E3 Hands-On: Far Cry 2

The original Far Cry earned a mixed reputation at best when it debuted on the PC and Xbox a few years back. The Crytek shooter started characters out in a fairly open world, but eventually funneled them into a very specific path, all the while bestowing upon the player some nearly ridiculous feral powers that threw out every notion of game balance or good common sense. Now, Far Cry 2 is nearing completion, but with a new chef in the kitchen. Ubisoft Montreal has stepped in for Crytek, and the game they’re crafting is far different than what we saw the last time around.

We got a bit of time with the title at E3 last week, and quickly learned that the jungle setting is about the only thing this game has in common with the original. Now, instead of running from one objective to the next along a very restricted path, the whole world is opened up, and you can attack objectives in whatever manner you see fit. There’s no better illustration of this than examining the way one of the game’s developers completed an objective when compared to TGR’s own writers.

When the game booted up, we were offered the choice of one of six weapon loadouts for the purposes of this demo. Our guide explained that he prefers stealthy fighting, so he took the “Commando” weapon set which features IEDs for creating distractions and a sniper rifle for quietly picking off enemies from afar. He also made it a point to quickly take his character to a nearby safehouse so he could advance the game to nighttime, since there would be fewer enemies patrolling due to the AI’s need to eat, sleep, and generally behave like human beings. While at the shack, he also got some advice about the objective (blowing up a radio tower) from a few buddies. These NPCs are constant companions throughout the game, and making them grow to like you will cause them to come to your aid in battle (possibly even reviving you when you die), or even help you complete objectives in new ways. However, they aren’t like the characters in most games: these guys can all die (even by your hand if you choose), and killing them means they’re gone forever. That’s right, if you take them down or let someone else ice them, you won’t see that buddy again until you play through the game again from scratch.

At any rate, once our demo guide was stocked up, briefed, and ready to go, he set out for the main objective. Pulling out his trusty compass and map (which is brought up in real time and held by your character for as long as you have it activated), he set off for the objective, but not without making a stop first. You see, one of the characters back at the tent mentioned a pipeline which, if ruptured, would refill a dry riverbed and allow you to use a boat to close in on the ultimate objective and then escape later. Taking out this pipe is completely optional, and if you’d rather forgo it, then there’s absolutely no consequence aside from needing to devise another exit strategy.

Things were going well until he actually blew the pipe, at which point a guard spotted him and in came the cavalry. He tried to fight his way out, but his weapon loadout left him at a disadvantage in a standing fight, so he was eventually taken down. However, one of his NPC buddies from earlier came to his aid, reviving him, providing him with a pistol, and taking out a few baddies before retreating back into the bush. Sadly, this pistol was old and rusty, and after a couple of clips, it began jamming rather regularly.

Weapon degradation is a major concern in Far Cry 2, as the guns you carry won’t work forever, and eventually, they’ll stop working entirely. While video games have taught you that even the most basic assault rifle will go on spitting lead forever, that simply isn’t true, and the threat of constant breakdown is enough to keep you on your toes for new guns.

At this point, our guide restarted the demo and handed the controls over to us. Since he had gone the stealth route, we decided to take the “stand and fight” approach so we opted for the “Heavy” gun configuration. This loadout, consisting of a shotgun, pistol, and flamethrower, meant that we weren’t about to concern ourselves with being quiet; the best way to get what you want is with a spray of bullets and a mighty Rambo yell. We also chose to set out during the day, because while there may be more enemies, they are also much easier to see, and a true hunter always wants to look his kill in the eyes.

We decided to forgo the pipe and head straight for the objective, figuring we’d hijack a jeep or truck and make our escape that way. Once we arrived at the radio antennae base, we wasted no time getting acquainted with the locals, and it wasn’t long before fire was erupting in all directions. When things got a little too hairy, we whipped out the flamethrower and set the brush some enemies were hiding in on fire, and eventually jumped in a vehicle to make our exit. Unfortunately, the mercenaries at the camp aren’t stupid, and they quickly gave chase in a car of their own. After putting enough holes in the engine and radiator, we were forced to abandon ship. You can actually fix cars that are damaged when not in combat, but that wasn’t an option here. Outgunned and out of health recharges (the game doesn’t use the regenerative health system so popular these days, but rather opts for syringes similar to what is seen in Battlefield: Bad Company), we eventually met our end. Sadly, the same buddy that saved our demo guide never came to our aide because we shot him back at camp just to see if all that talk about characters being gone forever was truth or just bunk. Turns out we should have just trusted the guys who made the game on this one.

Those are just two approaches to one situation, but you can rest assured there are many, many more ways to handle it. Booby trap vehicles so that when enemies give chase, you can blow them sky high; injure a baddie and pick off his friends as they come to help (healthy enemies can heal or revive allies as well). The title is incredibly open, and with a promise of a map 50 square kilometers once you’ve unlocked the whole thing, you really can go wherever you want and accomplish things in whatever manner you choose. Even though Bethesda’s own Fallout 3 is being hailed as a sort of Oblivion with guns, Far Cry 2 is right there with it. Those who are fans of open worlds, games that never play out the same way twice, and nearly limitless options would be well served to keep an eye on this one.

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