Absolutely incredible. Sets a new standard. Blew away all my expectations.
A while back, maybe six months or so, I was cruising gametrailers.com and saw a trailer for the game "Far Cry." The trailer was titled "AI" or something. This, my friends, was the worst trailer I've ever seen. The entire three-or-so minute video focused on this "advanced" AI which featured enemies taking cover behind rocks, walking around doing nothing, scratching their butts, and yelling to each other during combat. It was wholly unimpressive. I couldn't help but think Far Cry was going to be the dumbest waste of time I've ever played. I mean, "idle animation"? Come on. Idle enemy animations have been the norm since Goldeneye 64 and probably before that, even. "Advanced AI"? I saw a guy take cover behind a rock. What the heck is so incredible about that? Quake 2 was doing that quite well all those years ago.
Yeah, Far Cry looked like just another mediocre half-assed first-person shooter.
Having spent the last twenty-or-so hours playing through this remarkable game, I must confess I couldn't have been more wrong. To say this game is anything less than great is near blasphemy. This game absolutely blew away all my expectations, and it has raised the bar significantly in the first-person shooter genre. This game has made a great leap, much as Doom had before it, and Wolfenstein 3D before that.
But where to begin? Well, let's start with what is probably the most obvious orgasmic element: the graphics. Any reasonably detailed screenshot will give you a good idea of how amazing the graphics in this game are. The tropical jungle-covered islands, surrounded by beautifully rendered water. The highly detailed character models, the guns, the buildings, the...the everything. Yeah. Everything in this game just looks beautiful. I don't think I've played a game yet that has just looked...so very beautiful.
My favorite part of the game, however, is not the graphics. No, graphics, beautiful as they are in this game, usually take a back seat in my judgement of games. And this was another element I was skeptical about. Sure, it looks
good, but that doesn't make a good game. Oh, but was I ever surprised, for what this game should be hailed for is the sheer size of the levels and the nonlinearity of it all. Well, to call it nonlinear is perhaps misleading. After all, all your objectives are straightforward: get to point B without getting killed along the way, and pick up a key card while you're at it. But there are ALWAYS more than one way to accomplish any given task. There are almost always a different route you can take, a different object you can utilize, a different method of attack. Every time you replay an area, chances are you'll be doing it different than the way you did it before. Imagine: a group of soldiers are guarding something in a small shack alongside a beach. You could A) Sneak through the jungle foliage and silently pick them off one by one, B) See that explosive barrel over there by where those guys are? C) Find an alternate route and attack them from the flank, D) Just rush in and kill'em all like a maniac, E) You wander the beach, considering your options, when suddenly a patrol boat spots you. They open fire on you and you take cover behind a rock. They call the soldiers from the dock that were guarding that object to come assist. This, my friend, only opens you up to even more options. Do you shoot the soldiers in the boat, commandeer the vessel, go around to the docks, shoot whomever's left guarding the object, grab it, hop back in your boat and drive away while all the soldiers are on their way to where the distress was called from...or what? What do you do? You have but moments to think, but your options are nearly endless.
Did I mention the size of the levels themselves? Granted, these levels require a pretty long loading time, but oh it is so worth it. In almost all cases, whatever you see in front of you, all around the island, from top to bottom, underneither perhaps, around the other side, up the mountainside or into caves, it is all part of the level. You can pretty much go anywhere in the level at any time, although typically you'll be heading to your main objective.
The vehicles are awesome as well, if a bit funky to control. Various jeeps with a gun turret, a patrol boat with a gun turret, a hang glider, a motor boat, large trucks, fork lifts...take your pick and take'im for a spin. Some levels are set up for great stunts, too. One of the first levels will probably send you soaring over a cliff in a jeep. It's magnificient the first (and fiftieth!) time you do it.
Not only are the levels gigantic, but they're varied as well. There is also a continuity to the game. The course of the game takes place over two days, I believe, and you're awake through pretty much all of it. You start out in the day, and as you progress you enter the night, then morning again, and watch again as it gets darker as you go on. Some levels take place on giant ships, small campsites, enemy bunkers and bases, caves, rivers, swamps, and of course the jungles, cliffsides, mountain peaks, even a volcano. And what's really great is that none of it seems out of place. This game boasts its ability to render a massive enviornment, but unlike some games that have boasted such things in the past, the indoor environments look just as good. The game transitions from indoor to outdoor absolutely flawlessly.
The physics! In Max Payne 2, when enemies died, they sort of just fell apart like sacks of flour. In Far Cry...well, it just looks so much better. More lifelike. And corpses have wounds on their body, so you can see just where and how much damage you inflicted upon them.
The greatest thing, perhaps, about this game is the immersion. A lot of people will scoff at the lack of a quicksave feature, but I, for one, have never appreciated the lack of it as much as I do having played this game. I'm a sucker for the quicksave. I probably quicksave three or four times a minute in most games. I just can't help it. But Far Cry doesn't let you do that, and that is just...oh, how can I explain it? The checkpoints occur often enough that you won't get frustrated with the levels, and while you're PLAYING the levels...oh, man, it is just plain intense. Knowing there is no quicksave, knowing that if you die you'll have to revert back to your old save...well, that's one thing. But picture this. You find yourself in a shootout just outside some installation. You take cover behind some barrels while the enemy soldiers continue to shoot at you, knocking the barrels around and attempting to get you to come out. You're low on ammo, but you think you can take them, if you're good. You reload and get ready to pop out and shoot when you hear a massive growling sound. From above, mutant apes suddenly pounce on the soldiers and one comes after you. You waste an entire clip on the quick moving opponent and watch in delight as the apes chew up the soldiers. You realize now that perhaps you don't have the ammo to take your opponents. Your fear is confirmed when you see a jeep pull up and more soldiers pour out. And you are even more certain of your demise when from the bushes come a behemoth creature with a rocket for an arm. Screams and gunfire fill the air in chaos and you are most certainly dead...except for the jeep. You sprint right through the middle of the battle, taking a moment to shotgun a soldier in the face to keep him out of your way. You leap into the jeep and peel off just as a crazed mutant ape jumps at you -- and misses, barely. Just down the road you see a pack of monsters coming your way. You slam on the breaks, spin a '180 and floor it. You run over that damn monkey that tried to get at you, you drive, and drive, and you drive the hell away from there, the sounds of chaos slowly fading behind you. You see the "saving game..." message, and you realize you're safe.
Imagine that sort of thing happening a lot.
This game is not just run 'n gun. It has a lot of scary-as-hell elements at times, too. When the power goes out and the lights turn off and all you hear is the drip-drip-drip of water...and then "grrrroOOWWWLL!!".
The AI is also exceptional. While it does make mistakes (I think at this point in time it's still impossible to make truly lifelike AI) it feels more like an actual...well, human mistake. But in either case, the AI is great. Enemies will flank you, even going for that extra detail by physically issuing each other orders. They'll take cover behind trees and rocks, they'll crouch and sneak toward you in the foliage. They'll go for the high ground and snipe you from there. They are devious, and for the most part, really, really good. They're not omnipitent, either. They won't always see you, just as you won't always see them.
And on top of all that, the game has some twenty levels. Considering the size of any given level, this will keep you busy for hours and hours.
Far Cry...what a beautiful game you are.
Of course, like any game, this game too has its flaws.
First of all, the story. The story is great, I think, but what the HELL is the back-story? Who the hell ARE you, and WHY are you here? I'm sure if I read the manual or looked it up on the 'net I might know, but the game really introduces you into the story in an awkward way. The very first thing you see is a cinematic of your boat getting hit by a rocket and you finding yourself hunted by mercenaries and you yourself hunting them, following the orders of some scientist and for what reason you don't really know.
One particular level is the stealth mission from Hell. I usually prefer stealth missions, but this one...it's just rediculous. I don't know many games that have had a more difficulty stealth mission than this one. Well, I guess it makes it all that much better when you beat it :)
Occasionally the ragdolls die in funny ways. I've seen a few enemies die in a sort of Elvis-like stance, and even seen one die looking as though he were doing a back-bend. Every once in a while a guy will die in a way in which part of his body is stuck in the wall, and he'll flip around like a chicken without a head.
The game requires quite a bit of power to run it, and unfortunately that means a great deal of people won't be able to see it. As far as I know, it's also only being released on DVD, so that probably shuts a few more people out. Installation is also 3.5 gigs or more, which may shy away even more people.
The Bottom Line
Far Cry has set a new standard for first-person shooters and games of all genres. The graphics and gameplay is unequalled. The options available to you at any time make this game worth replaying over and over again.