Far Cry 2 is one of those games that, even thirteen years later, remains a touchstone for a certain kind of FPS design. Ubisoft would go on to sand-off the rough edges, for good or ill, and build a big-budget template that persists through to Far Cry 6 but, for some, it never got better than Far Cry 2's dangerous, conflicted, and persistently inconvenient world.
The Jackal is one of the elements Far Cry 2 emphasised that would go on to become even more important in the further sequels: a persistent presence, a long-term goal for the player that seems untouchable at the game's start, a character who pops up occasionally to remind you he's watching. The Jackal is an arms dealer of legendary reputation, feared by all, and the player character's mission is to assassinate him.
A fan theory that's been knocking around for years is that the Jackal is in fact the protagonist of the original game and Far Cry: Instincts, Jack Carver. Well, thanks to Far Cry 2 director Clint Hocking, it's no longer a theory.
"The Jackal is actually supposed to be Jack Carver from the original Far Cry," Hocking told IGN in an interview. "Cos Jack Carver in the original Far Cry was this kind of shifty, like smuggler, gun runner kind of crook who ends up on this island with this Island of Dr Moreau craziness going on,” Hocking explained. “The idea was this is just him, like 10 years later or something, after he's seen whatever he saw on this island [...] here he's kinda levelled-up his smuggling game and he's gotten embroiled in this conflict, but he's also been through a lot more and seen a lot of messed-up stuff."
Speaking to the character's role in the game, and how this archetype would go on to be used in the series, Hocking explains "he's really kind of the MacGuffin, kind of there to give the player a high level target and a high-level goal [...] He's not really a gameplay function, he's just a motivation. We could've in retrospect gone a lot further bringing that narrative into the world, some of that characterisation into the world. It was just all very new. We were trying our best but we didn't have the other benchmarks we needed to get to where he would have felt more present, more ubiquitous in the world."
The game itself doesn't provide any hard evidence that the Jackal is Jack Carver, though dataminers have noted that texture files relating to the character model are labelled 'jackcarver'.
This is a slight blow to my favourite fan theory about the Jackal, which is that he's the Far Cry 2 player character and no-one else can see him, but conceptually one has to admit it's a great idea in a game that was full of them. It's often remarked-upon that we take chippy protagonists through the equivalent of a small-scale genocide and they rarely seem to show the effects of it: what the events of Far Cry did to its 'hero' is a great hook to hang an antagonist on even if, in the final product, it's only ever hinted at.
I don't mind the Far Cry games but 2 remains the last entry where it felt like a game with new ideas, probably because of stuff like this. And I'm not sure just building your world around Gus Fring is what will tempt me back.