Far Cry 2: A Photo Diary

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Here I am, knees caked in dirt, creeping between blades of grass as long as my arms. At one with nature, you could say — except for the silenced pistol in hand, or the arsenal packed on my back… or the GPS that led me here. Diamonds this’a way, it said.

I was expecting some gruesome sight, of course: a deal gone bad, a transporter dead from heatstroke. Something like that. Instead, I ended up on the perimeter of a camp — the kind with actual, live people in it, and most people are pretty protective of their diamonds.

There’s one guy here, at the very least. I could shift a bit to get a better view, but where’s the fun in that? I’m not feeling particularly professional, anyway. It’s the other kind of day today: the kind of day where you shoot first and see who else comes out of the woodwork.

The first soldier goes down nice and silent. That’s about the time I notice a second walk out from behind a rusty, decades-forgotten bus. Sliding down the embankment and into a dead sprint, I holster the pistol and whip out the machete just in time to deliver a solid hack to his neck.

Not the best idea, judging by the yells and gunfire that ensues. Into the back of the bus! I dive onto the filthy floor and ready my machine gun. I sit there a second, waiting for the telltale pause in the stream of bullets punching through the metal structure, kicking up dust and blasting stuffing from seat cushions.

Silence. I get to my feet to unload through the window. Blood flies in one direction and spent shell casings in the other. I can see the mangled body drop to the dirt through the smoke and muzzle flashes.

I give it a moment, peering out through the windows. As the stillness sets back in, and I take my time strolling out of cover to deliver a final thrust of the machete to someone who’s still squirming.

Now, about those diamonds…

For the first time, I look to the east — really look — and see… this.

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After the thirty seconds of carnage, all I can do now, for a moment, is stop and watch the sun rise.

I’ve done some truly horrific things in Far Cry 2. You have to; the game doesn’t let you weasel your way out of the nasty business, whether you like it or not. No one comes out with a clean conscience. That’s part of what makes it so compelling: you’re not the hero — at all. Everything you do makes things in the region worse. Destroying greenhouses that feed civilians. Cutting off access to clean water. Assassinating people who might have been able to stabilize the country. Yeah, you do all that and more, not to mention the dozens of dead bodies you leave everywhere you go.

Which (spoilers:) I think gives the player’s heroic act at the end of the game its punch. You’re not the westerner parachuting into African civil strife and saving the day. You’re a horrible monster of a man trying to redeem himself, as much as he can, for making everything that much worse.

But if it’s so ugly — and it is — how is it so beautiful? Far Cry 2 is the only game I’ve ever played where I can go from mass-murdering one moment to sitting and smelling the proverbial flowers the next. It really is a beautiful game, as strange as it is to say.

The sunrises and sunsets, the stunning vistas, the misty forests in early morning… they’re all lovely, sure. But Far Cry 2 is about extremes. The calm moments of natural beauty work so well because of the mayhem you were likely creating just moments before.

Rather than prattling on about something as inconsequential as the graphical fidelity of Far Cry 2, or talking about its combat, or even about how it all works together as a piece of art (which is something that’s been done before by people who are much more skilled at that sort of thing than I am (sometimes with months of work and passion poured into it, and at times from perspectives almost completely opposite of mine), I’m just going to let the world speak for itself.

It’s hard to capture in screenshots what makes Far Cry 2 one of my favorite games, but I’ll try. And since a quick Google search will get you more shots of the action and bloodshed in the game than you would know what to do with, I’ll stick to the other extreme. I hope you enjoy…

My Sightseeing Trip Through a Fictional African Country
(In Between Missions as a Hired Gun)

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