Despite some rumbling in the games industry jungle about the status of Far Cry 2, we have every reason to believe that this could be one of the finest games of 2008. The team have already shown off some aspects of the open-ended world, reminiscent of Just Cause, Stalker, or those opening islands of the original Far Cry game, and that alone is enough to get my non-linearity glands swollen with anticipation. I think it's clear that after the various degrees dissatisfaction we've all expressed with last year's batch of shooters, we all need a big, bold, freeform explosion to clear our conscience. Far Cry 2 could well be the game that provides it.
Far Cry 2 is set in an African savannah valley – unusual enough for having large, open spaces – but also astonishingly detailed and remarkably non-static. We've already seen demonstrations of fire and physics in the game world, and you can expect to lay waste to a pretty large tract of this savannah environment as you go about your business. You can shoot leaves and branches off trees and, at least at the pre-Alpha stage that was shown last year, they would regrow as time passed. No word on whether the mud huts collapse realistically, however.
What could also be interesting to those of us who played Stalker and then suggested that a survival/navigation/exploration FPS would be an engrossing possibility is that it's been suggested that Far Cry 2 will feature a far more limited HUD than most FPS games, and rely on gamers getting around with a map and compass. I'd love to see this work at a broad level – finding yourself having to navigate the wilderness, bandits and African plains animals to achieve a particular objective. The idea of a roaming game where you and jeep take on enemies over an expanse of terrain is so much more appealing than another corridor shooter, no matter how prettily it's dressed up.
Nor does it look as if the story will be boxing you in to a single pre-determined character, like the original game, since you can choose to take on the role of a number of mercenaries operating in the area. The other chaps become NPCs once the game is running, and you will apparently encounter them in the game world as you play. Let's pray that Ubi don't over-write this one, or include the barrage of cutscenes that made the start of Assassin's Creed so awkward. If this is going to work then we'll want to leap into the sandbox and start throwing stuff about, hopefully without encountering mutants too early in the proceedings. (Real world opponents only, reportedly.)
Perhaps what's most interesting is that last year's commentary would have had us believe that Crysis was the “real” Far Cry 2, what with it being made by the same devs and set on another tropical island. But perhaps the fact of the matter is that this sequel could end up being far more interesting than the Crytek game simply by virtue of not trying to recapture what the original game had achieved. From what we've seen so far, this is one of those sequels that is very much its own game, and we can't wait to see what the Ubi team have done with it when it when they show it off later this year.