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I Can’t Quit You, Paul Ferenc (Farcry 2)

Posted by Nick Dinicola on January 2, 2009

I’ve been playing a lot of Far Cry 2 lately. In it, I play the role of a mercenary in Africa, hunting down an arms dealer known as The Jackal amongst the backdrop of a civil war. Along the way I meet other mercenaries who become my buddies. These buddies can give me missions, and offer different ways of completing other missions given to me. However, the most important role is that of my best buddy. My best buddy is a literal life-saver. If at any point in the game I get hurt enough to die, my best buddy comes to my rescue, reviving me and joining in the fight. But by doing so he risks his own life. This buddy system leads to some dramatic moments in Far Cry 2, the most memorable for me being the death of my best buddy Paul Ferenc. But why was this a dramatic moment for me? There’s little, if any, character development for any of my buddies, and they’re pretty much interchangeable since they all do the same thing. So what then did Far Cry 2 do to make me care about Paul Ferenc?

I trusted Paul. In the same way a bond is formed between the player and Elika in Prince of Persia, a bond was formed between me and Paul because I knew that he would save me if I died (However, unlike Elika, he wouldn’t save me every time; after a rescue I’d have to wait until he was “rescue-ready” again, but this waiting period actually works for Far Cry 2, more on this later). It’s important that I never had any control over Paul because this kind of trust wouldn’t be formed otherwise. For example, I don’t trust my teammates in Rainbow Six this way because I, the player, control their actions; any rescue by them happens because I tell them to do it. By relying on Paul who is outside my control in the game, a little bit of trust was formed every time he came through for me. With each successive rescue, I came to trust that he would do it again.

I saw Paul as a real character and not just a gamey gimmick. While there was a lack of direct character development, Far Cry 2 did a lot to humanize Paul. The waiting period between rescues helped make Paul feel like a real person within the game. In Prince of Persia it makes sense that Elika would save me every time because she followed me everywhere, in Far Cry 2 Paul (and my other buddies as well) didn’t follow me at all. He couldn’t be everywhere at once, he couldn’t save me every time I died, and he felt more real as a result. This didn’t actually hurt the development of trust because Paul would save me every time I met him at a safe house and he’d tell me “I can lend you a hand if you need me to.” So I still trusted him to rescue me when he said he would, but the fact that he wouldn’t always be there for me made him more human.

His death was random and permanent and beyond my control. When a buddy was hurt, he or she would fall to the ground and release a pillar of blue smoke so I could find them. Usually I could heal Paul when he went down by stabbing him with a syrette, sometime it would take one, sometimes two. When he died, he fell to the ground during a firefight like he had many times before. I took care of the remaining enemies and ran over to heal him. After one syrette he asked for another, after the second he asked for another, after the third he gritted his teeth, I held his head, and he died. The animations themselves, him gritting his teeth, coughing and gasping for breath, are quite disturbing, made more so by the fact that this was a character I had come to really care about. But the most dramatic part of his death was how unimportant the game treated it. After he died I stood back up and the game continued as normal. I stood over him, confused. After all, I has done everything I was supposed to do, I healed him, three times, and he still died. I reloaded a saved game and replayed the mission; I managed to keep him alive that time, but each subsequent mission after that became a struggle to keep Paul alive, and I had to slowly come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t save him.

My buddies all save me, and after Paul died another buddy named Warren Clyde took his place. Eventually I came to trust him too as he saved me more and more, but like Paul he too was killed at random: Warren was standing right next to me after a large firefight, and I turned to see the final enemy running at us, he shot twice before I killed him, and those two final shots killed my second best buddy. Far Cry 2 does a great job of making players care about their buddies through game design alone. It uses the “buddy rescue” system to form a bond of trust, and then exploits that bond for dramatic effect when the buddy dies. I should just mention that a buddy’s death isn’t predetermined, Paul and Warren died when they did because of coincidence, not developer planning. It’s for these reasons that I love Far Cry 2, and I believe it’s a perfect example of how game design alone can create an emotional connection between player and character. Of course character development never hurts, but games differ from other forms of narrative media in that it isn’t the only way to make someone care about a character. Far Cry 2 proves this; here’s to you Paul Ferenc.

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11 Responses to “I Can’t Quit You, Paul Ferenc (Farcry 2)”

  1. slipyhedz said

    You could try killing all the enemies before he goes down. This could prevent your buddy from dying. I did a blowing up gas train mission and after the fire fight, Paul took 3 syringe before dying. I had to restart the mission 4 times before I could manage to drove the jeep right up in front of him and get the enemies to shoot me instead of him.

  2. Cesar said

    well…anyways he will be dead when you and ALL your buds fith in mikes bar they all die omg i miss him tough i have new buds!….

  3. gangsterishh said

    Sometimes when i find Paul in a safe house he greets mew in another language. does anyone know what language this is and what he is saying… it sounds like hebrew but im not sure.

  4. John said

    I had a similar experience wit this game.

    I didn’t expect something so moving out of a game like Farcry 2. Paul had a knack for getting himself into a tight spot, I had started getting worried bringing him along with me to help on missions. I decided to bring him along for one last go, destroy some greenhouses, he wouldn’t even have to fight, all he had to do was fly a plane, safely above the ground away from trouble. I had developed a bond with this character, he was a fairly happy guy, in the face of it all. He came up with great plans, and was a pleasure to fight beside. Hell, he was even kind of cute. When he called me, saying his plane was shot down, I got scared. I booked it as fast as I could to reach him in time, when I got there, he was already down. I dispatched the few mercs that were left, and ran over to him. He was in a bad way.

    I quickly stabbed him with a syrette, hoping that he would get back up. He asked for another, I quickly provided the aid, the fear growing. It still wasn’t enough. As I was preparing to hit him again, he muttered “…that will never be enough”.

    That’s when it sunk in, I couldn’t save him. I begrudgingly switched to my sidearm, he grabbed it. At first I thought he was trying to push it away, then it became clear he was holding it steady for me. I spent half a minute, watching him scream in pain, he nodded at me, beckoned me to end it, then I looked away, and pulled the trigger.

    The single gunshot echoed out in the forest.

    I stood over his body, in a small sunlit clearing, as the leaves slowly fell around him. It started to rain.

    His last words, right before I pulled the trigger, “Oh god… mom… I’m sorry…”. Those more than anything stuck with me. They haunt me when I play this game now. I blamed myself for his death. I spent three minutes in that clearing, standing in the rain, before I slowly moved myself to leave.

    I did not expect something like this from Farcry 2. Hell, this is the first time a event in a game has ever actually moved me. This, more than anything, makes this game great.

  5. Rocco said

    I have Paul as my buddy to, he is gentle and helpful, but he’s my.. 4th buddy so I can’t do much whith him.
    2 women ( Flora and Michelle at my best buddy and rescue-ready buddy in the game playing as Warren , I don’t like women as my best buddy’s.

  6. Kyle said

    Damn you far cry 2, damn you. i replayed the blow up the train mission about 7 times, and i just couldnt save paul. i killed absolutely everyone, and it didnt work. im keeping his deagle in my secondary crate. not his spas, i have a golden ak, but his deagle is staying right there.

  7. Jaypax said

    I think I’m a above-average FPS player. I even consider myself a fairly seasoned, harden Far Cry 2 mercenary. But damn it! When Paul first died in my APR train mission, I was stumped for good amount of time wondering what the fuck just happen! I mean, Paul died and I cared! I cared enough to replay the mission about 5-6 times.

    If Paul died in my game like John described, I think I would have cried like a bitch – just like when Aeris died on FF7.

  8. sid said

    WOW! I thought i was crazy for feeling bad that he died! I think it was those last words he says before I shot him… they are really haunting… so weird to get emotionally attached to a video game character! Damn good game i tell you what!

    How the hell did they come up with this? I mean how does a video game character actually make you feel? After he died i shut the game and it just kept ringing in my head… already tried twice the second time he was already dead… somehow i felt this would be his end cause he talks about going on a vacation and calling it good with the merc scene and retiring… hmmm maybe thats what made me feel bad that he died so uselessly!

  9. sid said

    well i had saved right before the fight and i managed to save him 🙂

  10. Warren said

    I know this is a looong time after you posted this, but I came across this post after loosing Paul in FC 2. It really kind of shocked me – something I wasn’t expecting. Ah well – here’s to Paul! *opens a beer and pours one out*

  11. jack said

    man pual was one of my best characters (best buddie) so sad when he died and i had to move on on that game o would not let him die basically even if i died

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