The Buddy System
I just shot a king in cold blood. I stole a jeep, drove it to his heavily guarded fort, killed a dozen armed men and then strolled leisurely into his office. I listened to him plead, explaining in great detail why his rule was necessary. He informed me of how his son would undoubtedly hunt me down and avenge him. I listened to it all, every single word, patiently, and then I shot him once in the forehead.
If this had been any other game I might have considered the weight of my definitive, brutal action, but I’ve found this sort of transaction to be business as usual in Far Cry 2. Tucked beneath the murder, the malaria and the sun-drenched savannas, this open world narrative is concerned with one thing: relationships – beginning them and ending them.
As a no-nonsense mercenary I arrived in Ubisoft’s nameless African nation with a simple set of instructions: kill The Jackal. The country was ravaged by war, continually waged by the APR and UFLL, both of which The Jackal has been selling weapons to indiscriminately and making a not-so-small fortune. But that’s not why I’ve come. I’m only here to stop a war incidentally; I can’t tell you which side was which, or whether or not there was a ‘good’ side to the conflict. Quite frankly their war and its intentions were irrelevant. I’m a mercenary, I went for the action, and I went to get paid.
“I’d unwittingly become the latest member of this Fraternity of Scumbags”As one of several guns-for-hire out to capitalize on the chaos, it’s fascinating to see the respect shared amongst the wretched. Each and every foreigner was there to carve out their own slice of the pie, to make a buck without concern for the political backdrop or its overarching implications. At a local watering hole I met a fellow mercenary, the Brazilian born Marty Alencar, and we exchanged a few trivial pleasantries. Several hours later I found myself in a ditch, inches from death, and there was Marty’s outreached hand, pulling me to my feet and shoving a pistol into my grip. I staggered back into semi-consciousness and he commanded that I patch myself up while he laid down cover-fire. In that moment, as I fumbled with my syrette, I realized that I had made a friend; in this horrible place I now had a buddy. Apparently, Marty and I had an understanding, and I’d unwittingly become the latest member of this Fraternity of Scumbags.
Earlier, at the same bar, I met a fetching looking French woman by the name of Michele Dachss. We hit it off immediately, or so I’d like to think. Soon after she would call me with mission support and intelligence; not much later I’d run my first job for her. A day after, Michele followed me to the north, where I tagged a shipment of gold for surveillance. Shit hit the fan and in the ensuing crossfire Michele was shot. I heard her wounded plea; I scoured the battlefield for a minute before identifying her red bandana in the distance. I didn’t hesitate for one second: I dug into my own supplies; I jabbed the syrette into her neck, and I put her back on her feet. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I believe she’d do the same for me.
“Far Cry 2 embodies the highs and lows of being a solider”Under the veil of its war-for-profit premise, Far Cry 2 embodies the highs and lows of being a solider, and it isn’t restricted to the relationships between player and NPC. At one point I scaled a cliff overlooking a derelict rail yard, which one of the warring factions had turned into a makeshift base. The abandoned rail cars formed a Swiss cheese-like maze that I had no interest in negotiating under heavy fire without a reliable shotgun. I pulled out my map to scout the area, noting vehicles, mounted machineguns and any other supplies that might come in handy. I then proceeded to thin the enemy’s ranks with my M1903 sniper rifle. The distant gunfire sent patrols into a panic, some took cover while others made their way in my direction, foolishly thinking they could take me from the disadvantaged position. But during the scuffle I saw something in the distance, something I cannot recall seeing before: a soldier carrying a wounded comrade.
At that moment I felt pity, I felt empathy, but above everything else, I felt what I was experiencing was real. As my crosshair bobbed to and fro, I watched. I followed the soldier every step of the way, knowing that he knew that I was watching. He struggled to carry his brother-in-arms to safety, praying the nearest railcar would shield the both of them from my reign of gunfire. I couldn’t help but stare, riveted by this fleeting moment of heroism. I saw my two-dimensional video game adversaries transform from polygonal bullet sponges to human beings. And, I couldn’t bring myself to fire on either during their desperate flight.
With time I grew to see my new buddies in a similar three-dimensional light. Though their methods, like my own, were frequently unethical, they were every bit as capable of good, and heroics, as that lone soldier was. Our society has fallen in love with legions of these characters, from Jack Bauer to Dexter Morgan. We can’t help but sit back and admire these anti-heroes, rooting for them no matter how often we disagree with their methods. We know their head is pointed in the right direction, despite knowing the path ahead of them is fraught with dubious junctions, eventually taking them, and us, where we’re both headed.
I was sent here to kill The Jackal. I may not be good for the right reasons, but maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.