Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: September 27, 2005
Buy 'FAR CRY INSTINCTS': Xbox
Far Cry was in development for the PC for many years as a little company called CryTek worked hard on making an advanced engine capable of handling their grand idea for FPS greatness. When Far Cry hit early last year, it was one of the most stunning-looking games to grace a PC in years, even after the mighty Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 made their way onto the scene.
After spending some time with the Xbox version, Far Cry: Instincts, I not only found myself impressed by how faithful it was to the PC version, but I was also quite surprised to see that it was an even better game. The reason for this is the game was not a directly ported over to the Xbox, and in fact while both games share some similar things and features, the Xbox version has its own unique levels and story.
The Xbox game still features the same mercenary Jack Carver, who gets hired by a shady woman to take her on a tour of some remote islands. Things start to go downhill when the mysterious woman takes off on Jack's jet ski and helicopters destroy his ship mere moments later. The game starts out as you dive into the water to avoid going down with the ship. You quickly make your way over to land, with only your knife and your experience to guide you through a set of massive islands that are filled with hired guns and science experiments gone awry. As you get deeper into the game, Jack becomes one of these experiments, and you will quickly learn the meaning of "instincts" in the title.
What sets FC:I apart from most other FPS are its lush, expansive environments that offer a totally new type of gameplay. Most FPSes take place in small corridors or in wide open environments with little in the way of cover or life. The massive outdoor levels completely break that mold and offer the gamer lots of options for taking out enemies.
Unlike the PC version, which was mostly run-and-gun, the Xbox game encourages the additional use of stealth. This really adds more depth to the gameplay and opens up lots of options. Since the game has so much cover, all one needs to do is crouch down or crawl through the thick foliage and trees to stay out of sight. Once you sneak up on your unknowing victims, you can use a melee attack to kill them silently with a knife so that your location remains hidden. You can even crawl under the floor of some structures and shoot through the floorboards at the helpless enemies, but by far the coolest stealthy way to kill a foe is by setting traps on trees, throwing a rock to lure them over, and watching it spring.
Making this all the more enjoyable is the game's very intelligent AI. The enemies in FC:I tend to be quite smart and know their environments well. The slightest noise from you will cause them to hunt you down, and once they find you, they will often take cover and radio for backup, at which point all surrounding enemies will also make their way to your location. Most of the enemies will take cover behind trees, barrels or whatever else they can find. They will then stay back there and take pop shots at you, making them quite hard to kill. Despite the very detailed environments being rendered, the game is still able to display upwards of 20 enemies on the screen at one time, resulting in some very intense shootouts. Helping you out in your quest, though, is the ability to dual-wield any of the single-handed weapons in the game. It's still not easy by any means, but having twice the firepower definitely helps.
Another area in which FC:I excels is vehicles. There are a lot of different vehicles to choose from; you have everything from jet skis, ATVs, Hummers, to speed boats and hang gliders at your disposal. They all control well and are a great break from on-foot action, helping to keep the game from getting boring and stale by mixing it up just went you need it the most.
No shooter has handled the ability drive and control vehicles better than Far Cry. Unlike other games, where sections of a level are dedicated to solely driving a vehicle, they are actually integrated into the levels. You can shoot your way through half of a level, make your way down to a river, jump on a jet ski for some white-knuckle vehicle combat, and then go back on foot to blast enemies through the jungle. You can then drive an all-terrain vehicle to the top of a mountain and hang-glide through a massive valley. All of this is handled in real time, with no load times, but aside from the technical aspects, the game's levels flow quite well.
Vehicles and guns are not the only weapons at your control, as Jack Carver himself becomes a very powerful weapon later on, when a mad scientist injects him with a new substance that he's been working on. As you work your way through the game, the effects become known in the form of new animal-like abilities. You start off with the ability to see scent trails of enemies, and later on, you gain the ability of incredible strength, allowing you to perform a charging melee attack to kill enemies in one swipe. You also gain the ability to jump great distances and run at super speeds. All of these new powers really open up the game in a completely different way and expand upon the experience offered by its PC counterpart. Even if you have played the original PC game, these powers make Far Cry: Instincts feel more like a sequel than a console port of a PC game.
Rounding out this excellent package is one of the best online multiplayer modes you will find on a home console today. Supporting 16 players over Xbox Live, you can battle it out in a wide range of game types, complete with vehicles and your animal powers from the single-player game. While there is already a healthy array of maps to play on, Ubisoft has also included a map maker, which gives you total control over every aspect of a level, right down to spawn point locations to what type of grass should go underneath the palm tree you just planted. The user interface makes it very easy to learn, and it lets you jump right into making your very own custom deathmatch map. You can build an incredibly detailed and complex map within a matter of minutes and then jump instantly into the level to test it out and make sure it plays right. Once you are happy with your map, you can share it online with other Xbox Live users so that anyone can play on it.
When all is said and done, it is very hard to find anything wrong with Far Cry: Instincts . It's pretty amazing how the developers were able to get this game to run so well on the Xbox, since you need a very powerful computer to run the PC version well. The game looks very close to the PC version, with the only real difference being texture detail and resolution. Other than that, the same massive environments and seemingly never-ending draw distance make it over to the Xbox version perfectly intact. Some things, like the lighting, have actually been improved upon, thanks to using high dynamic range (HDR) lighting.
Overall, Far Cry: Instincts on the Xbox is a much more balanced and fun game than the PC version. While still retaining the core gameplay of the PC version, it still manages to be a completely different game with a new storyline, maps, and enemies. Even if you have played through and beaten the PC version, give the Xbox game a try because it offers enough new content to merit a look. If you've never had the chance to play the PC version due to not having a rig that could handle it, or if you simply missed the title altogether, now's your chance!
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