Far Cry 2
The Far Cry series has had a short but colourful history. The first game on PC came out in early 2004 preceding the likes of Half Life 2 and Doom 3, boasting a huge and gorgeous tropical island gameworld and some incredible technology, even if the finished product was rather heavily flawed. Developed by those German graphics wizards over at Crytek and published by Ubisoft, the two companies parted ways shortly after when Crytek joined with EA to make new games. Ubisoft continued to licence out the franchise from Crytek, and brought us increasingly average titles such as Far Cry Instincts and Far Cry Instincts: Predator.
Ubisoft then bought the rights entirely from Crytek in 2006, before releasing the critically abhorred Far Cry Vengeance for the Wii’s launch. Since then it’s all been quiet on the series’ front (not counting Uwe Boll’s movie adaptation), until the not-so surprising confirmation last year that Far Cry 2 was in development for PC (the PS3 and 360 versions were confirmed earlier this year). It is being developed by Ubisoft’s famed Montréal studio - by the team who developed the average console iterations - and is due to land around this autumn. History aside, it would be true to say there’s a lot riding on this game, but from what Ubisoft have shown so far, it is definitely looking up to the task.
Ditching the first game’s tropical island setting (and protagonist Jack Carver), the game now takes place in a fictional African state, with terrain encompassing a variety of locales from savannah through to jungle across its 50 square kilometres. Exact plot details are unclear, but the ultimate task is eliminating one specific enemy character, and it is thought you will have extensive interaction and cooperation with NPCs and different factions to reach your goal, much like as seen in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Boiling Point.
Far Cry 2 will inevitably be compared to Crytek’s latest title, Crysis, but it seems Ubi are going to considerable lengths to distance themselves from the graphical titan. Gone are any of the previous games’ ridiculous dabbles with mutant soldiers and suicidal monkeys; Far Cry 2 is thankfully concentrating on relative realism and is not trying to introduce any twee supernatural elements like aliens or über soldiers, as many modern-day FPS favour so.
The Crying game
Far Cry - PC, 2004
A very influential and impressive game for its time, we nonetheless felt Far Cry was spoiled by a small but significant number of odd design decisions and flaws.
Far Cry Instincts - Xbox, 2005
Like its PC cousin, a striking game with loads of potential, but just suffered from a number of restrictive and irritating flaws.
Far Cry Instincts: Evolution - Xbox, 2006
More of the same, with a new (albeit short) plotline and, if anything, greater focus on the somewhat derisory ‘feral abilities’.
Far Cry Instincts: Predator - Xbox 360, 2006
A 360 version of both Instincts and Evolution, this port received significant criticism for being little more than an expensive upscaled version of the two Xbox games.
Far Cry Vengeance - Wii, 2006
Boasts a pitiful 37% average score on Gamerankings, due to essentially being a substandard and unfinished port of Evolution.One thing that is clear even at this stage is that the game will be incredibly gorgeous. Developed using Ubi’s own Dunia engine, the development team have clearly gone to great lengths to make the gameworld look and feel cohesive and credible. The sun rises and sets, casting beautiful auburn light through the dense trees and across the grassy plains, vehicles kick up dust clouds so convincing it makes you feel thirsty, and it is all backed up by an impressive-looking dynamic weather system, which should ensure the climate doesn’t stay too predictable. Impressively, everything in the game will be interactive, meaning not only can you shoot up enemies and destroy their bases, but you can also interact with and raze every bit of vegetation in the game. This will mean you can burn plains of grass which will spread with the wind - you should be able to use this to your advantage, and maybe even engineer strategies around it in the final game.
What is even more impressive is in the speeded-up environmental demonstration footage Ubi have released, it shows destroyed trees and vegetation growing back. Whilst it’s currently unclear how this will be handled and whether it will have any significant impact on the game, it is nonetheless a visually impressive concept, and it shall be interesting to see how the developers can convincingly and meaningfully implement it into the finished product. Perhaps this will tie-in with the animals which will feature, although besides a few docile but beautiful mammals such as antelope and zebras little has been shown of this just yet.
Despite many things about the game being so full of promise, perhaps caution should be advised following the development team’s history with the series and the sheer ambition in the game. Certainly it is looking admirable right now, but there’s only so much faith we should put into carefully marketed technical and promotional videos and press releases. Titles like the aforementioned Boiling Point and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have shown us that titles with as broad a scope as this can be terribly susceptible to glitches and flaws - would it be wrong to expect to receive a torrent of patches in the weeks following the game’s release? What’s more, Ubisoft have not had the best relationship with the PS3 historically, so let’s hope Far Cry 2 will receive a better conversion than the likes of Assassin’s Creed or Splinter Cell: Double Agent.
However, reservations aside, we keenly await the next chapter in the Far Cry saga (again, not counting the movie). The last few years has seen some of the most highly acclaimed FPS ever, and Far Cry 2 looks to be leading the pack in a strong 2008. This is an ambitious and impressive game and the potential is there for it to be a classic.