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Choosing Between Bad and Worse

Rob Kunzig | 25 Jul 2011 10:00
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Just when Far Cry 2 seems to be a digital adaptation of Beyond Good and Evil, The Jackal's hardboiled cynicism cracks to reveal noble motives. As it turns out, his d├ętente was engineered to buy time, allowing him to devise an escape plan for the country's two million refugees. With the innocent out of the way, he says, the civil war can burn itself to ashes. Suddenly, The Jackal's lack of allegiance becomes a flag of its own, a moral mission. "We can isolate this disease and destroy it," he tells you.

I now had to choose between sacrificing myself on a mountain and leading an exodus out of the country.

The Jackal breaks his code, and so does Far Cry 2. When you see him for the last time, hiding out in the bowels of a swampy section called "The Heart of Darkness," the game lowers your gun and forces you to hear out his plan: One of you will bribe the border guards with a suitcase full of diamonds, allowing the refugees to escape, and the other will blow up a mountainside, stalling the pursuing army and killing himself in the process. By the way - taking the diamonds means blowing your brains out after you make the delivery. You, too, are the disease, and you can't leave with the innocent.

After nearly forty hours of burning my way across the savannah, I was ready to murder this candy ass, steal his diamonds, and run for the border. But where Far Cry 2 once made me choose between bad and worse, I now had to choose between sacrificing myself on a mountain and leading an exodus out of the country.

But Far Cry 2 wouldn't even let me shake my fist at The Jackal. I'd murdered thugs, generals and demagogues, but I couldn't kill the man who, at some point in the supply chain, probably sold the gun in my hands.

I took the diamonds, thinking, "If he wants to be a martyr, let him. I'm making it out of here alive." I fought my way to the crossing and handed over the diamonds, but before I could raise my Kalashnikov and shoot my way to freedom, my vision blinked to black. The first-person perspective, so faithfully observed for so long, yielded to a floating-camera shot of refugees walking beyond the barbed wire.

In these last moments, Far Cry 2 contradicted itself. The lack of choice that once felt so refreshing and unpretentious became suddenly suffocating. The ability to choose, so long suppressed in favor of social realism, was conveniently sidelined to force a happy ending. Cynical players will recall The Jackal's earlier advice with plenty of irony: "You start thinking about morality - that's insane."

Rob Kunzig works in international aid and development. He currently works in Iraq.

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