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SummaryRough around the edges but an under-rated, ground breaking achievement.
The GoodI've played Far Cry solidly for several months. Finishing the game on multiple difficulty levels and also playing quite a bit of multi-player. With Half-life 2's release a few days ago (a game that I have just finished) and Doom 3 a couple of months ago, I can say that Far Cry is definitely the most innovative of these three games. Far Cry pushes the FPS genre much like the original Half-life did years ago. And here's why...
Far Cry (for the uninitiated) takes place on an island somewhere out to sea. You play Jack Carver who has been stranded on the island with a bunch of terrorists. You must escape using a combination of stealth and firepower and while doing so uncover a rapidly thickening plot!
Far Cry is powered by the Cry-Engine, Crytek's new graphics engine which is capable of rendering huge outdoor environments in great detail, but also adept and rendering closed interior environments. It's fully integrated with a great physics engine and all in all the world that you inhabit is completely believable. The graphics speak for themselves, and basically, if you can see it, you can go there. This game (like the GTA series) is all about freedom. Every mission is non-linear, and each scenario generally has two or more ways of approaching it.
The story while being linear is not linear within each mission (and missions are very long). While certain objectives must be achieved, the way to complete them is not set and I can guarantee that your second trip through Far Cry will be completely different to your first. This is a sharp contrast to a game like "Half-life 2" where every section is clearly mapped out from A to B to C. In Half-life you are asking yourself "what does the game want me to do next?", in Far Cry you are asking yourself "how can I approach this objective the best?".
For example you might opt for stealth, you might create a diversion, you might find a secret path or tunnel, you might find a boat or car, or just run in with guns blazing. The possibilities are pretty much the same as you'd have in real life - and that's the hook.
The game engine also incorporates some pretty special AI. Playing on the easiest difficulty doesn't allow you to truly appreciate how good the AI is. On harder difficulties the enemies operate in teams much like a real group of terrorists, yelling out to each other - "FLANK LEFT!" or "I'LL GO GET HELP!". They really make an effort to surround and distract you. A pair of them might divert your attention from one direction, while another pair might circle around from two directions to come at you from behind. Or if outnumbered they might jump into an available jeep to drive to get reinforcements. It's great because they don't communicate telepathically - it's REAL.
A final thing worth a mention, and a feature I wish could be implemented in more games, is Far Cry's music system. This system picks up on events in the game and dynamically mixes a custom musical score. The effect is seamless and you only notice it if you focus on it, which is exactly the effect that music should have. Far Cry isn't the first game to have a feature like this, but it's without any doubt the best implementation I've ever heard. It really is that good!
The BadThere are a number of problems with the game however, that do it a dis-service. I've already mentioned how great the AI is, however it is a little buggy. At some points you may find a bad guy that is basically "asleep", i.e. he should be able to see you, but just stands there. Clearly this isn't meant to happen, but when it does, it ruins the whole illusion.
Also, this is a very difficult game by comparison to other shooters. As a rough benchmark, I finished Half-life 2 on medium difficulty only one day after its release. It took me a week to finish Far Cry on it's easiest setting. Far Cry's savepoint system is very good and doesn't frustrate, however it's difficulty problems come from a somewhat bumpy difficulty ramp, with some very hard parts in early parts of the game. I'm sure this has choked off many players, who would simply give up. The final missions are EXTREMELY hard, and can get very frustrating for players that rely on tactics over reflexes. I can't help but feel that Crytek dropped the ball at the end there. It's not terrible, but not strong either.
The only other thing is that the dialog and voice acting, while being tongue in cheek does feel a bit forced and corny even given it's tone in many places. The story development and direction in general is quite amateur compared with other games. It seems like the game isn't sure whether it wants to be Duke Nukem or System Shock, and finds an uncomfortable middle ground.