Far Cry 2: The Rehatening

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With the advent of Far Cry 3, something unpleasant happened to it’s older brother, Far Cry 2. It’s malaria-marked, bullet-ridden corpse was exhumed, strung behind a land rover and dragged through the streets to jeering crowds.

Why all the hate for FC2?

The list of hate-features is long: Respawning enemies, malaria, weapons breaking down, speedtalking NPCs…

I recently finished FC2 in anticipation of FC3. And enjoyed it, mostly. The fact of the matter is that the hate-features do not make it that much different than most open-world shooters. Apart from the respawning enemies, I dare say that they are more about the narrative than about gameplay mechanics. Malaria? Pop a pill. Weapons breaking down? Make frequent visits to the weapon shop and exchange old for new at no cost and you’ll most likely never see it. On one single occasion I had to restrategise when when my dart rifle broke in the middle of a firefight. The weird implementation of fast-travel and the respawning enemies forces you to play differently than you otherwise would but you do have a choice in how you deal with it.

What those features do is support the narrative that you’re in deep shit. Everything is broken down, nothing is reliable (except for busses which are supposedly run by an Eichman/Mussolini team). They don’t do it very well, because the developers were very clearly afraid to mess with core gameplay mechanics. A bit of busywork insures you against the worst excesses of civil war hell. Who knows, maybe that is how you avoid mishaps during times of anarchy: Carry a clean rifle and do favours for strangers. It seems to work for the Walking Dead people.

The people commenting on FC2 on the occasion of FC3’s arrival don’t just dislike those features. No, they pour venom on FC2. And then say that they stopped playing the game. And that by extension they are wary of FC3. So developers beware.

And the point has been made so effectively that practically no review of Far Cry 3 was printed without the reassuring “Don’t worry, they fixed Far Cry 2” mantra. I suspect a few reviewers picked up on it without ever having played Far Cry 2.

So how does the sequel compare to its predecessor? Two things. One: It’s a far more open open-world. The terrain of Far Cry 2 was so dominated by steep cliffs that at times you had about as much say over your approach as in a rail shooter. And forget about getting the drop on unsuspecting foes because your protagonist could not climb to save his life. Or that of a wartorn African nation beset by greedy mercenaries yadi yadi… And two: The hand holding. The quest markers, tagged enemies can be seen through walls, non-tagged enemies can still be seen on the mini-map… It’s like driving with your mother while she points out every other car on the road, saying, “Careful, don’t hit that.”

And so Far Cry 3 gets a bit humdrum because well, you never get a real chance to get scared. I had to fight the game for a chance at real danger. When I was told that I had to go to a new location (“Badtown” is a stab at danger that fails miserably) deep in enemy territority I rejoiced. Yes, I thought, I’m gonna get myself a hot rod and drive like a bat out of Hell for this Badtown and tell these Bad people once again… who’s bad. The game stretched out it’s warm fuzzy hand and held mine. Don’t worry, it said, it may be miles and miles into enemy held territority but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fast travel location. Oh yeah, I said defieantly, fuck fast travel, I’m gonna do this my way. And so I strapped myself into said hot rod, feeling slightly less Bad, and drove like said bat. And crashed badly. And died. And came back to life in the closest fast travel location. Yup, you guessed it. Badtown. I could almost hear the game tut-tutting at me…

Of course, if it’s fear you’re going for, neither Far Cry 2 nor Far Cry 3 can a hold a candle to the original. Those monkey monsters had me screaming in my sleep…

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