Why A Cult Grew Around Far Cry 2


It seems like every time a new Far Cry game comes up, somebody has to bring up Far Cry 2. I’m pretty sure I’ve done it more than once on this blog. Before Far Cry 5 came out, USGamer ran an analysis piece about what set Far Cry 2 apart for better or worse. More recently, a video comparing certain minor details between Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 5 has garnered a bit of discussion, and it slightly touches on what I don’t really like about all the Far Cry games that came after Far Cry 2.

To try to run through the main jist concisely, a lot of people didn’t like the 2008 game Far Cry 2 because its world was full of malaria and enemies who attacked players way too often. A lot of other people (like me) liked Far Cry 2 a lot because it tried to bring players into a very systemic and immersive world with lots of factors they were free to deal with however they wanted. The later games in the series stripped out many of Far Cry 2’s elements and in the experience of many became more fun for it. They certainly became more commercially successful. I think the reason some people keep bringing up Far Cry 2 is because it hasn’t gotten a definitive successor. It’s sort of a need that’s been left unfulfilled for a decade.

Far Cry 2 is certainly a flawed gem, but it’s also representative of a style of first person action game that in my opinion reached a developmental apex in 2007 and 2008, and then sort of stopped.

These are the objective-based, open-ended action games I frequently talk about like ThiefGoldenEye, the original Deus Ex, and so-on. 2007 saw the release of a couple which are sometimes still listed among the greatest PC games: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and the first Crysis game. They took the technology, graphics, interplay of systems, and level of player freedom to levels which haven’t really been topped. In 2008 those games were followed by expansions Clear Sky and Crysis Warhead respectively, and Far Cry 2 around the same time was compared to these games because it had a very similar focus in its design.

The industry at large however, chose to follow after more popular contemporary shooters like Call of Duty 4: Modern WarfareFar Cry 2’s mixed reception didn’t help this. The 2012 Far Cry 3 more or less borrowed the design structure of Assassin’s Creed II. It and its sequels have focused more on having players accrue experience points, craft stuff from loot, and generally just track down a checklist of tasks across the map with considerably less freedom than was allowed in Far Cry 2’s missions. Far Cry 2 tried to simulate a lot of things for better or worse, whereas the later games in the series feel more like arcade games. Far Cry 2 fans can’t really move on though because no big-budget game has tried to go back and actually fulfill its original promise. It’s probably the same reason people keep making and playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mods.

The closest recent successors available today might be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both are open-world games that focus on providing players with a bunch of tools and systems, and both avoid constraining players with linear missions. An argument could be made for Bethesda Game Studios’ games, particularly Skyrim, but they feature much more explicit role-playing game elements which might put them in another category.

I think this is actually a main reason people were so excited about Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Aside from the conservative politics that surround the game and its developer, its design and structure seem to emphasize giving players lots of options for how to proceed through a systemic and potentially unpredictable world. “A game that’s unapologetically ambitious and reactive to player choice,” says an article on Steamed.

But we keep getting games like Far Cry 5, which are mostly focused on quantification and player retention, and people seem to like those games a lot. I honestly don’t see how this situation is going to change. We’re probably going to keep getting open-world games of the current Ubisoft persuasion. Maybe some might be inspired by Breath of the Wild, but the ones inspired by Skyrim mostly just copied its superficial elements. Are games with the appeal of Far Cry 2 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. going to remain a niche then?


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