I'm betting that a lot of people who played Far Cry 2 didn't finish it. It's a chaotic, gruelling game, and it's at least five hours too long. If you made it to the end, you got a finale just as flawed, ambitious, and bleak as the game preceding it. Spoilers will follow, of course!
The Story Begins...
You play as a mercenary sent into a diamond-rich, unnamed central African nation to kill the Jackal, a mysterious arms dealer who has been supplying weapons to hot-spot conflicts around the globe. You arrive in the northern region, which is called Leboa-Sako. A ceasefire is in place between the APR and the UFLL, the two factions fighting for control of the country.
You catch malaria almost immediately after landing, pass out, and wake up shivering in a bed with the Jackal standing over you. He cryptically quotes philosophy at you, then lets you go.
The rest of the game mostly involves doing jobs for either the APR or the UFLL, alongside various unsavoury mercenaries that the game calls your "buddies" after you team up with them. You help a reporter who is writing a book about the war, hunting down tapes of an interview he did with the Jackal. In exchange for malaria medication, you also help a priest who is helping civilians get to the border in preparations to flee the country.
What Happens Next...
It doesn't really matter which faction you work for, since both are portrayed as cruel and morally bankrupt, and you eventually kill the leaders of both. Halfway through the game, most of your buddies either die or are presumed dead after an ambush on the bar where you all used to meet up. You wind up in the southern region of Bowa-Seko, which is a "holy shit, I'm only halfway done??" moment that I'm guessing kept a lot of people from finishing the game.
The Jackal eventually reveals that his plan is to encourage the war between the factions so that they will burn each other to the ground, all while helping civilians escape the country. He thinks the crimes both sides are committing under the cover of peace are worse than the war itself, so he drafts you into his service to help execute the final stage of his plan.
How It Ended
You're sent to retrieve a briefcase of diamonds that the Jackal needs for his plan. You arrive at a helicopter landing pad to get the briefcase and find a bunch of your surviving buddies there, ready to fight to protect it. You kill them, grab the briefcase, and meet the Jackal near the border.
He observes that your character has entered the terminal stages of malaria and doesn't have long to live. Then he explains that the bulk of the civilian populace is about to cross the nearby border, but soldiers are in pursuit. He's got a plan to get everyone out of the country safely, but it will require you both to die.
One of you has to go manually detonate a bomb to block the road behind the civilians, dying in the explosion. The other has to use diamonds to bribe the guards at the crossing, after which he'll shoot himself. (Neither of you really questions the need for that last part.)
You can watch that all play out here, in this video by finnisher:
Whichever option you choose, the ending plays out the same. The refugees make it across the border, while the journalist you've been helping looks on and takes photos. The bomb goes off in the distance, presumably killing whoever detonated it. The picture freezes with the sound of a gunshot, presumably as the person who took the briefcase shoots himself.
A brief written epilogue explains that the APR and UFLL have continued their fighting under cover of a new cease-fire, but a lot of civilians made it out before that happened. The Jackal is presumed dead, but his body was never found. The end.
Congratulations, you won the game!
I like Far Cry 2 because of its flaws, not in spite of them. I feel similarly about the way it ends. It's a confusing jumble of a conclusion, but one that's consistent with the rest of the game. Far Cry 2's oppressive atmosphere and general lack of polish both stand in contrast to the more empowering, player-friendly Far Crys 3 or 4. You succumb to malaria at the worst moments and your gun jams at the least opportune times.
Nothing goes according to plan. And on top of all of that intentional imbalance, there's just something off about the way the game tells its story.
Everyone in Far Cry 2 speaks 50 per cent faster than a normal human, firing out machine-gun bursts of dialogue that are hard to follow purely due to the speed at which they're delivered. You're assailed with the names of leaders and locations, and it's hard to keep track of everything. When I played Far Cry 2 back in 2008, I couldn't have told you the difference between the APR and the UFLL, or whether it mattered whom I was killing at any given point.
There's an argument that that's on me for just not paying attention, and an argument that the game should have slowed down and explained itself better. Having finished it at least one additional time since then, I get the sense that the point was, it doesn't matter who's who. I probably shouldn't have had to play the game twice to get that, but I appreciate what they were going for.
The ending is similar to the rest of the game. Blink and you'll miss some of the major revelations in the last act. In most games, the sequence when you murder your former buddies and take their diamonds would be milked for drama. You'd have a verbal confrontation, they'd accuse you of betraying them, sad orchestral music would swell as you mowed them down… that kind of thing. Instead, it's possible to kill them without even realising who you're shooting.
The first time I played through that section I sniped everyone from a distance and was mostly just surprised that these soldiers took more bullets than usual. Huh, I thought. That was weird. It wasn't until my second playthrough that I realised what was really going on.
As the Jackal motormouths through his late-game revelations, they lose a lot of impact. Wait, so this guy is against war? What? He's seriously arguing that provoking an all-out war and displacing thousands of people is somehow better than letting both sides pursue peace? It's a hell of a provocative plan, and one the game barely pauses to explore or let you consider.
He appears to give you a choice, but it's not actually a choice. "The only ones who die today are the ones who have it coming," he says. The implications of that are interesting, since he's saying that both you and he obviously have it coming. Your character, who never utters a word throughout the game, of course remains silent.
After all the horrible shit you've done throughout the game, it'd probably be weird to speak up now. Time to go kill yourself! You were doomed anyway.
Far Cry 2 still seems like an improbable game, almost a decade after it came out. It took the skin of an anti-war art project and uncomfortably stretched it over the muscles of a violent open-world shooter. It was one of the first big-budget action games to attempt to critique the violence it encouraged, showing in the process that a violent game could be engrossing without necessarily being "fun".
Its execution may have been uneven, but it asserted a game like this can be more directly about the actions and atrocities you commit while playing, helping open the door for that notion to be explored further in games like 2012's Spec Ops: The Line.
Unsatisfying and confusing, Far Cry 2's ending fits with the game that precedes it. This is a game where you're infected with an incurable disease, and where your trustiest weapons can break at any moment. It's hard to keep track of who you're killing or why. Your alliances all end in betrayal and death, your choices rarely mean when you thought they meant, and even the most carefully planned fire will inevitably burn out of control.
In retrospect, it would have been foolish to expect to make it out alive.