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I’m enjoying my trip through Far Cry 2‘s nameless African state. I’ll admit it’s not the most inviting place, what with all the local warmongering and civil unrest in the wake of its governmental collapse. And I’d be farther along in my hunt for the Jackal, a notorious and enigmatic arms dealer, were it not for the malaria epidemic. Damned mosquitoes.

Luckily, the malaria’s totally under control. Most of the time I don’t even notice it. It’s only when I’m hit with a sudden “malaria attack” (deep whooshing sound, unsteadiness, yellow-green fog in my field of view) that I reach for my incredibly effective medicine. One pill, and the symptoms are gone.

Gunfire is more problematic. Not to mention the explosions. And the flames. I get shot, blasted, and burnt a lot. Though the folks that I meet inside Far Cry 2‘s broken-down towns and humble abodes are usually civil, everyone else is relentlessly homicidal. If I pass another driver on the road, he’ll immediately try to run me down. When I meet a guy wandering down a jungle path, he’ll unload his shotgun in my direction. If I’m leisurely boating down a lovely waterway, the stooges on the shore will take potshots with RPGs. I have no idea who these people are or which of the local factions (if any) they’re affiliated with. They never bother to find out who I am. They just try to kill me.

I can take these guys out easily enough, but they’re never gone for long. I’ll clear an entire roadside checkpoint of ne’er-do-wells en route to the local weapon shack, but on my way back, not a half-hour later, they’ll have been replaced by new sentries. And they’ll be shooting at me again. The only places enemies don’t return are safe houses, conveniently scattered all over the place, where I can rest up and fast-forward time with my wristwatch.

I’ve learned to scavenge for first aid kits that contain medication-filled syrettes. They’re conveniently located anywhere I’m likely to get shot. Which, as previously noted, is pretty much everywhere. As long as it’s not malaria or a near-death injury, whatever’s in these syrettes will cure it. I have pair of pliers and a knife for digging out bullets when I’m in really bad shape. Major gunshot wounds aren’t all that bad as long as I yank the bullet out from under my skin right away.

Once in a while, I don’t get to the syrettes or pliers in time. I’d be a goner if it weren’t for the various guns-for-hire I’ve met in my travels. These guys have a knack for showing up just as I’m about to die. I’ll be face down in the savannah, bleeding out, when sure enough one of them will appear and drag me to safety. Once I’m back in action they disappear. It’s handy, having them around to save my ass, but I have to wonder: don’t they have anything better to do? How exactly do they know when I’m down? And why don’t they ever want a ride back to town?

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Maybe it’s because in Far Cry 2‘s Africa, vehicles are pretty much disposable. Food, fuel, medication, and weapons seem to be fairly precious commodities, but automobiles and crummy airboats are scattered all over the place. Nobody actually owns these vehicles, and none of them require keys. They’re just parked around for the common good. There’s a huge Jeep surplus (apparently they can’t explode them fast enough).

Most of the rides I find are pretty beat up, and it doesn’t take more than a few stray bullets before steam begins pour out of their engines. I’m a gifted mechanic, though. In fact, I can fix any engine with a few quick twists of one single bolt.

I can’t help but think that the local population would be less impoverished if they’d sell the uncut diamonds I’ve been finding all over the place. They’re in out-of-the-way places throughout the region, tucked into metal briefcases that inexplicably chime when I’m nearby. Some are especially hard to reach, including a few that I can’t get to without a hang glider. As it happens, hang gliding seems popular around here. I’ve found several gliders conveniently abandoned on ledges in picturesque locations.

There’s nothing quite like hang gliding over a cliff, through a lush canyon and past a pounding waterfall, to land on the shore of a lily pad-rimmed lake. Discovering the region’s water features, especially its massive waterfalls, has often been breathtaking. Far Cry 2‘s Africa might be one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever visited. With just about every equatorial ecosystem imaginable packed into less than 20 free-roamable square miles, it’s dazzling. Sunlit savannahs, dense and steamy jungles, windswept dunes-they’re all spectacular.

I’ve loved the stealthy ambushes, the in-your-face arsons, and the grand detonations, but the quieter moments of my Far Cry 2 experiences have been just as stunning. Like surprising a herd of impala on a moonlit prairie and seeing them flee before my headlights. Or walking through an unpopulated patch of forest, watching morning rays of light dance through the canopy while the sun slowly creeps above the horizon.

It’s a lovely place, but it’s the stage for an especially nasty story, where the backdrop involves a lot of people suffering and dying for dubious political causes. Despite the many freedoms and privileges Far Cry 2‘s expansive world provides, I often feel like a pawn in a much larger, more uncertain game. The deeper I venture into the wildness of the environment, the more Conrad-esque the tale becomes.

And yet I’m still a superhero, gifted by improbably good fortune and supernatural resistance to injury. I have all the vehicles, diamonds, weaponry, and magical medicinal supplies a mercenary could want. In this exotic place, divorced from reality, nothing stands in my way, or in the way of the story that propels me forward.

And that’s the beauty of Far Cry 2. The endless, silly contrivances I enjoy aren’t lazy, senseless additions to the world. They’re the means by which I maintain momentum and avoid distraction as I charge into the madness. I’m swept forward by the unlikely confluence of stark reality and impossible empowerment, toward a dark denouement as sudden and final as a trip over the brink of one the region’s waterfalls.

Adam LaMosca is writer and researcher in Portland, Oregon. You can find him on Twitter or at lowspec.com.

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