Make Me Play Video Games #1: Far Cry 2

First off, holy crap. I’m sorry this took so long to get posted, but playing this game for such a long time left me with a lot to say and it was murderously hard to pick what to put in and what to leave out of the review. Once again, we find that a long review is way easier than a short one. I promise to try and trim things down next time. For the meantime, however, I give you:

Far Cry 2

Source: Steam Store
Paid: $10 for the retail game including “Fortunes” DLC pack
Play time: 41.8 hours

The vast majority of first-person shooters are roller coasters: they whisk you through a set path, popping up targets and obstacles as you go to keep things exciting and surprising. Far Cry 2 wants to be the entire amusement park, letting you run from ride to ride as you choose.

The result is, to put it mildly, an immense game. I spent almost 42 hours playing it, and that was after I quit playing all the side missions to completion at around the 50% mark and started barreling through the story as fast as I could. The world is huge by first-person standards, fantastically detailed with sun-dappled savannahs and glittering jungle waterfalls. There are newly-abandoned shacks and lost weapons caches tucked away in every corner of the map. You stumble across crashed escape planes and the aftermaths of gunfights over diamonds. But then you see a car patrolling 50 yards down a road, turning around, and then patrolling the same 50 yards in the other direction. Forever.

Far Cry’s story is sketched in broad strokes: you are a member of the mercenary and war profiteer community that seems to have descended en masse on the war-torn country of Nowhere-In-Particular, Africa. A client or clients never-to-be-named have tasked you with killing the Jackal, an arms dealer flooding the country with cheap guns that he sells indiscriminately to everyone with a trigger finger. The Jackal himself, a gravel-voiced Nietzsche fan, shows up almost immediately to taunt you for succumbing just as immediately to malaria; he (naturally) gives you your first gun, then pulls a Gandalf, inexplicably disappearing in the middle of the opening gunfight of a war between the two factions who have been arming to fight over the country. While the Jackal’s motivation is more complex than mere profit, his philosophy, articulated in a series of collectible interview recordings and a few more chance meetings, is also more ethically (and logically) murky than just making money off of war.

Your fellow mercs don’t fare much better. You select one of nine characters at the start of the story. All of them play exactly the same; the only effect of the choice is that the unchosen characters can be met in the game, waiting to be rescued by the player and then putzing around in Mike’s Bar waiting for a chance to hand out missions. One buddy asks you to murder a pair of drug dealers setting up shop in the boondocks of the bush. Another has VD and wants you to gun down the clinician who sold him an unsatisfactory ointment. Yet another suggests stealing an impossibly toxic defoliant, while yet another suggests actually spraying the countryside with it so that it will be easier to kill everyone.

If you demand a story with morality that ranges between gray and black, Far Cry 2 ought to be right up your alley. Games don’t come any grittier. The awful part is that you aren’t any better than the other assholes trying to make a buck in the war.

Continue reading Make Me Play Video Games #1: Far Cry 2

Make Me Play Videogames Field Journal: Drained

Far Cry 2 has officially been completed as of about 20 minutes ago; I’d have told you sooner, but I had to wait through a 10-minute unskippable credits scroll before I could quit the game. I’ll be taking a short breather before writing up my thoughts in the usual rambling, incoherent, and likely irrelevant manner.

I’ve already learned a lot about game writing, that’s for sure. Lesson #1: write it down right now. Keep a pad next to the computer. If you have a thought, opinion, or gripe pause the game and write it down instantly. If you are drifting warmly away to sleep and a good point or phrase wafts up out of your gently simmering mind, hop the fuck out of bed and get it on paper. Don’t assume you can remember that stuff. ‘Cause if you’re me you can’t.

The next set of candidates will soon be going up on the site for you to choose between. I won’t be giving the choices away right away because, well, what would be the point of putting them in a separate post, then? However, I will tell you that the theme for MMPVG 2 will be “Among the Ruins”.


Make Me Play Video Games Field Journal: The Rhythm

I’ve been playing Far Cry 2 for almost three weeks, and I’m solidly at 50% complete according to the taunting little completion reading that appears next to every game save. Here’s hoping my speed of play never comes up in a job interview =P

Part of the problem is that it’s really hard to sit and play this game for more than about two hours. I don’t think this is a problem with my attention span or gluteal fortitude; I’ve played WoW, Madden, and Mass Effect for far, far longer stretches. There’s something about Far Cry 2 that just doesn’t compel me to play for long stretches at a time.

That’s not to say I’m not enjoying it; far from it. It’s like Chinese food: I have a course, get all full, and then get hungry for another serving in a couple of hours. I think part of it is the incredibly free-form structure of the game. In WoW you are at least working towards levelling. In Madden, you are building a win/loss record as you complete the season. Nothing that you do in Far Cry ever really changes anything. Maybe it’s part of allowing the player to do anything at any time, but there’s very little sense of progress over time in Far Cry 2. You complete a mission, and now you can’t do that mission anymore, but everything else is still the same.

It’s really discouraging when that’s all you have to show for an hour or two of time.


Make Me Play Videogames Field Journal: This is Killing Me

This experiment has been underway for all of 5 days, and I am already deep in the pit of game variety withdrawal. I desperately want to play something, anything, that is not Far Cry 2. Mass Effect 2. Super Mario Brothers. Daikatana. Beer pong.

It doesn’t help when the Baker plops down on the couch next to me, two steaming plates of homemade dinner in hand, and says “Hey, we should play Wii Sports tonight.”

And yet, I’m starting to not want to play other games. I am developing an appreciation for Far Cry 2 as I marinate helplessly within it. I think I may not have paid so much attention to a game in quite some time, and the sensation is fun. Or maybe I’m just succumbing to some video game version of Stockholm Syndrome.

I’ve actually completed all of the side quests for the moment, which is good; somewhere in Optional Mission Valley is where I usually lose focus and wind up straying to another game. My style is already changing, and I’m seeing results: steady progress rather than an early burst followed by drifting torpor.

Oh God, I want to play Samurai Warriors soooooooo bad.