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Great moments in PC gaming: Watching fire spread in Far Cry 2

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories. 

Far Cry 2

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Developer: Valve
Year: 2004

I’m glad Sea of Thieves finally came along to conclusively win the battle that has raged on in gaming for years. Which game has the best water? That’s over now. That’s done. Sea of Thieves wins by containing what I assume is some sort of magic that permits a real ocean to exist inside it.

But alongside the water war, there was the fire war, and that was won years ago by Far Cry 2. And then won again by Far Cry 3. And Far Cry 4. And so on. The Far Cry games do fire gud, and the first time I experienced it in Far Cry 2 it was like witnessing a real fire: It was alarming and fascinating and almost immediately out of control.

Far Cry 2’s fictional African country was the perfect setting for a great fire propagation system. It was sun-bleached and arid, dry and dusty, with fields of dead grass and trees of brittle branches. Its combat was chaos, with psychotic mercenaries who’d ram your car off the road and fill the air with lead at the drop of a hat. The entire game was a powderkeg just waiting for a match.

I quickly learned how useful fire could be. If enemies were dug in behind cover, a molotov hurled toward them didn’t even have to be accurately thrown. It’d smash, setting the grass on fire, which would quickly spread across the ground, forcing the mercs out into the open where they could be picked off without me having to leave cover. Thanks, fire! We’re a great team!

But the fire wasn’t done and we weren’t a team after all. The flames would keep spreading, climbing tree trunks, igniting vehicles, setting off ammo boxes, forcing me out of cover, and cutting off my escape route. More than once the blaze I’d started had become another enemy and I’d have to flee while patting down my burning clothing and cursing because my car had exploded (unlike the other Far Cry games, cars weren’t all that easy to find).

Most of the fires I started were accidents that quickly spiraled out of control. A bullet finds an ammo box or a grenade goes off too close to a vehicle. A careful approach and minutes spent scouting are all for nought. The entire fight changes course because most things are burning and everything else is about to catch fire. 

Once I was taking out a convoy from a safe distance with a rocket launcher, and I suddenly noticed I was taking damage. I looked down and saw the field I was standing in was engulfed in flames. Eventually I figured out what had happened: the Carl G rocket launcher emits a flame from the back when it fires a rocket, and that flame had set the grass behind me on fire, which quickly spread under my feet. My car was already burning and once again I had to escape on foot.

Sure, I was angry and wounded but also impressed. The flame from a rocket launcher setting the grass on fire might have messed up my mission, but I still had to admit it was pretty cool.

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