a review of Far Cry 2 : Cry Harder
a videogame developed by ubisoft montreal
and published by ubisoft
for Microsoft Windows, the microsoft xbox 360 and the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by Brandon Parker
A living, breathing world, they told me, two sides at war with me in the middle. My only goal to take out an arms dealer named the Jackal supplying both sides, and the freedom to go about doing it any way I could think of. Join one side, play ’em both against each other, just heck around until you stumble across this Jackal character urinating out in the bush even. Whatever you want. Kill a guy on one side and the guy below him moves up to take his place. Encounter the characters you didn’t choose to play as out there doing their own thing to make friends or enemies of. Start a fire that will spread across the savannah. Your actions have an effect on everything. Bullstuff.
All lies. Propaganda stirred up by the suits to generate some interest in their otherwise unremarkable big budget first person shooter. Somebody not so much as excitedly fibbed a bit in the prerelease hype as constructed an elaborate web of deception.
Here’s how the real game goes. You take a mission from one of the indistinguishably different factions. Listen to what they say. Take the file full of important mission documents they hand you. Go outside. Throw the file full of important mission documents in a dumpster in the alley. Forget everything they just told you because once the briefing is done your buddy always immediately calls you up to tell you to do some different stuff instead. There’s never any reason not to help your buddy out, it doesn’t screw up your other mission and doing so is what upgrades your safe houses to something other than a worthless save point, being that you can save anywhere.
Except on the consoles, then you can only save at the safe houses. Why? Because that’s the kind of mind that was at work on this game here, a broken one. The mind of a man who creates one thing, and explains it as something else. The mind of a no good filthy god damn liar.
These extra special mission deals your buddy has you do, I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be some kind of spy vs. spy, counteracting their stuff while making it look like you still got the job done double agent type thing, or if he’s just doing what I just got paid to do, except doing a more thorough job of it and for free. Either way he makes sure you go way the hell out of your way every god damn time to do this crap, and that’s where the real meat and potaters of the game comes in, the walking or driving from one place to the next.
The map is covered with these encampment guard post type places with about 4-5 soldiers in each of them. And despite being supposedly 50 god damn kilometers of terrain (these grifters probably count the empty filler bullstuff at the edges as part of that) a lot of it is long roads surrounded by high unclimbable walls. So no matter where you get told to go odds are you going have to go through 2 or 3 of these camps on the way there at the very least. The only way to avoid them is to get out of your vehichle and sneak by, leaving your wheels behind and having to walk very slowly the whole way to your destination. It’s either that or shoot your way through, which you might as well since it’s hardly challenging, even on the “hardcore” difficulty mode I chose to play on, thinking I was in for some serious african civil war hell on earth stuff and wanting to make a challenge of it, so it just ends up becoming very boring very quickly.
It never fails, everytime; you could be just walking along minding your own business but soon as they even catch a glimpse of you on the horizon you’ll hear the soon to be familiar sound of machine gun fire then, wait a few seconds, yes there it is, that VROOOOM sound of the jeep starting up to come run your ass over. Every god damn time. Not to mention the best part, which is once you complete the mission, reach your goal, whatever, you gotta turn around and go through them AGAIN on the way back. Yeah they’re back already. Part of that living breathing world stuff they talked about.
This isn’t so much a Far Cry sequel as it is a homage to Deus Ex. At least I think so. Wasn’t there one with the subtitle “The Invisible War?” That sounds like what they were going for here. No matter which side you take missions for they feed you with some bullstuff line how “this is a ‘secret’ mission, nobody knows about it so even our own army will be taking every chance to blow you away. Feel free to massacre the hell out of them as you see fit. Huh… didn’t think this one out to good did I? Shit, well just come back for another one when you’re done I guess.”
I can’t even really tell that there’s a war going on here at all, or how many sides there are to this theoretical conflict. I’ve only got their word to go on. The only conflict I ever see breaking out is the entire continent of Africa versus Me. And despite being in Africa there’s no civilians or children or child soldiers. Yeah, I’ve got this foolish dream of a war game depicting something more like an actual war someday. This one can’t even get the two seperate sides killing each other part down, here everyone populating the game is an adult soldier, ready to shoot you, chase you down in a jeep for miles, whatever it takes to kill you but only ever you, the very second they catch your scent on the wind.
I took the jewish guy for my character by the way. He was fairly plain and nondescript looking, while everyone else had tattoos, mohawks, or a long list of military experience, while I think his only listing was “smuggling contraband,” something I think everyone has done at one time or another in their life, so you just know he’s actually the biggest badass of the whole bunch. I’ve seen enough action films to know an empty file means they’re some kind of black ops killing machine.
A little ways into the game though I thought about going back to play as someone browner, thinking maybe everyone was chasing after me in their jeeps for no god damn reason because I was white. That might have been kind of awesome, so obviously this was early in the game, before I fully realized how high the stack of bullstuff it had been built on really was. Later I figured a game that can’t even distinguish between the two different sides in it’s own war probably isn’t going to take the time to distinguish between skin color.
Still, for all they know I could be Brad Pitt coming to look at the poor starving African children or even their boss coming to inspect the setup and make sure it’s up to snuff. They’ve got no clue, you could be anybody. And if there are camps that are supposed to represent the two different factions I can’t tell them apart. It’s just you versus the whole of Africa. Though somehow in the introduction the taxi driver can drive you around without trouble every time and show off all sorts of amazing stuff that will never happen again and/or in-game. That’s right, zebra’s and gazelle crossing the hecking road would be an exciting god damn development to break up the tedious monotony of these nonstop enemy camp firefights.
This all kind of reminds me of Assassin’s Creed, another Ubisoft game where they a had a good 2-3 hours of game stretched out to, hell did anyone have the patience to figure out how long that game really went on for? For this one, before the game came out they were saying the single player would be a 50 hour game. Hilarious if that turned out to be the one thing out of their god damn mouths that wasn’t a complete lie fabricated out of thin air. Thin air! Meaning not even any base materials from the actual real-life game were used in the creation of it! Though maybe all that talk of procedurally generated free from open ended bullstuff was actually true and they just either left it switched off by mistake or it just happens to generate a real lame story for me every time. You got the generic big budget half assed Xbox-to-PC FPS port Game this time, try again!
All I can figure is they gave up trying to get all that awesome stuff they talked about in early previews working and just hoped all the encounters with the little camps would just have to make do with being an enjoyable and big part of the game. Like, “what will happen this time? How will the encounter turn out?” But really, every camp has practically the same little layout and how many times is a jeep coming after you supposed to blow you away with amazement? Well gosh darn will the guy run me over or hit the tree this time? Anything can happen! Though I’ll at least say the enemies in the game seem to be equiped with some decent AI brains from what I’ve seen, and I imagine if you’re the sort of person who likes to stare at screenshots of a game in awe of how much like a photograph they look like, well then you can probably find some way of getting around or ignoring how god damn boring this one is.
The game Ubisoft were describing in the early previews, or were letting websites misleadingly describe it as, was a game surely every man has wanted to play. Certainly a game any man who’s ever seen Die Hard or Yojimbo has imagined himself at some point or another. Alone in a hostile environment, only one real ultimate goal and the methods to go about it anyway you could imagine. Play it like an elaborate game of chess, ten moves ahead of the other characters in the game, or maybe stuff just doesn’t go as planned and you just have to wing it, go in guns firing and hope for the best. The kind of thing your grandpa or dad imagines must be going on when he sees you playing one of them crazy vidcons.
I guess that’s kind of the ultimate game, or a kind of one, in a way. You could take it and throw any number of different settings or themes into it. Just imagine this technology falling into the hands of EA. With some kind of computah masheen AI brain thinking up the story for you as you play along, does that mean the days of corny dialogue and nonsense plots thought up by programmers whose life experiences came only by proxy through stuffty hollywood movies would be over? It’s a depressing thought. Perhaps it is all for the best that Far Cry 2 was, much like your membership in the in-game factions and the factions themselves, just a pretend Far Cry 2, not the real one they advertised.
Thinking about it now I’m wondering where the lies really end, if they go all the way into the game itself. It’s obvious there’s no real war going on. For all we know the country has known peace for a hundred years now. That tutorial only show off firefight in the street at the beginning? An elaborately staged deception. The people handing out missions in the cease-fire zone? CIA actors. The guards in the camps and lack of women and children? They’ve been warned about a convicted pedophile and rapist wandering the countryside armed with weapons.
My god, just how deep down the rabbit hole does this go? It’s all some sort of Prisoner/Nowhere Man-esque mind game. The Jackal, is he even real? That guy claiming to be him in the beginning was probably just some part time actor who went home afterwards. This also explains the unenthusiastic line delivery of everyone I’ve met. Because lines in a script are all they are to these people. Will they just keep stringing me along, seeing how long I’ll put up with these never ending enemy camps and empty promises of an environment nothing like the one I’m in?
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing. Even recently, in that new Band of Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway game. There’s an early mission where you see some Nazi rapscallions in the distance drag a woman off into a barn. Getting the strong feeling that they aren’t throwing her a suprise party, you run towards the barn bringing along a little party of your own. A rescue party. Unfortunately, you only get there just in time to see her lifeless body dangle from the rafters. Or so you think. The truth is the woman swinging around up there is just a double left behind to keep you occupied while the real one was taken elsewhere. I haven’t found her yet, but I’m betting she might not even show up until the next game. Probably either in Hitler’s bunker or on a small Pacific island.
If you’re wondering what the point of all this Band of Brothers In Arms business is, let me just say: published by Ubisoft. I’m on to their sick game.