Frequent listeners to our podcast will know that we're big STALKER fans, and now that GSC Game World are an official Xbox 360 developer we're pretty sure our prayers of a conversion will soon be answered. However, in the last month we've seen something darker. Something grittier. Something... better.
Forget tropical jungles. That's old news. Africa's the newest playground in gaming. Just look at Resident Evil 5, or Halo 3. The continent is a gaming paradise, mixing wide-open savannahs with dense jungles, which is exactly why Far Cry 2 has ditched the island. It's a fresh location for a new beginning. Name aside, Far Cry 2 has nothing to do with the original. Carver's long gone, and he's taken the tridents along with him.
In his place is a hero of your choosing. Thirteen mercenaries (no, really) populate Far Cry 2's landscape - three women and ten men - and you can take your pick from any of the male characters. The remaining allies live somewhere in a world that's over 50 square kilometres in size, and can be called upon to assist in missions. They're extremely helpful in a fight, as they'll drag you away from danger if you're about to cop it.
There's also plenty of opportunity for fighting too. Aside from a solitary refugee camp there are no civilians in the game. Far Cry 2 takes place in a nameless country at war with itself. The government has fled, and the only people that remain are some very pissed off soldiers who were promised nonexistent diamonds.
This group splintered into two: the Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR) and the United Front for Liberation and Labour (UFLL), and now fight for power. It's up to you to manipulate this tussle, working your way through the ranks to complete your task.
A view to a kill
What is this task exactly? The game's opening explains all. You begin in bed, sick from malaria. At your side is an arms dealer, reading through a dossier. "So you're coming to kill me then?" he taunts, then adds "Good luck!" before handing you a pistol and running off. The arms dealer in question is selling weapons to both guerrilla factions, and an unknown character has hired you to cut off the weapon supply at the source by killing him.
Sadly, the only way to find his location is by working for the bad guys. Story aside, the opening reveals another major detail about Far Cry 2. Everybody has malaria, including you. It's a mechanic that drives you to explore the world - forcing you to root out diamonds to trade and buy medicine from the refugee camp. Otherwise you'll suffer the consequences, including some nasty delusions.
Malaria isn't the only factor that will send you crazy. Become wrapped up in killing and you'll 'freak out'. Too much bloodshed will make you white out which will, in turn, increase your infamy. And herein lies the conundrum. You need to kill people to complete missions, but you don't want to go mad either. Acquire too much infamy and you'll be refused entry to the refugee camp, and there goes your hope for medicine. The game's a fine balancing act that, first and foremost, teaches discipline. It's about killing with restraint, and realising, in the same breath, when to call it quits.
That would be rather boring if it weren't for the chases. As you'd imagine, people don't take too kindly to an attempt on their life, and they'll follow you without prejudice, in vehicles if need be, to hunt you down and kill you. The chases are a brilliant showcase for Far Cry 2's best feature: fire.