Release Date: March 23, 2004
Preview by: Anthony Mitera
Pre-order 'FAR CRY': PC
If you are a fan of the first person shooter genre, this year looks to be like one of the best years for the genre in recent memory. Firstly you have the titles every gamer knows, like Halflife 2, Halo 2, and Doom 3. Past those big names you have games that look like they will broadside the genre such as Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, Breed, and now Far Cry. Far Cry may not be a title that stands out in most gamer's minds, especially with so many expected releases in the genre this year, but that will definitely change once the general gaming populace notices that the FPS genre has really needed a game like Far Cry for a long time.
Take any single player FPS shooter you have likely ever played, and compare them all. From Halo to Halflife, Aliens vs. Predator to Soldier of Fortune, nearly every FPS has only one or two ways of completing each level or goal. That's not to say that those games are bad in any regard, but they are all very linear. With Far Cry the sky is literally the limit, with each level taking place on an island or chain of islands in a Pacific paradise. Instead of being artificially guided through each level via corridors, trenches, or invisible walls Far Cry allows you to wander off the beaten path, stalking your foes through jungle underbrush, assaulting enemy encampments from the seas via patrol boats, driving both on and off road in a vehicle, and overall allowing you to choose exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it. Your mission may not change but every time you play through a level you'll end up finding a new way, method, or means of attack to accomplish your goals.
The main character in Far Cry is Jack Carver, owner of a boat chartering service. One day Val Cortez, a journalist who wants to investigate an island chain that has been buzzing with strange activity, approaches Jack. Upon reaching the island Jack's boat is attacked and sunk by mercenaries who kidnap Val and leave Jack for dead. None too pleased about the recent turn of events, Jack takes it upon himself to rescue Val and get to the bottom of what exactly has been going on in the chain of islands.
Though the general gameplay has already been explained a bit, a bit more detail is in order. In each mission you start off with a couple weapons of your own, an objective to accomplish, and possibly a vehicle. In the "Boat" preview mission Jack starts off with a silenced MP5, an M16, an auto shotgun, and a sniper rifle, with a small inflatable boat at his disposal. From that very instant the player has a variety of ways to accomplish the first goal, the retrieval of three explosive packs from a small enemy encampment. If you want to directly attack the camp with brute force, simply park the boat near the shore and run in with your M16 blazing. A sneakier route would be to creep through the bushes and undergrowth near the camp and silently take down foes with your MP5. You could also sail out a ways from the encampment and snipe from your boat. The ability to choose your attack plan and change it on the fly isn't just limited to certain areas but rather makes up the bulk of the game.
Even more importantly, nearly every aspect of the game is a blast to play. Sneaking through bushes to try and avoid enemy patrols can be a fairly intense experience, especially when they know you are in the bushes but don't know exactly where. Controlling boats and the hang glider becomes second nature almost immediately, but the ground vehicles such as the buggy, hummer, and truck all handle very loose and sluggish in the current build. Far Cry makes good use of its built-in physics engine, allowing enemies to so into kind of a controlled rag doll effect when killed, allowing the player to do such things as roll barrels downhill into unsuspecting enemies, and even subtle things such as how a vehicle handles or how a grenade bounces.
The AI in the game is simultaneously the most realistic seen yet, and occasionally the most idiotic. If you shoot a flashy or loud weapon from a bush, enemies will either take cover from that general area, throw a grenade to try and flush you out, or simply wildly fire into the brush hoping to score a few hits. If a enemy is sniped from long range or taken out silently from an MP5 any nearby soldiers who take notice will attempt to take cover, occasionally totally mistaking where the fire is coming from and looking in a totally different direction. On the negative side, if you are hiding in a single bush you can have three guys all trying to walk into you and none of them will actually find you. Nice for the player, sure, but it does tend to break your sense of immersion. In an example of being too skilled, enemy snipers in watchtowers will immediately begin to fire at you, regardless of the fact you moved about an inch from behind a bush about a half-mile away. Still, these aspects are fairly minor gripes considering that it's a preview build, they can be easily fixed, and the basic ways the AI acts never ceases to amaze.
Throughout the ordeal Jack has access to a variety of weapons, though he can only carry 4 at any given time. In addition to others, Jack can use a pistol, a M16, a FAMAS, an OICW, a M60, an auto shotgun, a sniper rifle, a machete, a silenced MP5, and a rocket launcher. Additionally Jack can make use of grenades to take out bad guys hiding behind cover, flash bangs to blind a group of enemies, or even rocks to distract and divert attention. To get from any point A to point B Jack can drive a buggy armed with a machine gun, a hummer with a roof-mounted rocket launcher, a 5 ton truck, a small inflatable boat, patrol boats, fly with a hang glider, or simply walk or swim using the cover of trees, bushes, and rocks to your advantage.
Graphically Far Cry is well above the average for the genre in both an artistic and technical standpoint. The character, weapon, and vehicle models all look downright beautiful and very convincing. Tropical birds fly around the islands, and schools of fish swim beneath the beautifully rendered water. If that recently killed mercenary wasn't leaking a cloud of blood into the lagoon and you weren't carrying around a weapon you could swear you were exploring a picturesque island resort. Before their early demise the animations of the enemy mercenaries all look very high quality whether they are slightly crouched over searching through some brush or giving hand signals to nearby mercenaries. When enemies are shot bloodstains and bullet holes appear in their clothing as they realistically slump against walls or into objects. Trees in Far Cry all look pretty good though you don't exactly spend a whole lot of time looking them over, but the bushes can look fairly bland when you are right up against them.
In the audio department Far Cry packs quite a punch, especially when experienced in surround sound. All of the voice work in the game is downright superb and one would be hard pressed to find a single line that sounds overacted or out of place. Almost all of the musical score fits with the gameplay, with slower music playing when you are undetected by any enemies and faster, more suspenseful music when the enemy has spotted you and is actively engaging you in combat. Almost more important than the music, all of the weapon sound effects are not only of a high quality but also don't sound like the same canned sound effects that can be found in some games. Even the individual assault rifles have a unique sound and personality to them. The Doppler effect can be enabled on hardware that supports it, but when it's enabled enemy voices can occasionally sound like they were spoken using helium. Being as it's really the only negative thing in the entire sound package hopefully it will be smoothed over before Far Cry hits the shelves.
When you really boil it down, there's simply so much fun to be had with Far Cry that it would be impossible to condense it into writing. Ubisoft / Crytek recently released a demo for Far Cry that would be almost a crime to not play if you have the ability to do so, in order to experience what Far Cry is all about for yourself. For those of you unable to play the demo for whatever reason Far Cry is basically the game that every "free form" FPS has ever wanted to be, coupled with a compelling story, cutting-edge graphics, and a huge amount of replayability. Far Cry still has a little while to bake in the development oven, but if the demo or preview is any precursor as to what the final product will be it looks like we already have a contender for FPS of the year.
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