Why Far Cry needs another double dose of malaria
The much-maligned mechanic in Far Cry 2 could actually breathe new (slightly laboured) life into the Far Cry franchise.
Let’s face facts. Far Cry 5 is far too long in production to include what I’m about to suggest. So maybe it’s best left for Far Cry 5 DLC, a full-fledged spin-off, or the inevitable Far Cry 6 adventure Ubisoft cooks up next but, either way, this would be a fantastic addition to the gameplay loop. Basically, what I’m pitching is Ubisoft needs to bring back the malaria from Far Cry 2 and dig deep into Far Cry as a survival game.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hated the malaria mechanic in Far Cry 2. “Then why are you calling for its return?” Good rhetorical question, reader. The core problem with the malaria mechanic in Far Cry 2 isn’t that it was inherently bad; it’s that its execution left a lot to be desired. In a gameplay loop that was mostly concerned with Michael Bay’s approach to action sequences, and finding the occasional suitcase of diamonds off the beaten trail, a mechanic that required more attention than your needy, phone-loving friends in GTA IV didn’t gel with the rest of the gameplay loop.
Make no mistake: the malaria was a survival-game mechanic, but Far Cry 2 wasn’t a survival game. Despite regularly tough enemy AI, malaria was the only real survival mechanic in Far Cry 2, which is why it stuck out like a gangrenous thumb in dire need of amputation. The other option, which I’m selling here, is to go the other direction and turn Far Cry into a survival game. It could even work as a difficulty mode: a safe way to gauge whether there’s interest before throwing too much development cash at a Far Cry Survival spin-off title (you’re welcome, Ubi).
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Given that a survival mode would change the expectations of a Far Cry game, as well as impact the core gameplay loop, it’s probably best if there’s the option to toggle certain features on or off. Need to eat: on. Rehydration: enabled. Malaria: injected. Food, hydration, and dealing with infections are pretty basic stuff in survival games, but they could have a Far Cry twist. The need for food would add greater meaning to the hunting, for instance. You could drink water out of that muddy pothole, but it might also make you sick, so you’d need to clean it first for optimal hydration results. Simple things like the need for rest could impact how quickly you heal and your overall stamina, with the risk of sleeping under the stars and the potential for midnight ambushes by unfriendly fauna or heavily armed locals, versus securing an outpost that’s guarded at night by friendly rebels.
Plus, the need to manage a constantly lurking illness like malaria would also impact how you prioritise missions. Early on, you might horde medicine by doing relevant missions that reward with a shot for what ails you. Or you might live life dangerously and hunt them down at the last possible minute. If left unattended, malaria (or other infections) could permanently impact your maximum health. This way, the fact you might have a malaria-induced episode that requires medical attention during a stealthy incursion or shootout could add to the overall tension.
Speaking of shootouts, weapon jamming could return from Far Cry 2. Again, there should be ways to manage this. So, the player who disposes of rusty options, diligently cleans their arsenal, or purchases shiny new option with ill-gotten gains is rewarded for respecting this particular mechanic. It’d be even better if enemy weapons could jam, too, offering a second chance at digital life from a foe that might have otherwise had you dead to rights. Splice this with the more realistic ballistics of Far Cry 5, which includes projectile-based bullets that require you to lead targets and allow for drop, and the gunplay would ramp up even more.
Like weapon jamming, car upkeep should be important, too. Except, instead of a wrench that magically repairs everything, you would need to carry around specific car parts. When a car breaks down, from misuse or too many bullets in the engine block, you’d have to risk a roadside repair or make a break for it, depending on whether the rear-view is clear of threats. This would be best paired with an inventory that isn’t limitless. There could also be player upgrades that relate to all of this to improve the speediness or the quality of repairs, and it would make an outpost with, say, a kitted-out garage a coveted place to attack. In the same breath, such places should be more heavily guarded, because risk/reward is a big part of player engagement in survival games.
Then there’d be the way you repair your body. Since Far Cry 3, the series has included randomised healing animations that remove slugs, wrap bandages, rip out environmental shards, and reset dislocated bones. These animations could be given more meaning atop a deep damage-modelling system that requires you to attend to specific wounds. For instance, legs could be damaged, which would slow movement and stop sprinting. A damaged arm would throw off weapon accuracy. A punctured chest would greatly diminish stamina. All of this could be applied to both player and enemies to provide a greater threat for going loud and more tactical options in firefights.
The great thing for Ubisoft is a lot of my suggestions are inspired by mechanics that have already been present in the Far Cry series, to date, which means reinvention of the wheel isn’t required. If these survival features are offered as their own mode – and assuming they could be individually enabled or disabled to make it harder or easier, respectively – Ubisoft could offer a new kind of Far Cry experience that caters to the growing crowd of players who are loving survival games and their tasty brand of punishing gameplay.
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