With Far Cry 3 around the corner, we can expect Ubisoft’s marketing to kick off with trailers, press releases, video interviews, gameplay videos, etc. showing off the game in a bid to entice people to buy it. Unfortunately for them, they’ll be fighting an uphill battle since Far Cry 2 is famously remembered as one of the most disappointing and broken games in recent memory. It felt like it had never seen any QA of any sort and as if the developers themselves didn’t bother to play the game after compiling all the code and art assets to make sure everything worked.
A lot of people say that a buggy or problematic game is one that needs more QA but QA should be more than just human debugging. It should also be able to point out flaws in the game that should be addressed since they effectively break the game in major ways and require only minor changes to fix. Let’s look at the various areas Far Cry 2 went wrong.
Too Many Checkpoints
Not checkpoints as in the save game states that most games have, but checkpoints as in the militaristic security areas where they make sure you’re not an enemy. The first problem with these checkpoints is that they never even did that–they simply shot on sight. What’s worse is that these were everywhere. Pretty much every road, no matter how small, had at least one. In the span of a single mission, the player would cross about a dozen of these on average.
And by “cross”, I mean “engage in a five minute gunfight and hope someone doesn’t get a lucky drop on you”. It was fun the first few times but quickly got tired after forcing the player to do it so many times in a row. And this is only in the first few missions. There’s a whole game ahead of you, filled with this. Luckily enemies don’t take much to put down but this little bit of sunshine was clouded by…
Constantly Respawning Enemies
Enemies were set to respawn a scant minute after the last enemy of the previous group was killed. In most FPS games this wouldn’t be an issue since the Enter Room, Kill Guys, Exit Room formula would likely apply. But Far Cry 2 is a game where you have to scavenge for guns, ammunition, and other resources. You need to loot the bodies you’ve left in order to stay supplied enough to finish your current mission. And given the open world nature of the game, bodies are strewn about the fields like the aftermath of a Grateful Dead show and getting to each one involves a lot of running up and down.
Ample enough time for a whole new wave of checkpoint enemies to literally spawn right on top of you. This is not just one of those weird moments where the game’s code flubs a little and lifts the curtain a little. This is a common occurrence and, worse, an ever present danger in the game. It’s often easier to actually leave the last enemy alive and scavenge the camp before killing him and moving on.
One of the most baffling parts of Far Cry 2 is just how fast the guns in the game deteriorate in quality. A pristine AK-47 will turn into a rusty piece of scrap within the span of three magazines, just under a minute, and right before your eyes. This is, of course, the same gun that’s so famous for being sturdy and reliable that people trade stories of pulling them out of swamps, graves, rivers, and mud only to have the weapon work as if it was new. And here it is in Far Cry 2, turning from factory fresh to junkyard jalopy in less than a minute.
And this was the trend with every single gun. Hell, the tranquilizer sniper was useless after only a couple of shots. The most consistent of getting new guns was to scavenge them off enemies, which means they’re already halfway to rusted. The only way to get a brand new gun was to visit one of the few home locations on the map to pull one out of your bottomless box of firearms. This, combined with the frequent checkpoints and constantly respawning enemies made the game counterintuitive to play.
Fast Forward Audio
This one isn’t nearly as damaging to the game as the previous three but probably the best example of Far Cry 2′s complete lack of any sort of quality assurance because it should have been the simplest to fix. Every single piece of dialogue in this game feels like it’s in fast forward. There is no pause between sentences, no emphasis on words in phrases, no pausing for dramatic effect, no tension built. It’s literally just a voice actor reading the lines as fast and as flatly as possible.
How on earth did this get past the early stages of the game? Even the worst games with the worst voice acting and the worst writing at least know how fast dialogue should flow. Even the original Resident Evil, with its famously horrible voice acting, had better paced dialogue. This is, quite literally, the worst voice acting directing that has ever existed in a video game. What’s worse is that this may even be on purpose because some lines literally sound like they’ve been fast-forwarded. You can hear the ghost of proper voice acting in some lines before the next sentence is ushered in before its predecessor even had time to collect its coat and leave. Either way, how could this have happened on purpose or by accident? The voice acting is just an awful mess.
The real tragedy of Far Cry 2 is that it could have been an amazing game. Other problems like the malaria mechanic and the constant driving all over the map can’t really be helped too much but, if things like the afformentioned got through unchecked then it’s likely that those two problems also could have been massively improved with a little bit of care too. Otherwise, Far Cry 2 offered a truly unique open world, situated in a generic African savanna environment with gameplay that actually felt like you were a lone mercenary against an entire country. Though, that also could be explained by Far Cry 2′s constant forgetting that there were two sides at war and either of them could pick you up at the beginning of the game. By the time you’re finished the tutorial, they’re both effectively the same and are both out to kill you for no real reason.
Still, Far Cry 2 could have been so much more. It feels like Ubisoft just stopped paying attention halfway through development, rushed its release and forgot it existed. Let’s hope that Far Cry 3 has a much more tested experience for us.