Release Date: Out Now
Let's skip the intro and just get on with it. As of now Far Cry is THE best first-person shooting game ever. Pure and simple you need to know no more than that. However to justify me being lucky enough to get a review copy I'm going to have to back that statement up.
Far Cry is a FPS game, but unlike the vast majority of them over the past few years it actually sets a whole new benchmark for the genre. The recipe is relatively simple: Take the lush outdoor environments of a certain console launching title (along with loads more useable vehicles to explore it in), combine them with the engrossing story and perfectly balanced mechanics of a still much-loved PC title and sprinkled with the magic ingredient found in many of the other best titles from the past few years. Once done, tweak and balance everything until you are left with the most perfect example of a first person adventure yet seen.
So where to start explaining just what makes it so good? It's difficult as it's not just one thing, but I'll start with the graphics. By now you will have all seen the screen shots - and yes, the game really does look that nice, in fact it looks better as everything in these shots looks so much better when moving. The outside environments are almost perfect - the sense you get of actually being on an island is too hard to explain. Be it the beautiful beaches with lapping waves that would make Pixar green with envy, or the dense jungle areas where you can almost feel the foliage around you, the game really does reach out and pull you in. However, the graphics are not just there to look pretty - they serve a real purpose. The dense foliage provides you with numerous hiding places and the trees give you cover when the bullets start flying. The huge cliffs and hillside overlooks combined with the almost unlimited view distance allow you to scout your way forward using the binoculars or sniper rifle (which has the best zoom seen yet in a game). It's safe to say that you will not have played a game that looks this good and gives you such an area to play in. The outdoor environment is certainly well used and takes up a great part of the game, but you do of course also get to go indoors as well...
One clever thing when entering Far Cry's interior locations (and I'm not sure if it's intentional or not) is how it seems to make your eyes need to change to adjust to your new darker environment, and also how things suddenly feel rather claustrophobic. The indoor levels, whilst maybe not being a huge step forward in terms of graphics, are still brilliantly designed and created and do allow for some very tense moments. One neat feature I found early on was when I span round to attack one of the bad guys behind me (overreacting somewhat) I started firing my assault rifle long before this guy was in my sights. The path of bullets cut not only through him but also the weak metal wall behind him and from each hole a beam of light burst into the room - each beam creating a new shadow! Like I say, a small thing but still very clever and adding to the feeling of 'being there'.
Far Cry is not as free roaming as many may think - at its heart it is still very much a matter of "move from location A to location B to carry out objective X". However thanks to the brilliant graphics, huge levels and realistic environments how you do this is down to you. Fancy a frontal assault on the enemy base? Well go ahead, but it's not going to be easy - instead why not use that dense foliage for cover and sneak to the guard tower enabling you a better view and easier shots on your target? Then there's that helicopter that's chasing you - again you have choices. Trying to take out its armed passengers with the assault rifle is possible but very hard, if you have the rocket launcher why not try that, or maybe make like a coward and run and jump off the nearest cliff into the water below. The numbers of possibilities of how to accomplish each little thing seem countless. And all of this open-endedness is backed up by the most convincing AI yet seen.
Say you took the first option above and now stand atop the watchtower. Below you see a camp full of guards. Oblivious to you they carry out their daily business, be it using the target range, the punch bag or just standing around talking (which you can hear from huge distance thanks to your hi-tech binoculars). A burst from the assault rifle sees your chosen target drop to the floor, you prepare yourself for the retaliation but to your surprise it does not come. The AI actually means these guys act as you probably would should one of your colleagues suddenly drop dead full of bullet holes. Some of them run for cover whilst others just stand around trying to find what went on. Using the confusion to your advantage you manage to dispose of a couple more guards before they wise up to your vantage point and return fire. Again the AI kicks in - some lay down covering fire whilst others run from tree to tree, closing in on your position. In seconds you find your nice safe vantage point offers no protection from the bullets as they tear through the wood and into you. The game is full of moments like this, before long you will feel like you're part of your very own action movie.
The AI is as finely tuned and balanced as the graphics. No more can you hole up in a safe place and pick the enemy off one by one. They wise up, they work you out, they flank you, surround you and they will often KILL you. When outnumbered they call in reinforcements. These often arrive via helicopter gunship and in navy seal style rappel to the jungle below. One minute you can be the hunter, the next the hunted. You need to "think clever" at all times. Slow and steady progression is usually a better idea than storming in with an assault rifle. Oh, and just wait until the plot twists for things to get real nasty.
To go with the top-notch graphics we have high quality sound. In game music is something that I usually turn off straight away, but in Far Cry the music is as much a part of the game as the graphics. It adapts itself to the situation as you do - it's proper action movie stuff. You then have the sound effects. Far Cry makes full use of a 5.1 system, the outdoor graphics enhanced by outdoor sound effects that again change depending on your location.
The weapons in the game are also top selection (see a pattern yet?) The pistol feels very well weighted and is perfect for most close-quarter confrontations. For that silent attack there is a nice machete. An assault rifle has a nice little zoom function that again feels just right and evens up the odds a little. Being a FPS you have the obligatory sniper rifle, which as mentioned has a great zoom facility to make the most of the outdoor levels. Then you have rocket launchers and a variety of other weapons. The game limits you to only being allowed to hold 5 at one time and this again is a rather neat feature, allowing you to choose the weapons to fit your style of play.
All of the above will take its toll on your PC. You are going to need a machine that is close if not better than the recommended requirements to get the best from it. However there are a vast number of scaleable graphic options that will enable the game to run (all be it looking a little worse) on slower machines. That said, any PC gamer worth there salt owes it to themselves to get that much wanted upgrade to play this game.
Faults? Well there are a few. There is no save option. The game has staggered checkpoints which when crossed initiate an auto save. In my opinion a great feature as it does add to the tension, but some of them are a little too thinly spread. Knowing you have completed your current objective and then dying before getting to that all-important save point is annoying - replaying sections of Far Cry are rarely a chore though. The indoor levels, whilst being well designed, fail to reach the graphical heights of those outdoors. And some of the enemies on occasions are a little too clever. All those things though are just niggles. When you actually play the game you will probably not even notice them, as you will be so engrossed by all the good stuff.
Far Cry is as stated the best FPS game you will have the joy to play. It's everything that a game should be; it's fun, it's engrossing and it looks gorgeous. It's a benchmark game, and it's a game that WILL be referred to from now on when mentioning the very best in the FPS genre. I can personally guarantee that no one will dislike Far Cry, it's more than just a game, it's an experience.
- The graphics, The sound, The AI.
- Heavy system requirements to see the game at its best, but would you really expect anything else?