By the end of Far Cry 2, I'd murdered my way across Africa to kill one man. I killed for blood diamonds, which I used to fund my manhunt. I'd violated nearly every article and clause of the Geneva Convention, and when I finally found my man, Far Cry 2 lowered my gun and made me listen to the object of my murderous obsession. Then it made me join him in, of all things, a humanitarian crusade.
Choice has no place in a third-world civil war, where war crimes are committed freely, invisible to the disinterested eyes of the developed world.
Until this point, Far Cry 2 turned my lack of choice into a powerful, uncompromising thesis: Choice has no place in a third-world civil war, where war crimes are committed freely, invisible to the disinterested eyes of the developed world. Right and wrong are Western conceits, the intellectual pursuits of a people whose prime concern, as the game says in a loading screen, is planning their next tax-deductable donation.
The deeper one sinks into Far Cry 2, the more its bleak, deathward vector becomes as essential to the game as the stunning African landscape. Linearity, so often a crutch, becomes a statement - there's nowhere to go but deeper and darker - making it all the more disappointing when Far Cry 2 suddenly and inexplicably swerves towards a happy ending.
Far Cry 2 dumps you in Africa, a continent frequently used to host moral dread (see Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which the game proudly references). You enter an unnamed country just as most are leaving, fleeing the civil war while they still can. Your target is The Jackal, the man responsible for arming the combatants.
The Jackal is an arms dealer cum philosopher, spitting Nietzsche and embracing the violence of his profession. You first meet him as he stands over your immobilized, malaria-ridden body, rifling through your papers (some assassin you turned out to be). He read a book some time ago, he says, that summarizes life in this country quite well.
"A living being seeks above all else to discharge its strength," he says in an American baritone, paraphrasing Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. "Life itself is will to power. Nothing else matters."
First-person shooters are obsessed with the discharge of strength, but all too often, "will to power" simply means wrapping your hands around the all-holy rocket launcher. Firefights in modern shooters come with more options than a luxury sedan. Players can shoot out the lights or cut the power, rappel through the windows, sneak in thorough the back door or throw frags and mow down the bad guys with tricked-out assault rifles. Battles are glitzy and oddly bloodless; all new-car smell, no cordite.