Franchises are clearly important to publishers, perhaps more now than ever. If a game isn’t already a sequel or spin-off, it’s the first in a proposed series that may or may not happen depending on sales. Constantly looking to the future to this degree isn’t healthy, as all it can really do is harm the game that should be the main focus. Sure, you can have one eye on future installments, but you should never, ever hold anything back. Take a look atThe Dark Knight – director Nolan says he put everything into it and will concern himself with a sequel if and when it happens. So by a roundabout route we arrive at Ubisoft’s most personality conflicted franchise: Far Cry.
The original game was released in 2004, stealing much of the thunder from the much more anticipated Doom 3 and Half Life 2. It delivered an open jungle environment that was quite staggering for its day, which wasn’t really bettered until developers Crytek released their follow-up game Crysis. While Far Cry had wonderful technology and fun gunplay, it fell apart rather hideously when it attempted to tell its story and introduced some irritating mutant creatures.
While Crytek focused their efforts on thinking up increasingly stupid Cry-related names and pursued the next generation of jungle tech and bad storytelling, publishers Ubisoft prised the Far Cry franchise from their fingers and went off to make a sequel independently. The result is, of course, Far Cry 2, which looks really rather spiffy.
The problem lies in its almost total disregard for the first game. The b-movie sci-fi hokum has been jettisoned, as has been the jungle island setting. Instead we’re in Generic Africa, embroiled in a sandbox environment of political intrigue and tribal warfare. Personally I don’t have a problem with the new direction, as I found Far Cry to be a rather shallow and dull affair once the initial “ooh, pretty!” reaction wore off. The sequel’s goals seem far loftier and more interesting, not to mention riskier, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.
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But…why call it Far Cry 2? It has guns, an open environment and pretty foliage, but what shooter doesn’t these days? The elements that defined Far Cry and made it memorable – risible storytelling and dialogue, hyper-stylised jungles, b-movie monsters – are all notable by their absence. This is without even taking into consideration the even dafter console-only spin-offs. There’s a franchise disconnect here that makes very little sense: people that loved Far Cry are bound to be disapointed or confused by the sequel’s change of trajectory, while those that found the original game lacking may disregard the sequels simply on the franchise name alone.
For all the similarities they may as well have called it Assassin’s Creed 2. After all, it’s an open environment in an exotic location, interweaving a vaguely controversial political story. What exact criteria do Ubisoft use to determine a franchise’s identity?
sequels can take a new path successfully, of course. Aliens is an action movie to the original’s horror. Same with the first two Terminator films. But they still had the titular characters as their central obsession, something sorely lacking with the Far Cry series. There’s nothing to properly define Far Cry: what’s it about? What are it’s core principles?
Far Cry 2 looks like it’ll be a pretty good game. But I really wish they’d made it an original game, rather than an irrelevant sequel.