Far Cry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Doc_Brown   
Sunday, 26 February 2006 18:00
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Developer: Crytek
Publisher: Ubisoft
Demos (1, 2)
ESRB Mature 17+ (Blood, Intense Violence)
PEGI 16+ (Game contains depictions of violence)

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A Drop of Time
Just to clarify, the game entitled Far Cry 2 is not really a sequel to the one reviewed here.  That game has more in common with, say, the Mercenaries series than it does its supposed predecessor, although it is a quality title in and of itself.  If it is a true, if not literal, sequel you are looking for, then Crysis is the title you're actually after.  Not only was it made by Crytek, the developers of the original Far Cry, but it is fundamentally the same game with superior graphics, a better storyline, more interesting adversaries, and deegameplay that owes a little to the Far Cry console port subtitled Instincts.
 

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Unoriginal Sin
Far Cry casts you in the role of Jack Carver, a tour boat guide in the South Pacific. A photographer named Val hires you for an assignment amongst the islands of Micronesia, a place filled with lush tropical jungles and traces of the War in the Pacific. But when Val gets nabbed by a group of mercenaries—mercenaries who promptly proceed to blow up your boat—it’s up to you to find out what they’re doing here and save Val. Aside from the help of a man on the inside named Doyle, you’re on your own against enough mercs to form a small army.

Just judged by its premise, Far Cry’s story seems promising. Unfortunately, the revelation of the rest of it is just plain embarrassing. Not only is the plot lacking almost any originality, its presentation is botched as well. The introductory cinematic, a jumble of images meant to convey the paragraph above, confused even me, and I knew more about the story in advance than most people will. What’s really odd is that judging from some of the trailers that were released, comprehensible in-game cinematics were created for the intro. So why weren’t they used?

Not that it really matters in the larger picture. Presentation aside, the story itself still ends up drowning in clichés. The head honcho, a mad scientist named Krieger, is creating monsters with which he’ll destroy the world. Many of these creatures turn out to be human experiments, and of course Krieger ends up experimenting on himself. Doyle ends up double-crossing you for money, and Val turns out to be a government agent—one who will strip down and bathe in a waterfall while the world’s about to end and the clock is ticking. I see why he-who-shall-not-be-named bought the movie rights…

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King of the Hills
Ultimately, Far Cry's appeal lies not in its story but its game world. At the time, Doom 3 was the most cutting edge engine to render dark, cramped interiors, but Far Cry was tops when it came to bright, expansive exteriors. They may not be as sprawling as other such games, but considering the amount of detail crammed into them their size is impressive. Jungles here aren’t composed of a few tress and bushes, but hundreds of them crammed together. You don’t take a stroll through the woods, you hack your way through the brush with a machete.

While you may be thinking the purpose of all that foliage is concealment (and in a way you’d be right, but more on that later), the engine is more than up to snuff to render massive draw distances. Detail is scaled by range, of course, so you might not be able to make out specific details with the naked eye, but using your binoculars allows you to see exactly what lies a good mile off. Interiors aren’t shortchanged as a result, either. While not quite as impressive as the competition they’re still very good, especially with the visual options cranked up.

In fact, on the highest visual settings you’ll be able to select from a few special render modes. Some are so subtle that the changes will be hard to notice, but a couple make substantial alterations to the way the world looks. Cold, for instance, bleaches the colors out a bit, lending a sort of crispness that is well suited to interiors, while Cartoon goes the cel-shaded route like XIII. It’s amusing, but by design removes some of the detail that makes the game look so good to begin with. Kudos to Crytek, though, for even including such options in the first place.

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The Sky's the Limit
To make your stay in paradise entertaining, you’ll have quite the arsenal at your disposal. You’ll have the expected pistol and melee weapon, but also six different fully automatic weapons to choose from. A semi-auto shotgun, sniper rifle, and rocket launcher round things out, not to mention mounted weapons like miniguns and mortars. Additionally, you’ll be able to throw three different types of grenades, and even rocks, if you feel so inclined. A flashlight, binoculars, and a hybrid night-vision/infrared goggles cover your viewing spectrum.

Unlike a lot of past shooters, the number of weapons you can hold at any given time is limited to four (excluding the 'nades). This means you’ll often be forced into choosing just what to take and what to leave behind. A stealthier player might favor the machete, silenced MP5, and sniper rifle while a more aggressive character could go for the SAW, Jackhammer, and rocket launcher. Circumstances, however, play a large role in what’s available and what’s preferable, so there will be times you're forced to adapt your play style accordingly.

Then there are the vehicles. While driving them may not feel quite as joyful as Halo’s, they’re quality implementations nonetheless. Some, like the inflatable boat or hang glider, are just for getting around. Others, like the patrol boat and buggy, come with mounted weapons you can use, and since you can drive and shoot at the same time they make for viable attack options. You’ll find that even though you might not really need them vehicles are highly desirable if only to keep them out of the hands of your enemies, who are smart enough to use them against you. 

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You Damn, Dirty Apes!
Far Cry may be the first FPS since Half-Life to do a good job at simulating intelligent squad-based AI. The mercs you’ll face come in all shapes and sizes, can wear body armor, and wield any weapon you can. They’re smart enough to sound alarms, call in backup, man mounted weapons, investigate noises, and lay down suppressing fire. In groups they’ll fan out when searching and flank you when on the offensive. And like I said before, they’re not afraid of using vehicles to hunt, shoot, and even run you down if it comes to that.

Then there are the Trigens, the monsters that Krieger has created. Some used to be monkeys, which are fond of leaping great distances and tearing you apart in just a few swipes. Others are huge former humans that can take enormous punishment and dish it out with rocket launchers. Others still are a sort of combination, smaller former humans who wield automatic rifles but jump about like crazy. Trigens can’t use vehicles, thankfully, but I doubt they'd ever need to.

While the mercenaries make great opponents, I have to admit I didn’t find the Trigens to my tastes. I understand they’re supposed to be powerful, but there is such a thing as taking it too far. The big human ones, for instance, can take a rocket in the face and just brush it off. The monkeys, on the other hand, can apparently reach farther than you’d think—right through walls, it would seem—and yet still manage to tear right through your armor. They don’t even appear to use tactics the way the mercs do, so now they’re not just unfair, they’re uninteresting. Thankfully, they’re not the bulk of the game.

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Variety is the Spice of Life
The real joy in Far Cry comes from squaring off against the mercs. Since the game takes a cue from the stealth genre and bothers to take into account sight and hearing, a lot of your time will be spent observing the enemy while hiding in the bushes. Using your binoculars to mark the enemies on your radar, you will then have a reference for their position, facing, and level of awareness. Using this you can then plan your assault, be it subtle or overt. Thanks to the massive environments, you can even choose to simply bypass some of the enemies, or lure them away by throwing rocks.

One thing the game does well is keep the encounters varied. Since stealth isn’t as viable an option indoors, those levels taking place inside usually end up simple shooting sprees. Such levels are usually found between outdoor segments, so the gameplay has a nice back and forth between straight up action and more cautious exploits. The outdoor sections themselves are further varied by the inclusion of the vehicles, some levels taking them into account more directly than others (boating downriver with a helicopter firing at you, driving across beaches with Humvees on your tail, etc).

If anything can be said against the gameplay, it’s that as the game reaches its later stages and the mercs are mostly replaced by the Trigens, things can get both exceedingly difficult and at the same time boring. Enemies become very tough to kill and their accuracy greatly increases, so much so that an automatic rifle fired from the hip can hit you with the majority of its rounds from a quarter mile away.  And since Trigens, as mentioned, don't really employ tactics, fighting them is a relatively straightforward affair, making the gameplay feel repetitive.

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Conclusion
In spite of its flaws Far Cry remains an excellent shooters for its time, a sleeper hit few saw coming. Even though it has more than a few problems, what they’ve done right mostly balances out what they’ve done wrong. Gameplay is fun and varied in a way that Doom 3 can only dream of, and the engine powering the game was definately ahead of its time. That Crytek included very easy to use mod tools and support right from the start is just the icing on the cake.

Note: Originally posted at Hangar16.com on 11/15/04

 

Game Rated 7/10
 

 

 

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