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First Impressions: Far Cry 2

The original Far Cry’s name has all but been run into the mud. From the well received PC original the formula has been diluted to within an inch of its life on the home consoles, with the final Wii version being barely recognisable compared to its forerunners. True, it was still somewhere sunny, but little that had made the series an initial success was visible in its tale of mutant powers and waggling.

Removing themselves away from the tropical island setting, Ubisoft have attempted to reboot the series by placing you in the shoes of an international agent tasked with tracking down an arms dealer known as The Jackal. Based in Africa, The Jackal has been supplying both sides in a bloody civil war and has left a trail of destruction across the whole continent.

An early run in with him leaves you running for your life, eventually being dragged to safety by one of the local militia. After recovering, they give you a gun, a car and a mission and you are set on the way for revenge somewhere on the other side of the map. And that is Far Cry 2 in a nutshell: a series of missions, setup by dubious characters, with mostly suspect aims, that require you to drive great distance to shoot someone for someone else.

Whilst the plot may not win awards for originality, it does offer an excuse to take the adventure through various African inspired environments. The scope of your world is huge, taking almost twenty minutes to drive from one edge to the other, and the trail leads through lush forests, grassy plains and harsh ravines, each offering more than a change of scenery. Combat in a forest offers the ability to sneak through the undergrowth, applying Rombo-like skills to take down mercenaries, whereas the dry, grassy plains are far more susceptible to bush fires, meaning a well placed Molotov can make short work of adversaries.

You need to be adept, too, as if ever there was a game that would, if it could, make you eat worms, it is Far Cry 2. Nobody in this game likes you, in fact everybody pretty much hates you. If the person you meet is not behind a shop’s counter then it’s a sure fire bet they will either try and ram you off the road or draw a gun in your general direction. Roads have checkpoints at regular intervals stocked with resistance and even on long, empty stretches a jeep with a mounted gun is a common sight.

Gunplay is good, although a little floaty, and is let down by weapons developing the tendency to jam at crucial points the more you use them. As amusing as this sound, when I burst around a corner to take down a man who has been waving a shotgun at me then I expect to hear more than a “click” followed by him releasing both barrels into my chest. I do believe it is an interesting mechanic and one that could be explored but there is no indication as to how likely any individual weapon is likely to exhibit this frustrating habit. Supposedly it is how battered and weather beaten a gun is but as they all seemingly start out as default shade of brown its not entirely clear.

Second on my list of annoyances is the onset of malaria episodes. Again, at random, you can succumb to a bout of dizziness where you vision is blurred and defending yourself is out of the question. It’s place in the game seems only to serve as a conversation starter for NPCs who generally tell you that you don’t look well.

Overall, though, the game does produce a proper African adventure. At times you can travel for miles through the country’s criss-crossing road system and although you may wish for a fast transport system ala Fallout, I can think of a lot worse ways to get around. The scenery is interesting and the chance that you could stumble upon a stash of diamonds means you have as much attention focused on your GPS as you do the road.

Like so many sandbox games, Far Cry is more than the sum of its parts. The missions may be simple, the handling average and the random quirks irritating, but the ability to jump into a jeep and drive around the Serengeti in search of riches and bad guys is a powerful counterpoint.