Oh, you’ll cry alright.
It was around the time when Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were generating their hype that a small German company called CryTEK was working on its own superlative gaming engine. But it was the addition of wrapping a game around an already excellent engine that proved their stroke of genius, paving the way for a hugely successful shooter.
Plot is secondary to Far Cry, offering the kind of Uwe Boll grade intrigue and acting that makes you wonder why they’ve even bothered. Youâ€™re Jack Carver, a charter-boat captain hired to take photojournalist Valerie to some islands in the South Pacific. But surprise – Valerie isnâ€™t really a photojournalist. And the islands are teeming with mercenaries. And scary mutant apes brake out of secret labs and run amok. How will old Jack get out of this one?
Thank goodness you can completely ignore this drivel and focus on the game. That’s because Far Cry’s level design and gameplay are second-to-none. With nearly every kind of environment on display, each used to brilliant effect, Far Cry offers the kind of depth that gets you completely engrossed in the moment. Not since Half-Life have we seen this sort of resourcefulness from the AI, actively hunting you out when alerted. And never have levels been so huge, with seemingly limitless draw distances and some of the most gorgeous water effects ever committed to silicon.
The Great Outdoors
What makes the levels even more compelling is that most of them offer several different paths for you to take. Have to move from one island to another? You can swim across, steal a boat, or even fly a hang glider. Unlike in most shooters, where you just plow through a level, youâ€™re rewarded for taking your time and fully exploring each and every area. You can do cool stuff like climb on a hill and spot an enemy encampent in the distance. With your trusty binoculars you spy out patrol routes and decide whether to assault or sneak by their position, risking having to deal with them later.
The AI is also intelligent for the most part, with enemies flanking, using cover or calling in reinforcements. Another nice touch is that once the islandâ€™s Dr. Moreau is unveiled, the mercenaries and mutants will immediately battle each other when they come into contact. In fact, theyâ€™ll often be so intent on killing each other that theyâ€™ll ignore you, and you can smartly use the chaos to your advantage.
Dry Those Tears
Far Cry is one of then few first-person shooters in existence that takes place on enormous, wide-open areas, and as with Halo – which it resembles a lot – it allows all sorts of different tactics. Also like Halo, rather dull indoor areas break up the combat, though they occur with considerably less frequency, and are considerably smaller. And yet again like Halo, you get to experience some of these areas lots and lots of times because of a very dumb checkpoint saving system. The problem is that checkpoints are too far apart, and they can save at the worst of times (right in the middle of combat, for instance).
In fact whether you enjoy or hate Far Cry depends on how patient you are with dealing with its checkpoint-based system and repeating parts of the game a few times before getting it right. Yet one more time like Halo, Far Cry is able to overcome this deficiency to deliver some of the most satisfying and challenging pure combat seen in years. Itâ€™s a superlative experience and a mind-blowing opening salvo from a small German gaming company, and for fans of the series – as well as unfamiliar gamers – it’s well worth playing.
System Requirements: Pentium III 1Ghz, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB Video, 4 GB HDD, Win98/2K/XP