This Video Explains Why 'Far Cry 2' Is Great Without Saying A Word


#1

It’s fair to say that my love for Far Cry 2 is well recorded. I take every chance I can to revisit it in streams, write about it in articles, and even delve into it more deeply in conference talks. Which is why, when people ask me why I fell in love with Far Cry 2, it’s easy to answer: It felt like it came from another world.

When it released in 2008, Far Cry 2 offered such a unique, different take on the first person shooter than the (then recently) ascendent model that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did. Though it still offered a familiar power fantasy--guy with gun gets over his head--it did so in ways that, to use a phrase from Cameron Kunzelman, “altered the conditions of that fantasy.”

By now, you probably already know how the rest of this conversation goes, right? I bring up the guns jamming, the malaria, the feeling of powerlessness and player-hostility, the Nietzsche quotes, the systemically driven anecdotes that the folks at Idle Thumbs succinctly summed up as “grenades rolling down hills.” If you love Far Cry 2 you’re probably nodding along to all of that. Yet time and again, the response I hear from non-fans is that most of those things are actually pains for them, and on paper I get it. But in action… none of it bothers me, and I’ve never quite been able to put a finger on why that is, besides vague allusions to subjective taste.

Now, thanks to a video entitled “Far Cry 2 details vs Far Cry 5” from YouTube user Crowbcat, I can get a little bit closer to understanding my own enjoyment of the game. Without saying a word, Crowbcat spends 20 minutes walking the viewer through literally dozens of little details that exist in Far Cry 2 but not in Far Cry 5.

Taken alone, none of these details seem that big: Is it that important that you can shoot through walls in Far Cry 2 but not in 5? Or that there’s a more frightening, first person drowning animation? Or that the grass gets totally flattened by roaming jeeps? Or that the fire propagation is less predictable as it spreads, and more thorough in its damage to nearby flora? Or that the clouds move in more realistic ways, breaking the sun’s light just so?

This sort of point-by-point argument for why Thing A is better than Thing B has always rubbed me the wrong way, especially when I’m a fan of Thing A. After all, any argument like this is going to be reductive, and Crowbcat even notes this in the description, writing “FC5 has its own attention to details that FC2 doesn't have, this comparison doesn't mean FC5 has nothing to show.” But because Crowbcat never speaks in the video, Far Cry 2 is able speak for itself, and as the details piled up, one after the other, I found myself aching to play Far Cry 2 again.

It builds to two high peaks, for me. The first comes early, just three-and-a-half minutes in. After being shot in the leg, an enemy falls to the ground, then struggles back up to a limping gait, dragging himself through the waving grass towards cover. They finally rest their back against a nearby rock, covered by the drifting shadow of a nearby tree. The ambient chirping and buzzing of insects and birds rises to crescendo in the absence of combat. Crowbcat approaches. Three gunshots.

Nothing ever felt like that for me in Far Cry 5, and I could never point to one specific reason why. What this video does is explain that there isn’t one reason, it’s about how all of these details come together in Far Cry 2. Each of those individual elements is one color in the systemic palette, a way that the developers were able to communicate something like a cinematographer's style or a novelist’s voice. There are even ways that aren’t explicitly compared in Crowbcat’s editing, but which still are noticeable here, like the rapid-fire, anxiety-inducing way that every character in Far Cry 2 speaks.

If there’s a through line in this video, it’s an unspoken argument that risk is real in Far Cry 2, for the player, their companions, and their enemies. Cover is only safe until it isn’t. Healing looks painful, and in the case of drowning, death looks even worse. Outside of its cynical endings, Far Cry 5 can’t conceive of this sort of risk or finality. Your guns will never break. Fire will not take leaves from the branches of its trees. AI companions, once earned, are yours forever. The way it communicates this risk of finality is part of what makes Far Cry 2 so powerful (and what made Ben Abraham’s “Permanent Death” such a great exploration of the game).

The second peak in “Far Cry 2 details vs Far Cry 5” is, of course, at the end. After demonstrating how, in Far Cry 5, the player can endlessly revive their AI-controlled “Guns for Hire,” Crowbcat jumps back to Far Cry 2 one last time. Xianyong Bai, Crowbcat’s in-game AI “buddy,” falls to one knee and gasps for breath. Then, one after another, Crowbcat shows the possible outcomes.

Maybe you have enough medical syrettes on you to bring Xianyong back. Or, maybe the damage is too severe for a boost of adrenaline to get him back onto his feet. Or, if you used up your healing items on yourself during the encounter, you might not have what you need to help him at all, and when you kneel down to help him, he will instead beg you to put him out of his misery. He slowly places his hand on the barrel of your pistol. A gunshot, and the video finally fades to to black.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/a3yjz5/this-video-explains-why-far-cry-2-is-great-without-saying-a-word

#2

This Crowbcat guy seems like a real shitter if I’m being honest, and I’m not too enthused to see his stuff being promoted here. In addition to editing down Giant Bomb content in a deliberately misleading way to make it seem like they were super down on VR, he’s also used some, let’s say questionable memes in his videos.


Crowbcat as viddie game truther
#3

Yeah this dude seems like he sucks. I think Austin has fallen into the trap that a lot of us do where an lack of an intimate familiarity with a creator or writer’s work means a cursory google won’t uncover their gross moments. Hell, I quoted a lot of Charles Krauthammer to get easy marks in my geopolitics classes in undergrad. If you agree with an argument that’s made well by someone (or in my case, was too drunk and dumb to think critically and thought making a neo-realist argument was way easier), your immediate impulse isn’t to dig up every awful thing they’ve ever said as a counterpoint to citing them.


#4

Yeah mentioned this on twitter, but absolutely did a search for Crowbcat, but all you get is like, Resetera and GAF threads about old videos they made. Hard to see any real issue until someone specifically breaks down past issues that came from the account.


#5

Based on currently available videos and old ones that other people have reuploaded, it seems there’s a consistency in racist 4chan style humor from this person (black people = KFC in this instance, “we was kings” in the last) that I find really off-putting. I know the association is distant from the topic at hand, but I think any association at all with this sort of thing is too much for my liking. In any case, thanks for checking in.


#6

I think that for all its flaws Far Cry 2 had a sense of grittiness about itself in the best sense of the word. Despite the indications of now-familiar Ubisoft trappings, FC2 really had its own identity that in retrospect I can really appreciate. It’s a pity the series is so, well, Ubisoft-ised now.


#7

Unfortunate to hear the backstory about the creator of this video, but I do agree with the title of the article that the video demonstrates many of the things that made FAR CRY 2 so great.

I’ve only played three Far Cry games to date, in this order: Blood Dragon, 3, and 2 (I played the tiniest bit of a demo of FAR CRY 1 and didn’t like it all that much.)

I absolutely loved Blood Dragon. The humor, the visuals, the gameplay…all the pieces just fit together. So, wanting more after it I gave 3 a shot. It previously hadn’t caught my interest, but I did for the most part enjoy it. My problems with 3, though, were that, compared to Blood Dragon, not much about what your character could do made any sense. When you’re a cyborg, SURE, being able to see through walls, tag enemies, insta-kill robots, survive massive amounts of damage, master any type of weapon or vehicle, that all seemed justifiable by the gloriously campy narrative. But some stoner surfer bro being able to do these things? It just didn’t hold up. Plus, the game was SUPER LONG. I completed it, but it was really wearing out its welcome. Blood Dragon seemed the perfect length for what it was. I enjoyed the gameplay in both games, but only in one of them did the story, game mechanics, skill sets, etc. seem to really fit.

A friend later on said that Far Cry 2 was his favorite and I should try it out. Got it for I think $4 in a sale. And it turned out I really liked it. Tonally MUCH better than the third game. Sure, there are certain mechanics that 3 (and Blood Dragon) have that would’ve been great in the second game (there’s a bit more to do in those, for example. Races, hunt animals, craft items, and so on). But what I really liked was the overall sense of immersion. I liked the malaria, the gun-jamming, the map and fast-travel systems. In it I actually did feel like some mercenary trapped in Africa on a mission gone wrong. Just like in Blood Dragon I felt like a cyborg super soldier (though, the near-instant enemy outpost re-spawns in the second game WAS annoying.)

Sure, a lot of these things the video points out might be kinda superficial, but the tiny details do add up to how well the game successfully places you into that environment. I get the impression that with the 5th game, as much as the game might make other improvements to the series, there are also some steps back. Does the new game make you feel like a deputy as well as 2 made you feel like a mercenary and BD made you feel like a cyborg in an '80s movie?

Probably the weirdest thing is just that the latest version of the engine (I’m assuming Ubisoft is still upgrading the Dunia engine?) is lacking features from earlier games. The fire system being different, the foliage not reacting, that sort of stuff. Granted, I guess some things get cut to make room for new stuff, as everything has limitations, but when you cut so many little things that added to the experience you end up with something that’s lacking a lot.


#8

Every Far Cry after 2 has been a cake walk to play. FC2 you play it and it has so much more meaning to it. It is a tough game and does not hold your hand. Everything is out to get you and almost every encounter with enemies can incredibly unique. There’s no chores you have to do like hunting to craft backpacks or whatever or perk system. You’re basically allowed to do whatever you want in the game in a non-linear fashion.


#9

The design of the game is to make fighting a chore. You actively want to avoid combat in FC2 because it’s so frustrating and risky.

I liked in FC2 that you spend your time driving through jungle roads staring down at your map to figure whether to take a left or right turn. From a mechanical perspective I like FC2 and how it made fighting a tiring business.

I don’t think a game where civilians exist in bullet proof houses away from harm and every person on the street is a mercenary can ever be good at communicating what civil wars are actually like. I think it’s a catastrophic failure in this regard.

I think the game ends up demonstrating the folly of the idea that you can make serious social commentary about war in games that exist to make fighting fun which all AAA games must inevitably do because that’s what sells millions of copies. Ultimately, if the act of war is fun in your game you are never going to represent the misery of war and FC2 is still an empowerment fantasy.

You cannot humanize the people within cults when you treat them as target dummies to be shot at with no moral cost.


#10

Yeah crowbcat has a nasty history if looked into and I always avoid their videos if possible, kinda hard considering how popular their content is on resetera though. Anyway, on the topic at hand, man, Far Cry 2. This game is really special. It has gotten this post mortem success, the game was received in positive light at release but at the time neither myself or people at large really appreciated how unique it would be. I think because the specific open world formula and attempts at realism haven’t really been imitated since. The game has a lot of problems, but damn does it present an excellent foundation to expand upon.

Peeps talk about the ubification of open world games, and I do see a pattern with many AAA open world games. I think there is a kinda generic formula that has been stagnant for too long, however at the time of Far Cry 2’s release there really wasn’t much of a universal precedent for open world games so I kinda initially viewed the game as one of potential many. That the hypothetical Far Cry 3 would build upon the concept. Thing is it never really happened. Far Cry 3 was a drastically different game that abandoned many of the ambitious ideas that Far Cry 2 explored, and as more time has gone on Far Cry 2 grows more and more unique as no real big AAA open world is really attempting to mold itself around a more immersive HUD-less experience.

You know, I remember so many complaints about how serious gaming got around the mid-gen point of the PS3/360 era. The worlds were void of humour, art style grimy and brown, and I do agree there was some real monotony especially when it came to the gritty white bald male protagonist dude, but now, when it comes to open world games in particular I’m kinda missing a bit of the grit. I don’t want everyone being Aiden Pierce or anything, but a lot of games are really going for this ultra satirical South Park-y type humour and it’s just kinda wearing thin. Ghost Recon Wildlands is a recent example, that game has got some silly elements, and sure, people might find these fun, but I think that the setting of that game would’ve benefited so much more for a more restrained Far Cry 2 take. Cut down the collecta-fon fat, treat the narrative with appropriate gravity, present the world with as much realism as can be achieved, and build every mechanic keeping immersion in mind. Oh, and maybe don’t be scared to make a political statement.

Imagine an alternate reality where Far Cry 2 was used as the foundation for Ghost Recon Wildlands instead of Far Cry 3. Maybe in that reality Far Cry 2 was a silly open world action game littered with collectibles and a narrative driven by crazy wacky characters doing crazy wacky things, and in that reality their Far Cry 2 has grown this legacy of people longing for another game like that whilst all open world games follow the trend of ultra serious open world sim. I think more than anything variety is what we need, I really want a big AAA open world game that attempts to explore some of the systems and immersion that Far Cry 2 attempted to achieve. Although I think when people complain about the ‘ubification’ of open world games that it can often be an exaggeration, there is no denying that certain systems and mechanics have become so common place among AAA open worlds games that it has grown tiring. I completely ignored Far Cry 5 for this reason, and can you blame me? I’m still working my way through Wildlands from last year.


#11

I’ve been going through Far Cry 2 for the first time ever recently, and I gotta say. The healing animations make me wince almost every time


#12

I have a very childish and irrational fear of needles, and I actually wince more at the animation of your character sticking himself in the wrist more than the ripping bullets out stuff.

Other than that Far Cry 2 is pretty incredible.


#13

Ah shit. I really need to play FC2 huh.

I’ve played 3 and Primal, and while they were fine “gamey” games, once I was done I just moved on and didn’t think about them again. I’ve heard the passion for 2 for years, but kinda figured it was a “you need to be there at the time” kind of game to fully get it. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference sometimes between 2 and 5 there. It really sounds like something special.


#14

Far Cry 2 is in some ways the least “gamey” game ever and in other ways it’s the most “gamey” game ever.

What I mean by that, is that the mission design, especially on harder difficulties encourages creative thinking creative use of weapon combinations, use of the fire propagation system, the grenades rolling down hills, all the gameplay-related things highlighted in the video actually have an impact. Breath of the Wild is the only other game I’ve played that gives me the same sense of creative freedom in encounter design.

But then at the same time, it’s a completely unforgiving and annoying game to play. The save system is punishing, even more so on console than PC (where you can save anywhere as opposed to only at camps) and this leads to you not wanting to experiment, because that would be risky. Fast travel exists but it sucks, the world in general is difficult to traverse with outposts re-spawning and the enemies within relentlessly pursuing you if you come within 50 feet of the place. And to top it all off, almost everything related to the story is bad.

It’s definitely a cult classic for a reason. I see its flaws and have since release, but it keeps drawing me back in. Just like Deus Ex, every-time somebody mentions FC2, I reinstall it.


#15

So, in case anyone missed it, on the 10th anniversary of the game, Clint Hocking’s been counting down some of what he considers the best criticism about it. It’s not done yet, the first part is here: https://www.clicknothing.com/click_nothing/2018/10/the-tin-man-of-far-cry-2-part-1.html


#16

Wow I can’t believe it’s been ten years already.

My only heartfelt wish is that Clint and Ubi would make a spiritual sequel to FC2. That is to say, I wish they’d collaborate on a Dunia engine driven serious fps set in an demanding, unforgiving environment, and bring back the Heart of Darkness vibe missing from FC3 et. al.

FC2, which I accidentally encountered as a freebie that shipped along with my GTX 280, is nothing short of a masterpiece. While the card lasted barely 18 months it’s impact has lasted 10 years and beyond.