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I may never have fragged in such a beautiful environment before, but unfortunately Far Cry multiplayer falls short of its solitary exploits. Its main thrust, Assault mode, is spiritually akin to Enemy Temtory - one team must accomplish three objectives in succession, while the other runs around in a panic trying to stop them.
It's all good fun, but doesn't get near the standard of the games it tries to ape. Longdistance firefights make solo Far Cry exceptional, but here it just feels off-kilter. Too often, experienced players just lie in perfect cover, making life hell for non-snipers and seriously damaging the flow of the game.
Meanwhile, the levels may be huge but this means you rarely feel part of a team - as you do in the closer quarters of, say, Counter-Strike. Even if you do stick together, it's often a fool's errand because there's twice the likelihood of being picked off. Vehicles, too, are an easy target and a wasted commodity.
There's some magic, though. Every now and then the glare of the sun reflects on an opponent's gun, for example, and you notice an otherwise hidden assailant. Some of the forts and bases meanwhile, are impeccably designed.
While the game doesn't befit massive 16-player deathmatches, with five players diiking it out on a reasonably sized map, the core tenets of Far Cry are exposed and there's fun to be had. With modding, this has potential to be huge, but until then it's patchy at best.
Download Far Cry
Every now and then a demo appears that's so vast, wide-ranging and just so goddamn gob-smacking that it demands copious joyful replays. Now Far Cry has joined the hall of fame, and if you fail to coo and paw at the screen then you can no longer be considered a human being. Beautiful isn't it? And bloody hard as well. Your mission is to traverse sand banks and beaches, sneak through jungles, fight your way through abandoned forts and destroy the satellite dish at the top of the island's mountain. In your way are a crack team of mercenaries who may spend their time chatting about fishing, but as soon as they see or hear you (or see a flare sent up by one of their compatriots), some mightily impressive Al kicks in. Should you make your presence known, they'll be hiding, scattering and hunting you down like the dog you are in no time.
Stealth is the order of the day, but there'll still be plenty of bloody combat before bedtime too. The opposing grunts have choppers, rocket launchers, mini-gun emplacements, snipers and rocket-toting patrol boats at their disposal and will not make your journey an easy one. Our tips? Nab the patrol boat at the start for a bit of bonus firepower, and bear in mind that on a neighbouring beach there's a handy four-wheeler/machine-gun combo that makes short work of the trek up the hill. Unless you opt for a more Rambo: First Blood approach in foliage, of course. The choice, as they say, is yours...
Right then. Settle down at the back. I haven't got time for the normal pleasantries, banter and a funny thing happened to me on the way to the office' anecdotes. I've got to tell you about my new favourite game and have a mere three-thousand words to do it.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai he only had ten salient lifestyle tips to offer - and from these, two world religions were given their foundations. I come to you from the beaches of Micronesia with a clipboard, Powerpoint presentation and jar of promotional lollipops to spread the good word about Far Cry: the first game to truly show us the limitless possibilities of next-generation PC titles and the first game that has ever made me fall out my chair in fear after a particularly violent monster attack (no joke).
Imagine Jurassic Park. Not Wow there's a T-Rex in San Diego!' Jurassic Park, but proper, Spielberg Jurassic Park. A place where the natural order has been built over and ignored; where concrete, electric fences and enclosures pollute the streams and mountainsides. A place of brewing tension. A place where man has pushed the boundaries of science that one notch too far, and where everything is about to spectacularly collapse in on itself. Now add a hefty dose of Die Hard, a spot of Predator, a dash of The Island Of Doctor Moreau, the military camp out of M'A'S'H and a sexy journalist with a cracking arse and you have what approaches the vibe of the most exciting shooter since Half-Life.
Down To It
You are Jack Carver, owner of a boat charter business in the islands of Micronesia. Handily enough, you're also an exmarine badass who kills without emotion, loves to make things explode and has the ability to carry more ammunition than all of So Solid Crew put together.
Your services have been commandeered by the aforementioned sexy journalist Vai Cortez (who may or may not have a shady back history with the CIA), who takes you to a restricted island before promptly getting nabbed by a rabble of swarthy mercenaries like the useless sexy stereotype she is. Your mission is to rescue her, and in the process uncover the nefarious goings on in and around the island of Cabutu.
That's the standard opening blurb done and dusted, let's move on to the important shit. First off, as you well . know, the game is gorgeous. Whether you're standing on afl a beach in the midday sun, staring down your sniper scope at the swaying foliage at dusk or watching the moonlight twinkling over a gently lapping shore, the game looks so beautiful it may as well be caressing your eyeballs.
The outdoor environments just seem natural; rocks, valleys, trees and sandbanks have clearly been strategically placed to ensure memorable firefights, but it truly feels as if they've been put there by the hand of God rather than a clever German. The wow' factor of this game is colossal; parrots fly from tree to tree, shoals of fish flit about underneath piers and green fireflies buzz around the muzzle of your rifle at night. Static, it looks great; moving, it looks like the Garden of Eden itself.
I Wanna Be Free
Before we can go any further, we'll have to cover the freeform stylings of the game - partly because everything else hinges on this and partly because I like to get you hot and sweaty. Within limits, you can attain your goals in whichever way you want: you're given a waypoint to navigate to or a base to infiltrate, but the meat and gravy of your assault is up to you. There'll be pointers for you to show the different options available (jeeps, hang-gliders, sniper rifles and the like being left around the place) but whether you sneak, kill, blow up, snipe or simply avoid the confrontation is up to you. Technically this isn't freeform, although it gives a bloody good illusion of giving you freedom and choice within the standard viewpoint. This is pretty tricky to explain, so I have a good example with me.
Flip The Switch
At one point, quite early on in the game, you have to retrieve some documents from the massive rusting hulk of a WWII aircraft carrier. There are numerous ways to get on board in the first place, but what really flicked my intrigue-switch happened after I'd grabbed the info and was making my escape.
Doyle, a friendly insider who whispers hints and tips through your radio, told me to head to the top of the carrier where I could nick a boat. Once on the deck, I found myself running, hiding and sniping around crates and boxes in a lengthy and thrilling exchange of bullets. Flush with the spoils of victory, I sauntered over two bridges hanging on chains towards my boat-to-be and was promptly exploded by an attack helicopter swooping into the bay. Load last checkpoint.
The next time I tried the deck I had a bit more of an extensive hunt about, and (joy of joys) I found a machine-gun placement which I merrily used to make short work of the adversaries that had previously made my life so hard.
All was fine and dandy until I realised that my over-zealous use of the machine gun had broken through all the chains on the swinging bridges, prompting a quick rethink and a series of jumps, ducks and leaps to get to the boat. When I got there, I shot out the chains holding it 60ft above the water, watched it fall into the drink and was suddenly shot in the head by the helicopter's gunner. Load last checkpoint again. Grrr.
Third Time Lucky?
On my third reincarnation I got to thinking. Why not just decide against going up on deck and getting dicked? Why not ignore Doyle's advice and simply jump into the sea, swim to the beach and snipe out the chains attached to the boat? Doing this not only skipped the lengthy firefight on the deck, but also opened up the most cathartic experience I got out of the game: zooming around in the dinghy, dodging the low-flying helicopter and eventually blowing it out of the sky, shouting the words Die! Die you f**ker! Didn't expect that did you! Ha Ha!
This is a tiny example of the branching nature of Far Cry. You have to get from point A to point B, but the actual path you take is up to you, the armaments available to you and wherever your adversaries' Al takes you. Countless times you'll have surveyed an enemy camp nestling in a valley and devised a definitive plan of action. You'll be mentally prepping yourself with where . you have to go and what you have to do, only for an enemy to spot you on your approach, send up a flare and call in two attack choppers, a jeep and a bevy of brawny mercenaries intent on wringing your neck. Every time you reboot a level, events pan out slightly differently, and this is perhaps the beauty that lies within an already stunning arrangement.
It Ain't Real, But...
And so we come to the Al. The last time I was so overwhelmed by FPS enemy Al was the first time I came across the Half-Life marines. Here, enemy mercenaries flank you and draw your fire while their comrades sneak up behind you, run for reinforcements, destroy vehicles before you can nick them, send up distress flares and every so often run rings around you. They know when to hide, where to hide and when to run.
There are faults, as you'd expect - every once in a while you'll be taking pot-shots at an enemy whose only response is to stand on a hill flexing his muscles - but these are fairly rare. There are even jungle encounters where you hear the mercenary leaders shouting orders to their grunts that they actually follow, although the cries of He's to the left!, Go round the side and Take him! Take him! are invariably the last things you'll hear.
The game is difficult y'see. Damn difficult. And because of the variable nature of the game and the Al's ability to get its soldiers running all over the shop, there isn't a wussy quicksave function. Your finger will be wavering over the F6 button, but it's no good. You save at checkpoints here or not at all.
It just proves, as I've said all along, quicksaves are for girls. I played through the game on medium difficulty and died at a rate that would surprise a swarm of May-flies. With Challenging', Veteran' and Realistic' settings still to play, I'm guessing I'll soon have been killed so many times that the cold taste of death will no longer be quite so bitter.
I Can See Clearly Now
One of the most innovative features in Far Cry, meanwhile, is the tagging system that's worked the miracle of making stalwart FPS feature, binoculars, something that you regularly use. Let's say you're scouting out an island for an imminent assault in your stolen boat; your binoculars will automatically lock on to targets on the beach and once they've been tagged in this way, you can trace their movements and know what state of alert they're in. So it is, then, that every good Far Cry player will try to tag all the men possible before running into the fray, because otherwise you'll be pulverised within seconds. The true joy of the binoc-tagging, though, are the grunts who slip through the net. The ones you don't tag become rogue operatives, sneaking up when you least expect it and scaring the bejesus out of you before coolly blowing you away for the gazillionth time.
Vehicles are also abundant: buggies, hum-vees, patrol boats and hang-gliders are rife for pilfering. Controls feel a bit digital' as opposed to overtly realistic, but there really is no better feeling than careering through the jungle leaving devastation in your wake or timing a missile so that it accurately strikes the bow of any enemy boat. Moving on from the vehicles, what about the monsters? Now, I'm not in the habit of giving away spoilers, so I'm not going to go into lavish detail on the Trigens - but I'll tell you enough to get you excited. The monsters are the work of your average insane scientist: some of them can leap about 25m in one bound, they can kill you in two hits and when they want to be, they're bloody scary.
My first major encounter with one of the Squeakers (who turn out to be the weakest variety of Trigen) came after I'd written the apocryphal words not particularly scary in my handy journalistic notebook.
Seconds later, a leg had been spat out of a ventilation duct, two swipes of a claw had killed me and I'd shouted the house down: jamming out my legs, thrusting my swivel chair backwards and leaving me squatting over an empty space like a man who, quite literally, had just shat himself. My spider-sense is tingling, so I'm guessing that you're not convinced yet. Well, you know all the bits in Half-Life where you come across the marines fighting the Xen beasties?
Well, imagine an all-out war breaking out at dawn on a paradise island, with rocket-toting giants (who can take about 30 bullets to the chest without flinching) and mutated blue-skinned soldiers with ridiculously toned leaping and gripping abilities, fighting against armoured mercenaries. And you in among it all, friend of none and enemy of everyone.
Back Down To Earth
Aside from the foul-mouthed vitriol that's poured out of my mouth every time I've been shot within spitting distance of the next checkpoint, I haven't said a bad word about Far Cry, but do know a few that I could use.
The game is far and away the best shooter I've played in years, but that doesn't mean it gets away scot-free from any criticism. My main concern is that the indoor sections, which take up about a third of the game, just aren't as good as the outdoor environments.
In real life, your eyes find it difficult to adjust when you walk out of the blazing sunshine and into a dark room, and that's true here too. When you've experienced the supreme illusion of outdoor freedom Far Cry provides, it isn't surprising that you feel a bit stifled when you revert back to the familiar corridor-by-corridor template.
The middle third of the game, which takes place during the night in the build-up to the scintillating Trigen rebellion, lags a little because it strays away from the supreme outdoor assaults that Far Cry does best. Then again, some of the best scares and set-pieces come from facing off against the Trigens within the research complexes and holding areas, so it's hardly a bitter pill to swallow.
Another complaint I could level (although it's a pretty lame thing to pull Crytek up on) is the fact that you have no control over how far you chuck grenades, and scoring kills with them is invariably a matter of luck rather than battle-hardy quick-thinking. A worthier chin-stroker is the story, which may convey the suspense and vibe of Far Cry well, but in fact is about as deep as an Ethiopian puddle on a hot day. Cutscenes are fast and way too hard to follow, and objectives can also be garbled.
What's more, to Far Cry, characterisation is something that happens to other people. So if you're hoping to discover anything meaningful within Jack and Vai other than the fact that he's hard and she's got breasts, you might be disappointed. (Although you'll probably be too busy blowing helicopters out of the sky to notice.)
Far Cry isn't a perfect game, but I stand firm in my opinion that it's the most immersive shooter I've played since Half-Life. I didn't jump through the same hoops as everybody else over Call Of Duty, admittedly, but the feeling of sitting down and being alternately thrilled, scared and overjoyed hasn't happened to me since that wonderful time in 1998 when I first met Gordon. I doubt that any game could ever quite recreate that moment of losing one's Freeman virginity, but Far Cry is the closest I've ever known another game to get.
If hype turns into history, then it'll be eclipsed by Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, but it remains a bold, thrilling step into the next generation of PC gaming and a sign that great things are about to come our way.
Far Cry has lifted the bar so high that most of the shooters in our A-list shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breathe. In deference to the leaps and bounds Far Cry has taken over its rivals, and the signs of even greater things afoot, we've even rejigged our scoring system to cater for this new form of shooter excellence.
Whether or not we'll have seen even more impressive feats by the end of the year is yet to be seen. However, what I can say is that Far Cry is a bona-fide classic: a technological marvel that's as rewarding as it is beautiful. For the time being at least, it's the beating heart of the first-person shooter.
Micronesia Could Have Become The New Isla Nublar
My Jurassic Park musings don't come out of nowhere: Far Cry's origins lie in a tech demo called X-lsle that starred a variety of dinos running amok on a paradise island. It was a Crichton-esque lawsuit-baiter starring dinosaurs as opposed to bio-enhanced mutant-things. Now, I like the direction that the game eventually took, don't get me wrong, but I can't help but think that being hunted by raptors with the ingenuity of the soldiers in Far Cry would be absolutely superb. A squad of soldiers taking down a rampaging T-Rex with rocket launchers, that would be cool too. Or how about being attacked by Pteranodons while you're hang-gliding? There's a mod in there somewhere. Get busy.
Far Cry Proves That Occasionally, Physics Can Be Fun
Barrels roll, giant cylindrical tanks crush unsuspecting enemies, chains supporting heavy metal items are shot out above the mutated heads of the Trigens and rocks fall on see-saw arrangements that hurl mercenaries into the air for a surprise shotgun blast to the chest. Forget Newton's laws of motion, the real fun starts and ends with Jack Carver. The opening levels are a playground for messing about with the Far Cry physics engine: punchbags, bamboo curtains and startled pigs are all due for an unsubtle launching. If only science was this much fun in real life.
The Beauty Of Far Cry Is That It's A Game That'll Just Keep On Giving
You can expect a full review of Far Cry's multiplayer contingent in Online Zone soon, but I can assure you that everything is present and correct. There's your bog-standard free-for-all Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, plus an Assault mode that sees a team trying to take control over another's pad with a cast of snipers, soldiers and bandage-bearing support players.
Also, presumably in deference to the extended shelf-life given to Half-Life by the modding community, Far Cry has been made eminently approachable for community action. At the time of writing, a massive 1.1 million people have downloaded the Far Cry demo, and mods are springing up already - a notable one, Stunt Island, making use of the awesome vehicle physics. A map editor is set to be packaged with the full release, and two more advanced code-fiddling programs will be downloadable in March and April.
Despite its location in the heart of Bavaria, Crytek is home to talented gaming types from all over the world. The company exudes an eclectic quality, which this year at least, led to an astonishing Christmas party at a local bar.
Certainly, the menu of free beer, belly dancers, exotic fruits and a designer wearing 6-inch stiletto heels while showing off his most intimate piercing is one of the more unlikely experiences you could have in the home of the Bratwurst sausage. But as company CEO, Cervat Yerli (one of the three Yerli brothers who run the company) pointed out: "People who work for Crytek come from all over the world. Wo aro very proud of this and it ties in with our philosophy of making games for a world market and not just the German market." So, watch out world, here comes Crytek...
Far Cry is still some way off - nine months off to be precise - and although we put the new CryENGINE through its paces for a good few hours, it's still difficult to say just how good the game will eventually be. Currently there are only a few levels up and running, and although it's great fun blasting your way through them, it's clear that the soul of the game is not yet in place.
One thing that does instantly jump out at you though is the devious nature of the enemy soldiers. On one jungle level in particular, you are stealthily working your way towards two distant guards when suddenly one of them spots you. He dives for cover behind a tree while the other calls out into dense undergrowth. Before you know it there are half a dozen soldiers attempting to outflank you by crawling up through the trees to your left and right.
From very early on in production, the team realised that in order to achieve superior Al, the characters in the game needed to be aware of how to use their environment. "You can build an intelligent Al. but in truth what you really have to do is build an intelligent world around the Al," says Far Cry's producer, Christopher Natsuume: "The Al has to know what is in the universe around him. What can I do? Where can I go? Is that a car there? Can I fix it? Is that a tree? I'll hide behind it. Because each character in the game has a certain behaviour, they know how to react with these things."
We watched a scout and a cover guard move around a specially created level and it was eerie the way they both handled the environment in different ways. The guard glided from one tree to another staying covered the whole time. The scout on the other hand was not so concerned with cover. His mission quite clearly was to get from A to B as quickly as possible.
Bin the script
Another intriguing aspect of Far Cry is its lack of scripted set pieces. Even when the action is bigger, louder and more cinematic than usual, the CryENGINE™ is generating it all on the fly. In most shooters, a situation where an enemy scout spots you and then runs to a radio to call for an airstrike would almost certainly be scripted.
In Far Cry it's a different story. As the scout has the intelligence to know that if he attempts to shoot you he will almost certainly die, he takes the next best option and goes for help. Next thing you know, paratroopers are sliding down a rope from a helicopter hovering just above the trees.
Some of the things the enemy does are truly unbelievable. When stalking a group of six soldiers we witnessed one of them run to a jeep, jump in and then drive off. Another two threw themselves on the ground in sheer panic, and the other three rolled instantly into the forest and began flitting from one tree to another taking pot shots.
Working out what the enemy is going to do next proved virtually impossible, you can't even predict how they act when they die. Some of them go for the full on gurgling, arms flung back Oscar performance. Others just slump head forward onto their chest. The events in Far Cry seem more random than the National Lottery. And as Mr Natsuume explains: "Every time we play Far Cry something different happens because the Al is actually responding to what we're doing in his environment."
The full extent of the plot for Far Cry has yet to be revealed (though we suspect it's some kind of Dr Moreau dealie). However, what we do know is that as Jack Carver, your mission is to rescue sexy journalist Valerie Locklin from a small tropical island somewhere in Micronesia.
Apparently, and this has yet to be confirmed, when you finally rescue Valerie you will get to control her as well as Jack, or she will be become a kind of computer controlled sidekick. Still, whatever happens. Far Cry, like most shooters, will endeavour to keep you entertained with a whole host of interesting bits and bobs.
For a start the whole game takes place in a paradise setting and the steamy, tropical atmosphere of the game is shaping up nicely. Swamps boast steam rising from the surface of the water, and more importantly from a tactical point of view, the final version will allow you to hide underwater and then jump out of the water to ambush your prey.
Some nice looking flora and fauna enhance the dripping jungle vibe of the game and the sound of wildlife is present in all outdoor missions (there are indoor missions as well, but Crytek isn't showing much of those yet). Monkeys in particular are an important part of the game. If you're approaching an enemy position and you disturb a bunch of primates, they will almost certainly give away your position. Likewise, if you hear a cacophony of screams and squeals from nearby trees, it's time to take cover.
Carving 'em Up
As well as natural wonders. Far Cry offers mechanical diversions. Vehicles play a major part in the game and the final version will feature a range of vehicular missions. In fact, at this stage of development one of the highlights for us, was climbing into a military RIB and zooming up a river while strafing soldiers on both banks. You even had to anticipate the roll of the boat on the waves in order to pull off a clean hit with the sniper rifle.
And of course, there are weapons -lots of them. Jack Carver's selection of guns will include everything from machine guns to rocket launchers as well as mounted rail guns and other more heavy-duty toys. The full list of weapons hasn't been finalised yet. but we're fairly sure we're not going to be short changed in this department. One of the most important factors these days in the development of any FPS is that it has to have something that at least attempts to push the genre forward. Natsuume is more than aware of this and even concedes that their baby is up against some stiff competition. Nevertheless, he is astute enough to agree that plenty of shooters do nothing to advance the genre.
According to Natsuume. Far Cry will not fall into this trap: "When we decided to do a first-person shooter we had to look at how we were going to change the gameplay to create a different experience that takes the genre to a new place."
Crytek's ever-thoughtful CEO concurs with his producer on this point: "We are pushing Al to the next level, graphics to the next level and many other aspects too. We really are trying our best. We want to make a great game - and we really hope it turns out that way." There's no denying it, Crytek is extremely talented and refreshingly frank. There's a confident feel around their office and their sensitivity to the fact that the FPS genre needs to evolve bodes well. The game is not due to ship until autumn, but we're already itching to get another look at it. We have a funny feeling this is going to be one hell of a rumble in the jungle.
Maybe its the crap English weather, maybe we just like the idea of shooting mercenaries in the head while topping up our virtual tans, but we just can't stay away from Far Cry at the moment. Given the AWOL status of Half-Life 2, this tropical island shooter is the most promising FPS this side of Doom 3. And our picture of the game just became more complete with the unveiling of the Trigens - Far Cry's mutant antagonists, hitherto shrouded in mystery.
As it turns out, the Trigens are much as we expected - twisted products of a failed genetic experiment, completing the Dr Moreau-ish scenario of tropical islands, wrecked seamen and duplicitous womenfolk. More surprising perhaps is their appearance: with their hulking demonic forms and big toothy grins, you might say there's something strangely familiar about them... (See boxout.) But putting this unfortunate... Erm, coincidence to one side, we tracked down Far Cry producer Christopher Natsuume and got the full lowdown on the big-headed man-beasts.
Destroy All Monsters
"At a point in the game, you, as Jack Carver, will discover the mutants," says Chris. "It seems that someone has been doing genetic experiments, and as the experiments became more radical, the failures became more stunning. As a result, Far Cry will feature five different types of Trigen. Some are what I'd call aberrations - early failed experiments designed from primates, with limited skill and intelligence. Others are massive human-based creatures designed to take almost unlimited damage and with the stamina to carry the heaviest weapons." As you can see from the shots, the Trigens vary in size and weaponry considerably, some sporting cybernetically grafted rocket launchers, others attacking with their claws alone. And unlike the game's annoyingly smart, team-oriented human enemies, they're a largely unpredictable bunch - not quite mindless brutes, but unnervingly erratic nonetheless.
"The Trigens are far less concerned with defence, formations, or working together than the mercenaries," agrees Chris. "They're super-fast, ultra-strong, and somewhat insane, because of their deformed and mutated brains. They have great power and human-like intelligence, but it's as warped and twisted as they are. They have little self-control or long-term planning ability, and have had no meaningful sociological education - so they're somewhat rough and animalistic in their behaviour."
This kind of monstrous enemy should provide a nice change of pace from the tactical machinations of the game's mercenary forces. Some of the creatures sport a kind of active camouflage, giving them a watery appearance and rendering them partially invisible. In combination with the tropical jungle environment, this can mean only one thing: a re-enactment of Predator, replete with mud-smearing and panicked bullet-spraying into the greenery. This shift in pace also answers a nagging concern we've had about Far Cry for some time - that the magnificent scenery and tactical firefights would eventually reveal a certain sameness.
Thankfully, variety now seems pretty much assured. Apart from frolicking around beaches and tootling up rivers in your Zodiac, you'll be spending a good deal of time stalking monsters and cleaning out the laboratories and installations of the evil Kriegor Corporation. With, of course, plenty of scientists and workers to splatter all over the wall along the way.
If you have a problem popping a cap in the ass of the janitor and his wife, Chris also has a handy get-out clause. "We wanted to make the Trigens horrible, not just scary," he explains. "We wanted something that showed the potential evil and cruelty of medical science used with no regard for the dignity of human life. For us, this was a 'pure evil' that could justify the player killing not only the mutants, but the scientists and workers who willingly contributed to their creation." Which should put your conscience at rest, if not your itchy trigger finger.
Smarts Went Crazy
But while the announcement of the Trigens adds an additional level of interest to the game, Chris is also keen to remind us that it's the uber-smart Al of the human foes that really lifts Far Cry above its peers. "I have to say, my favourite moments in the game always come from the Al doing something unexpected," he grins. "We were testing a level a few weeks back, and the player fell off a high wall, with an Al running behind him. The player survived the fall, but then a few seconds later, an elevator near him opened and the Al walked out and shot and killed him. Nobody on the development team had ever planned on the Al being down there, or the player jumping off the wall - but it all worked naturally. It sounds minor, but when the Al figures out to walk around, find an elevator, use the elevator, come down and attack without a designer ever planning on it, it's pretty extraordinary."
Last time we played the game, the enemies were just as likely to freeze on the spot as do something this human-like, so it comes as almost a relief that the release date for the game has been pushed back a month. Trust us, another 1 four weeks is a small price for this game to realise its potential.
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.
Snapshots and Media
- Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction
- Armed and Dangerous
- Battlefield 2: Modern Combat
- Brute Force
- Call of Duty: Big Red One
- Codename Tenka
- Day of Defeat
- Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
- Far Cry 4
- From Russia with Love
- Full Spectrum Warrior
- Metal Gear Solid
- Quake II
- SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Fireteam Bravo 2
- Stranded Deep
- Timesplitters 2