Far Cry 2

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Recommended age: This game has very little blood or gratuitous effects for an "M" game, but it's chock full of language (including plenty of uses of the f-word), and a very weak moral compass--with you mostly assassinating and blowing up things for little to no reason.

And although adults wanting a well made explorative shooter, which this is, could probably take the pointless missions and near amoral story with a grain of salt, this game is far too violent for kids, and just too morally abstract for younger teens. So, I recommend this game for ages 17+.

Pros & Cons:
Pertaining to My short list.

Although there may be better graphics on a smaller scale, for its huge size, this game has an incredible amount of detail, not to mention that it runs very smoothly, with no loads or hitches, and for it's scale, there's very little texture/object pop-in. And other than loading from the last save (which takes about 35 seconds), there are no other load screens present.

The gameplay itself is completely non-linear, and you can really approach any mission in any way you can think of--and it feels very cool to scope out your target from a quarter mile away; spotting snipers, guards, and supplies before going in.

The environment is truly immersive because of the realistic forests and foliage, with it swaying in the wind, bending under your feet, individual leaves falling off trees, and the whole of it exploding when you throw a grenade, etc.--this immersion is furthered by the way your character is required to interact with the game's world...

The vehicles you drive all feel and handle differently, and if they take too much damage, the engine will start to overheat and you'll have to take out your wrench to fix them. And instead of having to go into a pause menu, you can view the full map in real-time, which will have the main character pull out a parchment imprinted with the overworld in one hand, and a digital compass in the other (which can also be used during driving)--very cool.

The enemy AI is quite smart, and very aware of their environment; they know how to flank you, hide in grass, and take cover behind trees. Enemy patrols make their rounds through the game's world, and take all precautions when you approach one of their many posts; they'll mount their machine guns, yell orders to each other, and if you run, they'll get into their vehicles and try to chase you down. This AI causes interesting and ever-changing situations--nothing ever happens the same way twice.

However, although the environments are stunning, the character models themselves are extremely average in comparison; you're playing the same mission over and over in slightly different forms; the enemy types are exactly the same from beginning to end; and since the overworld is so huge, it takes forever to get anywhere, which is furthered by the fact that the very hostile enemies stop you at almost every turn, and because of this, some could find it tedious, overwhelming, and even boring.

But the worst thing about this game is its story. You couldn't care less about the characters; there is no emotional payoff in the end; the missions have no driving force or point; and you never know quite what you're doing things for--or even care.

However, if you can look past the negatives, than this is a very unique and well made game. And if you liked the explorative portions in Half-life 2 and the action-packed gameplay in Mercenaries (which this is like, only more realistic and less arcade-y), then you should give this game a try.

Blood: The blood spurts in moderate amounts whenever you hit or shoot an enemy. However, blood does not splatter onto walls, floors, stain clothing, or linger. There is some static blood smeared/splattered on floors and walls on some of the game's buildings/roads. Bodies do linger, and you see a few dead and bloodied bodies lying next to collectable audio tapes, and a few more bodies scattered lightly around some of the game's more isolated areas. There is no option to turn blood off in this game.

In addition, the health system is a bit grisly, with your character pulling imbedded bullets out of very detailed bullet wounds (as in rounded and raised portions of bloody flesh) with pliers (or combo knife/pliers) from his wrists, arms, legs, etc. He'll also relocate his broken fingers; push imbedded bullets from one end of his arm out the other with his finger; relocate his elbow (which in turn, pops out the bullet); pull out a fully impaled barb from his knee after falling from a high place; and carterize wounds with his lighter.

Last of all, some of the collectable audio tapes have the Jackal (main villain) briefly mentioning things like men cutting off fingers during torture, packing C4 into dead bodies for smuggling, men killing children by "Cutting the tendons in their necks," and "Blood spurting out of their necks." He also recalls seeing a child stealing boots off a dead solider, who had "Big chunks of hamburger out of his torso" from a shotgun wound. However, all the above is just heard breifly (not seen), and not only are the tapes hard to find, but they're entirely optional.

Drug reference: Right from the beginning of the game, the main playable character contracts malaria, and has to fend it off with prescription meds by finding the bottle, and then taking one pill at a time; you'll constantly be sticking yourself in the upper wrist with medical syringes to revive yourself when you're low on health; and one of your friends says something about a brewing pot, and later on he asks if you have any on you (which you don't).

Intense violence: The game's story takes place in a modern time, but fictional African state, currently involved in a bloody war between the rival APR and UFLL factions. When you start the game you can choose to be one out of the nine mercenaries, and then you're set out into the game's world. After being dropped off at a cheap motel by your cab driver, you pass out from a newly caught case of malaria and wake up to the Jackal, an arms dealer providing weapons for both sides of the war. He knows you were sent (and paid) to kill him, and tells you he'll leave you alone for now, but if you continue to pursue him, he won't be so forgiving, and then disappears. It's your mission to hunt down and kill this Jackal, all the while dealing with your deadly case of malaria...

The base gameplay revolves around you completing missions for both the APR and UFLL. Once you decide on what mission you want (which varies, but basically consists, of taking out a specific human target, destroying enemy supplies, camps and/or convoys), you take out your map, find a vehicle (like jeeps, speed boats, etc.) drive to the location, and complete the job. This game is huge, at about 30 square miles (if you see it, you can go there), meaning going anywhere will take you more than a while. And along the way, you'll have to scavenge for ammo/health; clear out, and use safe houses to rest; and save your game if you ever hope to stay alive.

You'll be fighting enemy mercenaries throughout, who are not only plentiful in the game's world, but extremely hostile. You most often never have to start a fight yourself, and enemies will attack when you drive by their posts, or if you're simply driving anywhere around the game's huge overworld. An example being: while driving down a road, an enemy jeep will come out of nowhere, with one of the men shooting at you using a mounted machine gun, while the driver tries to ram you off the road. And if you're out of the vehicle, he'll do everything in his power to run you over--this event happens constantly. However, men in the main towns won't attack you (as long as you don't attack them, that is), there are no actual civilians in this game whatsoever, and there's no penalty for taking any car in the game (as in, enemies will attack whether you steal their car or not).

To counteract these enemies you'll be using a variety of weapons, like a machete, pistols, automatic rifles, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, trip mines, grenades, and even a flamethrower (which has unlimited ammo). You'll have to buy and upgrade these weapons with the diamonds you're paid with by completing certain side-mssions, because if you pick up enemy weapons, they're prone to giving out and jamming. You can carry three weapons other than your machete (which your always equipped with), in the form of primary (like, rifles, etc.), secondary (pistols, etc.), and special (like rocket launchers, etc).

The combat system is moderately violent, intense and frequent--as you spend most of the game engaged in combat. All enemies encountered wear flak jackets of some kind, which means when you, lets say sneak up on them and stick them with a machete once, they won't die immediately. Instead, they'll drop to the ground rocking back and forth, and then eventually black out. They'll soon come to, slowly get up, take out their pistol, and weakly shoot at you (if your farther away they'll just try to crawl to safety). This carries into the gun battle, meaning you most often have enemies you thought where dead, getting up and limping off, or (annoyingly) shooting at your back.

When you throw a grenade, enemy bodies fly, as do tree branches, dust, leaves, objects, and grass, and if it explodes near an explodable barrel--guess. You can also set enemies on fire with your flamethrower, and although they flail around before dying, after the fire has subsided, the bodies have no secondary details--meaning they don't looked at all burned. In addition, the flamethrower can be used to set fire to grass, trees, and buildings, resulting in it realistically spreading until it has no oxygen left to burn, and if it's near barrels or vehicles, it'll set them on fire and cause chain explosions.

As I mentioned earlier, enemies will constantly try to ram your car or run you over. You can return the favor and run and/or ram them over (There's also some wildlife present, like zebra, goats, chicken, gazelle, and water buffalo. You can shoot and run the animals over at any time too--you can't eat them). But although the violence is intense, chaotic, and you can run enemies over, shoot, stab, and blow them up, there isn't any gibbing (which means they stay completely intact) or dismemberment (meaning you can't lop of their head, arms, etc).

It's made perfectly clear straight from the beginning that you have no real allies other than "buddies," who are the mercenaries you didn't pick to play as. These buddies will help you with the main missions (sometimes giving you a better or alternative objective) and they'll live in the game's world right along side you. Sometimes they'll stay at a safe house, and when you "die" during a mission, they'll come to the rescue and perform cover fire while you heal and ammo up.

If you accept their alternate objective for main missions, they'll get injured in the escape process and call you for help. When you arrive, you'll have to clear the area of enemies, and then make your way to your buddy who's currently writhing in pain on the floor. You then have the option to either inject them with one of your healing syringes, put them out of their misery (they'll pull the gun closer and gesture you to shoot--because of the pain), or you can abandon them, which will also result in their death (all buddies can die)--your choice.

The actual missions, and in fact the overall story, is extremely grey (bordering on black) morally, with abstract goals/motives, and you constantly double crossing and switching "allegiance" between the APR and UFLL (since all missions are classified, the APR's and the UFLL's men will attack you on site during these missions no matter what side you're on--at the time). You have plenty of choice on whether to kill this guy or that guy, blow this up or blow that up, but for no particular, compelling or satisfying reason. And most of the main objectives consist of assassinating rivals, destroying medical supplies or natural gas reserves, and pretty much keeping the war going for really no reason at all.

This attitude carries into the side-quests. The first type of optional side-quests involve finding cellular towers and getting anonymous calls from men who want you to assassinate target for money--you get no reason why, just do it. The second involves killing the rival gun shop owner's men and destroying their equipment in turn for more weapon options. However, the third side-quest type does involve delivering travel paper to refugee civilians--but in exchange for malaria medicine for yourself, meaning you're never really doing anything good or even remotely selfless.

As for the story and its ending (which there isn't much of), I won't spoil it, but I will say that it doesn't have a satisfing conclusion (especially for the 25+ hours it takes to complete), and it's just plain forced and pointless. The characters further this pointlessness, and they feel impersonal, disconnected, and by the game's end you really don't care what happens to any of them, let alone the main character. Take this and the fact that your mission objective are on the edge of amoral, and you realize that story, morality (or at least choice of it), and most importantly, a good reason for what you're doing is needed for a fully immersive and satisfying experience. And although some tolerant adults could take this game with a grain of salt, and roam the huge (and very fun to explore) overworld, this game is far too morally abstract for a younger audience.

Sexual themes: One of your buddies informs you that "I'm serious as an erection problem!" while telling you about his current mission. The Jackal briefly says something about men "F**king they're wives" in an (optional, and hard to find) audio tape. And last of all, there are three women present in the form of buddies, but they're modestly dressed, and nothing goes on between them and the main character.

Strong language: There are over a dozen uses of the words, hell, screw (sexual context), sh*t, and the f-word, under a dozen of the words, bastard, d*mn, God d*mn, p*ss, a**, a**hole, SoB, God, and Christ, and one use of the words, c*ck and c*nt in the main script. Other than the main script, enemies and allies are potty-mouths and will often use words like, d*mn, hell, a**, a**hole, b*tch, sh*t, bullsh*t, SoB, God d*mn, Christ, God, Jesus, and very frequently use the f-word, while you fight with (and/or) against them, or while you walk around the main towns.

Mild alcohol and tobacco reference: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating, although it is mild) there are a couple mentions of alcohol, you see several bottles of the substance lying around the game's world (but you can't drink it), and enemies smoke cigarettes on their breaks.

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