep having the malaria hits through the game where you must take a pill before you can use any weapons. And to get the pills, you must complete the underground missions.
Next up for me: the Crysis series, made by Crytek, the original makers of Far Cry. I hope it will take less time.