Saturday, 18 September 2010

Journey into the heart of darkness


"A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength- life itself is a will to power."

Morning all, will be moving back to continue my studies next week so I've been stuck in limbo for a bit what with much of my possessions (books, dvds etc) are in boxes so I've been spending my free time with my cousins video games. The one I've been most taken with of late is Far Cry 2 (pictured).

Its a first person Shooter that takes place in the Democratic Republic of something something, they manage to make a game that lasts dozens of hours entirely set in side a country without actually naming it. Well there are two regions called Leboa-Sako in the North and Bowa-Seko in the south, so for the sake of clarity I will refer to the North as Leboa and the Southern region as Bowa.

The main character is selected from about a dozen mercenaries sorry private security contractors from around the globe each of which is a thoroughly bleak and callous human being. For some reason despite there being a couple of female mercenaries you can't select them. Why were they worried that a female character committing all these violent acts? that can't be it the game is played from a first person perspective all you see is your fore arms and your knees and feet when performing first aid, so I really don't know why you can't choose them. I mean its not like any of the women are your potential romantic interest which I frankly found to be quite refreshing.

Anyway the main plot of the game is that the country you're deployed to is teetering on the brink of a full scale civil war, the President is dead, the government and the wealthy have fled and the power vacuum is being filled by two bitterly rival factions the United Front for Liberation and Labour (UFLL) headed by the former leader of opposition Mbantuwe and the Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR) lead by the former head of military Major Tambossa. Both groups are brutal power hungry and whose ranks are full of mercs with no concept of morality and are inly in it for the pay offs from the diamond mines and because it amuses them. Currently the only thing keeping the two sides from coming to blows is the lack of a stable supply of arms. And thats were the games main target enters the picture, The Jackal and internationally reviled arms dealer begins selling to both sides and its just a matter of time before the shooting starts.

Its not long before entering the country that your character (lets call him Jack for simplicities sake) Jack first encounters the Jackal, unfortunately due to contracting a very serious case of malaria (which will continually flare up through out the games duration so keep an eye on your malaria pill count) and so just has to sit there while Mr Jackal.... quotes Nietzsche's philosophical works at you (something of a hobby of his) in fact much of the games intellectual content is viewed from the Jackal's "humanist" ideology. In between quoting Will to power he gloats a bit by pointing out that since your mission was to prevent the Jackal from kick starting the conflict with his merchandise Jack has already failed thats right you fail before the ten minute mark is reached. Surprisingly he doesn't kill and instead leaves you clapped out on the bed in the hotel. You wake up to the sound of gunfire and screaming and is not long before your left high and dry in the middle of a war zone.

Since Jack's one and only chance to leave this country is to find and kill the Jackal and hope your benefactors will still make arrangements for your exit, crossing the border is out of the question as the African Union have sealed all the borders. However since you have absolutely no idea where he is and the unemployment office was closed down by men with Kalashnikovs Jack has no choice but to go working for the local factions which one doesn't matter once there out of jobs you just march down the street to the other side and see what they want blown up.

And speaking of those jobs unlike in other games the missions in Far Cry 2 make it absolutely clear that you and your merc "buddies" are not hero's, your every bit the villains that the Jackal, the UFLL and APR are. Your missions often involve going to whats left of the infrastructure that the innocent people of this once proud nation depend on and wrecking it because the other side have a slight advantage by possessing it. And your merc buddies will help you "subvert" the mission which usually means bringing more pain and suffering to the populace. Rather then take the easy way out and make the guys and gals who go around the world killing people they don't know for money into some sort of tragic heroes, they and Jack are depicted as the socio paths they undoubtedly would be in real life.

Hell at some points in the game a Cease fire appears to be on the table as both faction heads have had enough, but since that would put you and your colleagues out of a job and potentially have them facing war crimes tribunals or worse and so take it upon themselves to sabotage the peace process.

What made Far Cry 2 stand out for me amongst the legions of muscle-bound space marines fighting for the planet earth whilst looking for there "wives" is its horrible cynicism. Everyone and everything that appears in this game with the exception of the Journalist and blogger Reuben is shown to be horribly corrupt and well brutal. The two factions ideologies only exist as slogans on there posters and have no qualms about bringing suffering to the people they both claim to serve if it means they profit. The mercs smuggle and murder at the drop of a hat, the Jackal deliberately manipulates the conflict to prolong and expand it. NGO's peace keepers and foriegn companies don't fair much better either.

This game goes along way to disprove the notion that games are "just for kids". Anyway for further reading I recommend the PDF. playthrough Permanent Death by Ben Abraham warning will contain spoilers.

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