Far Cry 2 PC Review
Core 2 Duo 1.66GHz CPU
3GB DDR2 RAM
8800M GTS Video
Windows Vista x86
PC gamers know the significance of Far Cry. Released in 2004 by Crytek and Ubisoft, it came pretty much out of nowhere and dazzled gamers with its bright, outdoor environments, large levels with huge view distances, and solid action delivered with an open-ended style. In many ways, it really did put the release of DOOM 3, which was released a few months later, into perspective. And for its developers, id Software, it wasn't really that great of a perspective: Far Cry did a good job of highlighting DOOM 3's closed world and linear style, while helping to show some of the glaring flaws it had. Some gamers, like me, could see the merit in both, but others really took to the out-in-the-light style of Crytek's first release.
And now that Crytek has moved on to a new publisher and a whole new franchise, Ubisoft has taken the original Far Cry license and has finally made their first new game out of the property. Far Cry 2 doesn't serve as a real sequel to the first game, as you'll play as one of several mercenaries fighting in a fictional African country to assassinate an infamous arms dealer. Gone are the Trigens and other supernatural creatures, but what remains is some of that great non-linear action that made the original game so much fun.
That being said, Ubisoft has been stretched a little thin in putting together a simultaneous 360, PS3, and PC release of Far Cry 2. They've added some much-needed features to the PC version to make us die-hards happy, but there are still some issues that remain that need some work. The first thing to mention is that performance is great considering the visuals that we're getting: while the detail level isn't quite as high as Crysis, it's close and the lighting and shadowing is excellent if you have the horsepower to turn it on (which isn't that tough as long as you have some kind of half-decent video card). There are plenty of detail options to tweak so you can play the game on computers that are a few years old, but do expect to lose some of that great light and shadow in order to get it.
The gameplay issues that are present on the console versions are apparent here, too. The game does mention that picking up your enemies' guns and trying to use them is going to lead to frustration after constantly working to unjam them, but it doesn't really stress this too much - nor does it really push or force you to buy and unlock your own weapons in order to avoid this problem. It's made a little bit worse by not mentioning that you can't collect ammo from a gun on the ground unless you equip that same type of gun in your hands and wait just a second. Once you get past these issues and find peace with the game's rather large amount of driving around to get between your home bases, mission starts and final mission goals, this game really starts to shine.
It's all kind of dragged down a bit by one serious technical issue that hopefully can be patched: mouse input starts to suffer on many PCs, and it's not necessarily fixed with higher frame rates. With a patch to rework the mouse input (amusingly enough, this is a similar issue to the one that plagued the initial release of BioShock on the PC), this problem can be completely solved. Other than that, nitpickers can easily find plenty of little things wrong with this game: the characters talk way too fast, almost anyone you see out in the rural areas is a hostile that's out for your blood, outposts you've cleared out for the fifteenth time repopulate after a couple of minutes away, you'll get put on missions to deliver passports from one Underground building to another even though there are people in the starter building that could use the documents. Some stuff just wasn't very well structured, while other parts - like the trip on a secret path and across a rope bridge to the top of a waterfall for a high-profile assassination - are excellent. And with a single player campaign that can last up to thirty hours, the game does have a nicely-weaving plot, even if it's a bit random, and the time you'll spend do include quite a few epic scenes of great action.
FC2 was primarily designed for consoles, but the PC-centric features included are handy. Quicksaves and quickloads make the game's archaic save system - which pops up to ask you to save when you use the bus travel system or sleep at a safehouse - completely obsolete, but all of it was left in anyway. The online mode's interface isn't really built too terribly well for PC gamers, and the action itself isn't the best stuff out there when it comes to what this crowd expects.
If you can get over the mouse issue right now as well as the game's minor flaws in continuity, then you'll find that Far Cry 2 is a long and rewarding game. It still requires you to deal with that slight difficulty curve in how Ubisoft expects you to play their game. And going online is a pretty solid experience, although PC fanatics may find that other cross-platform releases like Call of Duty 4 do a better job of catering specifically to their needs in the PC version. The same map editor that's included on the Xbox 360 is included here and it works just as well, but it's important to note that those who expect the full functionality seen in Crytek's own game editors is not available here. There's really no way to make a single player level with the included editor, as it is tuned specifically just for making maps for online play.
Despite some nitpicks from the PC crowd and some obvious flaws in game design, Far Cry 2 still comes out a winner. While the online play is functional and even fun for a week or two with the map editor and solid action, it won't be pulling diehard PC gamers away from titles like Team Fortress 2 or Call of Duty. Still, the long single player campaign is plenty of entertainment as long as you can deal with the downsides and figure out the few new "rules" the developers want you to follow when playing. Either way, this is a worthy successor to the Far Cry name (if only just barely to the PC crowd) and is a good addition to your collection of titles this holiday season.