Far Cry. I liked a lot of the game, yet a small portion I hated, and that small portion ruined the game for me. Even worse, because of that, this has nearly been an impossible review to write. I want to praise the parts that I liked to high heaven, but I want to denounce that small portion like I bashed the shortcomings of Big Rigs. Ah, the internal struggle of a reviewer, witnessed firsthand. Letís get this thing over with.
Far Cry is yet another first-person shooter to enter the market, and yet another one promising multiple progression options and tactical gameplay. You play as Jack Carver, a man with a deep military past who has happily entered retirement and is enjoying a burgeoning career as a charter boat captain. The beautiful, voluptuous photo-journalist Valerie Constantine has proposed that Jack bring her to an abandon island in the Pacific where some old World War II ruins rest. Being a business man (and more importantly, a man who realizes that thereís nothing like being alone at sea with an attractive young woman), Jack snatches up the offer.
Of course, when beautiful women ask men to do things for them, something bad typically happens. When Helen wanted to go to Troy, well, we all know what happened there. Same type of thing happens in Far Cry; as soon as you enter the waters surrounding the island, the boat is attacked and destroyed, with Jack tossed into the water. Swimming ashore, he can no longer find Val, but he has found that heís the immediate target for dozens of goons with intentions to kill him on sight.
Jack realizes from the beginning that something is not right with this island, and he sets out to figure it out with the help of a man who contacts him via PDA. The man is named Harlan Doyle, and heís a scientist trapped on the island. He has the knowledge to escape, but not the means, and Jack has the means, but not the knowledge, so the two team up to rescue Val and get the hell off the island. Doyle soon informs Jack that medical research was being conducted on the island, and that he may come in contact with some bizarre creatures, also intent on killing him, called Trigens.
Far Cry takes the Halo approach and limits the amount of weapons you can carry at anytime, and also starts you off with no weapons. The first level of the game acts as a bit of a tutorial, showing you basic things like running, jumping, swimming and the likes. It also teaches you some of the neat features of Far Cry, such as itís limitless supply of rocks on the ground that you can use to attract enemies, as seen in Metal Gear Solid 2 with itís magazine throwing. Once you get out of the tutorial, youíre thrown off into the jungle practically unarmed and expected to survive.
From the moment you enter the jungle though, almost all comparisons to other FPS games are gone. The jungle setting of Far Cry is truly mind-blowing. I donít think that Iíve ever played a game with so much foliage, so much terrain, so muchÖeverything. The levels are vast and expansive, and provide lots of cover from enemies, and lots of different paths to explore. Unlike other FPS games that just offer you items and healthpacks because you branched off the path, Far Cry offers you different gameplay. Sometimes, going in the direct route will cause you to face six or seven heavily armed guards, but swimming through the ocean and coming ashore behind them saves you a lot of trouble. If you do choose to face the guards in direct combat though, the AI is pretty decent, as guards will try to flank and out number you should they lock eyes on you. Still, they arenít all that bright, they still tend to stand by explosives, and should you use this to your benefit, there are some really cool physics to check out.
Far Cry is very immersive. From the moment you step into Jackís shoes (or swim into them), you feel like youíre really doing this; that this isnít Jackís story, this is yours. Itís you needing to get off this island. Itís you needing to save the girl. And itís you wearing the bright red tropical shirt. Itís quite a thing to feel something from a game, even these days, but you will feel desperate when going up against formidable enemies, relieved after an epic battle, and exhilarated after jumping out of a sinking boat that you blew up.
Swimming is a major part of your movement around the island, as are boats, trucks, and hang gliders. These are all welcomed additions to the game, though the game still lets you go on foot through most of the areas. In one level (aptly titled ìRiverî), I chose to drive the boat for brief periods of time, then walking the coast line to avoid the guards. Then, when patrol boats would come by the shore, I would snipe out the crew, steal their boat, and drive a little more.
Regardless of what path you take though, Far Cry still remains one of the most frustrating games imaginable. I donít think there was a single level that I played through that I didnít die in at least three times. This, in my opinion, is completely and totally unacceptable. Iím not one who sits and devotes my time to a game to be frustrated because someoneís shooting me with a machine gun from a mile away, Iím the type who sits and plays a game to be entertained. Itís not entertaining for me to be banging my fist against the desk or cursing because of a crappy save-game system that made me fight a major boss three times because I died five minutes AFTER I killed him.
Like I mentioned previously, several times during Far Cry I was shot at from quite a distance away by enemies with machine guns, and though we all know that most video game machine guns are widely inaccurate on burst-fire mode over great distance, somehow I repeatedly got mowed down by mercenaries and Trigens that were doing just that. This is repulsive and annoying, especially when you get to the final stage of the game (a VOLCANIC LAIR, which is as ridiculous as it sounds).
Then, thereís the save game system. Check-point saving is not a bad thing when properly executed in a game, as we saw with Painkiller. Of course, along the way lots of people have ****ed it up, and Crytek, creators of Far Cry, have done just that. Let me make this clear, through capitalization: ANY GAME THAT DOES NOT SAVE IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU KILL A BOSS AND SEE THE ENSUING CUTSCENE HAS A BROKEN SAVE-GAME SYSTEM. I donít care if itís supposed to make the game more intense, itís stupid, moronic, ridiculous, pointless and otherwise detrimental to the overall quality of the game.
There are lots of little things in Far Cry that annoyed me as well. For starters, you have to be completely out of water after swimming to be able to shoot again. Forget shooting if you are waist deep in water, because the game wonít let you. Good thing Crytek didnít program D-Day, because if they had, the brave allied troops would have never gotten a shot off (even if they had been able to shoot, one might have died and they would have had to restart the whole mission over again anyhow).
Now letís move onto the completely unbalanced gameplay. First, there are headshots: several times, Iím positive I shot someone in the head, yet they didnít die. The first time, I blew it off as my fault; I must have misjudged my aim or something. The fifth time, I realized that it wasnít me, my aim was fine, it was the game. Next, weíll talk about the absolutely ludicrous power of the Trigens. Some Trigens can jump thirty feet into the air and do backflips — yeah, have fun shooting down one of those.
There are the big rocket-firing Trigens, which kill you in about three shots or so. In one of the final stages of the game, you face a swarm of five of them. By the time Iíd managed to bring down three, I was pretty much dead and couldnít handle the other two. In that same area, while attacking the big guys, there were two or three jumpers I had to kill as well, shooting me with machine guns from a hundred feet away. Interestingly, I shot several rockets (four) at a single rocket-firing Trigen, directly to his head, and he did not fall. Yet, two clips of a machine gun will bring one down (I shot down a helicopter with four rockets).
Thatís a lot of complaining right there, and itís only suitable that I follow up all those complaints with some of the things I enjoyed. I really, really liked the variety of gameplay. When I was low on health in a lot of circumstance (exceptions would be indoor levels and the final areas of the game), there were lots of ways around the enemies. I also liked the sneaking parts of the game, they were a refreshing change of pace, and surprisingly, not as frustrating as they could have been. Far Cry is also incredibly addictive, and wanting to see whatís around the next bend in the river or what happened after an event was usually enough motivation to continue after dying.
As for multiplayer, Far Cry doesnít offer too much innovation. Youíve got some capture the flag and deathmatch, and thatís that. Fortunately, there are quite a few people playing, so hopefully some mod makers out there will get the hint and put out some great mods. Perhaps one day weíll see a CounterStrike or a Desert Combat for Far Cry.
I also enjoyed the graphics. Quite simply, theyíre some of the best graphics the world has seen in a currently released game. Sure, Doom III and Half-life 2 will probably blow it out of the warm-ocean water, but there is a lot of potential for the engine. The lighting is great, and though they can be repetitive during the indoor levels, most of the textures are well-done as well. The models could have been a bit more varied though, as you fight the same set of mercenaries and the same Trigens over and over again. As you may have noticed though, for every good part of Far Cry thereís two bad parts ñ while the main characters voice-overs are great, the enemies say the same stupid sayings (ìIím going to shoot you — IN THE HEADî stands out) over and over, and the generic single-track soundtrack gets boring and fails to set the mood.
In the end, I think I got everything out of my system that I wanted to. Understand, you may like Far Cry. Personally, I didnít. A lot of people did. There are good reasons for purchasing it, lots of mod makers out there have announced projects that do sound exciting. If they ever see the light of day, Far Cry could potentially turn into the next Half-life for mod-makers, without the great single-player gameplay of course. As it stands, Far Cry is an average shooter with too many flaws to keep it from greatness.