Review by dwashbur
If I Wanted A Driving Game, I Would Have Bought One
I enjoyed Far Cry Instincts: Predator, so I figured Far Cry 2 was worth a try. The premise is good: you choose which character you want to be, gather buddies along the way, and carry out various missions to gather weapons so you can carry out various missions to gather weapons so you can carry out various missions - wait a minute. Wasn't there an overall mission? Oh yeah, kill an arms dealer known as the Jackal, because he's supplying both sides of a conflict in WheretheheckamI, Africa, and for some reason people in power want him dead. Working your way toward tracking down and killing a guy who's profiteering from a country's war has possibilities. Unfortunately, none of those possibilities are realized in this game.
For starters, choosing your character is about as meaningless as it gets. The name is never used, you never see yourself, nobody gives a hoot what your name is or where you're from, so what earthly difference does it make? Worse yet, the first thing you do when you get to WheretheheckamI is catch malaria. The Jackal finds you first, but when he sees you have malaria and are probably going to die anyway, he mocks you a little and leaves. Some guy takes you in and nurses you back to some semblance of health, then you have to fight your way into a town to see a priest who can give you some pills to help with the symptoms. But wait a minute. Malaria? Isn't it common practice to get vaccinated against that BEFORE traveling to Africa? So not only is your character utterly meaningless, he's an idiot. Thanks a lot, game designers.
There are two factions fighting each other for who knows what reason, but they can both agree on one thing: shooting at you is good clean fun. At one point or another you're working for this or that side, but they don't care; everybody shoots at you on sight. Nobody in the whole country has a clue who you are, but they're willing to kill you anyway. Isn't that nice of them?
The controls are fairly straightfoward for the most part, but some are a little counterintuitive, not to say awkward and confusing. One of the hardest ones is the sprint command. Like usual for the 360, the left stick is your movement control. But if you want to sprint, you have to click it down and hold it while maneuvering. I'd love to know who designed this, because I've never met anyone with three thumbs before. The left button is apparently a multi-pupose one: ordinarily you use it to stick yourself with a little syringe and restore your health, but if you're in combat and hit the left button, suddenly you're sitting on your duff prying a bullet out of one limb or another, thus restoring part of your health but not all of it. If you're on a vehicle, you can't use the syringe; hit the button and you automatically climb out of it before doing anything for your health. And don't forget: you also have malaria, which will flare up just about any time you need to be doing something besides having a malaria flare-up. When that happens, the left button gives you a pill to make the symptoms go away. This is a very confused button. When a weapon is equipped, the left trigger aims and the right fires. But when you're looking at your map, the left trigger brings up a monocular so you can scout the area ahead of you, and the right trigger marks points of interest and puts them on your map (isn't technology great?). Why a monocular? I don't know. Maybe the programmers all have one eye; normal people would use binoculars. But of course, binoculars might give you a field of view that actually allows you to see something.
You acquire weapons either by picking them up from dead enemies, or buying them from weapon vendors scattered here and there about WheretheheckamI. Rough diamonds are the currency of choice, and you don't have any. Fortunately, various WheretheheckamIans have left briefcases with diamonds in them scattered about the countryside. All you have to do is find them. Fortunately, the GPS that you use with your map, as well as every GPS unit in every vehicle in the country, has a diamond detector built in (I'm telling you, technology is wonderful). When you get within range of a briefcase, a green light starts blinking on the GPS. As you wander around the light blinks faster when you get closer, and when you're pointed right at it the light stays on. That doesn't mean you can get to the blasted thing, of course; you might have to find a way onto a roof, crawl into a burned-out car, fall off a bridge, you name it, in order to find the stupid case. When you find it, you have to be facing it just so in order to open it. Naturally, you can't just do this; you have to get shot at a kabillion times while you're at it. But eventually you get all the bad guys down. Then you'll get a message saying you have found X number of 221 briefcases containing diamonds. 221? That's a lot. Thanks for that depressing information.
The worst part of this game, though, by far, is all the driving. You spend nearly all your time driving from one place to another, and there's always a Jeep full of idiots trying to mow you down with their mounted machine gun. Even when they're not doing that, you're driving, and driving, and driving, and driving some more. It gets old REAL fast. There are road signs that change color depending on where you're supposed to be going; more of that delightful technology. But it would be nice of somebody had used some of that technology to move the places closer together, or build a high-speed light rail system, so most of the game could have been spent playing, rather than watching lame scenery go by.
The overall plot gets lost early on, and the missions become little more than a rut. The enemies, as I mentioned, are everywhere and it doesn't matter which side they're on. They can also see much better than you can; in many cases, they can see you over a mile away, and hit you with unerring accuracy, using nothing more than a pistol or a shotgun. I want one of the kinds of shotguns that can pick the wings off a fly at 5,280 feet! They can also shoot through trees, grass, or anything else, and you can't find them while they're in the process of killing you. Far Cry Instincts: Predator at least had a radar that gave you some small clue where the bad guys were; this has nothing. Even worse, when you do finally find the guy, it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 shots from a 50 caliber machine gun to put him on the ground. And that's when he's wearing nothing more than a t-shirt. If he has any kind of body armor, forget it. Of course, one shot from a 30-06 sniper rifle, hitting him in the shoulder, will kill him instantly. I realize that it doesn't take much to confuse me, but something doesn't compute here.
The weapons are fairly standard, though what is a primary, what is a secondary and what is a "special" weapon gets impossibly confusing. For example, only pistols qualify as secondary weapons, but a sniper rifle is a "primary" weapon. So is the submachine gun, so if you need a submachine gun, you have to get rid of your sniper rifle. Whoever dreamed that up needs to be shot in the butt with both of them. It'll only take 10 shots to make it feel like a good spanking. You are told early on that "found" weapons have a tendency to jam, and you learn how to un-jam them. Purchased weapons, on the other hand, don't do that. So once I had collected enough diamonds, I bought myself a sniper rifle for my primary weapon, and a light machine gun for my special weapon. This light machine gun has a 100 round magazine and you can carry up to 400 more rounds for it. On my second mission carrying it, the damn thing started jamming virtually every time I used it. Huh? I bought it, it was not a "found" weapon. So why is it jamming all the time? So much for wonderful technology. It can change the color of a road sign, but it can't remember what weapons you BOUGHT and what weapons you FOUND.
I couldn't even get halfway through this game. After my fourth mission I realized I just didn't care. The malaria thing is so far beyond lame I don't think English has a word for it. Having both sides of the WheretheheckamI conflict shooting at me got really old; in any kind of real world, a good mercenary would say "screw this," take the diamonds he had collected, and head to the Riviera or something. You drive and drive and drive and drive and drive for 10 minutes, then you spend 2 minutes clearing out a guard post. You drive for another 10 minutes, and if you go back by that guard post, it's manned again and you have to clear it out again. There's no point. Whoever decided to name the main bad guy the Jackal gets minus 30 points for total lack of originality, so from the very start the game doesn't have much to offer. If you're a little kid who just likes to pretend-drive and occasionally shoot up the countryside, have fun. If you want a game that actually gives you something to do and holds your interest, look elsewhere.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Far Cry 2 (US, 10/21/08)
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