Here’s the funny thing about Far Cry; it was never all that great a game in all honesty, but that somehow ended up getting forgotten and it was the console expansions that got all the flak.
Wow, I know – controversial, eh? It’s true though. Far Cry was a visually stunning game and the fact that you could roam the tropical islands where the game took place was very impressive, but in reality it was never as open as people claim. You could run through the trees ‘til your heart was content – but you’d never find anything out there and there were still a whole load of invisible walls and insta-kill helicopters to stop you straying too far.
By the time people realised that though it didn’t matter; they’d either reach the lacklustre indoor areas of the game or they’d met those invincible TriGen monsters and thrown the game away in frustration. It’s probably for the best that Crytek moved on to make Crysis and left the sequel rights with Ubisoft.
In fact, it’s definitely for the better. This is a Far Cry game which isn’t totally about graphical power and lurid Hawaiian shirts. It’s about freedom, player choice and a complex game-world. It also happens to be a very definite early contender for Game of the Year.
Far Cry 2 isn’t actually a true sequel to the first game. It doesn’t have mutants, monsters, creepy German doctors, all-American heroes or gameplay that gets utterly broken in the last ten levels of the game. It isn’t set in a tropical paradise and the stories for the two games aren’t linked at all.
Instead, Ubisoft has focused on what the original game did in gameplay terms and what players said they liked about it. The (pseudo) open world, the different vehicles and ability to tackle objectives on your terms, with your tools – these are the things that made Far Cry great. Oh, and the handglider too. By designing the game around these elements, Ubi has been able to make a game that isn’t constrained by the plot and premise of the first game but which can still tick all the right boxes.
The new game then offers something different to its predecessor. The tropical jungles have been traded in for an African savannah. The linear progression of objectives has been turned into a mission-based structure. The invisible walls which gave the illusion of openness in Far Cry have been removed so that Far Cry 2 now really is as open as you think.
The story has been reworked too – in fact, abandoned. The mutants and genetic semi-science of the first has been turned into a gritty and harsh tale of mercenary life. You’re now a mercenary operating in a very unstable region of Africa that is being wracked by the fitful throes of civil war. You’re there to kill a man who calls himself The Jackal, an arms dealer and war profiteer who is prolonging the conflict and supplying weapons to both sides in order to keep business up.
Who hired you? How did you get there? How will you deal with the competing mercenaries operating in the area? All these questions and more start to get answered as the game progresses and it’s really very impressive to see how the story of the game is woven into the gameplay.