Far Cry 2 Multiplayer Hands-on Impressions

By Nick Breckon, Sep 25, 2008 1:27pm PDT The star of Far Cry 2 (PC, 360, PS3) multiplayer isn't the modes, or the levels, or even the guns--it's the map editor.

After spending some time manipulating the editor with an Xbox 360 controller, I was very impressed. It is probably the most powerful FPS map editor that an eight-year-old could master in five minutes. Using a radial menu to select major categories--roads, buildings, etc--and sub-menus for smaller categories, I was able to assemble a mish-mash of huts and trees in seconds.

Many of the functions are as simplistic as they get. Roads are laid by connecting line segments, the curves drawn in automatically. The weather and time of day are adjusted with sliders. Objects can be dropped in and overlapped with ease, to create monstrous forts or intricate jungle settings.

Supported by an online download and ranking system, I can see the editor fueling the Far Cry 2 multiplayer experience. What Spore does for character design, and LittleBigPlanet hopes to do for platform level design, this editor can do for shooter levels--that is, if the multiplayer component itself is worth the effort.

With the focus on the editor, Ubisoft's multiplayer strategy was to provide a fairly simple batch of modes to accompany it, so as not to confuse new level designers. Standard offerings include deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. Uprising is the only mode worth explaining, but even that is a basic combination of a VIP and control point domination. Only the chosen VIP can capture bases, and when they are all held by one side, the objective turns to killing the opposing team's VIP.

Players will have to choose between varying classes, with the option of upgrading each three times--increasing the class' weapon choice--as the session progresses and they gain experience. While level progression will restart with a new session, there will be a ranked mode that is a persistent progression.

Either way, the extra guns are fun to play around with. The game's flamethrower has already been noted as one of the better 'throwers ever designed. Four-barreled grenade launchers and RPGs are entertaining for their extreme explosions. The designers call these "terror weapons."

Choosing between weapons won't be as easy as looking to the highest loadout--each gun will carry ratings that rank its reliability, firepower, and other variables. While one weapon might be more powerful, it will jam more often to balance the advantage.

As for the maps, it's a mix of building-based camps and more open, natural environments. Either way, there is always plenty of cover and high ground to present tactical choices, and usually several vehicles to provide mobility and hilarity. Even the Far Cry glider makes an appearance on one level, allowing players to swoop down from a cliff and capture a control point in stealthy fashion.

Where the multiplayer gameplay stands out is in its reflection of the single-player component. Veteran level designer Hardy LeBel (Halo) has taken a slow-paced approach to Far Cry 2 multiplayer, and this approach is primarily driven by nametag displaying mechanics. Players that stand still are much harder to spot on the battlefield, whereas running reveals your icon almost immediately to other players.

There are still moments of sprinting and pitched face-to-face firefights, but they are rare. It's much more deliberately paced--creeping from bush to bush, sneaking up behind players with a flamethrower, sniping from tall towers.

While this is an interesting twist on standard multiplayer shooting, I question not only whether the game will be dominated by unseen campers frustrating players from afar, but also if this hook is enough to spice up the relative blandness of the modes. Creeping around in bushes was fun for the first few minutes, but after three hours, endlessly playing stale game types outweighed any cleverness of the design. Uprising, while certainly a welcome sign of invention, didn't feel fresh enough to warrant much of an endorsement.

Despite its interesting quirks, experienced FPS players may initially find little to get very excited about with Far Cry 2's multiplayer. Much hinges on the map editor, and the extent to which players can spice up the game with their own creativity.

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