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Developer:
Crytek
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PC
Release Date: March 2004

by Nicholas Bale




Most FPS's have the common space station, spy flick, or military shooter theme. FarCry deviates completely from the known formula and instead puts you into a beautiful island environment, which is definitely a far cry from paradise.


From the moment I started the game, I knew this would be a different experience. In the background of the menu screen, a camera pans through an island in the game, over white beaches, through lush jungles, and across pristine lagoons. This game looked beautiful, and I enjoy beautiful games.


In fact, FarCry seems to have the most advanced graphics on PC to date. The jungles of the islands are densely-packed with well-rendered greenery, trees, tall grass, and other cover for you. The water (which is the best I've ever seen) will lap along the shores in tiny waves, and the character models just look amazing.


Lighting has also been taken to a new level. While you're crawling through the jungle, you will actually see the shadows of the trees overhead on your gun as you run below them. The shadows of patrolling guards inside buildings will be portrayed against the wall, giving you a sign of when they're coming. Lava's intense heat will distort the air above it, and should you be shot by a rocket, or be near an explosion, the screen will grey out, as if you had lost your wind.


The opening cinematic, an odd smorgasbord of gunfire and explosions, confused me. But that was okay, I read the box, I read the manual. You're an ex-SEAL named Jack Carver who has been commissioned to escort a female journalist to a sunny archipelago. However, all goes wrong when she disappears, and your boat is hit with a rocket, leaving you stranded on these islands.


The story seems to start out dull and predictable, but as the game progresses, it takes some interesting Dr. Moreau-like twists and turns as you discover who resides on the islands, and what exactly he is doing on them. The end of the game gives you a final twist to the entire story as you try to finally escape the hell that the islands have become.


While the game starts with you taking out the mercenaries who work on the island, you will soon come into contact with a new enemy who will definitely change how you fight. There's nothing as creepy as shuffling quietly through the night-lit underbrush while inhuman growls echo all around you. Sometimes creatures will explode out of the darkness of buildings, scaring the wits out of you, and that makes the game all the more enjoyable.


The game started with me being plunked into a abandoned maintenance shaft-type area. At this point, the game looked pretty normal. In the bottom left corner of the screen is a radar which will indicate enemies when you use your binoculars, display the sound you're giving off, as well as any loud noises around you.


It was all pretty standard to begin with, sneak by a guard, get a pistol, but then I stepped out into the jungle, and I realized that the newly developed CryEngine is definitely something to be marvelled at. The entire place looked amazing, from the trees, bushes and plants next to me, to the guards faces while they shot at me (I was a little distracted), to the mountaintops on the other side of the island.


The draw distance for FarCry is approximately 1.2 kilometers, allowing you to fully appreciate a sniper rifle as you take out an enemy who isn't even on the same landmass as you, or to use your binoculars to locate the enemies far, far ahead. This was just amazing, and didn't create the strain on my computer that I thought it would. It allowed me to utilize a new level of stealth, so I didn't have to approach the enemies to bring them down.


Through most of the game, you will be running around, whether in a facility or through the underbrush. However, there will be times when you can grab any number of vehicles, ranging from a humvee, to a patrol boat, to a hang glider, to get yourself around the islands in a different fashion. Most of the vehicles are equipped with onboard weapons, which allows you to attack enemies in the form of bullets or sometimes even rockets.


While driving these vehicles was fun, I found they were not implemented as well as they should have been. While driving around and shooting enemies in these vehicles was a blast, you're pretty much restricted to places where there aren't trees, namely, the roads. The boats are more enjoyable, but should you venture far from the island, you will be spotted by the enemy and shot at by a Black Hawk helicopter.


One of the greatest things that this game has going for it is the aspect of choice. I'm not talking about the standard run-and-gun or stealth choice, I'm talking about how to get from point A to point B. Example: I need to get to a facility on the other side of the island. The entrance is protected by a gate and a sniper. How should I proceed?


Well, I can storm through the front, gunning down guards as I went, shooting the lock off the gate, and taking down the sniper. I could also grab a humvee, drive over/around the guards, avoid the sniper, and crash through the gate. Or I can just avoid them entirely by shooting guards on a patrol boat, stealing it, and attacking the guarded dock around the other side. The variety of tactics you can use adds a new twist to the usual frontal assault.


The stealth engine isn't as advanced as it could've been, and I felt myself losing more and more of the stealth aspect as the game went on. By the end, I was just shooting my way around the islands, retreating to the underbrush just so that I wouldn't get hit by snipers. However, at first, when you're only equipped with a machete and a pistol, sometimes stealth is the best solution, for it also allows you to see the AI in action.


The AI in this game is some of the best I've ever seen. If the mercenaries hear you creep in the underbrush, they will come to investigate, and look around, not just in the place they heard it. If the person next to them falls to the floor with a bullet wound in his head, they will first try to see what it was, then run. That's the smart thing for them to do, and yet so few games have the enemies do this. The only problem I found with this is that the hearing is ultra-sensitive, and sometimes they will go onto high-alert just by hearing a twig snap.


If they still can't find you, they will employ advanced tactics, trying to flank you out. As I hid, I could often hear the cries of "Left flank, move forward! Right flank, go forward!". And often they would find me, and bullets flew. Should you begin a fire-fight, the mercenaries will hide behind any cover they can find, and should you begin shooting wildly, they will stay there until they believe a clear shot can be made. They will duck and weave, kneeling to get a better shot, trying to surround you and take you down.


FarCry has definitely got something going for it. It's not just lifted the bar on FPS's, it's broken it in two and thrown it into a beautifully rendered jungle. FarCry is a remarkable game, and one of the best shooters out on the market!


Final Grade: 93%


                  
Just RPG Award of Excellence!


Official FarCry Website




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