Far Cry games are all about gratification. You get to run, drive, and fly around beautiful open worlds, armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry, gunning down the bad guys like an unstoppable killing machine. It feels good, but the games just sort of hand you everything. Not Far Cry 2, though. Far Cry 2 fights back, and that’s why it’s the best game in the series.
Far Cry always struggles with blending gritty realism and survival with lighthearted open world fun, and while later games lean more toward open world shenanigans, Far Cry 2 is all grit, all the time. Set in an unnamed African country embroiled in a bloody civil war, Far Cry 2 never lets the player feel safe. And that’s brilliant.
The setting itself plays a huge role in that. Being a video game from 2008, you better believe Far Cry 2 is drowning in different shades of brown and gray. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty, there are still stunning vistas and landscapes to behold, but the environment feels oppressive. Other games in the series try to do this by just throwing a bunch of wildlife at you, but I never felt as unwelcome in the mountains of Kyrat as I did roaming the jungles and savannas of Far Cry 2.
The gameplay is a far cry from other Far Cry games too (I apologize for that joke). 3, 4, and 5 supply you with shiny new assault rifles tricked out with multiple attachments, alongside buckets of ammunition. Far Cry 2’s weaponry is held together with duct tape. Your guns will jam, and they will jam at the worst times. Your guns will fall apart in your hands. These are not the pristine firearms of later Far Cry games, these are heavily used, poorly maintained weapons caked in dirt and grime, and you’ll have to work if you want better equipment. These guns aren’t the laser beams most other first person shooters give you either, you have to manage and control your aim to land shots. It’s tough, and combat is incredibly tense because of it.
There’s also the issue of malaria. Very early in the game, you contract malaria, and you need pills to suppress the negative effects. Pills, however, are scarce, and the malaria stays remains an issue throughout the entirety of the game. You’ll feel the effects of it at random, even in combat, and you’ll lose control until you take a pill, or pass out and wake up at the doctor’s if you’re out. Far Cry 2 very rarely lets things go according to plan. You may think you’ve planned out the perfect outpost takedown, but then malaria strikes, or your gun james in the firefight, or there’s a fire, or the car you planned to escape with won’t start. This forces you to react and respond, and it makes for incredibly engaging gameplay.
The buddy system is another one of Far Cry 2’s dynamic systems. Rather than playing a predetermined, voiced character, you choose one of nine mercenaries. The other eight aren’t just forgotten, though, they’re out running around like you are, and they’ll even help you out in combat, give you side missions, and save you before you die. Buddies can die, too, and you make even have to be the one to put them down. The buddy system creates memorable emergent stories. Maybe a buddy swooped in and rescued you after a malaria attack left you vulnerable. Maybe a buddy called you on your way to a mission and offered an alternative means of completion. The buddy system and the sandbox Far Cry 2 provides creates highly personal stories that you’ll want to share with people, just like something out of Breath of the Wild. Far Cry 4 and 5’s Guns for Hire system is just a hollow shell of what the buddy system once was. Sure, Hurk’s lines might get a chuckle out of me every now and then, but that’s nothing compared to the time I had to mercy kill my buddy Warren.
Far Cry 2 also excels in its UI. For the most part, there’s never anything on your screen. When you shoot you’ll get an ammo count and health info, but that’s pretty much it. The lack of UI really helps immerse you in the world, and, like the Metro games, the map is a physical item you have to look at, and it makes navigating more fun than just pressing start and placing a waypoint. The map might seem like a small detail, but it really adds a whole new layer to the experience.
Of course, the game does have its faults. Enemies at outposts respawn way too quickly, to the point where if you drive away and turn right back around, there’ll be new enemies. It really gets old when you’re just trying to reach an objective on the other side of the map. The voice acting is stilted to say the least, and the story is as generic as they come. The shooting also feels clunky compared to today’s standards. This is a decade old game, after all.
Despite these flaws, Far Cry 2 is still a phenomenal video game. It nails the feeling of a hostile environment like no other game. You really are just some guy lost in the jungle with nothing but a map, a worn down gun, and a deadly disease. Not even a character, just one of nine mercenaries. Just another solider in a world where you’re not treated like a superhero or a one man army. Far Cry 2 has a vision that it commits to wholeheartedly, and because of that, it fosters its own unique identity and I’ve yet to play anything like it to this day. It sets out to create a specific mood and it accomplishes that with flying colors. If only Ubisoft would look back at this one instead of the follow up.
What’s your favorite Far Cry game? Are you going to play Far Cry New Dawn (which was featured in our 30 Games to Look Out For in 2019 list)? Be sure to let us know down below, and follow us on Twitter for quick and easy updates.