My main problem with Malaria Simulator Far Cry 2 was motion sickness, but that was mostly fixed by modding the FoV, and I adjusted to it after a couple days. That’s just something we’ve collectively solved since FC2’s 2008 release (except for a few troublesome exceptions, like Call of Juarez: Gunslinger), and I won’t let it color the review too deeply.
Most of Far Cry 2’s problems are well-documented. Enemies respawn infinitely. They’re like cockroaches: terribly numerous, clinging persistently to life, you could say there’s not so much a pleasure in killing them as there is a wish that they had never been around in the first place. I was constantly frustrated by not being able to drive anywhere without getting dogpiled, and stealth is almost impossible, because the silenced pistol needs some 6-8 shots to put somebody down, and guards see the player from vast distances away, chasing relentlessly. It’s weird how zealous they are in pursuit. Why would one guy chase me through miles of African wilderness just to finally get shot in the face when he steps outside of his van? What did he expect? Was he so eager to die? What inspired him to feel so strongly about me?
Whenever I was frustrated by a guard’s behavior or resilience, I found that it pleased me, far more than I should ever admit, to empty an entire SMG clip into their face once they were down. All the secondary weapons were toothless except for the explosive ones anyway, so it wasn’t as if I would ever miss the ammo.
The driving is comparable to Brutal Legend or the Mass Effect moon buggies: you go over a lot of hills and it’s not really all that fun. As I said in the Saints Row IV review, driving is fun because of the complexities, the tests of skill, particularly in traffic. Far Cry 2 does have pursuit from other cars, but unlike GTA cops, there’s not some radius of how far they care, or special techniques the player might employ to lose them. And while I can’t look behind my own vehicle, it seems like they’ll cheat to keep up, like a rubberbanding AI in a bad racing game. At least in Brutal Legend, the cars didn’t get stuck all the time.
It seems like it’s very hip to speak well of this game today: the malaria, the broke-dick piece of shit guns, all of it. The player isn’t supposed to have too much fun or feel too on top of things, the argument goes, because he’s a terrible guy in a terrible place and it’s blood diamonds and malaria pills you’re out looking for, not Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors. But I don’t really buy it. If you’re trying to build the right ludic conditions for something like that, you shouldn’t be running around doing awkward parkour to get over rocks and rooftops. The gameplay and sense of ludonarrative consonance sort of succeed, but feel clumsy, much like the writing feels clumsy when it shoehorns in references to Joseph Conrad and Nietzsche. And much like the rushed, awkward voice acting.
I warmed to The Jackal, and to the idea of having this White Guy In Africa game with a dark tone where You are pretty much the whole problem regardless of how you do the quests, although at the very last minute the player character is dying to help some refugees, and I found the sudden shift incomprehensible, as if the developers were told they had to end it on a more positive note.
The collectibles really dragged playtime out, and should have been limited to a few large diamond caches and the recordings, which I did appreciate, but were bugged–I had to listen to them on the wiki. I also skipped almost all the buddies’ quests when I found out there wasn’t really any reward for doing them. They played more or less the same as all the other quests, anyway. The buddies themselves were a cool feature, although I didn’t like that they would switch out my secondary weapon whenever they showed up to help, and I would have preferred if I could choose which of them would help me or give me quests, because I never heard more than a sentence out of most of them.
Maybe the game is successful in its “shit shit shit” moments when a rifle jams immediately after the fight has started, and I’m willing to agree that a little chaos can be good, as long as it isn’t so chaotic that there’s no reason to develop a particular strategy. Was Far Cry 2 “the good kind of difficult”? I don’t think so. Enemies were pretty good about flanking me, which I liked, but they hit me with shotguns from sniper range, and had pinpoint accuracy even when line of sight was blocked by foliage. They had far too much health. It would also be a stretch to call them intelligent: they often blew themselves up with their own explosive weapons.
There were some parts that I appreciated, but I feel that Far Cry 2 hasn’t held up over time. I didn’t find enough tactical variety or depth to the experience. The themes of amorality have since been greatly overshadowed by Spec Ops: The Line and probably other games touching upon similar stuff with a more professional script and presentation, and while I can’t think of another FPS where the player is debilitated by disease, there’s probably a good reason for that. There are games like “That Dragon, Cancer”, and there are games where you dodge mortar fire and do parkour. The venn diagram would show some pretty scarce overlap.