Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Are open worlds too open?

This week, I have mostly been rolling through long dry grass in an armed jeep, ramming into zebra and setting Africa on fire. Enough about my personal life though, let’s talk about Far Cry 2 *slaps knee*.

I was a little bit late to this party because being the bargain hunter that I am, I waited until I could snatch this highly anticipated game up for £15, and I must say, I am glad that I waited.

The game takes place in Africa as you chase an arms dealer known only as, ‘the Jackal’, who seems to be as elusive as a needle in a haystack storage facility that covers an area greater than London. The game manual tells me this is 50 square kilometres, but I am not entirely convinced.

Of course, stressing that this game is a big open world, ready to be explored and burned (they really do love their fire physics), automatically seems to be industry standard if you are after good reviews.

This is where my major peeve with Far Cry 2 lies. I hope you enjoy driving cars that all feel like they came off of the same production line, on the same day, with the same engines, because there is an insane amount of tedious driving in what could be the same car, copy and pasted.

To get anywhere in the game, it always seems to require a minimum of five minutes car time. This is made a bit more problematic by the player’s location, in the middle of a country where he is not wanted, with all of the unhappy people clutching automatic weaponry. They like to camp at key points along every road, and respawn as soon as you leave their line of site.

It is not that such posts are particularly challenging to get around or annihilate, but constantly doing it when travelling from A to B to C and then back to A via D, makes things tedious and frustrating.

Suddenly an open world becomes really boring as you seem to be driving past the same things over and over again, and each time these things shoot you a lot. The fun continues beyond being shot at, as you will need to repair your car, another lengthy process when done eight times in one fight.

The advantage of a linear game full of corridors and different levels which forces you to move forward rather than in circles is that it rarely gets tedious if done well. Half life 2 is a perfect example of changing scenery and atmosphere on the player. One minute you’re being pursued through streets, and then you find sanctuary with friends in a lab before getting in a boat and continuing through canals.

With Far Cry 2’s single big environment however, long grass, trees and the occasional bit of desert do not vary a great deal and start to get very old very fast.

I encountered in Far Cry 2 the same major hurdle I encountered in GTA4. Every mission is drive here, kill something, drive back and don’t lose your limbs in the process.

Add to this that it all centres around a similar hut in a similar bit of hot country, and the whole thing feels uninspired. That’s the trouble with big open worlds, whether they are filled with grassy or concrete jungles, they are still just one world. Yes, it might take you two hours to get from one side of the other, but I can not imagine any scenario where that would be considered fun.

Also, a game where the protagonist contracts malaria and needs to treat it with medicine at random intervals is not the best gameplay mechanic I have ever seen.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog post, well written and a decent amount of humour is in there :)

Anthony said...

Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I always aim to please.