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It's a Far Cry...
A Far Cry from the first one, that is (if you'll pardon the pun). The first Far Cry game was developed by (now independent dev) Crytek, and the game was a critical and public success. The only complaint that most critics and gamers had was that towards the end, the game became unrealistic and fantastical. When Crytek said they wouldn't do a sequel, Ubisoft was more than happy to take up the mantle.
Far Cry 2 is, in a sense, everything a gamer who played the first one would want and more. Not only have they ditched the fantastical elements of the first game, they have also done away with the relatively linear storyline in favor of a more open approach - much more open.
Some developers like to claim that theirs is the only true open-world game (here's looking at you Rockstar), but in an open world, you wouldn't be taking missions from cronies unless you wanted to - you would have true freedom. That is the promise that is delivered upon in the new Far Cry game. And it's one that I definitely was surprised to discover initially.
What happens is that after the first half an hour or so of tutorials - which are mostly hand-holding and pleasant - you suddenly are left at the center of a giant 50 sq km map and told one thing: "Your mission is to eliminate a man called 'The Jackal'". It can be a bit jarring to actually carry out the rest of the game once you receive this message. The fact is in Far Cry 2, that really is your only objective - everything else consists of side quests in an attempt to gain more information about your target.
Interestingly enough, this left me wondering, "if I explore every last square centimeter of the map, can I just find the Jackal and kill him?" I would like to think the developers left this option open, but unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands, it would just be easier to complete the side missions until you have enough information on the Jackal. Youtube videos should pop up anytime now claiming that they found and killed the Jackal 20 minutes into the game.
Apart from this revolutionary (if a bit odd) story development, the game has to its merit a few other great achievements. First there is the advent of a new essentially HUD-less interface for interacting with your map and vehicles. While it doesn't stack up to the level of something like Dead Space, it still is quite interesting in its own right. The gunplay is elaborate enough to keep you guessing, and realistic enough that you never feel like you're shooting BB pellets.
Overall, the game works as well as it does because of its pioneering story concept. You're never directly told what to do outside of a side mission, so the world truly is yours to explore and exploit. Missions also carry with them the option of ignoring the objective in favor of doing the exact opposite, so while morality has no meter or points, you can definitely tell when your employer isn't happy with your work.
The friends you develop along the way also serve a purpose better than any other NPC I've ever encountered. Should you die (which is really just a matter of when, not if), your buddies come in Rambo-style and eliminate any nuisance that's troubling you. You then get up and jump back into the fight, all the while repairing your broken bones and injecting yourself with a variety of medicines.
If you're looking for the next big thing, this is it. The game is as nonlinear as a gamer could want, and its open-ended framework will make it an instant classic because no two games will play out exactly the same way. So what are you waiting for? Grab 50 bucks and experience what I hope is the future of the shooter genre.