The only reason why I got FarCry 2 is that I find the concept of ‘”Sandbox” First Person Shooter’ games extremely compelling. I think the idea started with ‘Oblivion’ (discussed earlier, thanks Alfons), where players could wander about and around for hours and take on any quest or job that was offered on the road. STALKER (the other ‘Sandbox’ game) was another game I tried (and never discussed, for the reason that I don’t own the game anymore): While STALKER is buggy and graphically not-up-to-par, it provides plenty of space to explore. Brilliant and ugly at times.
So, Ubisoft, the maker of FarCry 2 promises 50 square kilometers of land to explorer, take on missions and what not and after playing the first 7 hours (already?), I think the software maker delivered, I admit, hesitantly. You definitely need the map (and the GPS device) to find your ways around. The most surprising thing about FarCry, is that the graphics engine is highly scalable: I’ve been able to play the game without issues on 1024 x 768 (medium graphics) on this system (A T5600/Nvidia 7600 GO). If you have a laptop system that is newer than the one I have, I wouldn’t be surprised that you’d be able to play the game on higher graphical settings than the one I currently play at.
The game content disappoints, though: I question Ubisoft’s ‘respawn checkpoints’ algorithm. If you clear a checkpoint of enemies, they will be back in full force at the same spot the moment you return: this makes the game extremely repetitive because you end up doing the same over and over. The other nitpick is that the Malaria-feature-thing is obviously a ‘game breaker': I think that without it, the game would feel more ‘open-ended’. Instead, every, what, 2 missions, you’ll end up going back to help the ‘Underground’ just to get your ‘malaria’ fix. The biggest disappointment was the lack of (left/right) leaning and other stealth tactics you needed to employ in the very first FarCry: I hear that the PC version was literally a port from the XBOX 360 version and that support for this would handicap the console-game players. I’m not sure if this is true, particularly looking at Call Of Duty 4, which is available for the popular consoles and has support for this.
However, besides these, the game is ‘immersive': at times, you have time to look around and can make snap decisions about taking a detour instead of going with the mission (nothing will stop you from doing so). You can hide (and run away) from your enemies if you don’t feel like taking them on: you can even finish missions without having it end like a ‘Texan machine gun massacre’ (this requires heavily scouting of areas of interest, which the manual recommends). The shooting mechanics are sufficient but at times obnoxious: during the early stages, it seems like it takes a whole ‘clip’ to kill your foes. Eventually, you’ll figure out that you have to buy up specific weapon upgrades to improve your targeting skill and weapon reliability.
So, yes, FarCry 2 is enjoyable if you can live with the particular nitpicks I mentioned above: It’s not a typical run-and-gun game and yes, it’s highly replayable, that is, if you didn’t burn through the ‘5 installs only’ DRM. It’s extremely stable (there are some storyline bugs) and highly scalable: even on the lowest details, the game is playable and a feast for the eye. However, I’d be the first to admit it’s not perfect at all and (obviously) it looks like Ubisoft didn’t make up on all its promises in early previews and tech demos. Hesitantly recommended: however, don’t bother spending 50 what dollars on it if you were planning to spend it on something else (like Fallout 3).
01/31/09: Looking back at Farcry 2, an interview with one of the designers of the game.