Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rich moms driving unnecessary luxury SUVs OR My time with Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 spoils its amazingly diverse world by trying to too hard to maintain the reins as a leading First Person Shooter.  It's really too bad that the game doesn't do exactly what it attempts to set up in the beginning "cinematic".  The intro sequence creates villages of normal people tending animals, rolls your vehicle through aggressive checkpoints where the NPCs scrutinize you but let you go and shows you how gorgeous the world of Far Cry 2 is.

Then you get your first mission and you find out that apparently everyone, including the people on "your side", will shoot at you.  This is the most frustrating element of FC2: you are supposed to choose sides and yet it never matters.  Everyone outside of the cities will fire at you and no one in the cities will.  Perhaps the point is that no one can be trusted, and yet it immediately destroys this fascinating take on a video game that the opening presents you with.  Perhaps that's just the way games have always worked.  Let the opening build a cohesive world and then drop you in the game where the systems have to balance and be entertaining.

But wouldn't it be more entertaining to have those safe outposts that you could flee to?  Then when an enemy jeep is hot on your tail you can arrive safely to have the barricades and friendly guns take out your aggressors?  It's unfortunate that this was not how the game went, because otherwise the game is quite full-bodied and such a meta element to the world would have tied in its shooting so well.  And believe me, the shooting is very solid.  The game offers such fun gunplay because of its open world.  Stealth is a much more tenuous game in the outdoors and the variety of guns and different ideas FC2 brings to the table make it all the more addictive.  It's fun to replay certain sequences with such innovations as buddy back-ups and weapons jamming.  Or just to light the grass on fire and watch it sweep across a field of enemies and perhaps burn down a tree.

The game looks gorgeous when burning things down or blowing things up.  It even looks gorgeous just driving boats and jeeps around or sneaking through the jungles.  It has a dreary color pallet of greens and browns but makes up for it with fantastic lighting and texturing and foliage.  However I do have one gripe with the terrain.  In an effort to make you take certain routes the game does something that has always annoyed me: it puts up impenetrable cliffs.  I detest that solution.  Especially when the map so clearly outlines where giant unwalkable areas are.  Please, put some random routes through those mountains.  I HATE being funneled through regions when I feel that a game is better when it doesn't put artificial barriers in any way.  If I want to spend the time to climb the mountains where no jeep can go just so I can assault a fortress from above, give me that option please.  Don't always route me through chokepoints, especially when you're touting such open-world scenarios.  Chokepoints don't always exist in the real world.

But I like Far Cry 2.  I have invested considerable time into it, even learning how to play a shooter on a console.  I still prefer the ease of mouse and keyboard, but FC2 has lots going for it: new gameplay elements for shooters, an incredibly expansive world, and a gorgeous engine.  It's just too bad it can't break free of certain traditional shooter elements: everyone is an enemy and you always have to pass chokepoints.  Give it a try, I am sure you'll love it.  It's the FPS equivalent of TES4: Oblivion.  Just be wary, it doesn't break as much ground as it clearly wanted to.

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