A Dying Man in a Dying World: Oppression and Futility in Far Cry 2

A Dying Man in a Dying World: Oppression and Futility in Far Cry 2

Hey there folks, this year has been a busy one for yours truly (that means me). In addition to my regular Graduate classes, I am also working on my thesis about Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, and its adaptations, which include Apocalypse Now, a direct film adaptation in 1993, Far Cry 2, and Spec Ops: The Line. Spec Ops, I will get to later this month with a discussion about the function of voices in the game. Today, however, I want to share with you a piece about Far Cry 2 and its oppressive atmosphere. Note: the bulk of this article is taken from my thesis and re-edited for this site.

It Doesn’t Matter Whose Boots

In Far Cry 2 the player picks their player-character from a list of characters of various races, nationalities, and backgrounds, though all of them are mercenaries. The game then thrusts that character into an unnamed African country (referred to as the UAC) to find and kill an arms dealer called The Jackal. However, the player-character contracts malaria within the first few minutes of the game, and his mission is called off. This dying character is then dropped into a dying world in the process of tearing itself apart as the government has crumbled and two rival factions (the APR and UFLL), both supplied by the Jackal, fight each other over control of the country.

The only difference between the selectable protagonists are what their arms look like at the bottom of the frame.

The only difference between the selectable protagonists are what their arms look like at the bottom of the frame.

The volatile and fragile nature of this African country is also expressed in the game’s mechanics, as the player’s main methods of interacting with the world, vehicles (travel) and weapons (survival), break down and fall apart, through use. Similarly, the APR and UFLL, the closest thing this world has to a governmental structure, are fighting each other over dominion of the country. These factions ­­frequently hire the player-character to do missions that weaken the other faction’s infrastructure, by destroying supplies and murdering ranking members of each organization. These actions further destabilize the country and destroy any possibility for stability.

Throughout the game, the player-character meets non-player character (npc) companions, which the game calls “buddies.” These characters work with the player-character on missions by giving alternate mission objectives, with the benefit of safe-house upgrades. However, during these missions the companions can be killed if the player is not careful. These elements surround the player in an environment of entropy, death, and a sickening unpleasantness which their actions can only contribute to, as every action and interaction makes the situation worse for the UAC and its people.

Buddies are your friends!

Buddies are your friends!

And sometimes they keep you from having to reload a save.

And sometimes they keep you from having to reload a save.

Bombarded from all Sides

The reality of Far Cry 2 is constantly attacking the player, while giving them zero stable ground for comfort. Personnel at guard posts, raided and cleared by the player-character, respawn and reoccupy the posts, while several missions may lead the player through single guard posts multiple times.  All roads are patrolled by non-uniformed soldiers from the APR and UFLL in non-unique vehicles, and will attack the player-character on sight, whether the player is on a mission for their faction or not. These often unprovoked attacks speak volumes about each ­faction’s ability to lead their armies, which are entirely made up of unruly mercenaries from outside the UAC.

far cry 2 those kooky murderers

Those kooky faction leaders. They don’t have a plan.

When accepting missions, the leader of each faction tells the player-character that the missions are off the books. However, the player has no reason to believe what the faction leaders say. It is just as likely that the factions have no tangible control over the mercenaries or any way to monitor their actions; they have no structure in place for the sending and receiving of orders, leaving each soldier with a vague sense of where they are geographically placed. Alternatively, the faction leaders have so little concern for their employed mercenaries, owing to the fact that the UAC sees dozens of new money-hungry mercs every day, that the value of human life is nonexistent. All of the above possibilities are more plausible than each faction having a list of secret operations that they give to a random person who happens to walk into their offices one day.

Far Cry 2 was well received by critics, but it is quite the divisive title with gamers, with a Metacritic score of 85 from critics but a 5.8 from users. I believe this partly due to the oppressive atmosphere of the game (and partly due to the passionless voice acting). The series began on an island with a mad scientist, mutants, and a dude with a Hawaiian shirt (which are of course the best shirts!), but Far Cry 2’s atmosphere, faceless protagonist, and unpleasant world took the game away from its fun roots to make a player experience grounded in the bitter reality of a futile conflict.

Note: images sourced from IGN and the Far Cry 2 Wiki