Let’s be clear: none of these complaints are disastrous. Taken as a whole, the experience of playing Far Cry 2 is hugely compelling, and it can be hard to drag yourself away from the screen. The game can be hard, but it’s never as bleak, unfair or unforgiving as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and for every moment that it’s annoyed me there have been five where I’ve been gobsmacked, thrilled or elated.
In an age where many FPS games are so heavily scripted that you can feel like you’re just another member of the cast, here’s one that gives you the chance to make your own destiny. The feeling of triumph when a plan comes together or a fluke saves your bacon can be immense.
On top of this, it’s absolutely huge. After ten hours or so you’d be winding up most FPS games. Here, you’ll still be less than halfway through. You’ll get caught up by the side quests, waste time tracking down lost diamonds, and search for each and every safe house to unlock. You’ll discover the buggy and the hang-glider, then mess around when you should be concentrating on getting from A to B.
And when you want a break from the story, you still have a decent multiplayer option, not to mention a map editor that’s easily one of the simplest and most accessible efforts ever bundled with an FPS game. The fact that it puts this power in the hands of console owners is just amazing.
To some extent, Far Cry 2 is the victim of its own ambition. When you spend so much time trying to make an experience convincing, the unfortunate side effect can be that you lose a little of the fun. Not much, but enough to scare the less enthusiastic gamer off. It’s also fair to say that Far Cry 2 is a bit of a slow burner and that it demands a certain amount of time and energy, and add that if you can’t commit much of either, then there will be other, more instantly enjoyable action games coming soon.
If you have the spare hours, however, then this is as engrossing and rewarding an action epic as you’ll ever have come across. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but at the end of the year this will be some people’s biggest and best.
For all its atmosphere and ambition, Far Cry 2 can be a frustrating FPS at times. Yet if you prize a long term obsession over immediate thrills, you won’t experience many better games this year.