Far Cry 2: First Impressions

By Jim Rossignol on October 23rd, 2008 at 5:35 pm.


So I’m a few hours into Far Cry 2 and I’m going to just quickly report my impressions of it so far. Firstly, it pains me to have to quit out of the game to blog about it, which is a good sign, but also a bad sign. The bad being: it locks up if I alt-tab. That said, I have ignored the game’s pleas to update both Vista and my Nvidia drivers, so I’m probably partly to blame for technical difficulties. That said, even with my updating laziness, the game runs fantastically on my 8800 with everything maxed. Not quite comparable with Crysis, perhaps, but that really doesn’t matter: it pulls of the dense, jungled African valleys impeccably. The action is smooth, and the world detailed.

The one thing that no one seems to have taken much time to mention yet is the general ambience of the game setting. If feels very low-key, gritty even, when compared to just about any other shooter I can think of. It’s real-world, and kind of ugly and organic. There’s a kind of continuous tension in the game world, and not least because you yourself are fighting illness, and being hunted by both factions in this wartorn realm. It’s really selling the idea that this is a seething, hatred-filled place of violence, de-sensitized by war and greed. The rolling, rumbling soundtrack bolsters that. It definitely lacks the charm of Stalker, or even Boiling Point, and I’m unconvinced by the African setting as a whole, but it works.

There’s a lot that you can say that about in this game: it’s not exactly genius, but it really works. The game is boldly functional: the ultra-minimal GUI and general world interactions definitely demonstrate that. Nothing seems over-complicated, but there’s enough on offer for this to be a shooter that has some depth.

Being hunted by both factions seems to be freaking out a large number of people: as if they didn’t expect to shoot and be shot at by large numbers of people in this, a first-person shooter? Odd. Anyway, the areas in which you *aren’t* involved in a sprawling, endless firefight, are superb, with surly, suspicious faces everywhere, and believable understated characters lurking about, or offering you mercenary fare. The towns are essential abandoned: just home to militias and criminals now. I found that something of a shame – having more human life to the world would have been great.

The missions seem to be all combat, but that’s fine by me: the first instance of ramming a Jeep convoy off the road at a junction, leaping out and gunning down every member of the party couldn’t have been more thrilling. Watching the target blip on the map and timing my race across the dirt-tracks to collide with him so precisely was fantastic. My subsequent “death” at the hands of pursuing militia was less elegant, but it at least showed me the superb death-is-not-death mechanic. Once down, and unconscious, You’re pulled back from the brink by a buddy, and stumble back into consciousness in the midst of the firefight. It’s dramatic, perhaps a little silly, but superbly done. It’s like a game both being honest about what quicksave means for videogame metaphysics, and still plastering over the cracks with its fiction.

Finally: I can entirely understand people’s concerns about the enemy AI. It’s as if they are deaf, slightly dizzy, and at the same time absolutely blood-crazed. They’re probably the weakest link the game, but if I can put up with Stalker, then this is fine too. They aren’t exactly convincing adversaries, but right now I don’t care. The combat is brutal enough – with people going dying just easily enough – for me to keep on going.

Right now this is a game that is more intriguing than amazing. I want to see where it goes, and whether it can deliver any more impressive ideas. So far, so good.

If you’ve not started playing yet, I’d recommend turning off the subtitles. They felt intrusive to me, at least.

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274 Comments »

  1. datter says:

    I would argue the subtitles are necessary if you want to be able to tell what anyone is saying. Everyone talks in such a fast, monotone manner that it’s hard to follow sometimes. Maybe they skimped on voice acting.

  2. andy says:

    haven’t been able to pull myself away from fable2 long enough to do more than start it up and fire off an AK47 a bit at the starting baddies. but the weapon felt/sounded ‘right’ and the baddies dropped convincingly enough, so i shall be back, in a week or two when i’m done with fable :)

  3. hydra9 says:

    Thanks, Mr. Rossignol. Nice to have this report from the frontlines. I’m now slightly more intrigued than I was before.

  4. darthpugwash says:

    I’ve really been looking forward to this. Mainly I’m just hoping that it will run acceptably on my computer at this point.

  5. Pags says:

    “Boldly functional”? Is it really breaking the status quo to have a game that works?

    It’s nice to see a little bit of wary skepticism though, especially after Tim’s gushing review (sometimes it’s almost like he loves games too much to be a reviewer… you’re all supposed to be miserable bastards, darnit!).

  6. Tom says:

    Holding back on this one till some more reviews are spread about. Looks good and I’m glad it appears my 8800GTX wont cry blood trying to run it, but I’m not entirely convinced yet for some reason…. just pre-ordered L4D… :) Pre-convinced… about a year a go.

  7. hydra9 says:

    I’m still more interested in the cold, constricted world of Cryostasis, though (UK release date: 7th Nov).

  8. Pags says:

    Also, I’ll be sure to let everyone know how this plays with two GTX260s under the hood. *gloat*

  9. LionsPhil says:

    Ah, but is it cursed with hateful DRM? Our survey says: apparently. No sale.

  10. Erlam says:

    “They’re probably the weakest link the game, but if I can put up with Stalker, then this is fine too.”

    Did you find the A.I. in stalker to be weak? I found it to be some of the best I’ve ever seen, which is admittedly not exactly a tough fight to win.. but still.

    Is there regenerating health? That would really annoy me.

  11. Butler` says:

    Why is everyone playing games that aren’t out till tommorow whilst I sit here bored? Lamers.

  12. phuzz says:

    (bloody postie not just leaving the game, bloody flatmate for not going out of his way to pick it up from the depot today, bloody royal mail for forcing me to get up at half 6 tomorrow to pick up this game before I got to work. Why didn’t I just buy it on Steam?)

  13. Pags says:

    I literally lol’d when I saw that already the comments on this article have taken a nosedive into DRM and health-regen territory. High five, Erlam and LionsPhil!

  14. nabeel says:

    It’s too bad the game doesn’t alt-tab well for you; I’m using XP and and it’s bloody excellent at that – very fast and moreoever it improves my framerate after a long time of playing when it starts to stutter a bit (some kind of flushing out of cache or something?). I’m not finding this game wonderfully brilliant like some reviews are claiming but it’s still a lot of fun.

    nabeel

  15. MacBeth says:

    So the DRM hasn’t infiltrated and poisoned the very core of your PC and stopped all your legitimate discs working (yet)?

    Very keen to play this but the sheer volume of anti-Securom hatred has made me pause…

    That and the fact I have way too many other games to play at the moment. Pretty sure the Crossfired 3870s will be up to it though…

  16. darthpugwash says:

    @Butler: I assume that Jim used his mighty games journo powers to get hold of a copy before the rest of us plebs. That, or maybe he’s reviewing it.

  17. Meat Circus says:

    Presumably, review copies are not defective-by-design DRM-infected?

    I very much doubt game journalists would smile favourably on being treated like us poor plebs.

    We’re only the customer, of course. We should just suck it the fuck up.

    How are the Far Cry 2 torrents doing? Well, I hope.

  18. LionsPhil says:

    Pags: I bet it has quick-time events, too! Burn it! BURN IT! ;)

  19. Dan Milburn says:

    Or maybe like me he ordered it from Play and it arrived this morning.

  20. Deadpan says:

    I got it last night on Steam. Only got to play it a couple of hours. I definitely feel the hostile, ‘god this place is ugly’ vibe. But once you settle in, it’s kinda of nice. It’s one of the games I built a $900 computer rig in order to play.

    I wish there was a ‘make whole save’ key instead of just a quicksave. Why do games not have that?

  21. Butler` says:

    Yes, that could be it.

  22. Jim Rossignol says:

    There were no pre-release review copies for the likes of us. SecureROM is now installed on my PC, and I don’t particularly care.

  23. Meat Circus says:

    If PC gaming does die, SecuROM will be chiselled into the headstone.

    It’s disappointing, but perhaps unsurprising, how few games journalists seem to grasp how pernicious and dangerous DRM is.

  24. Vaporz says:

    @ Deadpan

    For me, at least, every time I quicksave I get a new “full” save. Had to clean up the 100+ saves actually. They take a couple megabytes each.

  25. dhex says:

    So the DRM hasn’t infiltrated and poisoned the very core of your PC and stopped all your legitimate discs working (yet)?

    securom is flippin’ weird. (and tages can go to hell forever and ever)

    crysis: warhead has securom. worked fine for me. in fact, you might even say it worked awesomely fine.

    clear sky on steam had tages. did not work for me. ran once, never to run again. (cracked version ran fine, except for the millions of bugs)

    bioshock on steam, with securom, worked fine.

    neverwinter nights, disc version, with securom, worked fine. (shame about the endgame.)

    far cry 2 did the same song and dance clear sky did – retail version this time since i cannot afford to lose another 40 bucks making donations to developers and publishers. installs once, plays great – everything cranked on my 8800gts ssc. don’t like the floaty feeling of the controls, and the driving’s a bit annoying, and fov is annoying, but overall i can see the potential. quit out, finish some freelance, head back on in to…nothing. won’t start at all. sometimes i get an error about having a copy in the drive, sometimes it’s a timeout error, but mostly it’s a blank stare.

    long story short, i cracked it and it works fine. emailed securom, gave them the lowdown and straight up told them that removing their software made the software i paid for actually work. apparently securom doesn’t like my brand of dvd drive (pioneer dvr109) but it also apparently doesn’t like systems with more than two hard drives installed. (according to internet bitching)

    even more than being pissed – because i can play it now – is this greater puzzle of why some games with DRM (most, really) work fine, and some do this very strange work once then never work again thing. i’d actually rather have an answer to this question than actually play far cry 2.

  26. chenghiz says:

    The only annoying thing about the DRM was trying to figure out why it was crashing to desktop every time I started it. Turning off virtual drives solved that, obviously, but it could have been a bit more helpful about the whole matter.

  27. dhex says:

    oh, and despite all this, i understand the rps staff’s stance – in addition to pure fatigue – getting miffed would be a lot like yelling at the sky for being way up there.

    drm will be here for a while. it may not be here forever, if more and more amazon-style sabotages/upheavals/negative feedback loops emerge. but for the time being it is here to stay.

  28. Jim Rossignol says:

    It’s disappointing, but perhaps unsurprising, how few games journalists seem to grasp how pernicious and dangerous DRM is.

    Or perhaps they grasp it COMPLETELY, having written about it extensively over the years, and simply realise that banging on about it all the time gets INCREDIBLY tedious.

  29. Deadpan says:

    Yeah. The Steam forums were like 66% bitching about SecureROM. If it ever refuses to install down the road, well, I paid for the game. I’ll get it the ‘easy way’.

    The lack of review copies is a major pain. I mean. The game /is/ everything I was expecting.

    Pros: Everything.
    Not Really Cons:
    – No Melee Attack function, forgivable.
    – Enemies don’t stand out from background as well as other
    games, realistic
    – The entire look is jarringly dry and real, takes time to get used to.
    – Somehow I’m shocked that I’m getting shot at nearly everywhere I go.
    – Even AK-47s jam like crazy, but they are mostly made of rust anyway.

    Annoyances:
    – Punkbuster didn’t correctly finish installing for some reason and it stalled the rest of the game’s installation process. Cancelling the install fixed it.
    – SecureROM cd protection running on a STEAM game.
    I’ll forgive it for now.
    – Detected my hardware and set everything to Eff Yeah! but set resolution to widescreen on a non-wide monitor.
    – Tutorial needs directional arrows, I spend a good minute and a half looking for the damn med kit.

    So far, it’s pretty fun. And it’ll be thoroughly abused by the time Fallout 3 comes out next week. :D

  30. Kieron Gillen says:

    Meat Circus: Actually, pre-release review copies tend to have worse DRM than release versions. You wouldn’t believe the hoops we have to jump through half the time.

    KG

  31. Jesse J McLaughlin says:

    I was able to play a couple hours before work, and my brother has played some as well. Both of us think this game to be fantastic. If it maintains the level of quality that it started with, then this will be my favorite shooter of the last few years.

  32. Meat Circus says:

    If you want to be stand-offish about DRM, about the best you can hope to do is be a bit Hanlon’s Razor about it: i.e. that publishers choose to treat their own customers like criminals and deliberately cripple their games not because they are malicious, but merely because they are stupid.

    Which is a certain amount of comfort, because it is a long-established truism that most games publishers are as thick as shitty jam.

    But that’s cold comfort as the dark corruption strangles whatever remaining life there is out of PC gaming.

  33. darthpugwash says:

    I’m really glad they decided not to stick any mutants or anything into this. I like STALKER and it’s monsters but I tend to prefer games with more realistic enemies.

  34. Pags says:

    I think more people should learn from dhex’s example: if you must crack games, be honest about it. It’s the only way developers/publishers are going to learn.
    Also, all hail Meat Circus, the Nostradamus of the gaming world. If you could incorporate the Mesoamerican calendar into your predictions, it would give it a real air of authenticity.

  35. Deadpan says:

    @darthpugwash,

    DOH. That’s what was missing!
    Oh well. I’m sure there will be a mod featuring velocoraptors or something. banditos riding velocoraptors in search of their lost girlfriend.

  36. Meat Circus says:

    @Pags:

    I probably will download the torrent. Not because I especially plan to play this, I just want my vote to be counted.

    Did the same with Spore, *after* I’d bought a retail copy, which I now regret.

    Fortunately, it became the most pirated game ever, which was something of a relief. Helped alleviate my guilt at having paid for DRM somewhat.

  37. Jim Rossignol says:

    I just want my vote to be counted.

    Sadly “number of times downloaded by pirates” doesn’t get totted up in the “number of complaints about DRM” column by mainstream publishers.

    Perhaps doing something active, like organising petitions, letter-writing, etc, might be seen as legitimate. “Piracy as protest”, however, will not.

  38. Pags says:

    Indeed. My point about dhex’s post was that he actually contacted securom and told them “my game doesn’t work because of you, so I was forced to crack it”. I wasn’t implying that people should pirate games as an act of principle because ultimately your principles don’t mean diddly-squat to publishers.

  39. futage says:

    I generally agree with that but I’m not quite as convinced by the world/environment. I think the Stalkers pulled that off far better despite being a bit more stripped down.

    Despite its seriousness it feels a bit cartoony.

    Still, I’m having fun. Chasing gazelle around in the dune buggy thing.

  40. Pace says:

    Perhaps doing something active, like organising petitions, letter-writing, etc, might be seen as legitimate. “Piracy as protest”, however, will not.

    Or giving 1 star reviews on amazon and elsewhere? How is that not a valid form of protest? (at least they’re typically being clear about why they’re giving bad reviews.)

  41. spd from Russia says:

    So is it more like like action-GTA ? where all the AI life is just generated aroud you and has very basic silly bahaviour, providing a shallow sandbox with some tedious missions on top?

  42. Maximum Fish says:

    What’s this DRM i keep hearing about? Ist that “Digital Rights Management”, or “Doesn’t Really Matter”? Seriously, it’s been out for a day, two if you have cooler retailers in your vicinity (US wise anyways). How many people have honestly reached some sort of install limit?

    If you want to boycott every game that uses this crap, that’s fine, and in this case anyways it’s your loss. I don’t however understand why it has to be the subject of every discussion on here. DRM is annoying, shady, and frustrating, but it’s become an almost comical meme at this point to complain about it, even when it gives you very little reason to do so.

    On the subject of the game itself, i also was a bit weirded out by the lack of people, at least non-combatants. I also think that for all their attempts at immersion (all of which are great, and i hope trend-setting) they are somewhat undone by the overly videogamey elements; quests to unlock guns, Diamond in briefcases in the middle of the desert, infinite storage caches, radio towers that give you assassination missions (without any explanation), and the constant attacks from checkpoints by respawning enemies. I’ve even had a second wave spawn in as i was searching the bodies of the first. They attempt, admirably, to obscure the fact that you are playing a game with their efforts to build immersion, but all of the mechanics are so close to the surface that you can’t help but feel (and act) like you are accomplishing game objectives for game reasons.

    Also the ‘calm’ music is ripped straight out of Black Hawk Down, but that isn’t overly surprising. On the other hand, the combat is the punchiest and most visceral i can think of, the graphics are great -and run great, i’m really digging the open-world (what was it again Clint Hocking? 50 square kilometers of open, nevemind…). It totally made me late for work this morning…

    Maybe not the best shooter ever made, but definately i’d say one every fan of FPS’s should own. And i haven’t even touched multiplayer yet…

  43. macc says:

    The performance of this game is amazing! I can max everything out with a 8800GT and a 6750. And it doesn’t look less beautiful than Crysis.

    I also spent a couple of hours in it, and I can say this game is amazing. I hear a lot of people complain about how they have to drive long distances and the numerous enemys on checkpoints. But it really is a free-roaming game, it is your thing or not.

    The missions are not very original, but the million ways to complete them, make them really fun. I had some amazing shootouts in the least interesting side missions. And I think that’s the strength of this game.

    My only con is the absense of neutral NPC’s, everybody is hostile aside from a few buddies. They should have made some villages or refugee camps, which are cease fire zones, like Pala in the game, where you can talk to villagers, get some intel or something.

    But overall this game is an amazing experience!

  44. LionsPhil says:

    Try the way that StarForce was stopping No One Lives Forever from launching on my machine. Consider, if you will, that NOLF does not use StarForce. Why did it have the power to interfere? Because StarForce decided that it was a device driver, so it was always running, always will full priviledges.

    You know why XP was such a stability upgrade from 9x? NT-era Windows actually separates applications from the OS with something more than a paper-thin veneer, so the the inevitable bugs in a given application cannot crash others, or bluescreen the whole machine. The only things that should be running with kernel priviledges are the Windows kernel itself, and performance-critical device drivers (by which Windows trades off letting nVidia’s bugs kill your machine for faster graphics hardware access). Putting a DRM controller in this set is absolutely farcical, because you’re giving it reign to cause untold havoc on the machine. (Which is exactly what StarForce want, as “interfere with every disk access” is generally considered an “untold havoc” power by OS designers.)

    Also, the whole “default assumption that the consumer is a criminal” thing, and the “ability to run single-player game held to ransom by remote server held by a publisher which will get bored of it once it’s no longer a revenue stream and they get bought out and restructured by another”.

  45. Calder says:

    Its not that I mind being shot at, I just mind when they KNOW to shoot at me (Even though I’m driving one of THEIR trucks, I look like 90% of the members of THEIR OWN FACTION, and there is at any given time 500 patrol trucks following the same exact roads that they never even question).

    Really, I just want to be treated as equally as all the other faceless NPCs, not as “Player 1″.

    I almost hate to say it, but so far Mercenaries 2 is the only game I’ve experienced that even comes close to getting “factions” in an open world setting correct. Even if every soldier has to spam their thoughts aloud, CONSTANTLY.

  46. LionsPhil says:

    Oh, edit button, how we miss thee. That was a reply to chenghiz, long before all this “gets tedious” counter-complaining.

    (Pirate-as-protest? Jesus Christ, people, give them more excuse for draconian rights-management, why don’t you?)

  47. Meat Circus says:

    I suspect (though I don’t know) that publishers monitor the torrent sites.

    It won’t have escaped anybody’s notice that Spore is the most pirated game of all time, and became so during EA’s very public spat with its own customers.

  48. Warning says:

    My two main problems with Far Cry 2 are mouse controls and multiplayer.

    I own the PC version and my largest gripe is that the mouse movement and aiming feels very “floaty” and unresponsive. The menu screens are awkward as well. (And I have tinkered with my mouse settings numerous times.)

    The multiplayer portion just screams “console port” and this is NOT a good a thing. Though the game features dedicated servers, you have to wait in a lobby and ‘ready up’ before the match begins. You cannot join a server that is in the middle of the game. When the round ends, you are removed from the server and you have to find a new place to play.

    Also, in multiplayer, the guns feel quite wimpy. It takes at least half of a clip to put someone down. At longer ranges, anything but a sniper rifle is highly inaccurate. And one cannot even pick up guns off the ground.

    I am disappointed that reviewers are generally not pointing out these issues. PC gamers expect more from their controls and multiplayer.

  49. chenghiz says:

    For those of you who dislike the “floaty” controls: It’s floaty because your graphics setting are cranked up too high. Turn off HDR or AA, for instance, and you’ll find it behaves in a much more normal fashion.

  50. Maximum Fish says:

    @chenghiz

    It does definately tend to get laggier and ‘floatier’ when your settings are to optimistic, but even at 60+ fps, it feels a bit more floaty than most PC-centered shooters (HL2, Stalker, etc). It’s not a big deal though, i don’t think. You get used to it in minutes.

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