Anyways, the game and its own flaws aside, I was shocked by how absorbing the story was, and what a step down Far Cry 3 is in that regard. It reminded me a lot of Spec Ops: The Line, in that not only is the story setup similar, but it also does a really good job of portraying war and conflict in an extremely negative and pessimistic light. Of course, Spec Ops is way, WAY more audacious in terms of what it makes the player see and do, and is more effective as a horror game because of that. Far Cry 2 deals with that sort of stuff almost entirely in subtext, but at the same time, I got the same sort of feeling playing through the story missions that I did playing through Spec Ops, that kind of creeping, depressing, completely helpless feeling that everything is just shitty and nothing I do will make any difference. So, despite you not witnessing anything singularly horrifying like in Spec Ops, I think the reason it works so well is because the story is toned-down and realistic, so unlike Spec Ops, you get the particular feeling in the back of your mind that this has happened, is happening, and will happen somewhere in the world.
The premise, from the outset, is that you are a mercenary freshly arrived in Africa hired to kill a powerful and enigmatic arms dealer known only as "The Jackal". The game does a good job from the start of basically villainizing him and making everything going on seem like it's all his doing, but after a while, you sort of start to realize that he isn't the one to blame for all the conflict going on. You do off-the-book jobs for the two warring factions in the country in hopes of getting information on The Jackal from one of them, and you learn that both sides of this civil war are the worst, just the worst scum of the earth imaginable. I mean, it's fairly common in video games for villains to be like caricatures, to say and do really bad things to make us hate them, but the people you help in Far Cry 2 are not puppy-kicking mustache-twirling villains whose purpose in the story is for us to hate them, they're soldiers and businessmen that are in the business of accruing power and wealth, and do so by stomping all over everyone in their way, even the civilians and indigenous people that they are supposedly fighting for. But they don't act like villains, a lot of them are rather nice to you, in fact, and you're the one doing their dirty work. And so after a while, you get the feeling that participating in this conflict is a sisyphean task, and the longer you spend looking for him and listening to the interview tapes you collect, the more you start to sympathize with The Jackal, the one person that you came here to kill. He isn't any more to blame for the wars going on than you are, and if you kill him, some other arms dealer will just take his place.
The only sympathetic people in the game are really The Underground and your Buddies. The Underground represents, well, an underground resistance network that forges and smuggles transit papers, so all the defenseless and terrified civilians who are caught in the crossfire between the two factions and their PMCs that are fighting over them have a chance to escape the closed borders, and the only reason your character helps them at all is because they're the only ones with the malaria medication you need to live. They realize this, of course, and they withhold it from you, giving you a few pills every time you do a job for them (which, unlike the other two factions, just involves delivering transit papers to Underground bases around the game world. And killing any PMCs that happen to be besieging them when you arrive). Your Buddies are other expat mercenaries, just like you, who help you out with various things and also give you personal missions on occasion. They're the only ones that are friendly and actively try and help you, but even then, they all have unscrupulous shades as well (one character gives you a personal mission to track down and kill a guy who sold him a bad car). But, just so you don't get too optimistic, the game treats your buddies with about the same level of reverence that George R.R. Martin treats his with.
On a completely different note, another part of the game that surprised me right off the bat is the ethnic diversity of the main characters. When you start a new game, it asks you to pick from one of nine characters to play as. They are-
- A Brazilian-born American,
- An Algerian,
- A Mauritian Sikh,
- A Kosovar Albanian,
- A Hungarian-born Israeli,
- A Haitian,
- An American,
- A Northern Irishman,
- and a Chinese (wow, there's no real way to say that without sounding racist is there?)
So anyways, as much as I would love to give specific examples of what I talked about, I have a feeling that Far Cry 2 hasn't been played much, and thus, I would be spoiling the most powerful and memorable story moments for everyone. Has anyone else played this? And furthermore, can this thread last for more than a few posts before devolving into a debate about female characters in videogames?
If anyone's wondering, obviously, I heartily recommend Far Cry 2. However, take my opinion with a fistful of salt. It is far from perfect, and I can be very, very forgiving to a game if it does a few things really well. And also, if you're doubly wondering, despite it being a story about a man sent to Africa to track down a mysterious and powerful figure and see the darkest side of humanity in the process, it is NOT a remake of Heart of Darkness. There's a little reference to it at one point, but that's it, so credit where credit is due to the writers.