I completed Far Cry 2 yesterday. I did not expect to get that far, much less complete the game very nearly 100%. I think I missed a single cellphone tower contract and two Jackal tapes. (Those I blame on bad design.)
Far Cry 2 took a long time to grow on me. In essence, the game never did, but its portrayal of Africa did, and in a huge way. I was constantly hoping that there was something else to do here, in this grand open world, full of life and character, than just shoot people.
The true western citizen that I am, I resorted to collecting stuff to keep myself busy. Printing out a map from the Internet, I set out to collect every last one of the 221 diamond cases, scout every guard post and unlock every safe house and collect all the weapons and their upgrades. I ended up using perhaps three guns out of the couple of dozen. It was great fun. I wouldn’t have done it without the hard copy map, though. Sure, the GPS mechanic was meant for that purpose, but it wasn’t easy enough.
After I had collected everything I wanted, I contemplated just letting the game be, but ended up playing through the story anyway, uninspired as it was in its beginning steps. It suffers from repetition and very limited interaction (kill/blow up, with very few exceptions), but there’s something interesting happening between the lines. The team has set its sights a lot higher and all the characters feel like there’s supposed to be more. More interaction, more things to do. But it never materializes. Almost until the very end of the game, all you get is a couple of cool scenes and lots of nice locations and endless long-distance engagements with guard posts.
Then something happens, as the plot starts to veer towards its climax. The game shows its hand. All this time, you’ve been acting like a nondescript FPS mercenary on a mission – you don’t have a face, you’re two hands holding a gun – and suddenly you’re supposed to care, put your actions into context, make a moral standing. This is very difficult considering how little exposition the characters, let alone yourself, have got. It seems obvious that all the character and plot support that was supposed to be there just isn’t, and all you’ve got is a plea to care. I answered that and cared, but I imagine that most people won’t.
The last couple of scenes, with the clumsy but powerful alliance with a former enemy, the betrayal of former friends (I was actually hurt – “Surely not you, too?!”) and the sacrifice to effectively make your actions in the game void – it’s very potent stuff and something which just could’ve been so much more.