Ubisoft has done it again. They?ve made a great console version of a highly anticipated first person shooter PC game that was released over a year ago in Far Cry: Insticts. The Xbox translation holds it?s own against the mighty PC though, with only taking a slight hit in the graphics department. PC games seem to be batting a thousand on Microsoft?s not so little black box. Almost all of the Xbox versions are grade A with titles like Doom, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and Serious Sam. Now there are titles like Half Life 2 and of course, Far Cry: Instincts that are helping the Xbox go out with a bang. It?s just a shame that games like this are coming out so close to end of the system?s life span. Instincts is almost perfect in every major category. The game is simply too good for gamers to overlook in favor of Xbox 360 launch titles.
You start the game as Jack Carver, a retired military man who now chauffeurs tourists around tropical spots on his rickety boat. Everything is going fine for Jack until all of a sudden he?s surrounded by mercenaries who are shooting his boat all to hell. After your boat is destroyed, you take control of Jack and immediately you are in survival mode, trying to get away from these people who are trying to kill you for seemingly no reason at all.
In the gameplay department Far Cry is definitely above average. Developer Ubisoft Montreal hit the nail on the head with the enemy artificial intelligence. A strange problem with the bad guys, though, is that when they die, they all die the same way, with their legs straight out and their arms slightly out to the side. It?s odd to see a group of fallen enemies all laying on the ground in the same position. But while the mercs are alive, they will pursue you until either they die, you die, or you run away. This game came be tough as nails at times. There?s none of that Metal Gear Solid ?bad guys forget about you after ten seconds? stuff. These troops have one single minded goal- to take you out with extreme prejudice. They will flank you, take cover, attack in groups, and even come at you kamikaze style. Enemies will hop in vehicles to hunt you down, they use mounted weapons, and snipe from afar. Maybe from too far. One of the few gripes I had with the gameplay of Instincts was your opposition?s ability to spot you from a very long distance away. You can be in the shade, covered by bushes and trees, and a non-suspecting merc could still see you more often than not. It?s just one of those cheap things in games really. The fact that the enemy can pin point you when they probably shouldn?t be able to, is frustrating, but it?s nothing that will make you want to stop playing. Honestly, it just makes you become more of an offensive player than maybe some people would like to be.
Some favorable comparisons can even be drawn with Halo 2. Like Bungie?s second Xbox masterpiece, FCI has an excellent weapon system and the ability to dual wield. In the game you?ll have a variety of firearms at your disposal, such as shotguns, machine guns, pistols, silenced pistols, automatic pistols, knives, grenades, rocket launchers and even grounded weapons. Another little problem I had is, yes, it is cool to hold two machine guns at once, but you can?t mix weapons. Just think of how great it would be to have a silenced pistol and a machine gun. You could sneak around quietly killing soldier after soldier, and if you get discovered (and you will be discovered) you could just use the automatic weapon you have in your other hand. Again it?s nothing huge, but tiny issues like this could be nice options for gamers. The more choices you have, the better.
The best weapon in the game is actually your own character. At the end of the first act of the story you will get caught while trying to help out a tourist who is almost in the same predicament as you. This isn?t really a spoiler or anything like that since mostly all coverage of Far Cry (including trailers) make mention of jack getting caught by the mercenaries. Anyway, after you are captured you are experimented on by a mysterious scientist and knocked unconscious. After becoming a guinea pig you will be transported to a different location. While being transported, you will regain consciousness and notice that you have gained super powers as a result of the experimentation. You can unlock new abilities (which are pretty self explanatory from their names) such as regeneration, feral attack, feral run, feral vision (with this ability you can identify enemies easier and from further distances, feral smell (pick up a mercenary?s scent and track or hunt them down), and feral strength. All of these powers make you an almost unstoppable killing machine. It?s funny to see the grunts that were once your predators change into panicking cowards in the face of your new found abilities.
There are a good amount of vehicles in Far Cry: Instincts. You?ll get to use things like hang gliders, jeeps, boats and ATVs. It is difficult to control each vehicle and shoot at the same time, although I would think the complication of controls in these situations is actually pretty much representative of what it would be like in real life. So in that aspect, Ubisoft gets kudos for realism, but it still would?ve been nice to have been able to drive and shoot with a little more ease. Remember, though, that these are small complaints. It?s still satisfying to bust through barricades, make impossible vehicle jumps, and run over a few crazed mercs along the way.
As far as graphics go in Far Cry I challenge anyone not to be impressed. For an Xbox game these visuals are stellar. The bloom effect isn?t overdone and it paints objects with a brilliant yellow tinge. Everything feels extremely polished and clean. It makes you wonder just how good the games could look with one more year or so of development. With the release of the 360, unfortunately, we shall never know. I was amazed by the amount of foliage in the game. Yes, it is a game based mostly in the jungle, but this is one of the most believable settings in video game history. There are trees, bushes, grass, tall grass, vines, logs, and dirt paths. The tall grass even bends when you move past it. This is a small piece of the game overall, but a piece that adds immensely to the incredible environments.
The vehicles are rendered nicely and explosions are big and beautiful. The vehicles all take damage well enough. It?s not the caliber of damage modeling found in Halo 2 for example, but what is here is more than adequate for a first person shooter on the Xbox. They all blow up into separate air born pieces. Grenades tossed into the water erupt into a momentary raging waterspout. Thrown near a group of enemy soldiers, a grenade or rocket launcher becomes a huge ball of fire sending your foes flying to their early demise.
The water effects are outstanding as well. It looks great and animates very well during the aforementioned explosions and when stray bullets hit the surface. You move slower in the water like you naturally would and there are some nifty blur effects used when Carver has to swim. While swimming you can see the dirt kick up and even see the algae floating underneath the top plane of water.
My biggest complaint about the graphics is that the character models could be a bit better. The enemies react well when shot. Animations are smooth and very fluid. The characters, however, just don?t look as organic as you would think they could when you consider how lush and gorgeous the environments and backgrounds look at all times.
The sound effects and dialogue are top notch in Instincts. The voice over sounds as natural as can be. You can tell that all the actors took their jobs seriously. The lines of dialogue are delivered with conviction and just the right amount of drama. You can really feel the high level of tension as you hear Carver?s panting while enemy troops are in hot pursuit. Jack even has some funny one-liners every now and then. The mercenaries will recognize when a grenade has been thrown and they will yell to fellow soldiers to alert them of its presence. Mercs will also talk to you while they are searching for you in order to try and rattle your cage. Some taunts are pretty tame while others show just how much they hate you and want to kill you. The opposition can even tell each other where you are and yell out flanking plans.
Other effects like vehicle sounds, shooting, and footsteps are high in quality as well. Walking on dirt sounds differently than walking on metal or grass. Running produces a louder effect than when you are creeping up to someone from behind. Jeeps have more muscle than all terrain vehicles. You can hear the boats shred water underneath you as you race towards your next destination. The weapon sounds are very authentic. The effects are clear and crisp, and everything sounds like it carries weight. Pistols sound great, but they are pea shooters when compared to a shotgun or a dual wielded machine gun. The gunfire from the two weapons at once is stunning and extremely deadly. Enemies are mowed down in a hail of bullets that only leaves time for them to let out a gurgling grunt with their last breath.
Explosions are loud and grand. Bad guys scream in fear as grenades go off nearby. When a nearby grenade goes off Carver will momentarily be unable to hear anything except for a ringing in his ears. This is a really great little touch that helps the audio gain a perfect level of performance. Its small details and effects such as this that make the game so polished.
The replay value is very high due to the multi player for both on and offline, but also because of the excellent map editor. The level editor, while it has the potential to let gamers make their own levels and play multi player on them, can be a bit complex and it may take players some time to actually get a feel for how to make the most efficient and fun environments. If gamers are able to put in the practice they will be able to come up some truly zany and amusing ideas for new maps. In the regular multi player settings, gamers can go on foot, use vehicles, use weapons, and set traps. The other multi player options are death match (single and team), capture the flag, and predator mode. In predator mode one person will have the feral abilities while everyone else must work together as a team to hunt the one player down.
Far Cry: Instincts is a great Xbox game that any fan of the FPS genre should check out and play. With only small problems here and there, it?s hard to imagine a person not liking this game. Hopefully, with all the hype revolving around the next gen systems, gamers will not forget that the current Xbox is still capable of producing top caliber games like this one from the universally respected Ubisoft. Give Far Cry a chance. You won?t be disappointed.