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Far Cry

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Crytek

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PC Review - 'Far Cry'

by Eric on March 29, 2004 @ 2:09 a.m. PST

Genre: FPS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Crytek
Release Date: March 23, 2004

Buy 'FAR CRY': PC

Far Cry has had a long and varied development process. The first glimpses of Far Cry came way back around 2001 when Crytek showed off its CryEngine technology with their Dino Island demo. What was shown was impressive, to say the least: a beautifully rendered tropical island with a limitless draw distance, jungles made up of thousands of fully three-dimensional trees, tall grass that swayed in the wind, and some amazingly detailed dinosaur models that looked like they were right out of Jurassic Park. This was all shown at a time when most FPS games were confined to fairly small in- and outdoor levels with a few static trees and clumps of grass, so to say this was a big step up would be a massive understatement. While this was not Far Cry itself, it was the technology behind the game that would power what we now know as "Far Cry," an FPS that is set on a series of tropical islands. There was never much doubt about the CryEngine itself, as it always looked stunning and only got better with age, but the real question was whether the game’s developer, Crytek, could craft a compelling game around this impressive technology. The short answer is ohh hell yea!

You play Jack Carver, who is hired to take Valerie Constantine, a freelance journalist, to some islands. Along the way, your boat is blown up by a rocket launcher, and you get tossed into the sea. You wake up later on an island shore with no idea of what is going on. That soon changes, as you find a phone that lets you communicate with Harlan Doyle, a resident of the Island who guides you through the story. The story, especially at first, is nothing groundbreaking and is strictly B-movie fare. Most games can be hard to get into in the early stages if their stories are shallow or poorly done, but this is not the case with Far Cry, where the story takes a back seat as the game’s amazing graphics and game play suck you in.

The first thing you will notice when you start Far Cry is the stunning graphics. Many kudos go out to the German developer, Crytek, as they have built a very impressive 3d gaming engine and gotten it to market in less time than Half Life 2 and Doom 3, the other hotly-anticipated shooters. This says a lot about the talent and skill of the people working there.

Most of the action takes place on a series of tropical islands, which are extremely lush and filled with many different types of trees, bushes, tall grass and other plant life - all finely detailed right down to the vines hanging from some of the trees. You truly feel like you’re walking in the middle of a tropical jungle. Adding to the realism is the fact that every tree, bush and blade of grass moves in the wind. Also as you walk through the jungles, shadows from individual leaves of the trees are cast onto your weapon in real time. Amazing! You can go anywhere you can see, which, thanks to this game’s amazing draw distances – around 2 kilometers - is close to anywhere. There will be times when you get so immersed in the game that you start reaching for a can of bug spray before you remember that you are only playing a game. The indoor environments are equally as amazing as the outdoor environments. Dynamic per-pixel lighting abound inside as you will see lights that sway and cast shadows all around, much like the now-famous Doom 3 bathroom scene. The quality of the lighting is easily up there with Doom 3’s and is a true sight to behold. All the environments, indoor and outdoor, as well as all the character models, use an advanced form of bump-mapping called “normal mapping,” which allows, for studio-quality CG models that are made up of hundreds of thousands of polygons. Then they take the surface normal of that high-polygon model and store them into the textures of a very low-polygon model of the same type. When using per-pixel lighting, the low-polygon model appears to have as much detail as its high-polygon brother. The difference in detail between the two models is barely noticeable, but the difference in performance, on the other hand, is very significant. There are no PCs that could run a game with CG level models in real time, but thanks to normal mapping, you have models that look close to high-polygon CG models but are actually only made up of a few thousand polygons. This is one of the ways Far Cry can display so many things on the screen at once with massive draw distances at such high detail.

All of the in-game models look quite stunning. In the human models, you can see fine details such as veins in the arms and sweat on the surface of the skin. The walls and other surfaces are covered with bumps and scratches that also add to the level of detail and realism. Completing the visual package are the silky smooth animation and realistic physics. All of the different character models in Far Cry are well animated, and their motions look realistic, but the real treat is the great use of "rag doll" physics. Shooting people will cause their bodies to respond to the impact of the bullets as well as their surrounding environment. Shooting a guy with his back by a wall will result in him slumping against it realistically. The same goes for any number of other objects; tossing a grenade near enemies will really show off the impressive physics and animation as they go flying with their limbs flailing. Rag doll physics is often over-used by developers , which causes the models and limbs to move and swing too lifelessly, much like an actual doll. Crytek has done a great job in making sure that this is not the case with Far Cry, as their physics and animation, while quite impressive, are not overdone.

Great graphics will always grab your attention right away, but it is good game play that keeps you coming back for more, and this title has plenty of that. Far Cry features some of the best AI seen in a video game and while still not without some flaws, it is one of the main reasons the game is such a blast to play. Given the tropical island setting, there are an almost limitless number of objects to use for cover, and the AI is extremely smart and knows how to use the cover well. If you see someone, fire upon them and they do not know where exactly you are at, they will run, try to take cover and call for backup in the process. After a little bit, they will cautiously peek out from behind their cover and start searching around the area very carefully. If they do see you, they won’t stay in one place firing at you; they will always be on the move, running and taking cover and firing from it before moving on to some other form of cover. Depending on the setting, their reactions will be different. If you are in a dense jungle with lots of tall grass and you alert the AI to your presence, they will not come running straight at you; instead they will go off to the sides and try to flank you by using the tall grass and bushes as cover. The AI is extremely dynamic and will give you a run for your money on even the easier settings. Due to how realistically the AI reacts to you, it will really make you plan out how to resolve the encounters in the game. A nice side effect of all of this is the use of stealth that you will employ at times throughout the game. While you always have the option to go in guns a blazing - and that will even work a good portion of the time - stealth becomes the more logical option most of the time. This incredible mixture of all-out action and stealth is very well-balanced and adds much more depth to the game play.

Also adding to the great game play is the great level design. The maps have a good pace and flow to them, and despite their great size, you won’t find yourself mindlessly wandering around, looking for your next objective. Crytek has done a great job in making sure that you know where to go next at all times in the game. Enhancing the great level design is the inclusion of many different types of vehicles in the game - jeeps, trucks, patrol boats and even an hang glider. Their location in the maps couldn’t have been better, as there are many times in where you might have to go a very long distance. Instead of making you slowly walk from point A to point B, you often have the option of taking any of the vehicles sitting around, which really keeps things from getting repetitive and boring. They also play a big role in combat, and you will even find yourself engaged in fierce battles against NPC-controlled vehicles.

Overall, Crytek has done a nearly flawless job in crafting the single player campaign. The combat is extremely fun and exciting, as well as addicting. The level design is fantastic, and the pacing is never too slow. The story, while weak at first, will start to draw you in later on and will keep you playing late into the night to unlock more of the island’s mysteries. This is one of the most complete single-player experiences out there and reason enough to buy the game, but Far Cry also features a decent multiplayer component as well. In multiplayer, you have only three different modes of play: Team Death Match, Free For All and Assault. Neither of them are original, but the great graphics and tropical setting make the multiplayer mode a blast. Originally when the game shipped, there was a bug that cause incompatibility between regional versions of the game (i.e., a player from the U.S. might have a difficult time connecting to a server in Italy). There are some balance issues, since the long view distances make a good sniper hard to beat, and some of the maps have mounted mini-guns that have unlimited ammo. There are 11 maps in total, with six of them dedicated to the Assault mode and the remaining five shared between FFA and Team Deathmatch. While not as polished and balanced as the single player side, the online portion is still fun and playable. With online games like Battlefield Vietnam and UT 2004 that do multiplayer so much better, there is little reason to buy Far Cry just for the multiplayer mode, although its graphics are the best of the lot. It’s a great addition to a fantastic game, and I’m digging it.

Far Cry is the best looking and playing single-player first person shooter out right now; it is in the same class as games like Halo and Half Life and should not be missed by any fans of the genre. Far Cry is a pretty taxing game on your system. While the system requirements cover a wide range of rigs, I would recommend at least a 2 GHz CPU, 1 gig ram and one of the better DX 9 cards available to really enjoy the game. If you are one of those people who has been looking for a good reason to upgrade your PC, Far Cry is it. This game alone is well worth every penny of upgrades, and with other graphically-intense games like Doom 3 coming out in the near future, there is no other better time to upgrade than now.

Score: 9.5/10


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