I’ve put down about a half dozen false starts of shit lines and bogus hooks trying to figure out a way to introduce this game and what I want to talk about, but none of it worked. After scrapping another thousand or so words, I think I’ve found the way in: You know how at the beginning of No Country for Old Men, Llewelyn Moss is out there hunting antelope somewhere along the Texas/Mexico border and it’s a lot of pastoral, wind-over-the-plains long-shots as he scopes, surveys the horizon, tags an antelope, and walks a few miles before stumbling upon a mess of violence, dead men shot, bled out, and caking up the dirt with blood and viscera in the otherwise untouched scenery? That’s what Far Cry 2 is like.
And really, I’ve never encountered a game that gets the act of taking a long walk with a gun so right. Because that’s what this game is about. It’s about you and your tools in an ultra-hostile African nation that’s completely depopulated of peaceful civilians. And in lieu of any civilians or non-combatants, it’s all militia and soldiers, pure rage, ready and eager to paint violence with you across the country’s massive and varied canvas.
And so you must walk, swim, and drive for miles and miles across the country, compound-to-compound, guardpost-to-guardpost, establishing an inhale/exhale rhythm of violence that’s as good as you manage to make it. The simple act of traveling, of taking a walk, is the game’s most compelling act, bolstered by the ultra-hostility of each and every person in the country. Each route that you map out for yourself is both perilous and beautiful; as full of Kodak moments as it is men who want to shoot you.
The game makes some attempts at variety but it’s all about killing. Do you want to kill for the weapons dealer or do you want to kill for the anonymous guy who puts out contracts over shortwave radio? It’s up to you but you’re doing the same thing either way. This isn’t any sort of slight: it’s honest for an open-world game to bare itself in this way. Like, for what purpose am I making this trek? Well ultimately you’re supposed to kill a Big Bad arms dealer. And how do I accomplish my goal? Well you need to kill a lot of people and hope something comes up.
This sort of laser-focus on violence extends to the game’s sole collectible. Everyone pays you in diamonds for killing but there’s absolutely no use-value in them. Real wealth in Far Cry 2 isn’t about having 300 diamonds, it’s about having a bolt-action sniper rifle, a polished chrome Desert Eagle, and the mortar rig to shell a building from several hundred yards out. That’s some privileged, baller shit in a country where people are running around with rusty guns that jam and get you killed.
There’s a sort of subtlety in the game’s myriad approaches to combat and travel here that I think gets lost on people who champion “choice” games like Deus Ex. There are no skill points, no doors that won’t open if your hacking skill isn’t high enough. No crates you need to stack to infiltrate a base. It’s just you and your weapons. Some are silenced, some are loud, some are accurate at 200 yards, some explode, some start fires. Attack from the front or post up and shell from the cliff? It’s all multi-approach. Get to it.