Games so bad they're good: Far Cry 2

I was invited to be on the "Games So Bad They're Good" panel at PAX East, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from taking part. Fortunately, my Editor in Chief, Ludwig Kietzmann, was ready and willing to take my place. His selection, Far Cry 2, took more than a few people by surprise - the reaction on Twitter went something like "Are you crazy? Far Cry 2 is awesommmmeeeeee!" His reasoning was ... unusual, to say the least, so we're reprinting his argument. These are the notes he used for his presentation, exactly as he used them, thus the atypical format.

For the record, my choice was going to be Phantasy Star Online. I think Luddy won this one.

I tried to be considerate about this, and cognizant of why bad qualities can lead to pleasure.

The thing about bad movies like Plan 9 is that you're looking at an event so awkward and terrible for the people involved that you want to instinctually stop them and protect them, but you can't because it's already committed to film.

It's too late to stop the tragedy, so now you are allowed to enjoy it.

In a game, if your actions don't align with your expectations or what the game is about, it's frustrating.

Most games are good despite their bad qualities, like story and controls, and not because of them.

At first I thought: Okay, what about games that give the player all the power and then back away?

Is that bad game design? Is God of War so bad, because they let you rip out a monster's medulla oblongata and then bash their head in with it and then you're like, "This violence is a bit mindless isn't it?"

Or, what about games that overcomplicate and abstract simple, physical actions, like QWOP, Surgeon Simulator and Octodad?

Then I had an epiphany, I yelled, "Eureka! "and someone said, "Shh, this is a library, keep your revelations to yourself."

I'm going with Far Cry 2, and here's why. Far Cry 2 is an open-world first person shooter set in Africa, developed by Ubisoft Montreal and overseen by designer Clint Hocking. Your goal in Far Cry 2 is to track down The Jackal, a notorious arms dealer, which I hear is expensive and really just the pits.

First, let's talk about the map, if you dare to call it that. This is an in-world item you have to look at, it's what fancy people call a diegetic item, because it's acknowledged by the characters and the fiction, unlike your map SCREEN.

But my question is, where are the gigantic nav beacons? Where are the big dots?

I have to look at an in-game item, and be all immersed and shit, whenever I get lost in Africa for two seconds and start panicking because my hand isn't being held every step of the way? That's just not how things are done.

In Far Cry 2, you're just sick with weapons, but you're also sick with malaria and can pass out at the most inconvenient times, like in the middle of a shootout. Your gun can jam, because it's a dusty piece of crap you stole from a dead guy. You can break your hand if you get injured too badly. Things go wrong and they break in this game, it turns out, and you have to - get this - improvise and respond, probably ruining your perfect headshot killstreak. That's not how things are done.

Far Cry 2 also has fire, and you won't believe this, but it burns everything. Sometimes you have this amazing plan and then a rocket falls out of your launcher tube and sets everything on fire. Now your plan is: SET EVERYTHING ON FIRE, because the game's technology is stepping over the line and creating a situation that I can't predict or control. How dare you? Where are the set pieces and the scripted sequences where cool shit happens around me? Why do I have to do all the work?

Oh, and why do guards keep showing up at their posts in this game? Why do I have to keep shooting people in this hostile place, in this game about shooting people in a hostile place? And now you're telling me that some of my missions, like the one where I blow up a storage of anti-malaria medication, is sort of morally ambiguous? There's not even a clear bad guy anymore? I don't how I should feel about this. Why ... why am I not getting good or evil points so I can know how to feel?

So, let's recount the sins of modern game design here. You let me go wherever I want without constant supervision, you don't tell me explicitly how to accomplish my goals, I'm forced to consider my actions, you don't reward me with XP every time I jump successfully, and sometimes you kill me with my own fire. I'm sorry Far Cry 2, but that's just not how it's done these days. That's why you're so bad, you're fucking great.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.