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Old 09-08-2009, 05:38 AM   #1
JackSlack
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Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Far Cry 2

HIGH That revelatory moment when the game’s brutal message finally sinks in.

LOW The ending sadly seems to dodge that brutal message more than it should have.

WTF Being unexpectedly crushed by a truck flying through the air after the fire you set exploded its gas tank.

Before I begin, I note that Mike Doolittle’s review does not even touch upon Far Cry 2’s story, instead focusing on its gameplay mechanics. Given the lengths that Ubisoft went to in an effort to craft a compelling narrative – Patrick Redding held the unusual job description of “narrative designer” – it is a note-worthy, but not altogether surprising observation. The plot of Far Cry 2 is paper thin, and often disappears for huge chunks at a time. However, its story is far richer. As this review looks mostly at story, this should be considered a spoiler warning. While I will not discuss its plot overly much, I will be trying to express what I see as the game’s essential meaning, one that is stronger if you understand it on your own terms.

I was swimming down a river in Bowa-Seko when the game finally broke through to me. I’d been in town, restocking on ammo and health supplies, and thinking about the words of the Jackal, a mercenary arms dealer I’d been sent to kill. (This conceit, of hunting down that arms dealer, is the main thrust of the plot.) He was a curious one. Gave an interview to a journalist, outlining his thoughts. Claimed violence was a disease, infecting the aggressor and victim alike. Certainly I’d seen enough while I was there.

As I swam, I saw a small enemy checkpoint. The game lets you mark down what supplies each checkpoint has, and I decided I was interested in knowing what it held. This, of course, meant dealing with the guards. Silently, I swam to the bank and crept up behind a small brick wall jutting out from a hut, noting two enemy guards conversing. That meant at least two, probably three guards, would be on the other side. I bounced a grenade off the hut so that it landed right in the middle of their number, with me in perfect cover. One screamed, “Grenade!” but it was too late. Two died in the blast immediately. Another ran for cover: too bad I was there first. My AK-47 cut him down instantly. A fourth guard, one I’d not spotted, made a dash for some sandbags, but I fired fast. He never made it.

It was a perfect assault. None had even had time to shoot at me. And then it hit me like a sledgehammer: I just murdered four men. And for what? I had all the ammo I could carry. I needed no supplies. Was it pure curiosity? A sick need for thrills? Why hadn’t I just carried on down the river?

Violence is a disease. It infects everyone it touches.

Underneath everything, this is the core ethos of Far Cry 2. It’s an attempt to strip away the false pretenses of heroism and bravery in most games, and let the violence, murder and horror stand out on their own. Everything the game does is in aid of this.

Rapidly respawning enemies? Everyone responds with hostility? Of course they do. The game wants you to be paranoid, to see everyone purely as someone needing to be shot, and a threat around every corner. When the game begins, you’ll wonder why every jeep rams you before they even work out who you are. By the end, you’ll be shooting them before they get a chance to see you.

Repetitive mission structure? To some degree (not completely, I think, but somewhat) this too seems intentional; a desire to train you to perfect certain brutal skills. When you first start, you’ll be struggling to stop a convoy of cars; by the end you’ll lay waste to them.

Even the paper-thin plot actually contributes to this goal. While you’re theoretically helping the warlords of the place in the hopes that they’ll lead you to the Jackal, they never even hint at this possibility themselves. Soon, it’s carnage for the sake of carnage.

This is what strikes me about Far Cry 2, and why I’m so enamored of it. It’s not that it’s a well-executed shooter. (Although it is.) It’s not that it’s a commentary on videogame violence. (Although it is that too.) It’s the way the story and message are told in minor keys and subtext, through gameplay mechanics and structure, rather than through cut-scenes and dialogue. The dialogue is mostly a red herring, the few cut-scenes merely a way to keep the plot going. The story is all constructed by you.

And that is an impressive achievement, in my opinion.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 50 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed once) and a couple of rounds at best to its multiplayer mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, drug references, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. The game features some pretty gruesome images when you’re badly injured, and morphine is injected as a painkiller frequently. It is clearly inappropriate for children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game allows the use of subtitles for all dialogue, but is full of real-time audio cues (gunfire, enemy chatter, etc.) that impact the gameplay significantly.
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Old 09-15-2009, 08:25 AM   #2
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Hi JackSlack,

Thanks for submitting this review. I was a little surprised by everything being written in first person at the start; writing in a way that really stresses identification with "you" in the game. But I think it fits the views you expressed in this review. I'm not much of an FPS gamer, but your slant for this piece interested me by avoiding the mechanics that I probably don't care about (and which were reviewed elsewhere).

I would ask that you remove all references to second person. References to the reader, instead of "you" can be variations like "the gamer" and "the player". Normally I'd also use "I did..." but I think that won't work because you've used first-person so heavily to convey your feelings about the story.

In para's 7 and 8, you might consider if you can re-write in a way that doesn't ask questions. I feel like there's just a tad much of that in the text.

Thanks for following the site's format, that helps if you're hoping to be published on the homepage. Do consider adding the second "NY Times style" title at the top of your review; that's the eye grabber we use with all of our reviews.
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Old 09-15-2009, 05:45 PM   #3
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Hi Jason!

Thanks for the response. I'll retype it soon and get those last paragraphs put together in a way that makes it a bit less Q&A, a bit more exposition and analysis.
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Old 09-27-2009, 06:30 PM   #4
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Resubmitted with requested edits. Apologies for delay!

Far Cry 2

HIGH That revelatory moment when the game’s brutal message finally sinks in.

LOW The ending sadly seems to dodge that brutal message more than it should have.

WTF Why in the hell can't you shoot in a late-game scene in the prison? It makes no sense!

Before I begin, I note that Mike Doolittle’s review does not even touch upon Far Cry 2’s story, instead focusing on its gameplay mechanics. Given the lengths that Ubisoft went to in an effort to craft a compelling narrative – Patrick Redding held the unusual job description of “narrative designer” – it is a note-worthy, but not altogether surprising observation. The plot of Far Cry 2 is paper thin, and often disappears for huge chunks at a time. However, its story is far richer. As this review looks mostly at story, this should be considered a spoiler warning. While I will not discuss its plot overly much, I will be trying to express what I see as the game’s essential meaning, one that is stronger if you understand it on your own terms.
I was swimming down a river in Bowa-Seko when the game finally broke through to me. I’d been in town, restocking on ammo and health supplies, and thinking about the words of the Jackal, a mercenary arms dealer I’d been sent to kill. (This conceit, of hunting down that arms dealer, is the main thrust of the plot.) He was a curious one. Gave an interview to a journalist, outlining his thoughts. Claimed violence was a disease, infecting the aggressor and victim alike. Certainly I’d seen enough while I was there.

As I swam, I saw a small enemy checkpoint. The game lets you mark down what supplies each checkpoint has, and I decided I was interested in knowing what it held. This, of course, meant dealing with the guards. Silently, I swam to the bank and crept up behind a small brick wall jutting out from a hut, noting two enemy guards conversing. That meant at least two, probably three guards, would be on the other side. I bounced a grenade off the hut so that it landed right in the middle of their number, with me in perfect cover. One screamed, “Grenade!” but it was too late. Two died in the blast immediately. Another ran for cover: too bad I was there first. My AK-47 cut him down instantly. A fourth guard, one I’d not spotted, made a dash for some sandbags, but I fired fast. He never made it.

It was a perfect assault. None had even had time to shoot at me. And then it hit me like a sledgehammer: I just murdered four men. And for what? I had all the ammo I could carry. I needed no supplies. Was it pure curiosity? A sick need for thrills? Why hadn’t I just carried on down the river?

Because violence is a disease. It infects everyone it touches.
Underneath everything, this is the core ethos of Far Cry 2. It’s an attempt to strip away the false pretenses of heroism and bravery in most games, and let the violence, murder and horror stand out on their own. Everything the game does is in aid of this.

Enemies throughout the game respawn, and there's nobody who isn't hostile to you. The game wants the player to be paranoid, to see everyone purely as someone needing to be shot, and a threat around every corner. When the game begins, I wondered why every jeep rammed me before they even worked out who I was. By the end, I was just like them: Shooting them before they could shoot me first. While the game has been (justly) criticised for repeating its mission structures, even this aids the message of the game: To some degree (not completely, I think, but somewhat) this too seems intentional; a desire to train the player to perfect certain brutal skills. At the start, a single car can prove a challenging obstacle. By the end, it's trivial to lay waste to entire convoys.

Even the paper-thin plot actually contributes to this goal. While all the missions helping the warlords of the place are theoretically in the hopes that they’ll offer hints toward the Jackal's location, they never even hint at this possibility themselves. Soon, it’s carnage for the sake of carnage.

This is what strikes me about Far Cry 2, and why I’m so enamored of it. It’s not that it’s a well-executed shooter. (Although it is.) It’s not that it’s a commentary on videogame violence. (Although it is that too.) And it's definitely not that it's a perfect game. It isn't. There are flaws throughout: The cut-scenes break the flow of the story and weaken the authority of the player, which it otherwise does such a good job in maintaining. Late scenes inexplicably limit your ability to act on your own desires. While party intentional, I don't doubt that a bit more mission variety would have been welcome. And the ending is, make no mistake, a cop-out on the message set up throughout the rest of the play.

But that message! The underlying story's method still amazes me. It’s the way the story and message are told in minor keys and subtext, through gameplay mechanics and structure, rather than through cut-scenes and dialogue. The dialogue is mostly a red herring, the few cut-scenes merely a way to keep the plot going. The story is all constructed by you, the player. This is a game that inherently rejects the notion that being "an interactive movie" is a good thing. It doesn't want to be cinematic. It wants to explore what kind of art a game can do that no other medium can. It succeeds, even if only partly.

Which is still an impressive achievement, in my opinion.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 50 hours of play were devoted to single-player modes (completed once) and a couple of rounds at best to its multiplayer mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, drug references, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. The game features some pretty gruesome images when you’re badly injured, and morphine is injected as a painkiller frequently. It is clearly inappropriate for children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game allows the use of subtitles for all dialogue, but is full of real-time audio cues (gunfire, enemy chatter, etc.) that impact the gameplay significantly.
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:10 AM   #5
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

I would proof read it again. There are a few misspelled words and sentence fragments.

Also, that huge block quote kinda distracts from the review IMO. It is important to your criticism but maybe you could shorten it by paraphrasing it.

The part in paragraph 8 when you start naming the games flaws seemed to conflict with the rest of the review.

other than those little nit picky things, I like the review.
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Old 10-04-2009, 06:40 PM   #6
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

I couldn't spot any spelling mistakes, and the sentence fragments I spotted were in the block quote, where they existed for tone.

Nor am I going to cut the block-quote down. Moreso than anything, that's the heart of the review. If it stays here and goes no-where else as a result, so be it.
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Old 10-05-2009, 07:18 PM   #7
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

If this was a main review i'd veto it, but i think it kinda works as a second opinion.

i totally disagree that the game has as much to offer as you say it does, but i'd still green light it anyway.

As far as the quote, you can easily change that into standard content without having it be so called out. it doesn't really fit our style guidelines as-is, but like i said, it's an easy fix.

if you're willing to change the quote format, then it's got my green light.
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Old 10-17-2009, 04:38 PM   #8
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Last try. I said I wouldn't remove the blockquotes, and I don't think the way I'd written it before would really tolerate its removal, so I've substantially rewritten it and tried to salvage what I could.

Far Cry 2

HIGH That revelatory moment when the game’s brutal message finally sinks in.

LOW The ending sadly seems to dodge that brutal message more than it should have.

WTF: In a late scene set in the prison, your ability to shoot is inexplicably taken away from you. What the hell?

“Violence is a disease. It infects everything it touches.” –*The Jackal.

How often have you murdered someone in a videogame? Not killed; murdered. While very similar, there is a massive chasm between the two words. The former is impersonal, even flippant, with little emotion attached at all. The second is more heinous, more personal. Killing is mechanical; putting a bullet into someone’s head. Murder involves snuffing out someone’s very life. What is remarkable about Far Cry 2 is how well it leaps across that chasm, turning the playerfrom a typical killer into a monstrous murderer.

A few basics first: Far Cry 2 is a fairly standard first-person shooter, set in an open world sandbox. The game takes place in an unnamed African country (heavily hinted at being the Congo) and sees the player charged with the assassination of a foreign arms dealer, named The Jackal, who has been arming both sides of an ongoing conflict. This pursuit and the discovery of an increasing ambiguity to the Jackal’s motives form the basis of the plot.

And yet this plot vanishes, for large chunks at a time. Most of the missions have nothing to do at all with finding the Jackal. Indeed, many of them have players accomplishing tasks that seem directly counter to their own interests. (For example, blowing up a store of malaria medicine even while the main character suffers from malaria himself.) Other missions endlessly repeat: Arms dealers will always ask the player to blow up a convoy of trucks for them; mysterious phone towers have assassination jobs ready at all times. During these tasks, the majority of the game, the issue of the Jackal vanishes.

Bit by bit, the violence becomes violence for its own sake. Soon, your character is rampaging through the African jungle butchering anyone with the poor fortune to be seen, and the game strips away any sense of heroism or righteousness in these actions.

Enemies throughout the game respawn, and there's nobody who isn't hostile. The game wants the player to be paranoid, to see everyone purely as someone needing to be shot, and a threat around every corner. Enemies tumble as bullets spray into them, a second later to be ripped open by a machete, the player looking right into their eyes as they die. When the game began, one may wonder why every jeep rammed them before the enemy even worked out their identity. By the end, smart players will be just like them: Shooting them before they could shoot first. While the game has been (justly) criticised for repeating its mission structures, even this aids the message of the game: To some degree (not completely, I think, but somewhat) this too seems intentional; a desire to train the player to perfect certain brutal skills. At the start, a single car can prove a challenging obstacle. By the end, it's trivial to lay waste to entire convoys.

The game responds to this brutality, as well, breeding this monstrosity and highlighting it. A reputation system sees your character's personal legend grow, with enemies who initially bark out contemptuous orders soon turning to screaming in fear and running. The player's only allies, other mercenary “buddies”, go about their own (patently horrible) goals and before asking for assistance. That the player could have been any one of them (at the start of the game, any one of the buddies can be selected to play) reinforces the message: You are one of them.

This is what strikes me about Far Cry 2, and why I’m so enamored of it. It’s not that it’s a well-executed shooter. (Although it is.) It’s not that it’s a commentary on videogame violence. (Although it is that too.) And it's definitely not that it's a perfect game. It isn't. There are flaws throughout: The cut-scenes break the flow of the story and weaken the authority of the player, which it otherwise does such a good job in maintaining. Late scenes inexplicably limit your ability to act on your own desires. While party intentional, I don't doubt that a bit more mission variety would have been welcome. Mike Doolittle is absolutely right that enemies needed to respond more to gunshot wounds. And the ending is, make no mistake, a cop-out on the message set up throughout the rest of the play.

But that message! The underlying story's method still amazes me. It’s the way the story and message are told in minor keys and subtext, through gameplay mechanics and structure, rather than through cut-scenes and dialogue. The dialogue is mostly a red herring, the few cut-scenes merely a way to keep the plot going. The story is all constructed by you, the player. This is a game that inherently rejects the notion that being "an interactive movie" is a good thing. It doesn't want to be cinematic. It wants to explore what kind of art a game can do that no other medium can. It succeeds, even if only partly.

Which is still an impressive achievement, in my opinion.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 50 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed once) and a couple of rounds at best to its multiplayer mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, drug references, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. The game features some pretty gruesome images when you’re badly injured, and morphine is injected as a painkiller frequently. It is clearly inappropriate for children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game allows the use of subtitles for all dialogue, but is full of real-time audio cues (gunfire, enemy chatter, etc.) that impact the gameplay significantly.

Last edited by JackSlack; 02-07-2010 at 02:48 PM. Reason: To include a note about the machete kills; a key part about making the killing murder. Tightened it up. Got rid of "you".
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Old 10-17-2009, 06:30 PM   #9
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

with the exception of the parts where you go from first person to third person, I love this piece.

good job.
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Old 10-17-2009, 09:36 PM   #10
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Well done. This piece reads much better than previous attempts, and feels much more powerful. The only thing to do is get rid of the two uses of "soon" so close to each other. otherwise, you're good.

Green light from me! Excellent work, sir.
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:56 AM   #11
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by coyls3 View Post
with the exception of the parts where you go from first person to third person, I love this piece.

good job.
Oh fudge! Relic of the reuse, where it made sense in the previous version.

Fixing it up now, also to get the two soons separated.

Edit: Fixed! Tightened it up a bit too; got rid of some 'you' second person stuff, replaced with more neutral "The player".

Last edited by JackSlack; 10-18-2009 at 04:04 AM.
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Old 10-20-2009, 05:41 AM   #12
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

You're close.

I still see a lot of "you":

Your pursuit of him (could just start, "Pursuit of him...")
-and sees you charged
Arms dealers will always ask you
Soon, you are rampaging

These are just a few samples. Sounds like you already get the idea for adjusting: the player, the gamer, I, me... These are all good because you're either talking about what the gamer will have to do in the game, or how you felt and experienced the gameplay. (As yourself, that is.)

I think if you iron those out, you'll be good to go.
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Old 10-20-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Karney View Post
You're close.

I still see a lot of "you":

Your pursuit of him (could just start, "Pursuit of him...")
-and sees you charged
Arms dealers will always ask you
Soon, you are rampaging

These are just a few samples. Sounds like you already get the idea for adjusting: the player, the gamer, I, me... These are all good because you're either talking about what the gamer will have to do in the game, or how you felt and experienced the gameplay. (As yourself, that is.)

I think if you iron those out, you'll be good to go.
OK. I think I got most of them. I've left in one, the "You are one of them" because I think in that instance, the immediacy of you is more valuable than the neutrality of "the player".

Damn. Next time I've reviewing a game where the main character has a fixed name, so I can just say "Eddie Riggs does this" or "Eddie Riggs says that" or "Eddie Riggs didn't manage to lug in the game's third act from the tour bus, apparently."

Or something.
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Old 10-21-2009, 11:58 AM   #14
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Smile Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackSlack View Post
OK. I think I got most of them. I've left in one, the "You are one of them" because I think in that instance, the immediacy of you is more valuable than the neutrality of "the player".

Damn. Next time I've reviewing a game where the main character has a fixed name, so I can just say "Eddie Riggs does this" or "Eddie Riggs says that" or "Eddie Riggs didn't manage to lug in the game's third act from the tour bus, apparently."

Or something.
you could always pretend that the main characters name is "the player"
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Old 02-08-2010, 10:24 AM   #15
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Far Cry 2.

Green light.
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