Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Far Cry 2 Review (PC version)

Everyone agrees that the graphics of FC2 are lovely, immersive (if your system is beefy enough), and really well done overall. While some people prefer linearity, I do not--I thought the extreme linearity of Half-Life 2 was the worst part about the game--so I enjoy having the freedom that FC2 gives you to go anywhere at any time. However, the game's storyline is somewhere between nonsensical and nonexistent, none of the characters have much depth, the voice acting is mediocre at best, the missions are repetitive, and there are some problems with the control scheme. Some points to consider:

(1) Perhaps what throws away the game's immersive qualities more than anything else is that even though you're supposedly a "no-name scumbag", the game clearly revolves around you. Ostensibly you are just some guy caught in a civil war between two sides (UFLL and APR), but in fact the supposed two sides are indistinguishable (you can't tell if you are fighting UFLL or APR guys), there are no front lines, and you almost never see AIs fighting each other. Instead, they only fight you. The war does has two sides: you (and occasionally one of your "buddies") against nearly everyone in the entire country. These guys are vicious, too; they are without exception happy to get themselves killed if it means they might put one more bullet in you--even though, again, you're supposed to be some anonymous guy with malaria. In the second battle I was in, the AI aimed their Jeep directly at me going full speed. I jumped out of the way, and they slammed directly into a large tree. That's how obsessed they are! Plus, especially if you play in Hardcore mode, the enemies can somehow recognize your face at 300 yards away so they know it's you (therefore they have to kill you) and not somebody else (who they would allow to pass freely). Just as in the first Far Cry, the enemies often seem able to see you in the bushes, but you can't see them (regarless of whether it's you or them hiding behind behind a bush). PontifexPrimus on /. puts it more colorfully:
The enemies are incredibly annoying. And I know that a FPS needs enemies that harass the player, and I can accept that - but here it is getting ridiculous. Every time you pass through the dense, dimly-lit jungle and any of the faction catches sight of you they will catch your scent AND THEY WILL NOT LET UP UNTIL YOU HAVE GUNNED EVERY LAST FUCKING ONE OF THEM DOWN! I mean, seriously, let's talk realism, since that seems to be the great selling point: imagine you're a member of the Imaginistani Militia, posted in the deep forest, told to keep an eye out for your mortal enemy, the Imaginistani Rangers. You spy a single person creeping through the jungle, trying to bypass your guard post without being noticed. So now you sound a general alarm, alert every patrol in a two-mile-radius, call in reinforcements on the radio, tag that creeping guy with a giant "please shoot me" neon sign, grab your weapon and go with every other person in that outpost on a single-minded suicide mission trying to KILL THAT ONE GUY whatever the cost, leaving the guard post... unguarded? Does that sound realistic?

(2) Ostensibly you're in the country to kill the "Jackal" guy who keeps the war going, so ostensibly you're the good guy, but for some reason you reach this goal by killing hundreds of random people that have nothing to do with this supposed objective.

(3) The control scheme has issues. For example if you want to run for cover, you are only allowed to run straight forward (strafing disables running) and if you are reloading, the game forces you to finish reloading before you can run or switch weapons.

(4) The bus stations that take you long distances have no staff. No ticket agent, no bus drivers, riding the bus is free, it's perfectly safe, there are no other passengers, and it gets you to your destination much faster than driving. Make sense?

(5) Virtually everyone in the country is male and heavily armed. There are practically no civilians (occasionally you'll see a few unarmed people sitting down in an "underground" safehouse) and there are absolutely no children. Setting aside how unlikely this is, the lack of civilians means that you don't have any missions where your job is to save a village or do something good--it's always "kill this person" or "blow this up". And even though you have the freedom to go anywhere, the game doesn't advance until you complete these "prove-what-a-douchebag-you-are" missions.

(6) There are magic boxes all over the map. Put your gun in a magic box and pull the same gun out of another box 20 miles away. Or how about the gun shop (which is normally unstaffed) where you buy the guns on a computer and the guns you bought magically appear in a warehouse next door. Make sense?

The problem is that while the graphics are highly immersive, the gameplay mechanics are absurd enough to pull you out of the immersion.

Finally, if you were expecting Far Cry 2 to be a sequel to Far Cry, you will be disappointed. Not only is the storyline unrelated, but certain elements that made the original Far Cry memorable have been deleted. Most notably, no longer do the bad guys make humorous conversation as you watch them with your binoculars (actually your monocular). Also gone is futuristic technology, mutants, and palm trees. Crysis is certainly closer to the original Far Cry than Far Cry 2, but Crysis also lacks the comical-mercenary elements that, to me, directly added to the fun of what is, after all, a Rambo game.

Oh, and the FOV is quite poor, but there is a hack so you can increase it to your liking.

Ahh, DRM!

I almost forgot the evil DRM! Like most games today, you must play with the DVD in the drive even though the entire game is stored on your hard drive. The SecuROM copy-protection software that you, as a paying customer, are forced to install and cannot uninstall, will not let you play the game if a copy of the disc rather than the original is in the drive. But the worst part is that the damn thing can't reliably tell the difference between a copy and the original! Several times now the game has refused to run with the bona fide original disc in the drive; luckily I have been able to get around this by moving the disc to the other drive (as we have two DVD drives).

I am seriously considering a vow to pirate any game that treats its paying customers to this DRM in the future.

Verdict: 6/10, or 4/10 if you count SecuROM.

For more reviews by disappointed fans, click the title of this entry, and scroll down to the player reviews.