Kotaku AU: Games Of The Year - #1

Here we are at number one. So without further ado, this is my pick for the best game of 2008...

1. Far Cry 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

From start to finish, Far Cry 2 continued to surpass and subvert my expectations like no other game I played this year. It began with a taxi ride homage to Call of Duty 4, ironically enough the type of linear, scripted FPS Ubisoft Montreal clearly didn't want to make. And it ends in a manner that is a remarkably brave design decision and yet the only logical conclusion the developer could have pursued.

In between, Far Cry 2 excels at providing the opportunity for spontaneous, free-wheeling gameplay moments that no one else will have experienced in quite the same way. To me there's just something enormously satisfying about knowing that the choices I made carried weight and consequence in how events played out.

Just the other night, I accepted a buddy mission from Hakim; he'd been mugged, didn't want to tell me why, it was enough to know that he wanted the guy dead. So I took a boat from the Marina Bar down to the safehouse along the coast from the brewery and just northeast of the camp where my target was located. Inside the safehouse I met up with Frank, who said he'd get my back if I needed it, and decided to sleep until nightfall.

With my camo suit on, I was able to slip through the jungle in the dark and sneak up on a ridge overlooking the camp. Through my monocular I could see a figure between foliage that looked like it was my target. I pulled up my dart rifle, peered down the scope and... I felt dizzy, my vision blurring uncontrollably. Damn malaria!

After popping a pill, I looked down at the bottle to find it empty. I'd need to find somewhere to get more drugs soon, but it would have to wait for now. Once again, focused on my target through the dart rifle scope. It was dark, I could barely see him through the leaves, but it had to be him. I'd take him out with a headshot then easily slink away into the night without drawing any attention. Hakim would be pleased.

I fired. He dropped, instantly. Success.

Wait. Why am I not seeing the "Mission Complete" pop-up? Shit. I killed the wrong guy. Shit. I pull up my dart rifle again and scour the scene. Where is he? Where did he go?

Next I hear voices, and shouts. Looking up, I can see two guys moving towards me, checking the area. I switch to my grenade launcher and - so much for stealth - fire. Click. Shit! I forgot to restock on ammo at the Marina. I hurl a molotov down the hill to impede their search, then turn tail and get outta there. Hakim's guy can wait just a bit longer.

Moments later, I've made it back to my boat, having narrowly avoided a patrolling jeep on the road near the safehouse. I start her up and head east back towards the Marina to resupply. Except I never make it there. Two enemy boats appear ahead, one of which scores a direct hit on me with its mounted grenade launcher. I leap from my burning boat before it explodes and swim for it. As I reach the shore, I slump to my knees and black out...

My eyes open to see Frank grabbing me, dragging me through the jungle and handing me a pistol. I jab my second last syrette into my arm and duck behind a tree. We're trapped in a small clearing midway between the safehouse, the brewery and the camp. There are guys everywhere, swarming in all around us. Frank's crouched next to me, firing at anything that moves. I lob my last few grenades in one direction, then turn to take out the guys on the other side with my pistol.

It's chaos. Utter chaos. Bullets are flying everywhere. Voices are yelling everywhere. People are dying everywhere. The patrolling jeep from earlier comes screaming through the trees and in the panic, Frank and I are separated. I somehow manage to find a grenade on the ground and lob it at the jeep. The resulting fire exacerbates the chaos as it spreads across the clearing.

Diving behind a fallen tree, I use my teeth to pull a bullet from my forearm and jab myself with my last syrette. Peering out, there's probably 4 or 5 guys left now, judging by the number of voices. I can't see them though, so I wait for them to open fire. I can't see Frank either. This is not going at all to plan.

I spot one guy crouching behind a tree and manage to take him out with a pistol headshot. Picking up an AK-47, I take out two more guys before another exchange of gunfire and a scream tells me Frank's still out there somewhere. Then I spot his flare. Frank's down.

I reach his writhing figure quickly, but I've got no syrettes left. Shit. This is all my fault. If only I'd been more careful. Why didn't I remember to collect extra ammo? Why did I not show more patience when lining up my shot at the camp? Why did I think I could outrun those two boats?

Maybe I could make it to the safehouse and come back with more syrettes, I begin to ponder before I realise Frank is desperately urging me to give him my pistol. Shit. Shit. Shit. "It's the only way," Frank cries. I pull out my pistol, point it at his head and look away.


Maybe you have similar stories to tell, but no one else had this experience of Far Cry 2. It was the result of my own decision-making and the dynamic, reactive nature of the game's AI combining to produce a totally unscripted scenario as relentless, thrilling and visceral as anything found in more orchestrated FPS. The fact that it could have happened in countless other ways is what gives it its power as an interactive experience.

Of course, Far Cry 2 isn't perfect - no game is. I'd loved to have seen the two factions actually fighting in the wilderness, for example. But for me, if Call of Duty 4 marked the pinnacle of the conventional FPS, Far Cry 2 showed us a bold, new future for an open world FPS. It's my game of the year.


    Number #1?? You've got to be kidding me! this game lasted about 10 minutes on my PC.

    Which makes you eminently qualified to judge it ;-)

    Given that you have given Far Cry 2 top spot, I would be interested to know your thoughts on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. They are by no means perfect however I think they have captured the "open-world" aspect far greater that any other FPS.

    Having said that, I am yet to play Far Cry 2.

    #1 - Geeeeez Man!

    The dodgy controls, the ridiculously stupid A.I and the pain staking travel time made this my #1 disappointing game of the year.

    This game encapsulates everything I love and hate about open ended gameplay. Everyone else always has cooler stories than me...

    Well said Dave! This game is phenomenal, well worthy of your number 1... It is my number 1 too... Surprised no Gears 2 in there :(

    Solid choice, stunning scenery, free-roam gameplay however the AI was a bit glitchy for me (PC VERSION)

    Yeah, I played it for about ten minutes and it just seemed like another crisis fps clone, took it back to the store.

    I'm glad you had fun with it though, maybe people who are more into FPS will agree with your number one.

    Thanks for the insight.

    I can see why you would like this FPS: Huge environments, free choice in missions, great choice of weapons etc
    However ultimately I felt the game had failed to live up to its promises. For one there is so distance you have to cover by car and being stopped by patrols every 30 secs doesn't help. Secondly this is meant to be a story about a civil war, why do I feel like the only one doing the fighting? Lastly freedom of choice in this game isn't exactly "free", no matter who you side with your still going to end up betrayed, and whats with the Jackal at the end? Why can't you just say no?

    Still with all these criticisms, Farcry 2 is bringing in fresh ideas to the industry and there's nothing like running over Zebras in a Jeep across beautiful grasslands.

    Burn dude. Burn. You just got burned. And whilst I did love FC2 on PC, I'm not sure if it's the #1 of '08. Hellaload more deserving then most I suppose.

    The game would have easily been very enjoyable if it weren't for the respawning outpost feature, which only serves to drag out the quests so they take 15 minutes instead of three. By the time I'd fought through my fifteenth outpost, I didn't care how great the story was going to turn out if I had to do that for the rest of the game. Perhaps making the respawn delay a little longer would have been nicer.

    Oh Snap!!!

    Good write up David. I only gave the game about an hour before switching it off in exchange to play Fallout 3 and I never looked back. But having read your article here I might have to give it a second chance. Thanks again!

    I am glad to see a site have the guts to put this admittedly imperfect but very bold game as #1. It is my #1 as well.
    I like it because the game interferes with you as little as possible. In your example, the only thing the game steps in to tell you to do is to execute one guy. But thanks to the system of variables in place, this very simple end goal leads to a very dynamic, emergent narrative that is different for each player. This is true for the entire game, where at the very start you are given a simple, singular objective: kill the jackal. The game doesn't hold your hand, guiding you the whole way through, telling you what to do and what not to do. Far Cry 2 is a real *game* game, where things play out according to the interaction between particular variables, not like the amusement ride of Half-Life 2, the obstacle course of COD4 or the "museum tour" of MGS4. It is definitely a new direction for the FPS and I strongly hope more games continue further in this direction.

    Okay well maybe a bit longer than 10 minutes but here's some examples as to why I think this game sucks.

    1. Graphics. They are sub-par. They look ok from a far distance and some how they looked good in the trailers and screenshots but they dont look that way on the game. Also the lighting is way to much, it kills a lot of graphics. The textures are terrible on most things and the polygons are easily seen on just about everything. This is more like a 3rd rate game from 8 years ago. hell even Half Life 2 graphics are way better then this.

    2. the animation. holy hell is this terrible. The only good animation is your character. Everything else sucks. Especially the animals. They are very stiff, do lag hoping, and when they die, they just fall over like like guys used to do 15 yrs ago in games. Driving is ok but everything just about stops you dead in your tracks if you arn't on grass or smooth surfaces.

    3. AI, again this is terrible. The enemies AI is fairly simple. They see you, they run after you shooting or drive over you. thats it. There is really no cover system, they rarely retreat, and they do alot of lag movement, especially in and out of cars. And half the time they just stand around if they cant instantly find you again. Also they made it so they can catch up to you almost instant quick no matter how fast you are going unless you are already a good distance ahead of them and just keep running till you're out of the area. And they are able to hit you just about every time, even with a pistal from sniper range yet you have to be pretty much right up on them to get a hit in.

    4. Controls, simple controls that are very slow to respond in many cases with bad control layout. health and weapon buttons should not be the same or close to each other, you'll end up using health when you ment to shoot, aim or throw a gernade. Throwing gernades also suck. weak throws, hard to aim, its pretty much throwing hail marys hoping it gets close to the target but they have to land right on top of the enemy only inchs away for them to have any effect, a couple feet off and it does nothing. Driving is as simple as it gets but the lack of shooting and driving yet you can hold a map while driving is just stupid.

    5. gameplay. Boring, repetitive, no memorable moments. Think of a GTA game but with less varity. Very few objects actually interact with the character unlike games like Half Life, MGS games, so forth which pretty much all re-act to whatever you do to them.

    6. Sound. immersion sound? ha. Its nothing like you here from that virtual barbershop sample, even with head phones. It sounds more like just a crap load of sounds playing all at once and the voices have no depth perspetion. a guy 30 feet away is just as loud as someone 3 feet away. you cant tell if they are coming closer or not. I even came across someone at a plane crash site who was talking to me but all that I saw was the subtitle, there was no sound or person and I looked every where for this person. dont know if this was a glitch or what but they wanted my help.

    7. everything else, I didn't play online yet or use the map editor so I wont comment on those. But everything else such as cars breaking down happens way to fast and easy. you'll constantly be getting out to fix it if you do long trips which traveling from one spot to the next is very long and boring and you're almost sure to get some guys in a jeep chase after you and shoot and kill you. Only way to stop them is get out, and just shoot at them till they die unless they run you over first. There really is no need or interest to explore the large map. Theres very few tiny hunts and towns scattered all over and in them, there is nothing to do except get diamonds, buy guys, kill people. thats it. The story and voice acting is terrible and very uninteresting.

    I really have no clue how this game got such high scores and awards like it did. Its a piss poor game that deserves nothing higher then a 5.5 out of 10.

    I dont know, maybe i've just been spoiled by all the good games out there that my expectations are to high but this seriously plays and reminds me of FPS games 6 years ago.

    I loved this game, the most fun I have had on the xbox in a very long time. My gaming experience has never been as good with another game, except for Bioshock, which is linear and doesn't offer the same amount of freedom with choosing where to go. >

    Yeh ok. Bookmarks...delete...Kotaku.

    Seriously #1? It should be #1 most annoying game of the year. I tried to enjoy it, but the terrible A.I and game killing outposts just ruined it.

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who loved FC2

    Oh burn!

    However the game lasted just as long on my puter, though with some people loving it and others hating it maybe I should give it a second look. After all I (somehow) manages to stomach the first far cry....and crisis, I don't think it can get much worse than that :p

    Interesting choice, i only played a bit as the distance travelling, the blatant useless and pointless malaria feature and worst of all the super accurate enemies (how is that 50 cal shooting in a straight line 200 metres away?) got to me

    But overall i was very impressed with Far Cry 2, amazing visuals, open world and the fact that what i did had so much impact at times.

    It sounds like you had an amazing experience with this game, and that's essentially what it comes down to. All these Game Of The Year countdowns are based on our personal experiences with the videogames that we play -- no one is speaking on behalf of anyone else, and every game that has been selected has also had a reasonable explanation behind it.

    First person shooters aren't really my thing, and I would be more inclined to have something else as the number 1 game of 2008 (I'm yet to decide what it should be, yet). But I'm glad you shared your experience. If anything, this countdown just goes to show how dynamic the gaming crowd is and how varied our responses to videogames are.

    People should stop getting their knickers in a knot about these things. Seriously -- it's just videogames.

    Obviously trying to be cool and different, didn't fool me. Hope you got the hits you wanted.

    I really loved FC2 as well so its nice to see that I wasnt alone. At first it just felt like a go here, shoot this person sorta game but once i got into it deeper I started to see the huge number of tactics offered to me in how I completed each goal. It really is a awesome game and one I would put in my top 5 for the year, if I was to note them down.

    An interesting choice for Number One. Whilst I agree completely about the immersive environments, and tense, nailbiting moments deep in the jungle surrounded by enemies whilst low on ammo, I can't agree with game of the year because I didn't finish the whole game.

    Not for lack of trying.

    I didn't see any comments mentioning the corrupt Save file issues on Xbox 360? I had three save files, which I saved to one after the other, as I've learnt to do in my years of gaming lest I make a mistake and need to go back to an earlier point.
    At 85% completion, my first Save corrupted. This resulted in my 360 completely crashing every time I tried to load aforementioned Save file. Luckily, I had two more, which kept me going through to 92%, which looked to me like being the endgame.
    These two save files corrupted one after the other, which effectively left me with a game that I couldn't finish, with all weapons unlocked, ALL diamonds collected, and a case of apoplexy.

    All this, and no word from Ubisoft addressing a known issue. They're happy to sting me $130 for the Collector's Edition, when I think their efforts may have been more rewarding if they'd just coded the game properly.

    A great idea, executed poorly, in my humble opinion.

    I'm playing it now and I'm loving it, good choice.

    I completely agree with this getting #1, I played through this once and liked it so much I decided to play it a second time and try and complete it 100%, as in all Diamonds and what not, and have done so. Love it from start to finish, though speaking of the finish its a strange choice to stop the player being able to come back to the world and do as they wish; strange for an open world game that is. But without the ending it would not have been such a powerful cinematic experience.

    The game has faults, but I disagree with you Warden on the graphics being one of them, certainly not when they are maxed out, its not quite Crysis but it runs so well on given hardware I was amazed at how good it looks. Particularly the lighting which you complained about. The A.I is... good and bad at times sadly, and they do respawn too quickly but other than that I have no complaints, and those complaints are not enough to stop this being my number 1 game of 2008 too.

    It seems to be a Vegemite game this one...

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