Story aside, the opening reveals another major detail about Far Cry 2: Everybody has malaria, including you. It’s a mechanic that drives you to explore the world - forcing you to root out diamonds to trade and buy medicine from the refugee camp. Otherwise you’ll suffer the consequences, including some nasty delusions.
Malaria isn’t the only factor that will send you crazy. Become wrapped up in killing and you’ll ‘freak out’. Too much bloodshed will make you white out which will, in turn, increase your infamy. And herein lays the conundrum. You need to kill people to complete missions, but you don’t want to go mad either. Acquire too much infamy and you’ll be refused entry to the refugee camp, and there goes your hope for medicine. The game’s a fine balancing act that, first and foremost, teaches discipline. It’s about killing with restraint, and realising when to call it quits.
That would be rather boring if it weren’t for the chases. As you’d imagine, people don’t take too kindly to an attempt on their life, and they’ll follow you without prejudice, in vehicles if need be, to hunt you down and kill you. The chases are a brilliant showcase for Far Cry 2’s best feature: fire.
Much like Alone in the Dark, fire adds an extra dimension to the game. Whip out a flamethrower and you’ll be able to set almost anything alight. Explosions start incidental fires, and winds will push a blaze across the land. Manipulating the fire is a fantastic way to stop a pursuit. We were shown how to kill a sniper by setting fire to his straw platform. The plan backfired, and the resulting escape looked set for failure until the producer crossed a wooden bridge joining two cliff faces. One flamethrower jet was all that was needed to burn the rickety structure, and he was able to stroll away un-singed.
Day/night cycles are more than just cosmetic; missions completely change depending on the time of day. Tackle a mountainside village at 4pm and the sun will be hidden behind the rocks. It’ll still be day, so the guards will behave according to their body clock, but you’ll find it easier to use stealth in the dark. Wait till 11pm, however, and the soldiers will be on night patrols. Luckily, you won’t have to sit around waiting for the sun to set - you can instantly shift the time from day to night via a quick-wait feature.
If you’re caught in a huge gunfight and take a few hits, you’ll find yourself hurting. Once under the safety of cover, you’ll have to perform self-surgery, a bit like in Metal Gear Solid 3. This time you’ll be digging out bullets with your knife, pulling out shrapnel, patting out flames and possibly stitching yourself up again before heading back into the heat of battle.