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Far Cry Review

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Crytek Studios
genre: Shooters

P1000, 256MB RAM, 4GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 23, 04
» All About Far Cry on ActionTrip

You know, I may've "figured" out the difference between movies and video games. Actually, it's not so much what is different about these two mediums; it's that one should never be compared to the other. Far Cry is the best example of this in a long, long time. Tell me, are you the kind of person to sit through a very generic, B grade action movie and love it to bits? I know I'm not, and yet I played through Far Cry and loved it to bits ... almost. So how's that possible?

Well, to start, everything about this game is highly unoriginal. But the fact of the matter is that Far Cry is being released at the most opportune time possible. Both id and Valve keep delaying their 800 pound gorillas while gamers and their bleeding edge PC hardware are ready for a real challenge. Enter CryTek, who under the supervision of Ubi Soft kept grinding away and polishing Far Cry so that shooter buffs are treated to the type of next-gen FPS experience that Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were supposed to bring to the scene first.

And you know what? By God they've done it! Yes, so they borrowed most of the ideas from either the original Half-Life, Alien vs. Predator, or what we've seen of Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, but you know, none of the development teams behind the said projects can claim copyright on the most identifiable scenes from their games and CryTek took advantage of this. They exploited these ideas so well that, ironically, titles like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 will have to compete against Far Cry for the top spot. This was until a few months ago almost inconceivable for both the gaming press and fans alike.

The story in Far Cry is as hackneyed and trite as they get in action / Sci-Fi shooters. You are this special ops guy that just happens to wash ashore this island where, surprise surprise, mad scientists are conducting experiments on humans and animals. (Ed. - *cough*Doom*cough*) One of the first things that are clearly reminiscent of the original Half-Life is the way the story unfolds; instead of being treated to elaborately narrated cut-scenes that sort of convey the story to you, you're unraveling the plot first hand. Just like in the original Half-Life, you get the sense that you're creating the story rather than being a part of one. So the good thing about such a clich' plot is that you're the active participant and the accent is on INTERACTION with the game world. It's what games are all about. This mostly explains why I was able to endure the unoriginal story and even enjoy it. I truly felt an active part of it as I would never feel when watching a B grade movie.

Just like in the original Half-Life, Far Cry takes you on a trip where the settings constantly change from claustrophobic, gloomy experimental labs that look awfully like the ones in Doom 3, to spacious outdoor settings that sort of give you that sense of being glad you're back in the open air again (even if it means you'll be shot at constantly). The only game that truly mastered this concept before Far Cry is, of course, Half-Life. And just like in Half-Life, the way the settings change is very similar to how the enemies and their AI types vary throughout the campaign. You'll go from "grunts" to "marines" to "black ops" guys, only to end up shooting monsters with their own specific AI and movement patterns that look awfully like the ones in Doom 3; at least conceptually they do.

I could go on and on about the number of similarities that this game has with other famous shooters - being stranded in a middle of a fierce gunfight between the monsters and "black ops" troops while you have to make your way across the level (read Half-Life), having to watch a mutant gnaw on some poor schmuck's leg and then swiftly disappear as soon as you enter the room, a-la Alien vs. Predator, and so on.

The very fact, however, that I'm comparing Far Cry to all these top-of-the-line shooters should tell you a lot about its quality. If there is one conclusion that can be drawn from all this is that Far Cry didn't just imitate. It managed to successfully imitate, while adding some elements to the mix that are uniquely its own. Do you know how hard that is? Add to that the fact that the entire package is wrapped up in what is certainly the most advanced 3D code out on the market today, and it becomes immediately apparent that any true shooter fan should buy this game, like right now. (Ed. - Tomorrow however, may be a different story.) Don't think about, buy it. And if you want to stop reading this review now you can go ahead and do that. I will not hold it against you.

The greatest advantage that this game has; beside the awesome sounds, physics and visuals; is the superb level design and the incredible attention to detail in each of the scenes. Not once in Far Cry have I felt like I was playing in a constrictive virtual environment. The gameplay pace is excellent and it flows beautifully, partly because the levels are so superbly designed. After playing the demos and the multiplayer beta, I was a little worried that it might be all about beautiful beaches, palms and coconut trees with only a few sporadic episodes of indoor action. Boy was I ever wrong! The designers have done an outstanding job of making the locales varied enough so that the action never misses a beat; truly awesome stuff. Oh, and here's a friendly tip, don't get used to the beautiful tropical settings too much, because all that goes to hell pretty soon and pretty damn fast.

Generally speaking, the outdoor settings feel vast and give you a real sense of freedom, while the indoor environments are so detailed (with awesome scenes of carnage, gloominess and general mayhem) and atmospheric that you will have a fantastic time shooting your way through them. There's probably a ton of tremendous subtleties I could mention here - the way the palm trees bend under the powerful airflow of the chopper's main rotor, how you get spots in your eyes when looking at bright lights and then quickly looking away; how you can spot some enemies by the way they disrupt the flow of the steam coming out of steam pipes; it's just incredible how much painstaking work went into creating the game world.

On top of all this, Far Cry has a great selection of well balanced weapons, a fairly lengthy single-player game that certainly justifies the price tag; it has fun multiplayer and you can drive vehicles that are well balanced and handle beautifully, especially if you hit the F1 key and switch to third-person view for driving. Need I add more?

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9.1   Excellent

Has many of the same qualities as the original Half-Life, level design, CryEngine, sound effects, plenty of content, excellent level editor (tremendous modding possibilities);

AI glitches, trite storyline, a few silly taunts, some of the monsters look ugly (but not in a good way).


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