Eventually, finally, you get to a point of no return. You stand out of sight, peering through a telescope - picking out men, trucks, ammo crates, buildings. All the while ad-hoc plans are formed, discarded, built on. "Blow up that truck for a diversion, snipe those guys, run into that building"; you cycle through it all. Do you have an exit plan? Do you need one? Is everyone going to die?
Then, it's a deep breath, a beat of silence. You go for it, forcing long laid plans to leap into motion with a gunshot. If you went silently you pray you got away with it, otherwise you watch mercenaries teem out of buildings, frantically hunting for their attacker. At this point you had better hope your plan was solid.
Combat is brutal and deadly - it's Far Cry 2's bread and butter and it is exactly how FPS combat should be. When you're in control, you feel it; calmly picking off scattered mercenaries from a distance, almost toying with them as you explode their surroundings and sow chaos. It makes you feel like a super hero; "How many guys are there?" a merc shouts "I don't know! Three at least!" Ha!
You are indestructible; these dumb grunts don't stand a chance against you and Your Plan…until it all goes horribly wrong. You are spotted, the grunts start organising, flanking. Suddenly it's all too clear that you are just one fleshy, delicate guy, and you were trying to take on ten men all by yourself.
Crossbows are powerful things, apparently
Less than a minute later you realise how stupid you've been. Nothing has gone the way it should. You're stuck in a hut, surrounded, and all you have to defend yourself with is a sniper rifle with no ammo and a flare gun. Plus, everything seems to be either on fire or exploding. You frantically scrounge up old, rusted weapons from the few foes you’ve killed and you try to fight your way out. The weapons jam up, a grenade goes off hurling shrapnel into your side, and you know you’re going to die. You dive for cover and pray you have enough time to heal up. There are too many of them. You're low on ammo, hope and syrettes. You don't stand a chance.
There is some mercy though. You have a lifeline - your buddy; a gun toting sweary Robin to your Malaria infested, half-exploded Batman. It's a neat way of helping you out when the odds are really stacked against you. As you lie dying on the floor, helpless; they appear, pick you up, slap a fresh pistol in your hand and stick around to help fight off the remaining mercs. You can only call on them once before having to go back to a safe area for them to 'recharge', which spoils the illusion, but it's a great way of giving players a second chance.
And there are only so many times you can be rescued from the precipice of deadness by someone before you inevitably warm to them. Each play-through will most likely see you with a different buddy - randomly selected from a choice of nine - and each play-through will see you connect with them.
As powerful as a rocket launcher, in fact
My first was Warren Clyde; a twenty something American who was only interested in blowing stuff up. We clicked and I relied on him and his auto-shotgun too many times to count. He’d always appear in the nick of time, blasting away the dozens of soldiers hell-bent on killing me. Eventually though, I let him down. A bar he was in came under siege; and while I tried to save him, I failed miserably. By the time I got there it was already being attacked from all sides; we held off our assailants for scant seconds and it was only a rare bit of luck I survived at all. Clyde was dead. I was mortified.
It was at this point that I realised what Far Cry 2 had done to me. The combat is there as a hook, the plot as justification; then when you put in the vistas of Africa, a few friendly faces, an unbroken first person perspective, and a constant feeling of cause and effect; it had me. I was there in Africa. I was this mercenary. Clyde was my friend and I really had let him down. I felt terrible, and it took me a long time to decide not to just quick load and try again because that would break my story. I was emotionally involved; something that the grandest narrative driven games fail to achieve. But, just as a mercenary should, I decided I had to move on.
A new mission from town asked me to assault a villa. It was going to be full of soldiers and there probably wasn’t a back way in. I mulled over the last mission I’d done that sounded similar, which admittedly is nearly all of them. I think my plan nearly worked last time - it was just that one guy with a rocket launcher, right? I wasn’t prepared for him last time, so I looked over my available guns and started to think about adapting. I ran through the permutations in my head and, slowly, a plan started to form…
Far Cry 2 was released in 2008 by Ubisoft and is available for the Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3. Check our Far Cry 2 review for more information.