Yes, I realize I’m pretty late to the game on this one, seeing as it released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 back in 2008. I spent about a decade playing far too much World of Warcraft, which means that all of my other video games, including PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games, experienced an insane amount of backlog. I’m slowly trying to catch up. I’m also a collector and completist by nature, so I usually try to go back and start at the beginning when it comes to franchises. In this case, I’m still waiting for Far Cry Classic to go on sale on the PSN, and I’ve been itching to get into the Far Cry universe, so I decided on a whim a couple of weeks back to just jump in with Far Cry 2. I also happened to know that Far Cry 2 is a completely different story and universe from Far Cry Classic and didn’t require any story familiarity with the first game.
My experience ended up being a somewhat split one. Far Cry 2 came out early in the PS3’s life-cycle, and I can see how at the time the graphics and gameplay would have been cutting-edge. Even by today’s standards, Far Cry 2‘s graphics have held up pretty damn well. The AI isn’t shabby, either. Instead of overly simple AI that repeats a pattern or two and then resets, or AI that is fairly forgiving or blind when you take out NPCs standing near them, Far Cry 2‘s baddies will fan out in various formations, sweeping the nearby tall grass and working together to track down you, the sniper, trying to infiltrate their camp. In shooters I usually prefer a two-fold approach of sniping from a distance, and a shotgun for close combat. Unfortunately, in Far Cry 2, the sniper rifle and shotgun occupy the same weapon slot, so I ended up going with sniper rifle and Uzi.
As far as the AI was concerned, I found my best tactic was usually sniping from a distance and taking out an enemy or two, then staying hunkered down while I dashed from my hiding spot around the enemy camp, either clockwise or counterclockwise, at least 90 degrees. This meant that the AI would be looking for me in a place I no longer was, and I could either take some more of them out from my new hiding spot, and then rinse and repeat, or sneak into their camp to steal an item if I needed to do that. The more I was able to pick them off one at a time, the easier I made it for myself if I eventually had to fight a swarm of them.
Far Cry 2 employs an interesting system with its player characters and the “buddies” you encounter. At the start of the game, you’re allowed to choose who you play from a list of about 8-10 player characters. The rest of those characters end up being “buddies” you meet during your campaign. Some of them you meet at the start of the game or half-way through, some of them you encounter through story missions, and a couple of them you might miss altogether if you don’t find them on your own out in the terrain. There’s a trophy on the PSN for finding all of them, and each of them provides additional missions to you once you do locate them. Be forewarned: if you want to play all of the buddy missions, you have to start alternating them with other missions very early on in the game. If you don’t, seeing as how the game only offers you a buddy mission each time you complete a main mission, weapon mission, or cell tower mission, you could easily lose the opportunity to complete all of the buddy missions. Also, if a buddy dies in combat before you’ve completed all of their buddy missions (there’s 2 per buddy) you lose the ability to see that content on that playthrough. Mercifully, there’s no trophy affected by that. However, there are trophies for subverting each of the main missions, and if you lose enough buddies, you’ll lose the ability to subvert those missions.
How do you lose a buddy? Two ways. One, if you die, and you have a buddy on “rescue duty,” he’ll come along and pull your bacon from the fire. This can sometimes be bad if you bite it early during an encounter with an enemy camp. If there are an overwhelming number of AI enemies still alive, they may very well take down your buddy while or shortly thereafter saving you. If your buddy goes down, it’s up to you to save him with a healing syringe during the firefight. If you take too long, he dies. If he goes down three times over the course of the game, by the third time you won’t be able to save him. And then your next best-buddy becomes your new rescue buddy. Second, you can lose a buddy during the missions with them if you choose to subvert the main missions. Often you’ll find the final part of the subverted mission involves you running to a new location to save your buddy from an onslaught of enemies. Sometimes you can reach the location to find that there’s nothing you can do, and they’re already dead. Other times you might reach the location to discover that they don’t actually need you and they’ve already killed the AI without you. It’s entirely random, so the best course of action in these instances is to save at a safe house before going to the location where you’re meeting a buddy, and if they are dead by the time you get there, or even if they die during the fighting (hell, even if they go down during the fighting forcing you to use 1/2 of your revivals on them), simply reload the game at that previous safe house. It’s also a good idea, given how the buddy system works, to use a guide to find out where your buddies are all located and then rescue them first thing after the start of the game and then again at the half-way point. And again, make sure you alternate your buddy missions early in the game, and early after the half-way point, if you want to see all of their content. Other than that, the rest of the trophies aren’t really missable.
All of this was stuff that I loved. But there are two glaring problems with the game. The first is simply repetition. The single-player game really asks you to do two things. The first is exploration. I spent the first two-thirds of the game just wandering around, freeing my buddies, exploring the terrain, hitting the enemy camps, freeing the safe houses, and finding all of the collectible diamonds. Once I’d achieved that, I actually started the missions, the meat of the game. The missions always entailed you going into an enemy camp to kill someone or steal something. Since on the PS3, unlike with the PC version, you can’t save whenever you want, this meant that after every mission I’d go back to a safe house to save my game so I wouldn’t have to repeat the mission. I also found myself using a lot of the bus stations, located in the outer corner sections and the middle section of a nine-section grid map (I don’t want to call them quadrants because quadrants are groups of four). As fun as this was, and as smart as the AI was, this got pretty repetitive over time. My other problem with the game is how much time I had to spend running across the terrain to get to different sections of the maps, even when using bus stations. Obviously that’s something you need to do when searching for collectibles, but by the time I got to the missions, there should have been an easier way. Using vehicles on roads didn’t get you very far, because roads would go through enemy camps. You’d either end up taking so much damage to your vehicle, that you’d have to fight your way through a camp, or if you did make it through, one camp was the most damage a given vehicle could take. And unlike with the safe houses, the enemies at an outpost would reset once you left the area, so there was no way to clear them permanently and make life easy on yourself. As for off-road vehicles, you could only take them through certain sections of the game before you inevitably hit rocky terrain that prevented driving of any kind, or a well-positioned enemy camp/outpost. Either way, you usually ended up back on foot for a large portion of the game. I have a feeling later iterations like Far Cry 3 have found a way around this. I don’t even mind having to run for the first half of the mission, but at least provide me a way to hearth or teleport out when I’m done, and not have to spend another 10-15 minutes running back across terrain to turn the mission back in. There’s really no reason for all of that tedious walking, and it amounts to a huge chunk of the final game time. It’s also a problem when you can’t take on more than one mission at a time, even one of a different type. There was no quest log, so I couldn’t simultaneously be doing a weapon mission, a cell tower mission, and a main mission. This often meant running across a lot of terrain to pick up a mission, running across a lot of terrain to complete it, running across a lot of terrain to turn it in, running across a lot of terrain to pick up a different mission, and running across a lot of terrain to complete that mission, sometimes back where I’d started. Even when using vehicles whenever I could, it amounted to far too much running and backtracking in general.
Unfortunately for me, some of the multi-player trophies are hard to come by and require a ton of time in multiplayer. Multi-player isn’t something I’m very interested in to begin with, but I have managed to get all of the multi-player trophies in all of the Assassin’s Creed games, because there’s always been at least enough of a player base for that to be possible. I’m not sure if I’d want to put in the lengthy time required to get all of the Far Cry 2 multi-player trophies if I could, but for me, it wasn’t even an option. I logged on a couple of times and only ever saw 2-3 people in the lobby, which wasn’t enough to get one round going. I also couldn’t find any posts on various online boards of current players looking for people to complete the multi-player section of the platinum. And so I had to simply console myself with getting all of the single-player trophies, and letting the multi-player trophies and the platinum go. As a completist, I’m not really happy about it… but there’s nothing I can do about it, either. That’s what sometimes happens when you play a game six years after the fact, particularly one that has a trophy set that depends on now-out-of-date multi-player. I’m also currently finishing up the single player campaign for Resistance 2, and I know the servers for the multi-player on that one have recently been pulled down, so I’ll be in a similar situation there.
Other than that, I was fairly happy with the game in general. As I’ve already mentioned, the big problems were the inability to get places more quickly, and the repetitiveness of the mission structure. But just from playing similar franchises and knowing how they’ve evolved, I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into Far Cry 3, and eventually Far Cry 4, as I’m sure those elements have been streamlined. My ongoing search for the collectible diamonds and exploring the terrain, as well as many a good fight with the smart AI in some of the enemy camps, was chock full of good times, and I’m definitely interested in repeating those experiences in more polished and evolved game engines with improved graphics.