FarCry

The only question that comes to mind after playing UbiSoft's latest FPS is where can we go from here? Far Cry is, in everyway, the best first-person shooter I've ever played. From the sublime, deeply textured and truly immersive graphics to meaningful audio and the type of artificial intelligence that makes you question whether you really are playing against a computer - Far Cry heralds a new age of FPS with a game that is nearly perfect in everyway.

Crytek has improved the shooter genre in just about every way possible. In Far Cry you play as Jack Carver a tour guide with a military background who loses his charge, a photographer hottie who he spends the rest of the game trying to rescue. The plot, while seemingly shallow to start with, evolves into something much deeper, offering up a complex story line and some startling revelations.

The first thing I noticed about Far Cry when I started playing it was the smooth frame rate and over the top textures. The graphics are truly the best I've seen to date, and Crytek didn't accomplish this feat by setting the game in a stark environment. On the contrary, the whole game takes place on a lush tropical island that features such startling beautiful graphics as a shimmering lagoon you can swim in, a jungle choked with vegetation that you can push threw and plenty of buildings and baddies to interact with. These detailed textures are blended with a lighting effect that has got to be the best to date - allowing sunlight to shoot through palm fronds and casting shadows from approaching bad guys. One of the most startling aspects of the game's graphics is that Crytek's engine supports a view distance of 2 kilometers. That means you can be crouching on some island hill top with a sniper rifle and pop a bad guy two kilometers away with the help of a zoomed in scope. The effect is overwhelming.

The sounds are just as impressive and are used equally well to both place you on the island and help you survive getting off of it. Insects buzz in your ears, gunshots echo around you and enemy mercenaries quietly discuss plot points and game details that could spell the difference between life and death.

The game also uses an advanced physics engine that makes most of what you see fully interactive. In other words, when you bump into a table not only does it move, but the cans and cups on top of it fall over and roll to the ground. I kid you not. At one point I was able to push wooden crates into the water and watch them bob, then I killed a guy and knocked him into the water. Not only did he bob lazily in the lagoon, but a cloud of blood slowly spread out from his body. The only draw back in the engine is that not all things are as destructible as you'd expect, but I guess there has to be a limit somewhere.

The game's artificial intelligence is also very impressive, with bad guys independently reacting to you and behaving, well, the way you behave. More than once I found myself in a prolonged gun battle with a single guy as we took turns running from cover to cover firing. They not only act like they want to kill you, but like they don't want to die in the process.

The multiplayer modes, while limited, are also fairly impressive. You can play team death match, free-for-all or assault on a small selection of maps. The physics engine isn't as full blown as in the single player mode, but the maps are equally lush and just enormous. In one map I found my way to the top of what I thought was an un-climbable mountain and spent the rest of the game picking off my fellow players with a sniper rifle - fun times.

Far Cry is a spectacular game that not only shows us a glimpse of the future of first person shooters it may have permanently set the bar for shooter perfection.

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