Far Cry

Review

posted 4/7/2004 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
I have to admit that Far Cry snuck up on me. Maybe it was the distraction/anticipation of Half Life 2 and Doom III that has this one under my radar. It could have been the multiplayer mayhem of Unreal Tournament 2004 and Battlefield: Vietnam that distracted me from this game but whatever it was I was certainly surprised when I fired up the game for the first time.

The plot of the game is fairly straightforward; you are Jack Carver, an ex-marine boat pilot who’s hired by a beautiful journalist to check out some ruins on a mysterious island. As soon as you get in range of the island she jets off in a jet ski and then your boat is hit with a missile. You swim to shore and now up to you to figure out what’s going on the island and how the heck you are going to get off in one piece. You do have some help in your quest in the guise of a mysterious stranger who helps guide you through the island.

The game play in Far Cry is typical FPS fare, you wander about shooting things, finding keys, driving vehicles, swimming through cool looking water, while trying to stay alive. The game isn’t revolutionary in how you play the game but the developers do give you several options on how to approach each problem. You have a pretty nice variety of weapons to dispatch your enemies with, everything from a pistol to one of the best sniper rifles ever put into a game (it rates a 9 on the Skinner Sniping Scale). The weapons are all well rendered and well animated and they all have a nice feel to them.

The game also features some cool gadgets to help you get by. The most important is the set of binoculars you pick up early in the game. These allow you to scan ahead and see what bad guys are waiting for you. The binoculars then tag them to your radar which allows you to see all of the enemies you’ve found and if they’ve spotted you and are pursuing you. This allows you to scan the area ahead of you and see where the potential traps are and allows you to figure out the best way to take them all down. The binoculars also have a microphone in them so you can listen to conversations from a distance to learn what they are up to. The side benefit is that sometimes you may not be able to see a bad guy but you will be able to hear them conversing amongst themselves or their walking noises. The game also allows you to have fun with night vision goggles and a flashlight, both help you in certain key situations but are not nearly as useful as the binoculars.

While Battlefield 1942 wasn’t the first game to introduce vehicles into the game, it was certainly the one that made them a requirement and the folks at Cry Tek have incorporate some really cool pilotable vehicles in to the game. You have the opportunity to pilot a hang glider, inflatable raft, and several wheel vehicles. All of the them are well rendered and have their own feel to driving them (especially the glider which takes a bit of time to master). The vehicles are well positioned in the game and do not feel out of place as they do in some other games.

The first thing you notice about the game is the visuals, they are drop dead gorgeous. Like the forestation effects in Battlefield: Vietnam, in there and better implemented. Grooving on the lightening effects in Unreal Tournament? Again we have ownage by Far Cry. Right now Far Cry is the game to show off what your video card can do. The jungle environments of the island are exceedingly well done and are amazing to move through. Once you get past the jungle you might notice the water…the water textures are excellent but what really completes the effect is the waves as they hit shore. Cry Tek has amazing job with the water effects (to the point that you can actually see fish swimming below you) and it’s without a doubt the best looking game currently on the market.

I’ve already mentioned the shadows and lighting effects but it bears saying again that they rock hard. You can knock a light and then watch your shadows jump around as the light moves. There are also some nice effects with the shadows as you’ll sometime see the shadows of an enemy before you actually see them which is nice touch.

What makes the graphics more impressive is that you have almost unlimited freedom to move around the island. Any place you can see you can go and that includes swimming underwater. This freedom allows you to approach different situations from different angles allowing you to try different techniques to defeat the denizens of the island. This is exceedingly cool as a full frontal assault will usually get you killed very, very quickly.

The other thing you’ll notice about the game is the physics engine behind the game. I couldn’t tell if they were using the Havok 2.0 engine that Half-Life 2 and Painkiller are using but it is just as impressive and the developers have done a great job of building it into the game. You can use barrels and other destructible objects as weapons in the game which can be a lot of fun (nothing like dropping a bunch of barrels on some unsuspecting mercenaries). The game also uses a ragdoll system for the bodies so when you blow something up with some badies near buy you do get the satisfaction of watching their bodies hurtle through the air.

The sound is likewise solid, everything from the gunfire to the noises in the jungle are top notch and add to the realism of the game. While this is all good what really completed the audio side for me was the music of the game. The soundtrack is almost movie-like in it’s execution and it does a great job of setting the mood in the game. Any time you are spotted by an enemy the game will up the tempo of the music until either the enemies are pushing up daisies or they can’t se you any more. It’s a good system that really helps to draw you into the game.

What’s interesting about Far Cry is that it is a linear game without being overly linear. You have to address all of the problems and puzzles in the game in a specified order but how you address them is up to you. You can go the sneaky route or you can attempt the guns a blazin’ method. Early on in the game you have to retrieve a boat from an old aircraft carrier, the boat is stored on the top of the carrier so you have to fight your way up to the top of the carrier in order to retrieve it. Sounds simple right, well it turns out there are a few dozen bad guys with bad attitude who want to keep the boat to themselves. You can either go up there and fight them (and their friends in the attack helicopter) or you can simply dive into the water and shoot the chains holding the boat in place. Both solutions get the job done so it’s up to you to choose how to do it.

While the bulk of the focus is on the single player mode, Far Cry does have a decent multiplayer system with three modes; deathmatch, team deathmatch, and Assault. The first two are self explanatory but the Assault mode is very reminiscent of the Assault mode from Unreal Tournament where you have two teams, one attacking and one defending. The difference in Far Cry is that each side has three classes, Sniper, Grunt, and Engineer. The classes are what they sound like but the engineers are cool in that they can build up base defenses and walls around the targets. I don’t think the multiplayer modes are going to be pulling users from Unreal Tournament 2004 but it’s a nice add on to a solid single player game.

I did have a few nits to pick with the game. The first is the game is really, really hard. I’m talking Ninja Gaiden, kill you before you turn around hard. This coupled with the console like save point system will mean that you will be spending a lot of time working your way through certain parts of the game. Even with the cheats (no God mode) the game is still exceedingly difficult even on the Easy setting.

The second issue people may have is that all of those pretty graphics come at a price and you’re going to need a pretty kicking system to be able to really enjoy the beauty of the game. I would recommend downloading one of the demos to ensure that your system can handle the game at a reasonable clip.

My final nit is a personal one and that’s the game moves very slow, slower than even Battlefield Vietnam. It was very tough coming from a game like Unreal Tournament since the speed at which the character moves is so slow. Is this more realistic? Probably, is it a lot of fun all the time? No not really since it takes a while to cross parts of the map and it sucks even worse when you get there only to be killed and are forced to repeat the long trek. The vehicles help but not much. This is a personal preference so your mileage may vary.

All in all Far Cry is a fantastic experience if you have the hardware to play it. The folks at Ubi and Cry Tek have done a great job of creating an immersive environment for you to explore and enjoy. Is it as good as the original Half Life? I don’t think so but it’s probably one of the best single-player FPS games to come out in quite some time.




A-
One of the best looking games on the market, Far Cry is beautiful to look at and a lot of fun to play. Some people may be turned off by the system requirements and difficulty though.