Far Cry 2, the sequel to the immensely popular Far Cry proves itself as a stellar experience that busts the first person shooter genre wide open with amazing depth, freedom and unprecedented immersion.

Pretty and pretty dangerous

Far Cry 2 is more spiritual successor than direct sequel to its tropical island-set predecessor. The lush jungles and blue waters have been replaced with dusty roads and wide-open plains, and the lame, Xbox-only feral abilities - the ones that had us running around like rabid kitty cats - have thankfully been dropped.

This time out, we're treated to an experience that can't possibly be pigeon-holed into a single genre; a masterful mix of shooting, open-world exploration, and some light stealth and RPG elements, culminate in the most engaging "FPS" I've played since donning Gordon Freeman's horn-rimmed specs.

The first thing that'll find you collecting your jaw from the floor is Far Cry 2's living, breathing African setting. A surface glance reveals a realistically sprawling world, darted with foliage, rocky outcroppings, and serene waterways, all complemented by some of the best shadow and lighting tech to grace this console generation.

But dig deeper and you'll discover it's the more subtle stuff that steals the show; the wind picking up before a storm, dust being kicked up by your tires, the crackle of a blazing fire, and the satisfying crunch of foliage under your feet, all contribute to a level of immersion that'd make Niko Bellic envious.

Kill, heal, rescue, and kill some more

Despite practically being able to feel the sunshine on your back and hear the wind whip past your ears, you'll want to remember you're not on vacation. Far Cry 2 hits the ground running, setting you after a mysterious arms dealer, dropping you between two warring factions, granting you access to a brimming arsenal of guns, grenades and other baddie-blasting goodies, and giving you malaria (gee, thanks Far Cry 2!)

So, before you begin applying the sun block and booking that spa appointment, you'll want to take a look over your shoulder. In fact, watching your back-and keeping it free of pesky projectiles-provides the perfect example of the level of immersion you'll consistently experience in Far Cry 2's rich world.

Gone are the friendly auto-replenishing health bars we've all been spoiled by-Far Cry 2 kicks it old school with collectable health packs, but ups the ante even further with some interesting ass-saving twists.

In addition to jabbing yourself with syringes when the health bar dances dangerously close to death, you'll also need to pop pills to fend off the malaria, and incorporate a pair of needle nose pliers to pluck shrapnel from your various bullet-riddled body parts. Failing all that, you also have buddies in the field that'll occasionally drag you out of harm's way.

This drenched-in-details approach to keeping yourself alive extends to every part of Far Cry 2's design. There's so much to do, and so many ways to do it, you'll likely still be discovering "oh sh*t" moments well into it's 30+ hour campaign.

NEXT PAGE: on a mission

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