Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: December 12, 2006
You know, I liked Red Steel, from the campy plot and campier telling, to the control scheme that I found intuitive, its impressive appearance, and the ragdoll arm of doom. Yet the ratings of the game weren't too impressive, perhaps because the controls had their subtle but severe unintuitive tendencies; shaking the nunchuk down to reload and up to slice with the sword doesn't work too well in practice. The game just didn't quite perfect the idea of controlling with the Wii. Plus, it lacked crazed demonic rabbits, which is automatically a point or two against it. (That's not as random as you think, because the Rabbids do have a cameo in Far Cry: Vengeance!) A month can sometimes do wonders, as Ubisoft has found plenty of other ways to polish gameplay since Red Steel. Unfortunately, the "other ways" weren't always for the best.
Sadly, Far Cry: Vengeance's first issue comes up immediately and gets worse from there. The characters end up looking somehow worse than Red Steel's expressive-looking characters. Plastic-doll syndrome with obvious DivX compression of video, here we come! You'll find that this game's graphics are rather the opposite of its strong point, looking more last-gen than actual last-gen titles.
On the plus side, the frame rate never drops, and the graphics never become less than serviceable. As you progress through a convoluted plot, you won't be mistaking cars for bad statues, or enemies and allies for one another. Just don't be expecting HDR lighting or any other fancy graphical tricks. Worse yet, witness the return of one of the greatest gaming annoyances since graphical pop-up: invisible barriers. These barriers mar both the graphical and level designs of Vengeance.
Luckily, Vengeance makes up for this in a few key areas. In spite of the sad return of the invisible barrier issue, level designs are far from unimpressive, offering some tactics without attaining a hardcore-only level of complexity. Level design also allows for either bite-sized segments, or going through an entire two- or three-hour map, and not feeling shafted either way. You'll get a sense of wonder that sometimes isn't easily attained in shooters, whether you're just figuring out where to go, or experiencing the occasional novel moment, such as shooting a barrel to knock down a tower to break a fence.
Furthermore, the game's controls are a thing to behold. If you wish to witness first-person shooter controls on the Wii done right, look here. Picture the basic concept of Red Steel's controls, only tightened to no end. Swinging the Wiimote in one fashion will almost never be mistaken for another, whether you're aiming to throw a grenade, slice up a target, zoom in your aim, claw things in Predator mode, heal yourself, or just plain shoot. Furthermore, if you'd rather rotate faster or even lock your targeting reticle, thereby turning the Wiimote into a mouse, the game also offers this in the options. This actually ends up being almost, but not quite a best-of-both-worlds play style between the twin-stick and keyboard-mouse combinations.
When I say that I found the control scheme to be basically hiccup-free, I mean it. With the exception of the Half-Life series, I'm not so great at first-person shooters, yet I found the Vengeance controls to be natural and effective, assisted by an interface that offers you plenty of information. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to see if these controls will do even better in the hands of honed experts, for the multiplayer is poor and consists solely of two-player split-screen. There's no system link, no wireless multiplayer, and not even four-player support, so the only available multiplayer option feels tacked-on. Given that Nintendo has proven that they're working on online architecture for the Wii, why they missed the chance to let Ubisoft strut their stuff like they did with Farcry: Instincts is baffling and saddening on every level. The game's single-player campaign's length isn't precisely impressive, either. One month might make all the difference for the controls, but when you look at the multiplayer, you can't help but think the game could have used several more months for ... well, just about everything.
I've already mentioned that the graphics are serviceable but far below par even for the Wii. The sound suffers similarly, unfortunately. At first I thought my review copy was glitched, but after renting a second test copy and even testing on a friend's Wii system, I found out that it most definitely was not. The game's voice clips will cut off in the middle of speech, turning overacted island-accented speech into something that immediately made me think of Freakazoid gags where someone mentions Candle Jack and then cuts off i —
Seriously, they're cutting off in the strangest parts of the sentences as often as not. The other sound effects are basically okay, from generic bits of techno/rock soundtrack to bullet sounds that offer just enough punch to be distinct, but not enough to really get the effect of the shots being realistic. Then again, this might be a godsend given the graphics; having the sound be exceptionally better than its current status would only serve to make the graphics seem even worse. Aside from the voices, the sound effects are well-placed and useful. Any FPS fan can tell you that hearing is a powerful tool in the right hands, and even on moderate-quality stereo speakers, I found myself to be able to tell enough about the direction from which bullets are flying to aim in the right direction without seeing the source of the bullets — and, a mite more usefully, without them being able to reliably see me.
Speaking of which ... Vengeance's A.I. has its realistic elements, as well as its pathetically improbable ones. Enemies have to worry about line-of-sight; if you slip around a corner, you can easily sneak up right behind someone who was shooting you mere seconds ago and slice them up with a machete. Additionally, if they don't have clear sight of you, their shots are significantly less likely to hit you. They'll also dive away from grenades and rocks when given the chance. Unfortunately, they won't notice, among other things, the brutal death of people right next to them, the sound of gunshots that don't hit them, or you bumping into them without pistol-whipping them. Regardless of your settings, the difficulty drops off to pathetic levels after the first 20 minutes. Interestingly, this is about a minute before the cut-off sentences started to ruin the sound.
If you want to summarize Far Cry: Vengeance, take Red Steel, polish the controls to a mirror sheen, toss in the Predator mode that is now a trademark of the series, and then pull out some steel wool to scratch up everything else. Vengeance's plot is comprehensible but bare-bones, the graphics are serviceable but lack pizzazz, and about the only thing that doesn't have a glitch is the control scheme. On the flip side, Red Steel had a firm grip on many elements of a decent shooter but missed most notably on the controls. At the end of the day, Vengenance's single strength, when compared to Red Steel's single weakness, makes it come across as worse off. Rent Far Cry: Vengeance to enjoy the decent controls, but every other aspect is unremarkable, so think twice before committing to anything more long-term. This is nearly the negative ideal for launch titles in that it shows off the system's abilities but doesn't accomplish much else. At least the Rabbids show up.