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Ugh, stop twitching
far cry 2 -- one-hour review
games Posted 2010-06-30 14:21:29 by Jim Crawford
Far Cry 2 is an open-world first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 (et al) by Ubisoft Montreal.

(Yes, I totally ripped this format off of Games For Lunch.)

0:00 After a difficulty selection screen, I'm presented with an interesting set of characters to choose from.
0:01 I don't think the different character back stories make much game difference, and I don't really identify with any of them -- they all seem like mercenary/paramilitary types despite their varied backgrounds -- so I pick Quarbani Singh, Mauritian security coordinator, more or less at random.
0:02 The loading screens are giving me a back story. I want to say it's a paper-thin backstory, but it actually seems fairly detailed, it's just presented in such a way that I couldn't care less. I did manage to catch that I've been sent here to kill “The Jackal.”
0:03 I'm in a jeep. A taxi. The driver gives me the lowdown about what's going on. The country sounds like it's in bad shape. Meanwhile, looking around, lakes and mountains and birds. Really gorgeous landscape.
0:04 Farm ungulates blocking the road. I smell an ambush!
0:05 Never mind, they eventually wander out of the way, and we continue.
0:05 Enormous brushfire straight ahead. I smell an ambush!
0:06 A quick detour around the fire and we're on our way. Phew!
0:06 We roll up on armed men. The driver turns off the radio, telling me that the dudes pointing guns at us are not fans of the DJ. These guys seem pretty cool to me!
0:07 Driver lubricates our passage by offering to bring these guys beer on his way back to the airport. They readily agree. “Yep, we drink beer.” Wow, if the mere promise of beer carries such substantial weight around here, I wonder if I could get The Jackal to suicide if I offered to buy him a beer later.
0:08 We stop to let a military caravan pass by. I know it's the nature of a game to compress time so I don't get bored, and moreover I'm sure they focus-tested and finetuned the pacing of this intro to within an inch of its life, but to me personally this ride feels way too content-dense. Leaving some space between events to let scenery pass by would've gone a long way towards setting a mood. Games will often show the opening credits on top of rides like this.
0:09 We pass by some burning buildings. “Just boys letting off steam,” the driver explains. “You remember how it is.” Uh, no? Africa, you are strange and frightening.
0:09 Okay, this is new: blurry yellowish patterned effect on the periphery of my vision. Hand to my face. Am I ill?
0:10 It gets worse as we pull in to the destination. As I stumble out of the cab, the driver suggests that I must be tired from my flight.
0:11 I come to in bed, immobile, same blur effect. There's a dude sitting in the room with me. Long pause as he goes through my suitcase. He reads from a book that catches his attention while I make groaning noises. Goes on for a bit. Here's the kind of mood-setting pacing I was talking about.
0:11 He starts reading aloud, and it sounds like something my character would've written, talking about “the target.” “That didn't work out the way they planned,” he says. “I'm still breathing and you're the one with malaria.” O hai, Target, I didn't see you there.
0:12 Target monologues at me for a while. “You're fired. You know it, and so do I. Since men like you only work for money, you're no longer my problem.” He talks uncomfortably quickly. I wonder if that's another result of the hypothetical focus-tested pacing, or just characterization.
0:12 He starts quoting Nietzche. “A living being seeks above all to discharge its strength; life itself is will to power.” Serious shit! He stabs a knife into my bedpost. Fade to white again.
0:13 I wake up to the sound of fighting. Explosion nearby as I stumble out of bed, clearly still feeling the malaria, and grab the knife my target left for me. Objective: “Escape the town.”
0:14 I make my way out of the building, grabbing an assault rifle some idiot left on the floor. I'm surprisingly mobile for someone who ... heh, here I am talking like I know what it's like to have malaria, but all I actually have to go on here is what the game's shown me.
0:14 I run into some dudes who don't like me, so I turn around and run the other way. The controls remind me of Call of Duty, so I instinctively click in the left stick to sprint. It works! Maybe I could've just kicked their asses -- I am playing on “easy” -- but I'm not gonna to risk it.
0:15 Sprinting doesn't last long. Halfway across a bridge, I stumble to a halt and fall to my knees. I pop open one of those brown medication bottles, but it's empty. That's metaphor, I'm sure; malaria medication doesn't work immediately, right? Fade to black as the guys who don't like me run up, firing in my direction.
0:16 Fade up again, to a dude standing in a doorway -- my rescuer, I guess? -- telling me I need first aid. Text instructs me to press left bumper to stabilize myself, and I light some flares and cauterize my arm with them. Jesus. Doorway dude tells me that I work for him now since I got some of his guys killed in the hotel. Sounds good to me; I just got fired anyways.
0:17 I explore the room I've been rescued into. Here's a medicine cabinet, which leads me to a tutorial explaining how to restore myself to perfect health with syrettes. Why would I ever burn myself with flares, then?
0:18 Doorway Man explains that I need to fix the engine on the car outside so that I can start shooting dudes on his behalf. He reminds me that I have malaria. “You screw around, you pass out, maybe die. Too bad.” I can't fix cars for you if I don't have my malaria medication, man!
0:19 I wander around and find the car out front. I push Y to open the hood and start turning something with a wrench. A few seconds later, bada-bing! Nobody ever told me that fixing a broken car was as easy as tuning a piano!
0:20 I pull out my map -- it shows up in my hand, replacing the gun I'm normally holding. The world simulation carries on while the map's out, so I can move around. I push X to “change the scale” of the map, and in-game I actually switch to a physically different map. Pretty neat. In my other hand, there's a little GPS device showing me where I am and where my objective is.
0:21 Mr. Doorway calls me on the phone I didn't know I had and tells me which dudes to go shoot. See, in real life, I'd just drive off on my own and try to find some medication and maybe my way out of the country. The game clearly wants me to do his bidding, though, so, dudes, prepare to get shot.
0:22 I stop the car some distance away and approach under cover of planted rows of something or other. I'm a hired killer, not a botanist!
0:23 I get the drop on one of them, then walk in circles around a shed until his friend starts shooting me in the back, then I turn around and shoot him too. The phone starts ringing immediately. Doorway tells me to take a nap in the shed I was just circling, so I don't pass out in the middle of the job he's about to give me. Everybody deserves a job that allows frequent naps!
0:24 I walk inside and get a bunch of text on what the shed is good for. Evidently I could meet buddies here and have wild parties, if only I had buddies. Aw man, I want buddies!
0:25 I press Y at the bed to sleep, and an interface comes up for me to set the time of day on my watch. They don't even call it setting the alarm or anything. Weird metaphor! I take a refreshing midafternoon siesta, waking up just before 6pm.
0:26 Walking out of my shed, I see the corpses of the guys I killed. They should probably hurry up and get to the part of the tutorial where I hide them. Or maybe the reason this is considered a safe place to sleep is that people are scared away by the corpses? I'm also confused by the offered option to switch to their weapons when I already have an identical weapon. There's no wear and tear meter that I can see; am I supposed to eyeball it?
0:27 I should've parked closer. I sprint towards the car to save time, and -- shit, my vision blurs, and I slow to a hobble. This malaria thing is really harshing my action hero lifestyle. I hope I didn't just accelerate the need for my next nap by three hours or anything.
0:28 As I approach my destination, a dialog pops up explaining that I should “maybe take the small hidden path” rather than just barging in. I realized that last time, but I totally was just about to drive up and say hi to these guys. Must be the malaria.
0:29 Once I get a good view of the encampment, the game tells me to pull up my “monocular” -- is that highfalutin' paramilitary-speak for “telescope”? -- and pull right trigger on notable targets to mark them on my map. Nice! Yikes, the phone's ringing! I hope the “put it on vibrate” tutorial comes soon, or my stealth approach might not work out. Doorway tells me about a hostage they're holding in a bricked up building that I don't see.
0:30 Um, I get too close while trying to scout for features, and some guy starts firing at me. I back away, hoping he'll forget I was here.
0:31 After a while the music dies down -- that's how you know it's safe in real life too, right? -- so I start to reapproach, and then there's an explosion up ahead like they're laying down some artillery fire at me or something. I start waiting for the music to stop again.
0:32 Some guy starts shooting at me from behind. Did we pass each other? Firefight time, I guess!
0:33 I start cleaning the place out. I feel like I screwed up, but besides having a little more data and basically one free kill, I don't think scouting more carefully would've made much difference.
0:34 A bright red sign directs me to “COCK FIGHTS.” All the other signs are in white, so this must be important.
0:35 Following the sign, I find a fenced-in area with some cocks, but they aren't fighting. Where is the death? I deem the cockfights unsatisfactory.
0:36 As I open a promising-looking door, the malaria gets bad. I run up to a glowing blue box in hopes that it's malaria medication, but it's a save point. Should I save right before I'm about to die? That seems like a bad idea. “Please, let me out,” a voice pleads flatly from behind a door. I open it. “Who are you? Why are you here? You are sick. You have malaria.” Sure, keep talking. Text pops up explaining that I now have a buddy. Sweet!
0:37 Buddy explains that she'll meet me at Mike's Bar and help me get the medicine I need. “We should leave separately. We'll move faster that way.” Then she walks into the corner of the closet she was being held captive in, and stands motionless.
0:38 Heading back to the car, Doorway calls me. “Who knew you'd turn out to be competent? Guys that do good work get paid.” He says to meet him at the slaughterhouse. Now the sign that says “slaughterhouse” is bright red. So the cock fight sign really was important!
0:39 I head towards Mike's Bar instead. I suspect I need malaria medication before I need money. Yep, sure enough, I pass out almost immediately after starting driving. I wake up at Doorway's place, and he berates me for not listening to him when he told me I was sick. I knew I was sick! I just fell over and nearly died is all. He tells me to go fetch a case of diamonds hidden outside.
0:41 I spend the next couple minutes playing warmer/colder with a blinking green light.
0:42 New objective: go to Mike's Bar. Sounds good to me. The car's broken down again. I guess passing out from malaria at the wheel can do that. No worries, this wrench works wonders!
0:43 I follow the red signs. After crossing a bridge, I see a sign that reads “NO GUNS.” Did I make a wrong turn into Rock Band? Advancing a bit, text pops up: “This town is under a cease fire. That means you can't shoot at anyone, or they'll shoot at you.” Everyone I've shot at in this game has shot at me, so this town sounds like par for the course. Getting shot at will have to wait, though; Mike's is in the other direction.
0:45 Pulling in to Mike's.
0:46 This isn't a bar. It's an arms dealer, and it's closed. And by closed I mean I can walk in and browse and use the computer, but the proprietor isn't here.
0:47 Hm. Purchases seem to be handled via the computer. Now I regret only skimming the tutorial that told me what service the proprietor provides when he's actually here.
0:48 At the armory next door I pick up the purportedly bitchin' assault rifle I ordered. I also grab a gas can, which refills my supply of molotov cocktails. Tee hee!
0:49 Here's the bar! Buddy is here. “You're still alive! I'm Michelle.” That's okay, Buddy, I already have a name for you. Text pops up explaining that Buddy is my first and best buddy. D'aww! Evidently she'll contact me during missions to offer alternate ways to complete them. Can we party too?
0:50 Buddy directs me to a dude to my left, who “has plenty of pills.” I walk in that direction, and someone shoves a tape recorder at me, saying “Here's the bloody tape, alright?” A what who? “Well, aren't you going to destroy it? That's what your friends usually do.” A little forced, that bit of exposition. He then realizes that I'm here for malaria medication and he directs me to the church in Pala.
0:51 The tape is still on the table. I grab it and it starts playing automatically. The Jackal talking, I think. It's part philosophical screed, part howto on the subject of breaking a person's will. “Destroy their personal preconception of what a man is, and you become a monster.” After the tape finishes, pop-up text explains that Tape Guy is my second-best buddy now. Thanks, buddy! You're not as best as my best buddy, but we can still hang.
0:52 Poking around the bar again -- there's no bartender, so I guess these guys just like hanging out -- Tape Guy introduces himself. He's a journalist, writing about The Jackal, a prolific arms dealer. “I intend to expose the whole sordid mess. I make it sound very dramatic. Let's see if anybody back home even notices.”
0:53 Pushing him further, he says he's lost many of his interview tapes -- collect the whole set, amirite? It was The Jackal on the tape, does that mean he actually interviewed The Jackal? It did sound like interview material.
0:54 Heading out towards the church, I take some dude's Jeep instead of my old beater. His GPS system is the same as mine!
0:55 Er. I was afraid of this. Coming towards Mike's Bar fifteen minutes ago, I had crossed a stream that didn't look like it was crossable in the opposite direction. I was right; now I'm stuck in the stream.
0:56 A little dodgy off-road maneuvering takes me around the obstacle. I wonder if that was part of the tutorial.
0:57 Oh, Pala is the town with the cease-fire. Small world!
0:58 The priest in the back of the church tells me I'm not well and should see a doctor. I thought that's what I had been doing! Thanks a lot, non-doctor. The malaria blur starts kicking in right on cue. He gives me a bottle of malaria pills in exchange for the interview tape. “Those won't last long, but I may know a way to find more.” I bet a real doctor would really know how to find more.
0:59 He wants me to do work for him, explaining as I walk out the door that I should come back when I require more medicine. Text pops up: “The tutorial and training elements are now finished.” I thought I'd been playing the game! More: “The pills will keep your malaria in check for now. You are free to explore the world.” I'd gotten the impression from the linearity so far that the game would be structured like Grand Theft Auto, with progress directed by specific missions, but now I suspect it's going to be far more free-form. But my goal is evidently still to kill The Jackal.
1:00 New objective: “Go to any briefing location to get a mission.” I walk right back into the church, hoping Priest has a job for me, but he must've snuck out the back while I wasn't looking. Oh well.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yeah. I'm extremely impressed by the sense of place and the characters, and all the interesting and promising gameplay mechanics. I'm not so impressed by the gunplay, but hopefully with the difficulty set to “easy” it'll mostly stay out of my way.

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