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Back to Africa - The Highs and Lows of Far Cry 2

Returning to the world of Far Cry 2, and why I'll never do it again.

[Returning to the world of Far Cry 2, and why I'll never do it again.  Re-posted from The Fortress of Blogitude in response to Andrew Vanden Bossche's recent post.]

I played Ubisoft Montreal's Far Cry 2 when it came out, saw it was cheap on Steam last week, and having fond memories of its immersive open world gameplay, decided to give it another go. But if I was to play again, I had to kick it up a notch and commit to the Hardcore, rather than Normal difficulty. This meant taking more damage from hits and absence of aiming reticules (only iron sights and the like.)

It was an adjustment. Survival demanded patience, scouting, and smart use of cover and mounted guns. I also found myself shooting up more med hypos and tossing more grenades than I remember from the first run.

In other words, I felt less like Master Chief and more like John McClane: no longer mowing through waves of enemies with impunity as a badass mo-fo, but using my ingenuity and every advantage I could scrounge as a mortal and a crack shot.

Each bad guy down while I remained relatively intact was a victory. I found myself counting as I played, "Three down. Does that leave four or five left? Shit! Where did he go? Better hole up in here until I can spot the patrol."

It was incredibly satisfying.

But as I learned in Mass Effect, most games aren’t designed for hard mode, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before the cracks started to show.

Scattered around the roads at most intersections are checkpoints. Each has four or five men, usually equipped with an emplaced heavy machine gun and a jeep with a .45 cal on the back. No matter what faction you’re working for, they all treat you as a hostile.

The official explanation for this is you’re doing secret missions and plausible deniability must be maintained. I think the devs didn’t have time to visually distinguish the two factions. If you see someone outside of a town… you shoot them, because they’re damn sure about to shoot you. A bleak worldview, but I’ll roll with it.

While you’re traveling (and the game asks you to travel a lot) these checkpoints come fast and frequently. In the lower difficulties it’s not such an issue, as you can simply blow through them at top speed. If the soldiers give chase, you jump on your mounted gun (you did take the jeep that has one and not the pinto… right?) and blast them as they try to close the gap, then back to the road trip: a mere speed bump. Sadly, the extra damage on Hardcore means this is no longer an option and guaranties that your vehicle will be a steaming pile before reaching the other side of any controlled ground.

You can circumvent these checkpoints by walking through the wilds on foot for many extra minutes or floating down a waterway where available. But that’s no fun. “This is a shooter,” I told myself, “just shoot things.”

So I had a mission on the far side of a checkpoint. I thought I’d clear it out, set up a get away vehicle, and make it my base of operations in the area. I did just that. Wiped the place out. Shot every bastard in there and blew up all the cars that weren’t mine for good measure. Drank all the water, and stole all the ammo, too.  Life was good

I trounced my mission—by which I mean that I snuck in, shot two guys in the back, blew up my objective, and ran away like a little girl before the rest of the base could kill my ass. Pleased and paying little attention, I jogged back to MY checkpoint where I would hop in my car and be off to make my next mercenary buck.

Then I got shot in the face and died.

You see, the whole checkpoint had re-spawned while I was gone for twenty minutes doing my mission. The soldiers were back, the vehicles were repaired and the supplies replenished. More than that, MY vehicle was nowhere in sight. I guess it didn’t belong there according to the game.

This happens with every checkpoint every twenty-thirty minutes, or immediately if you enter or exit any building. So instead of spending my time planning and executing missions, I spend it trying to survive meaningless and constant fights with people who don’t give me anything and whom I killed fifteen minutes earlier. It’s not fun, it’s just a nuisance.

I went to my handy-dandy internet to learn how to edit the game to increase the time between “reinforcements” or find a mod that would do it for me. The game is three years old now, surely someone solved this problem long ago.

Here’s what I learned. Not only is the value for this variable not sitting in a text file somewhere like it should be, but no one has been able to make any mods for the game AT ALL because Ubisoft refuses to release the toolset. There are pages upon pages of posts from people who really want to love this game pleading with the developers to offer some options/fixes. Their official response: the game works as intended and plays fine.

Essentially they’ve offered a great big middle finger to their fan base. And it’s painful, because this game could be sooo good with some TLC from a devoted community. The engine offers some great bells and whistles, and the little touches in the animations and world layout are so atmospheric. You can get lost in this game like few other shooters, and it’s all brought down in flames by a dumbass design decision that could be remedied in half an hour of coding by any member of the original tech team.

It makes me want to steal a shooter engine, rip off the game wholesale, and add an extra slider to the options menu. We’d sell a million.

Far Cry 3 looks promising as well. I wonder if Ubisoft will shoot themselves in the foot again. Oh wait, they won’t have to; those soldiers who just spawned in will do it for them. 

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