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Far Cry 2
Score: 88%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:
Far Cry 2 is an ambitious title, and though it is not without its rough points, it manages to live up to the lofty goals it sets for itself.

Perhaps the most ambitious of these goals is its scope. You are given nearly 50 square kilometers of open landscape to play around in. There's no shortage of things to see; trees sway in the African breeze and sunsets reflect light off bodies of water. You'll see a lot of those sunsets as you explore. Far Cry 2 features a dynamic day/ night cycle that changes as you play, adding just a little extra touch. If it weren't for the soldiers mulling about the place, it would almost be peaceful. Of course, there's no shortage of them either, or their handiwork. It doesn't quite hit the same level as Fallout 3, but Far Cry 2 does a good job of showing off just how bad the civil war is. There are signs of struggle everywhere and it's fun to look and let the sights tell their story.

The effect is sold just as well with the ambient sounds. It is easy to get lost in the wilderness and lose yourself to the sounds of unseen animals and the occasional sounds of conflict (which will usually mean you had better snap out of your daze and ready your weapons). Gunfire sounds powerful and the added drums playing in the background during fights help to push the tension of battle. There's a sizeable amount of voicework present in the game. It isn't all great, but still works.

Far Cry 2 is a sequel to the original in title only. The new tale places you in Africa during a civil war, putting you in the middle of a chaotic world full of mercenaries, private armies and lots of backstabbing. Your sole mission is to take out an arms dealer named "The Jackal," but finding him proves to be tricky. Not only does he have the entire African landscape to hide in, but he also has a small army of thugs protecting him. Oh, by the way, you also have malaria.

Most of your time is spent completing missions for the war's two major factions. Both get their weapons from The Jackal, so you'll need to earn their trust if you want information. You'll also have to befriend the Underground, the only group with access to medical facilities that can deal with your affliction. Although the structure isn't exactly new, it is handled incredibly well. The structure is devised in such a way that you have enough freedom to deal with situations how you would like and explore, but there's also a point to everything. There's a lot to do, but everything you do manages to intertwine with your personal journey.

Far Cry 2 really comes into its own once you begin to take missions. Though some have a rigid set of parameters, most are really just a loose set of goals that you must complete. Few missions are as easy as running into an area and shooting (though you can do that if you want). You'll have to consider the time of day, the weather... even your surroundings. Even the smallest of missions can become elaborately planned operations and make up some of this year's most satisfying gameplay moments.

Multiplayer is a bit lackluster. The usually compliment of modes is available and plays right into the strengths of the single-player missions. The mode's only major standout feature is the level editor. The tools are easy to use and allow a nice amount of freedom for creating your own playgrounds. You can also upload completed maps to the game's servers and let other people play.

If Far Cry 2 has any problems, it is the difficulty. The game constantly shifts between forgiving and tough with little consistency or curve. It is hard to go anywhere and not run into packs of enemies. It keeps things interesting, but can become tedious. The downside to having such a large area to explore is the constant traveling, and when you're constantly stopping to fight small groups of enemies, trips become tedious. The enemy A.I. is mixed; some are relentless but dumb, while others are really crafty. The mix leads to some silly situations, but even then every battle is a challenge. If you fail to keep tabs on your malaria, it can also kick in during battle, adding another level of challenge.

The upside is that the health mechanic is very forgiving. Health is split into several sections that regenerate individually, reducing the amount of time spent waiting for health to build back up. Eventually, you'll upgrade the amount of health and, if you play your alliances right, you can earn a nice pipeline of health packs.

Game Mechanics:
Your approach to missions is aided by an expansive arsenal of weapons. Taking the right gun into battle is just as important as knowing the surroundings and conditions, and there's a weapon for every situation. Pistols, shotguns, machine guns, grenades... the only things you don't have access to are lasers, ninja stars and small nuclear devices. Early on, you are limited to whatever you can grab off downed militiamen, and while the sheer number of enemies you'll face almost guarantees a endless supply of weapons, it also poses a problem. Weapons show real-time wear and tear. The more you use them, the more likely it is that they'll jam at inappropriate times. As you gain the trust of each faction, you'll eventually earn the right to use collected diamonds to purchase new, more reliable weapons.

Allies play a big part in your adventure. As you progress through the game, you'll meet up with other mercenaries who will join you in battle. They'll offer a little extra firepower during missions and even pull your ass out of the fire if things get too rough. At times, they'll even suggest better options for dealing with missions, adding a new dynamic to gameplay. All of your allies have their own personal motivations for missions, and it is fun to try and integrate them into your own. Friends can be a bit of liability though. Their individual A.I. isn't that bright and you'll routinely find yourself dragging their bullet-ridden bodies out of situations they blindly charged into. If friends die, they're gone forever, so you're either forced to go at things alone or waste health packs keeping them alive.

Far Cry 2 isn't a perfect game, but the good easily outweighs the bad. Not only is it a fitting follow-up to the original, but one of this year's most compelling and satisfying shooters.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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