You play as a mercenary concerned with tracking down a mysterious figure known, in a rather cliched manner, as ‘The Jackal’. He’s responsible for selling arms to both sides, and as a result, it’s directly culpable in much of the slaughter you’ll see unfolding as you play through the game’s single player campaign.
Far Cry 2 is a huge sandbox FPS – Ubisoft claims it’s got 50km² of terrain on offer – and that leaves an awful lot up to the player. Initially, you know nothing about the Jackal, and indeed precious little about the players in this dirty war. All you really know once you complete the tutorial is how to fire weapons. You’ve also contracted a nasty case of malaria.
|Visuals accentuate the violence and tragedy that’s erupting around you|
The added sickness gives the game a visceral twist, as you flip between performing assassination missions for one faction or another and rescue missions for underground forces, simply because they’ve got malaria medicine that you desperately need.
Far Cry 2 is incredibly well visually realised, from the brush fires that can sweep through districts to the wide open game spaces and dusty African savannahs. Again, it’s not just eye candy; the visuals accentuate the violence and tragedy that’s erupting around you – and which you’re all too often a part of.
How you complete missions is up to you. You can treat the whole game as a kind of African Safari and go in guns blazing, or more subtly use stealth and the dead of night to sneak up on objectives. You’re often stymied by jammed weapons, or broken vehicles, which adds to the game’s verisimilitude, though it proves annoying in the middle of a fire fight. The feeling of gritty realism is paramount, and often overwhelming.
Compared to single player, multiplayer feels anti-climatic, with only standard deathmatch and CTF variants. The Map Editor is a nice touch and makes it simple to throw together a decent map, but that alone is not enough to make online multiplayer compelling.
There are a few sticking points in Far Cry 2. A map this big necessitates lengthy travel times, and these can get dull when you cycle between driving, shooting out checkpoints, repairing your vehicle and driving on again... to the next checkpoint.
We hit some bugs trying to install under Windows XP, although Vista had no such issues. And to the game’s credit – a potential downfall being that you can’t walk away from it feeling entirely clean – it’s an unflinchingly brutal title in pretty much every sense of the word.