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Time Extend: Far Cry 2

Welcome back to the jungle...

Everyone in Leboa-Sako and Bowa-Seko wants you dead. Sure, there's the guy who drives you into town who seems nice enough and a friendly vicar or two, but not one of them will help when your intended assassination target is pointing your own gun at you and a civil war is erupting outside.

There are refugees by the thousands, you're told, but they're all conveniently absent when you're delirious with malaria and everyone in Africa is trying to murder you. You have friends too, but they've long since betrayed you when you're five minutes from the final cut-scene and choosing between a bomb and a bullet.

Yep, Far Cry 2 gets a lot wrong. The whole world is hostile and everyone wants you dead. A trip north isn't just a trip; it's an expedition punctuated by visits to safe houses and diversions to replace exhausted firearms. The checkpoints turn even simple journeys into navigational puzzles - puzzles made all the more treacherous by the local policy of constructing cars from the same stuff that Mr Kipling uses for his little pie trays.

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So you plot your journey carefully, taking buses and boats wherever possible because you don't really want a fight. Far Cry 2's combat is made clumsy by bad guys who can spot a stray hair hanging from a man's nose at three hundred paces, and by weapons with all the penetrative power of a dildo made from jelly.

Even once you get where you're going Far Cry's missions consist exclusively of going to Point A, killing Bastard B, and returning to Point C to rescue your buddy if you took their always-terrible advice on the way to Point A. Friendship is measured in misery in Far Cry 2.

FAR CRYING OUT LOUD!

If only the cars were sturdier you'd be able to rush checkpoints and escape into the jungle before the militia men could react, adding a whole new strategic weapon to your arsenal. If the game's stealth system were more generous you'd gain a dozen new tactical options in every fight.

If checkpoints didn't respawn you'd feel like your presence was impacting the world. If the story were better told maybe you'd care about which friends lived and which ones died. And if the faction system mattered then every moving vehicle on the horizon would become a dilemma - do you hide, fight, or welcome your friends?

But if all these things were true, maybe you wouldn't find yourself standing in the middle of a road with a one-handed grenade launcher staring down an advancing convoy, as the whole world burns around you. Maybe you wouldn't have set that fire and maybe you wouldn't launch a point-blank grenade into the lead vehicle's grill, flipping the entire thing over your head.

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Maybe you wouldn't pump round after round of fully automatic shotgun fire into the driver's side of the convoy truck and maybe you wouldn't have fired your last grenade at a passing zebra just for the hell of it. If Far Cry 2 worked better you might start to care, and that might actually be a bad thing.

Far Cry 2 invites fatalism, pessimism, and near-suicidal tactics because optimism and strategy went on holiday to Leboa-Sako and got murdered just like everything else. Hoping for the best simply doesn't work. Being clever doesn't work. Nothing good will ever happen to you in Far Cry 2's Africa, and none of your carefully designed plans will ever bear fruit.

It's possible that Ubisoft were so intent on recreating Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness that every last feature is built to push you towards callous, insane, and horrific murder. It's equally possible the design 'decisions' weren't so much decisions as deadline-based tradeoffs. In either case the result is the same - "I'm
a man of peace!" you protest, and Far Cry 2 sneers, "Yeah? Well let's see how far that gets you, fatty."

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