So, as I wrote before, I have now finished Farcry 2 on my second attempt. The first time I picked up this game I got bored in about five hours, but to be honest, that was my fault. You see, I was expecting a standard Farcry 1-esque run of the mill fairly open world shooter with clear objectives and some HUD monkey telling me what to do and where to go. What I wasn’t expecting, was this:
Completely open space and complete freedom to explore the world. There is little or no hand holding from a very early stage in the game which both empowers (and certainly in my case) confuses in equal measure at the start. To players not used to going (or unwilling to go) out and have their own adventure, this game quickly can become boring. But those who do get frustrated and stop playing will miss an incredible, but slightly flawed, experience.
The world in Farcry 2 is large and breathtakingly stunning. Ubisoft have done a fantastic job of creating an engine that not only paints the harsh African landscape in its rightful splendor, but also requires no annoying and immersion sucking inter-area load pauses. In fact, this is so well done that it wasn’t until I had played for a few hours did I realise I hadn’t yet seen a load screen. The landscape is also ever-changing, with wild animals roaming, patrols roaring up roads between checkpoints and a beautiful day-night cycle. As such, they few areas of the world the player revisists repeatedly always look and feel different.
The environments range organically from wide open sun bleached deserts to dense thick jungle and vast open water areas. My only minor criticism is that, while the world feels huge, it is possible to drive from one side to the other in around twenty minutes. Despite this, the number of times I stopped simply to look around and take in the scenery really stunned me.
Although there are no RPG character creation elements to Farcry 2, it is such an open game that it allows the player to play in a wide variety of ways. For example, I started off as a bit of a rookie taking potshots with rusty, inadequate weapons. But as I started unlocking equipment, I learned the joy of picking off patrols from afar with my sniper rifle and closing in for the kill with an Uzi. Then there was the unmitigated joy of destroying arms convoys with IEDs and picking off survivors with my green dot scoped M4. I also went through a phase of only attacking at night, creeping upto guards armed only with my machete, possibly using an IED planted on a nearby arms crate as a diversion. Finally, I enjoyed using guided rockets and mortars to soften up enemy strongholds before assaulting with a light machine gun.
Although playing at night did encourage the use of stealth, I was disappointed that the night never seemed to be quite dark enough. It was no where near the ink black darkness of STALKER, a series that really sets the benchmark in this regard.
This is only the tip of the iceberg but one further element I do want to mention is the inclusion of buddies in the game. Buddies are NPCs who (depending on your history with them) will provide side missions that either help or extend main faction quests. But their main lure is as backups – if the player falls from enemy fire and a buddy is available, they can turn up and drag the player out of harms way allowing the wounded player to patch up and either go back for their vehicle and equipment or simply run to safety.
This really raises the bar for NPC characters as far as I am concerned, as does the fact that, occasionally they will genuinely need the help of the player to stay alive. I painstakingly kept each buddy alive throughout the game, although I was pleased and slightly irritated by them towards the end (although I don’t wish to spoil anything for those who have not played the game through yet.)
On the subject of the end of the game however, I felt that, overall the ending was rather poor. Actually there is more to it than that- the story and story telling aspects of this game were poorly presented and, frankly, uninteresting. The player is given one goal when they start Farcry 2 : “Kill the Jackal”. Apart from a few minor references and appearances by this character, he is (just) barely mentioned by the main characters during the story quests. None of the quests even seem to have anything to do with him. Most missions inevitably boiled down to the simple formula of ‘GOTO A, Do Buddy Side Quest, GOTO B, Kill X / Destroy Y’. While this echos what I said about the openness of the experience and gives the player a great deal of freedom to pursue their objectives in a number of different ways, it still gets rather lacklustre after a few times.
Unfortunately, there is no getting around it, the storyline is weak. The player rebounds from one faction to another doing quests which, whilst eventually upping the ante of the conflict, really don’t serve to engage the player in the world or develop the story. What is even more disappointing is that there is no option to pick a side in the conflict or remain neutral.
Frankly, if you are the type of player that just ignores side quests and just goes like a Bull in a China shop towards the main objective - don’t. At least not in this game, otherwise the whole experience will be over very quickly and the story will have been even less satisfying.
This was the first game that made me break my promise to myself of never buying anything laden with SecuROM. In my defense, I didn’t know at the time Farcry 2 came with such an annoying free extra as it is only stated in very small writing at the bottom of the back of the DVD case. That said, as of a recent patch activation and disc checking were removed although I will still have to remember to deactivate my machine when I come to uninstall it or reinstall Windows. As a result, I consider this point rather moot as it serves as an example of how, if a game has to use SecuROM, it can be done without inconveniencing the honest customer base. (Although I really am not a fan of DRM in any shape or form in my games.)
Overall the game is an amazing experience. The story, although poor, acts like a tour guide taking the player around all the noteworthy places in the world. Pyromaniacs will also have a field day as the game has some of the most pretty and satisfying explosions and fire effects of any game I have played before. The so described ‘realistic fire’ of the Dunia engine really is impressive and can be used to great tactical advantage. Sadly, it does feel as though Ubisoft created Farcry 2 as a tech demo to highlight the capabilities of their Dunia engine and simply slapped on a story afterwards rather than the other way around. That said, the beautifully modelled African wilderness resulting from this is so fun to play that I think I can just about forgive them.
All the screenshots I have taken whilst playing Farcry 2 can be found on my Xfire FC2 screenshots page. Although a word of warning – they are in chronological order with the newest (i.e. the end of the game) first so be wary for spoilers.
The COD 4.2 full trailer has been released and boy does it look good! I can’t wait to get my hands on this (although the preorder price of £45 is crazy!!!), for now – let me direct you with all haste to the Infinity Ward COD 4 MW 2 webste
26/05/09 Update: now hosted on youtube as well, so enjoy the embedded goodness :)
Just a brief post to tell everyone that the PC beta for Call of Duty 5: WaW has started. You have to register with CallofDuty.com who will email you a beta key and then download a ~866Mb client. I have only played it for about a couple of hours so far but I am quite impressed. The engine feels very CoD4-like but the maps and game-play are very different to reflect the World War 2 setting. Lots of new options and weapons so plenty to check out, including the fantasitcally sadistic inclusion of a pack of dogs as the 7-kill perk. Not sure whether or not it is quite up to Call of Duty 4 grade or not yet though….
Whilst the title obviously suggests I am talking about Grand Theft Auto, it is not GTA:IV that I am playing at the moment. No, in-fact, I decided to pick up GTA: Vice City Stories for the PSP to give it another go. Prior to this, GTA: Liberty City Stories was the game I had put the most hours into on my PSP and I had thoroughly enjoyed the non-linear (or at least out-of-order mission style) game play and abundance of side quests that the GTA brand is famous for. When I first started playing GTA:VCS, I was underwhelmed. The starting location in the army barracks is not the best due to it being placed almost under the airport which confused the hell out of me when I first started to play. Compared to the well thought out streets of Liberty City, I felt lost and disorientated.
I am glad I picked this game back up last week, for I have just discovered the thrill of empire building! A feature completely missing from Liberty City Stories, you can take over ‘property’ either by buying or creative negotiating (read shooting and pillaging) and establish a variety of businesses in these newly obtained premises. These businesses contribute to your overall empire and pay you periodically giving you a nice cash income for the later stages of the game. But it doesn’t end there, to build up each business, you need to perform side quests which vary from playing cab driver to hookers (for prostitution rackets) to vicious vigilante attacks for protection rackets. That’s not all, there are a few which I have yet to unlock. Overall, if you have not played GTA:VCS on the PSP, I highly suggest you buy a copy (fairly cheap now) and try it out, don’t be fooled by the strange colours and 80s nostalgia theme, they grow on you very quickly! Although I have not yet played GTA:4 (and will hold off posting definitively about it until I do), from what I have been hearing from reliable sources, the story line is weaker than expected with access to other islands being granted too early and a lack of variety in side quests. Still, I highly recommend you try out both games and decide for yourself!
In a somewhat surprising move, ID Software today announced they had begun development of Doom 4. This is not particularly earth shattering in itself given the spate of recent rumours to this effect, however the reason it surprised me was that ID Software are already fairly far into a project named ‘Rage‘ which appears to be a post-apocalyptic vehicle slash first person shooter based on ID Software’s Tech 5 Engine, currently in development. Whilst is would not be unusual to ID to be working on two games at the same time using the same engine (Quake 4 / Doom 3 anyone?), given the rumours circulating about a new Quake game, I didn’t think we would be seeing another Doom game so soon.
Judging by the Careers page, the extra staff ID Software are taking on for this project will be require ‘applicable skills’ for developing for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms indicating ID Software are looking to make this a multi-platform game in much the same way as Doom 3 which was also released on the Xbox. This is, however, just early supposition on my part at this stage.
Doom 3 was criticised for being too dark, too broody, too linear and having too little variation. I disagree, having found it atmospheric and a lot of fun to play, but what worries me, is where ID takes us from here. Quake 4 didn’t really do it for me, I preferred Doom 3 for a number of reasons. The story was simpler and more elegant as was the environment. Whilst being a colonial marine and interacting with other marines and military equipment was fun in Quake 4; it felt a little over done and I never really bought into the whole Quake universe past Quake 2. There were, however, moments which I genuinely enjoyed not just because they brought something fresh into the ID-style FPS genre but also because they were quite unexpected. (Those that have completed Quake 4 will know of the Hospital section I am referring to!)
Doom 3 really was a no brainer in that it was classic Doom style game play with a modern engine, I will be decisively underwhelmed if ID are planning to just update the graphics for Doom 4.