There are two diametrically opposed opinions on this game; those who think it's the best Far Cry game ever and those who think it's the worst. I don't think it's either, simply because it's a different animal than either Far Cry 1 or Far Cry 3 and beyond.
Far Cry 2 is a conventional shooter through and through. It deals with traditional enemies, uses common weapon types, and mainly avoids crossing into other genre types. In the beginning, you can choose to play one of several mercenaries and those you don't choose become NPC "buddies" in-game. The character you choose does not affect any stats or change the game other than the order in which your buddies become available. Whoever you choose, your character suffers from malaria, which has to be controlled with pills throughout the game, and where you collapse on the map in the beginning determines which faction tutorial you will get. Other than that, all else remains the same.
The location of the game is somewhere in Africa, in a region under civil war with two factions vying for control. Your overall main mission is to kill someone called "The Jackal" but he will remain illusive till the end. Meantime, you have main missions for each faction as well as lots of side missions including weapon dealers, assassinations, buddy missions, and finding malaria pills. Only main missions will progress the game story and as a mercenary for hire, you don't care which side you work for. However, you can accept only one mission of any kind at a time, and trying to do a second will cancel the first. I found this circumstance somewhat irritating just because of the distances you need to travel. If you have to return to the mission giver first before taking another mission, you can find the next one requiring travel all the way back to the same area. However, not all missions require you to return, but all of the buddy ones do.
Between missions, you are free to roam wherever you like. The area is dotted with safe houses, enemy checkpoints, and collectibles in the form of diamonds, which is the currency for purchasing weapons and upgrades at gun shops. Locations of diamond cases will show up on your map GPS as a flashing green light when you are near.
The map is divided into two segments, the northern section where you begin and the southern section, which opens up later. The terrain is equally divided between unsurpassable rocky territory and open spaces consisting of desert, grasslands or jungle. The maps are very big and although you can travel on foot, it would take forever. Several modes of transportation are available including vehicles, boats, para gliders and last, but not least, fast travel by bus. River travel and buses are two of the best ways to get around.
Every single AI in the game, other than your buddies and those who give you a mission, is hostile. In other words, outside of the gun-free areas, shoot first and ask questions later. You are continually dogged by those wanting to kill you and will be chased and fired upon at every turn. All enemies respawn once you leave the area. At first, this was annoying, but I began to see the rationale behind it as you travel through these areas so often they would become very boring indeed if they remained cleared. You can carry three weapons of a certain type at a time, plus grenades and molotovs. They are broken into three categories, assault or sniper, hand, and special. These can be bought at the dealers and then will always be available in the storage area next door regardless of which gun shop you go to. Change them often as weapons will degrade and jam. Stealth approaches are very tricky also. The enemy have eyes in the back of their heads and seem to shoot through cover. However, things that can effect this are noise, weather conditions, and time of day. The camo suit is not very effective unless these other things are in play. They are also able to sneak up on you and it is often hard to pinpoint where they are while chipping away at your health. If you are travelling by vehicle or boat, and they give chase, forget about outrunning them. It is not possible. They are always faster.
You can scout an enemy camp with your monocle and see the location of a few AI, but only health, ammo, sniper, mounted guns, explosive piles and vehicles remain tagged. As soon as you pull the trigger, tons of enemies will come out of the woodwork. You can't mark their position as you could in Far Cry and they are very adept at sneaking up on you and surrounding you.
Although there are a number of buddies, only two of them in each sector will affect gameplay and give you advantage; your best buddy, who upgrades safe houses if you do their missions, and a rescue buddy who will come to your aid if you are on the point of dying. If either of these die, or you abandon them by leaving the area before cleared, they will be replaced by the other buddies you have rescued throughout the game. Doing missions increases your reputation, but also upgrades the enemy by giving them better weapons and making them harder to kill. As with these kind of open-world games, mission types are pretty repetitive. However, you can toss it up with various approaches.
As with most first-person shooters the controls are good and can be re-mapped, although vehicle and boat mounted guns are a little confusing. Your interaction key will release the wheel or rudder, but only E will release you from the gun or C (change position) depending. E does not seem to be re-mappable or indicated for this action in the menu and I got glued to a gun first time around till I tried every button. In your objective menu, only the enter key will let you view weapon stats. I love how developers don't tell you these things. Other little niggles are things like no hud, a rather confusing red haze that indicates the direction of an enemy shooter, and an open map that interferes with your vision by taking up a lot of screen room.
As to the graphics, they are fairly good for this era, but the draw distance is not so good. Things in the distance have no detail and look flat. It's also not a very visually colorful game. Nothing at all like Far Cry's tropical paradise.
Just to point out a few odds and ends, There are two endings, but which are totally independent from any choices you made prior to them. You can just go back to a save before you choose a path and replay the other ending. There are also bonus missions, which were originally part of the pre-order benefit, but can be unlocked through Ubisoft. If you are interested, you need to do this at the beginning of the game, so that they will unlock at the appropriate times. (see below for Steam link to instructions) Methods for unlocking these may vary between editions and platforms.
Proving how opinions can influence your thinking, I avoided playing this game for years. I tended to focus on the negative instead of the positive. Although there are some annoying aspects, like the travelling distances, the game ended up being quite enjoyable despite its few drawbacks and I'm happy with the purchase.
Far Cry 2 retains very few similarities to the first game. Ubisoft wanted to take the game in a different direction and opted for a more realistic environment. A research team was sent to Africa to camp out in Kenya for two weeks, which resulted in some changes to the original game design.
Upon release, the game was praised for its sandbox mode which allows players to proceed at their own pace through open-world gameplay. It was also noted for its setting and intelligent AI, who actively hunt the player. Criticisms mainly came in the form of the long travelling distances between goals, constantly respawning enemies, and an uninspired story.
Far Cry 2 garnered high critical scores and sold moderately well, although users form a divide between loving it and hating it. Ubisoft went on to develop further games in the series, but none of them bear much resemblance to the highly regarded first Far Cry game, nor this one. Regardless, the franchise has become a very relevant part of Ubisoft's success. However, both their flagship IP Assassin's Creed and the Far Cry franchise have become too formulaic and due to player fatigue, we are unlikely to see new entries in 2017.