The Far Cry Series Needs To Let Things Break Again

Far Cry 5 suggests a world on the brink of a violence apocalypse, but the game's sanitised gameplay and clean-cut power fantasy ultimately ring hollow. If the series wants to make a case for human savagery, it should look back to Far Cry 2, a game that wasn't afraid to let things break.

This story originally appeared in April 2018.

In his GDC 2011 talk "Dynamics: The State of the Art," Far Cry director Clint Hocking revealed that the original pitch for Far Cry 2 stated that the game was supposed to be about how "human social savagery is more disturbing than the simple savagery of teeth and claws." To facilitate this, Far Cry 2 is built with systems that intersect to inconvenience the player a great deal and make combat messy.

The game famously implemented fire spread, allowing molotovs or explosives to light the world ablaze. Guns were prone to jamming, and the jam either needed to be frantically cleared or the weapon discarded. Enemies rammed the player's cars until they smoked and needed to be repaired. Injured soldiers stumbled through the jungle and bled out while others pretended to be dead only to fire at the player when they got too close.

Far Cry 2 is a game where the player sets off with any number of plans and watches as everything goes to shit.

A few nights ago in Far Cry 2, I ambushed a target convoy on a road in the middle of the night, opening up with machine gun fire that dispatched one Jeep while the truck and my target fled. I chased them around the map before circling around to cut them off on a different road.

Leaping out of my car, I pulled out my flamethrower and pulled the trigger. My weapon jammed and I was forced to leap out of the car's way, firing wildly with my pistol until the driver crashed into my car. I blasted away at the target's bodyguards as a fire spread around us. Scrambling, I scooped up a nearby assault rifle and shot his escorts dead. Unable to find him in the impenetrable dark, I only discovered my target when they fired at me.

I unloaded a magazine and kept firing until it was empty and my target was dead. The fire spread around the wreckage, which finally exploded. There was nothing left behind but burned bodies.

Contrast this with the cleanliness of Far Cry 5, where I might capture an outpost without raising a single alarm, shooting perfect arrow shots at cultists from a safe position. Far Cry 2's combat seeks to disabuse players of the idea that their ability or planning can lead to anything other than chaos.

Far Cry 5 preaches that if you're skilled enough, killing can be a pure expression of your power and ability, but Far Cry 2 says the opposite.

This sentiment is further compounded by Far Cry 5's player character the Rookie. They are an unnamed deputy sheriff caught in a lawless frontier. Hope Country, long since claimed by Joseph Seed's cult, has far more in common with the bandit-filled countrysides of Red Dead Redemption or the cartel-ruled Bolivia of Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Left with nothing but a badge, some guns, and some grit, they have to wrestle the world into a state of order.

It is a power fantasy that Ubisoft employs often, perhaps most notably in Tom Clancy's The Division, where players are permitted to loot and murder all because of their special status as a Division agent. Far Cry 5's systems perpetuate that fantasy.

Nothing ever really breaks in Hope County, and the player's weapons are always pristine and ready to shoot the next mindless fanatics they come across. For all the game's doomsaying, the gameplay itself never impedes or even inconveniences the player. It never breaks their bones or jams their guns. For a world on the brink, supposedly brimming with sin, everything functions perfectly well.

Far Cry 2 doesn't entirely escape from the unfortunate trappings the series has become known for. The ability to drop into an intentionally unnamed African country and sow chaos without censure is no less insipid a power fantasy than becoming a magical tribal warrior on a tropical island in Far Cry 3 or dispensing justice on the American frontier in Far Cry 5.

But in spite of its problems, Far Cry 2 is the only game in the series where the world properly presses back against the conqueror's impulse.

The moment the player enters Far Cry 2's unnamed nation, they contract malaria. In gameplay, this sickness can flare up to impair movement or even knock out the player if they don't possess valuable anti-malarial drugs.

Far Cry 5 might summon an angry wolverine to pester the player, but Far Cry 2 conjures a foe that can't be defeated by purchasing a new assault rifle. Unlike Far Cry 5's world of seizable outposts, Far Cry 2's guard-posts and checkpoints always respawn enemies.

They player is always at risk, and they can never truly change the world. How dare they ever believe it was possible?

In presenting a sanitised form of combat, Far Cry 5 fails to meaningfully engage with either the player's power or the Rookie's authority. Its message that "sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away" rings false as it gleefully offers a frontier where there's no reason to walk away when pulling a trigger is so easy.

Far Cry 2, with its tendency to break down and undercut the player's plans, makes a far better case for human cruelty than any of Far Cry 5's sermons.


Comments

    For all the game's doomsaying, the gameplay itself never impedes or even inconveniences the player.

    I don't know about that. It might not be via jamming weapons and the like, but obnoxious cut-scene events and actions caused by filling portions of the Herald bar are pretty impeding. And in the early game, having choppers / planes strafing you constantly is frustrating as hell as you don't really have the resources / items to deal with it.

    As for Far Cry 2, it is my least favourite game. The constant respawning made the game artificially difficult I found, no progress seemed to be really made and it became more of a constant slog than anything fun and challenging.

    What a load of bollocks. I loved Farcry 2 and its mechanics.Great game and some interesting concepts. The Farcry series was beginning to become a bit stale. So I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the new ideas and ways of Farcrying in Farcry 5. Kudos to UBISOFT for both this and the refreshing of the Assasins creed series with Origins. seriously they beat Rockstar to the punch was more like Red Dead Redemption Egypt style. Power play fantasies pfftt.... thats most of gaming and a lot of the reason people play games. hmmm let me see soul crushing 9 to 5 simulator 2018, that sounds like a fun game. Some good points about Farcry 2 but the rest rubbish.... ps I really tried to like kingdom come deliverance but it was just too much work.

      soul crushing 9 to 5 simulator

      Interesting choice of words, since Dark Souls and souls-like games are so popular these days, and are the antithesis of a power fantasy. Rouguelikes also have never been more popular. Games that present a greater challenge are in high demand, and Ubisoft is notorious for hand-holding in most of it's games. I haven't played FC5 yet, but if it's anything like 3 and 4 then what the author of the article says makes sense, and personally I'm inclined to agree. I miss FC2 and it's chaos and challenges. It's my fav of the series. But each to their own.

      Last edited 11/04/18 9:51 am

        This article is way off the mark.

        As for Dark Souls, we literally level up and slay dragons. Dragons which don't respawn. The only difference is it forces us to learn the mechanics properly before doing so (which only makes said slaying more rewarding).

        Far Cry 2 has some good ideas, but is tied with 4 as weakest in the series. The respawning roadblocks didn't make me "feel the danger". Instead made me feel like I wasn't achieving anything. "Didn't I just clear this? I cant remember". Far Cry 5 has you liberating actual farmsteads / industrial complexes.. you feel like you're making a difference.

        I recommend you play 5 before letting a Kotaku article sway you. I was honestly ready to hate on 5 (not happy with in-game real money currency), but it's been incredibly refreshing. I still think there are far too many patrols / planes... but if it had respawning enemy camps then I would have lost interest ages ago.

          Not letting an article sway me at all. I hadn't planned on playing 5 before, and I'm still not now. I've got a lot of backlog, maybe some day I'll get round to it. I don't doubt it's a good game, I just would rather play a lot of other games first.
          As I said, I liked 2 a lot. I have very vivid memories of feeling like I was actually in a hostile enemy jungle due to the confusion and roadblocks and choas. But not everything is for everyone. Each to their own.

            Did you end up trying 5 out?

              Lol, no. Maybe someday, but I have a big backlog and a 1 year old daughter. Mostly play on my Switch these days. :)

                <- 7 week old son.

                Switch is invaluable :)

                  Congrats! That's exciting as hell. And yes, the Switch is a dad's best friend. Grab Hollow Knight if you haven't already!

    The thing I always remember about Far Cry 2 is how frustrating cars were. If you were trying to get anywhere you couldn't go 2 minutes without an enemy car spawning in your way. If you tried to outrun them your car would get damaged and slow down, forcing you to get out, defeat the enemy, repair the car and start driving again until 2 minutes later another car would spawn.
    If you tried to get in your own car turret the enemy would still damage your car forcing you to repair it before continuing.

    I did enjoy the weapon degradation but god I hated the gameplay loop whenever you got in a car.

      Indeed. FC2 was a game that for some was a diamond among the rough, and for others, just a piece of quartz.

      I firmly love FC2, but man, FC2 could do with a remaster.

    I did feel that the outposts were a fair bit easier than FC 3 or 4, maybe I’m just getting good (unlikely).

    I also think there was a missed opportunity to have some kind of “arrest” or handcuff move for the player. Enemies could have been disabled by a stealth or melee attack, handcuffed with the possibility of assisted escape (much like the wounded enemy mechanism at the moment). It would have been an optional move for the most part that fit with the character’s persona (perhaps bonus resistance points for capture) and maybe a required element of certain quest (eg capture an important NPC rather than kill). Oh well, same old Far Cry I guess.

    Last edited 10/04/18 12:16 pm

    The malaria mechanic was one of the most annoying gameplay mechanics I've experienced. In effect, it just forced you to do an occasional fetch quest to replenish your supply of anti-malarials, then would bug you every now and then during combat by making you pause to take a pill.
    Not fun at all.

    I never finished Far Cry 2. Got to the second area, realised I'd just have to go around doing all the same things as the first area, then gave up.

    Haven't played fc2 but enemies respawning in captured bases sounds bs. I think FC4 had a better idea of implementing this when enemies would try to recapture an outpost. That was fun. Although dying in that had no affect on the captured putpost. (THANK GOD. because you could only fast travel to outposts).

      I look but at FC2 with fond memories except for the respawning enemies and car repair. It is seriously bad. Clear a site go 100m, go back and prepare to be shot at.

        Malaria. Respawning #$%#@ roadblocks and repairs.

        Real shame.. as the game did a lot right.

    Far Cry 2 doesn't entirely escape from the unfortunate trappings the series has become known for. The ability to drop into an intentionally unnamed African country and sow chaos without censure is no less insipid a power fantasy than becoming a magical tribal warrior on a tropical island in Far Cry 3 or dispensing justice on the American frontier in Far Cry 5. But in spite of its problems, Far Cry 2 is the only game in the series where the world properly presses back against the conqueror's impulse.

    Counter-point: Power fantasy is why I play the bloody thing, and what I want from it, and the series doesn't need to move away from that.

    Don't go ragging on a truly outstanding example of the power fantasy because you don't want power fantasies. "Oh, you can still have your power fantasy everywhere else," the author-stand-in straw man cries, "Just not in the slick, polished, and pretty-as-fuck AAA powerhouse that I want to cater to MY desires, not yours."

    Er... no. Fuck off. This is mine and I love it. Go get your fucking own instead of trying to change mine.

      (That said, I'm hoping Far Cry 6 takes place in a post-nuclear-apocalypse hellscape where it might actually be reasonable to see weapon degradation again.)

        Indeed. The idiotic quips of my Guns for Hire companions already reminds me of the inane smalltalk of Fallout companions.

        Yeah... although perhaps it could be done better. Weapons might begin to jam after use (critical moments), meaning its worth taking time between missions to disassemble and clean weapons at a workshop. Something along those lines.

        Umm so you want Farcry to become Fallout?

      "Oh, you can still have your power fantasy everywhere else," the author-stand-in straw man cries, "Just not in the slick, polished, and pretty-as-fuck AAA powerhouse that I want to cater to MY desires, not yours."

      I kind of agree with the author. I started on hard, and its just too easy. You feel like a god with a magical compass that tells you where enemies are. HUD elements swarm across the screen. Money is easy and you can just buy an attack chopper and demolish anyone, any base. Or if you try but fail to do it stealthy, a base can be cleaned up pretty quickly with a rifle. I've got all these explosives and tools but never feel pressured to use them. I never feel desperate. I never feel like I need to use all my tools to get through a situation, a couple of basic ones will do anything you need.

      I think I might almost be done with it and I haven't killed the third dude yet. The sandboxy stuff is fun but isn't as much fun as the Just Cause games.

      Far Cry 2 gave you chaos and you had to adapt or die. Far Cry 5 gives you chaos and makes you a superhero.

      That said, its a polished game engine with amazing gun feel. It just feels wonderful to play.

        I dont think she means it that way. The power fantasy bit.

        Turn off all the HUD elements.

        I recommend you reply 2 again and see how you feel about it now. I tried replying it recently after completing 3 (which I loved the setting of, but thought had a lot of gameplay issues). Things like malaria, constantly driving everywhere for same-ish quests and those god damn #$$^@%%[email protected] roadblocks just weren't fun.

          I get that and I have replayed it since. I'm not saying it is better, even - but something has been lost.

      Here's the thing: consider any action movie worth watching. Does the hero crash through the film destroying everything in his path like a war god made flesh?
      No, he struggles, he overcomes the greater odds, he takes hits and bleeds and keeps on going because that is what makes him a badass.
      So many games, including the modern Ubigame, give you the power but forgo the struggle. And so the victory feels hollow and unearned.

      And this is why Dark Souls became one of the most revered series in gaming: you have to earn every meter, give your best in every fight. And so every downed boss, every bonfire lit feels like a true victory, feels like you the player are victorious.

      And Far Cry 2 is truly the last game published by Ubisoft that I've felt like I earned anything.

      So, I just discovered that there is a Far Cry 2 nexus, featuring mods which tune systems and overhaul graphics.

      This article has inspired me to go install them when I'm done with AC:Odyssey, RDR2, Spider-Man DLC, re-playing Black Flag, and getting back to finishing Dragon Quest 11, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Yakuza 0, Kiwami 1-2, at which point I'll also probably want to be getting into Anthem and Ace Combat 7 and oh god I'm never going to play everything I want to and will die before even making a dent...

        bahaha transientmind, where will you find the time. Damn odyssey is big. Trying to finish off what i can before rdr2 drops. The sheer size of games these days is beginning to become daunting. Thinking i might take a break after RDR 2 to get some real life shit done. hmmmm getting old.

          The fever pace of high-quality games releases regularly provides me with stark and unwelcome awareness of mortality.

    The ability to drop into an intentionally unnamed African country and sow chaos without censure is no less insipid a power fantasy than becoming a magical tribal warrior on a tropical island in Far Cry 3 or dispensing justice on the American frontier in Far Cry 5.

    You are literally in Africa to stop the chaos, you are there to stop the guy arming both sides of a civil war. You aren't there to make things worse.

      I kinda took it as you weren't really there to stop the chaos, you were there to stop the guy who was undercutting your bosses in the US/UN

    I found Far Cry 2 to be an amazingly frustrating experience.

    For one, every time you jumped into a car, you'd have enemies within minutes just ramming their cars into you.

    Guns jammed constantly and often the worst possible times.

    You could only fast travel at certain points of the game (e.g. bus stops). When you receive a story mission from an NPC, your ally would always want you to come visit them, get an alternative mission, and then go somewhere else to do it in order to try and get better rewards.

    Far Cry 2 was better than the first game, but it still had a lot of questionably annoying mechanics.

    I could never get into FC3/4 (haven't bought 5 yet, but I might for co-op), and I think this article really articulates why. Not so much the stuff about the game's themes or politics, but just...

    The combat in FC2 was frantic and stressful and often just kind of off the rails crazy. By comparison something about FC3 and 4 felt really tame and bland. They had a lot less annoyances (and I definitely think getting rid of checkpoints that respawn in about 30 seconds was a good move) but the moment-to-moment gameplay just didn't feel anywhere near as exciting.

      Your missing out then. Its really quite good regardless of little things that could be better. The feel of the countryside, the travelling by helicopter, the verticality, the driving of quad bikes to semi trailer through the brush and the crackle of the smaller trees and bracken shattering under 60 mile an hour force,,,,,,,, until you hit a tree. Which is not always. Although it is definitely still farcry it is different enough to feel like your just doing the same old. I must adnit I am playing it on the X. cant say how much different it is from other versions but it almost feels next gen. Even with said abrupt ending.

    The whole FC2 v FC5 thing is one of the reasons we will never have HL3.
    When you make something great it's hard to top it and if you don't there's hell to pay.

    Quite enjoyed the campaign the amount of filler in this game is quite annoying....
    To clear one of the first zone there's around 4 hours of filler about 45 minutes of main storyline it wouldn't be so bad if the filler was half decent just pointless crap!

    Last edited 10/04/18 4:50 pm

    counterpoint:
    Far Cry 2 sales - something like 2.9 Million in its first year

    Far Cry 5 sales - something like 5 million in the first week.

    Ubisoft doesn't need to do anything they aren't already doing.

    Yeah, FC2, while not perfect, was the last Far Cry game I've really enjoyed.
    And the moments that made it memorable were indeed those moments of desperate chaos that latter games, or even most open world games, just don't deliver.

    Cruising down a river after a mission only to have a patrol boat swoop out of a side stream ahead, shooting my tubofan to smoke and my body full of holes. I run to the front of my boat, singleshot grenade launcher in hand, leap, fire into the bow of the oncoming patrol boat. It explodes, front-flipping over my head ontop of my stricken craft, exploding that too as I dive under the water.
    I crawl onto the bank, pull a bullet out of my leg with a pair of pliers and look around.
    100 meters away a soldier is also crawling onto the sand, heavily wounded. I stagger over and stab him through the chest with the rusted pieced of metal I use as a machete.
    A wave of malaria sickness washes over me as I take stock: out of ammo, wounded, in the middle of nowhere as the grass around me catches fire from the boat wreckage washing onto shore. I pick up the pos ak47 the dead solder was carrying and head into the wilderness, hoping I can make to to a safehouse before a lion finds me.

    Seriously, no matter how polished, the current ubigame formula just can't produce moments like that.

      I still to this day have vivid memories of hard fought battles in Far Cry 2.
      But my only memory of Far Cry 3 is the point where I was walking through a cave and literally forgot what game I was playing because the moment was so generic and done-this-a-1000-times-in-countless-games that I had to open the main menu and look at a logo to remember what I was playing.

    Malaria and broken weapons are why i got cheat codes for Far Cry 2.
    Having operated firearms for most of my life, weapons that break likein Farcry 2 does not happen IRL and certainly not regularly as you get into a bad firefight. good idea but weapon damage should be incured by falling from a height or being run over, not for merely being exposed to oxygen. ALSO: most of the weaponry in Farcry 2 is Russian, some of the most reliable and designed for adverse conditions on the planet. The fact the AK jams as my health bar reached 0 as the Malaria set in just felt like poor adversity managment on the makers behalf. turning it all off lets me actually play the game. So, No....breaking weapons and Malaria is a shit mechanic and thats why they did not continue using it in subsequent releases.....nice try though....

    YOU MIST BE F#*$%#G JOKING!!!
    This was the most horrendous turd piece of software.
    This is the ONLY game I have ever given up playing because the bugs/hangs/crashes were soooo frequent.

    Im glad i didnt see this the first time it was posted.
    Far cry 2 was the WORST far cry.
    Piss off.

      I thought it was alright at the time, interesting mechanics. I am but a console peasant though.

        I hate weapon degradation, i hate malaria, i hate first person driving.
        I lasted an hour before i went F this. To the point i didnt even touch FC3 until i was told that stuff was gone.

          (well not first person driving, its still there, but it sure handled better in 3)

          And that's not even the full extent of FC2's obnoxiousness.

          I didn't mind the weapon degradation and tolerated the malaria and first person driving... but after a few hours I realised 90% of the game was driving from point A to point B, through checkpoints C,D,E,F and G (which would force me to stop, every. single. time.) for a generic mission in a generic location, full of generic bad guys, which would always play out the same as every other goddamn generic mission.

          Like you, I had to have a friend reassure me all of that crap was gone before I would even touch FC3... which I actually enjoyed quite a lot.

        it had good ideas that fucking poorly implemented well before ubisoft became known for poor ideas.
        Weapons gettting dirty and then becoming unsuable? good, however it poorly implemented in far cry 2 because it was based on the amount of reloads your made with a weapon and not on how many shots you fired. it also never effected the AI.
        The game was also set in made up country in africa, yet featured zero predators like lions, hyenas or crocodiles. also features only 2 types of herbivors in 2 packs of zebras and 2 backs of wilderbeast spread between both maps.

    Far Cry 2 was fun

    Jamming weapons at the worst time, and contracting Malaria was not fun!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now