Saturday, October 31, 2009

Far Cry 2: A far cry from Far Cry

At sunrise, I retrieved my pistol, rifle and machine gun from my weapons locker and left the safe house at the edge of a vast desert. I picked up ammunition and explosives that one of my buddies had conveniently left just outside the door. A sturdy Jeep waited for me on the path, it’s previous owner was presumably now a dead carcass providing breakfast for hungry vultures. I recalled the previous night’s events; he should have just driven on by me but no, he had to turn around and chased me along the jungle road until he caught up with me and forced me off into a tree. By the time he was out of his car I had grabbed my truck’s mounted machine gun and unloaded almost 30 rounds into his mass. Just as well the truck had a mounted weapon as my small arms ammo was either spent or my weapons had degraded and broken apart earlier. I picked up his AK47 as one doesn't leave a working firearm on the ground [especially if your own weapons are gone] and took his Jeep as I wasn’t going to stick around so near to a guard post repairing my truck.

Now I drove along the dusty brown road at sunrise and I spotted a cell tower near the side of a hill, I manoeuvred my Jeep off the road and up the access path to the rusty tower, starkly alien to the trees and sheer cliff face. I abandoned my Jeep at the foot of the hill and went up to the tower’s control box at it’s base. I managed to intercept a transmission from an obviously electronically distorted voice who told me that there was an available target of opportunity in the area and that I was to eliminate them. The standard payment in rough diamonds would be paid into my account on completion. I pulled out my map and GPS locator and saw that the target’s co-ordinates had been added to my map which covered 25km2 of Burka Sako, the Northern District [of a diplomatically unnamed country]. Unfortunately it was some distance away, it would take a while to drive all that way which I could but the roads were filled with fighters from both sides of this lawless war-torn African country, and I’d get nailed for sure more then once before reaching my objective. So instead, I made my way to a bus station.

As it’s much slower, and presumably makes quite a few stops on the way; the bus journey took half a day. Strangely I didn’t even know the time had passed even though the ride was uneventful. Were it not for the obvious signs of the sun beginning to set I’d have assumed it took mere seconds. The bus stop at which I was eventually dropped was very close to my objective [and someone had left a car there]. I could see from my GPS that my mark was near an airfield. The contours on my map indicated hills to the South and West of the airfield but either too sheer or to far away from the target to get a good shot. There was however some sand dunes to the East where I could set up my Dragunov SVD sniper rifle and take out my target with a clear path to freedom should I stir up a hornet’s nest.

By the time I reached the dunes, I noticed that the target was moving. He was in a black SUV led and flanked by assault trucks. I was expecting maybe a few mercs guarding a stationery target – not this. I’d have to rethink my tactics on the fly and hope things didn’t go tits up like last time when I took out a mark in the centre of the ceasefire zone in the town of Pala. All three vehicles were in my line of sight now; tracking a moving target on a winding road was difficult enough – hitting one was another matter entirely. If I got the mark, sitting in the rear of the SUV, I’d be well pleased with myself, but at 6-700m away it was unlikely, even by someone with my considerable skill. No sooner I’d have either succeeded or missed, the boys on their assault trucks would close the distance and pepper me good. A better tactic would be to take out them first, then concentrate on the SUV.

My first shot missed. It guess wasn't unexpected, but the next shot found it's mark. This took out the driver of the tail truck. It disappeared behind a mound – it either toppled over or went into the river, I couldn’t see, but I know it was the last I saw of it or it’s occupants. I don’t think the other vehicle occupants were paying too much attention to their rear view mirrors, because I didn’t observe any change to the direction, speed or driving pattern, of the other vehicles; everything seemed copasetic to them. How wrong they would be. My third shot obliterated the head of the lead truck driver, the rest of him fell out and the truck stopped dead. I lined up my fourth shot to take out the rear gunner before he got a bead on me, he’d have seen my muzzle flash, but this guy was a slippery customer. I knew I had missed as soon as I pulled the trigger. Quick as a flash, the gunner had slid down to the driving seat and was undoubtedly getting the truck in motion again, to make matters worse – the SUV had changed direction and was driving away from my position at full speed – this was not good. I couldn’t see him but I was sure the driver was on the left as I lined up my fifth shot. It missed, as did my sixth. The range between me and the SUV was growing; by the time I ran back to my vehicle, my mark would surely be – LUCAS! Then I got the shock of my life: the lead assault truck was making its way up the fucking dune – its driver determined to run me over! This was terrible [and fantastic at the same time]. My seventh shot shattered the windscreen of the truck and hit maniacal motorist, but it wasn't until my eighth shot hit him in the face that he slumped out of the vehicle as it came to a stop mere inches from me. I jumped into the driver’s seat and sped off after the SUV.

I caught up with the SUV soon enough as it neared a tree line [I'm an elite driver]. I managed to steer alongside it and the sides of the vehicles clashed with sparks and the sound of metallic grinding. I eventually managed to steer the other driver into a tree with a loud crash. I brought my own vehicle to a stop and got out bringing my PKM Light Machine Gun to bear on the SUV, but the driver was quicker and was already spewing hot lead in my direction from his HK G3A4 Assault Rifle. I ducked behind my truck shielding myself from the 7.62mm ammo. From my cover I lobbed out a fragmentation grenade which exploded sending my would-be assailant flying over my trucks bonnet, a lifeless ragdoll. I broke my cover and closed on the SUV, my vision obscured by the fire I started – the flames lapped at the SUV – and I knew from previous experience that the vehicle was seconds from exploding! It was time to run again. I was maybe 20 meters away when I heard the SUV explode behind me; I turned in time to see the remains of its chassis inconveniently land on my own truck, which too would now soon explode. But I wasn’t going to wait around for the fireworks, I apparently still had a man to kill as according to my GPS, he had slipped out of the SUV as his bodyguard was keeping me pinned.

I caught up with my mark on an open plain where a herd of zebras grazed. I opened up with my LMG and he began moving erratically and made for a tree stump. The zebras scattered at the sound of my gunfire and I began shooting at the stump. I felt all-powerful and cocky now; there was no escape for this man. I began swapping out my empty ammo belt but my mark popped out from behind the stump and took a few pot-shots at me with a Star .45. My arrogance disappeared as a round embedded itself in my thigh with a splash of red. He was certainly not waiting for me to let loose with my LMG again either because he bolted for the tree line. There would be plenty of obstacles to protect him there and from which to blast at me with his pistol. That was… if I let him.

My mark was too far away from me now to accurately hit with my LMG so I unshouldered my Dragunov again and peered at him though its scope. I prefer the crosshairs style to the Ruskies “chevrons”, but beggars can’t be choosers in this cursed land. I spent about a dozen rough diamonds on this the best one in the arms store and it wasn’t going to let me down. My ninth and final sniper shot of the day took down a running target at 100m. I breathed a sigh of relief as I reached for my tweezers to agonizingly pry the bullet out from my thigh and patch myself up. Now to get out of here, a sheer cliff face was to my right, behind me - an endless arid desert. To my left a raging brush fire [that I started] had enveloped trees near the remains of the vehicles. There was for once, only one direction I could go here - forward; to eventually find The Jackal and put an end to the war destroying this land… …by any means necessary.

You may be forgiven for thinking that this is a chapter from my memoirs but it is in fact an account of a single one-hour session of playing Far Cry 2 and I think that it is a perfect way of reviewing a game like this where everyone’s experience will be different – there is very little or no scripting here – the level of detail I describe is all in the game - the actions of the enemies are all the AI, meaning that my experience will most likely not happen to you at any point in the game, or you may experience a some of these elements, but never exactly as with many other shooters. Some aspects generally happen as I describe - you steal and drive cars or boats through all the climates on the African continent condensed into two 25km2 regions in a free open game world as you collect diamonds to buy a wide range of small arms and explosive weapons to carry out assassination, destruction, courier or rescue missions anywhere within that world. You make few friends as practically everyone else you meet is billigerant and gunning for you. The buddies you do meet [like Nazreen - pictured here] will pull your fat out of the fire, and help you especially if you help them. You can carry three weapons but you must keep them maintained by replacing them with new ones from a gun store or they will jam and eventually break as readily as the crap weapons you pick up from fallen foes. Your map and GPS make sure you never get lost , only occasionally taking a wrong turn if you're not paying attention. The GPS will also reveal hidden diamond treasures. The graphics are on par with Crysis but are much warmer in tone and more varied in scope. I guarantee you, you will spend hours just marvelling at the scenery, expertly crafted with flora and fauna of Africa. High-Range Dynamic Lighting effects were practically invented for this game where the blistering sun will cross the sky casting a long shadow as you travel away from it or blind you as you face it. Survival isn’t easy, you need to get medicine to heal yourself once you’ve pried the bullets from your flesh and need copious amounts of malaria pills to prevent the disease’s debilitating attacks. The odds are against you, and you’ve no superpowers, air support, flashlight, night-vision, nano-suit or even sunglasses,. What chance do you have? But still, you must kill The Jackal, the scumbag who has armed both sides of the war. Then perhaps you can die in peace…

Final Verdict: Far Cry 2 is not the progeny of it's predecessor, it's connection to the original is in name only. Even by sticking to the main "quest" missions you're still going to need about 20 hours to complete it but double that if you take on missions of opportunity or side missions for more money and arms. Enemies are unrealistically difficult to kill, encouraging headshots all the time and you in contrast can be instantly killed if tipped by a moving car. Nevertheless this is graphically impressive, atmospheric, tactical FPS that sets the bar for the open world shooter. Highly recommended!
Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2

No comments: