Shooter of the Year: Far Cry 2

Just edging out Gears of War 2 in my book

Far Cry 2 is a game that makes you part of a war you never intended to fight, shows you how people can die around you, makes you feel helpless and very powerful at the same time, allows you to have tactical flexibility while making you do more stuff with your own hands than any game until now. It’s a shooter aiming to escape the constraints of the genre where other titles of 2008, like Gears of War 2, Crysis Warhead or Dead Space, only wanted to excel within the boundaries of the same genre.

Far Cry 2 has the guts to open up via an on rails sequence that is very much in the vein of the original Half Life. There’s enough information there to make the world understandable and to create a state of mind that will only be reinforced as the game plays out: trust no one, rely only on yourself, always be ready for a gunfight. The lack of meaningful human interaction, beyond the functional buddy system, is one of the letdowns of the game.

The gunplay is very satisfying. There are a lot of weapons, which you will have to buy or steal from enemies. Jams, especially on other people’s guns, are rather frequent and can make a very successful assault crumble in seconds, while you get hit multiple times as you struggle to unjam your weapon.

Healing, which is handled via on the spot surgery (some of it pretty gruesome) and quick injections, is a big step forward over health packs or Call of Duty like instant-healing-while-in-cover. One game element that could have been left out of Far Cry 2 is the repairing option related to vehicles that is just an animation of a wrench tightening screws, which gets old quickly and adds little to the atmosphere or the gameplay.

The world is also beautiful, lost and desolate at the same time. You know there’s a war there, although the lack of almost all civilians seems a bit disconcerting at times. But war, with all its desperation, lack of purpose and desolation, has never been rendered so well in a videogame. No World War II shooter can match the depth of emotion bubbling just under the surface of Far Cry 2 and that’s why this is my Shooter of the Year.

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