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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Ubi Soft

 

Developer

Crytek

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

March 2004

 

- Really Amazing Graphics

- One Mile Draw distance

- Realistic enemy A.I.

 

 

- Vehicles could handle better

- Cut scenes seem old-hat in era of Half-Life-esque scripted events

 

 

Review: Unreal II (PC)

Review: Unreal Tournament 2003 (PC)

Review: Halo (Xbox)

 

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Far Cry

Score:  9.2 / 10

 

When the first screen shots of Far Cry were released, it was a popular sentiment among the gaming press that the game would be little more than a tech demo for the clearly powerful Cryengine engine (say that five times fast).  After all, most of our attention had been on the giant three-headed monster of promised first-person shooters:  Half-life 2, Doom 3, and Halo 2.  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to E3:  Far Cry is good enough that the holy trinity of potential gaming goodness might not include the best FPS of the year.  In fact, Far Cry makes all those movies and screen shots of the “next generation” shooters look decidedly “this” generation.

 

far-cry-1.jpg (34125 bytes)          far-cry-2.jpg (29844 bytes)

 

It is impossible to ignore the graphical goodness that is Far Cry, so I'll just go ahead and start there.  The game is beautiful.  Set on a series of sprawling tropical islands, Far Cry offers some of the best eye candy we have ever seen.  The textures, which looked a bit wonky in the early demos, are a good as it gets at this stage of the game.  The water is stunning and realistic as it rolls onto the sandy shores (are we still obsessed with water graphics, or have we collectively moved on?).  The character models and animation are spot on, easily matching any other game on the market.  Add to all of this a draw distance of over one mile and Far Cry becomes even more impressive.  As far as those aforementioned games go, only Half-life 2's face-modeling engine seems more impressive than what we see here, not that Far Cry's facial animations aren't great.

 

The only downside to the graphical goodness is the fact that the game has stiff resource requirements.  My home system (P4 2.4, 1 GB ram, 256 MB Radeon 9700) was able to run the game with all of the settings on “high” at a good frame rate, but it was unable to run the game smoothly with many of the settings on “very high” as it is able to do with any other current game, including the very pretty Unreal 2004.  Still, the game looks awesome even on the “high” settings (see the screen shots for examples).  I didn't get a chance to play the game on a state-of-the-art rig, but I did pump all the options to “very high” and watch it run as a slide show on my system, and it was a pretty slide show.

 

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The plot of Far Cry isn't anything really special—genetically engineered super-soldiers and Mad Scientist claptrap—but it is interesting enough to pull the player along.  The main character is likable, kind of a subdued Duke Nukem or less melodramatic Max Payne or the Master Chief in a Hawaiian shirt (hey, I could keep this up all day).  Anyhow, the protagonist is a strong, silent type that seems only a bit more vulnerable than the aforementioned 

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heroes, but with the copious caches of armor and heath packs, he is as tough as any action movie hero.  The plot is rolled out in occasional in-engine cut scenes with solid voice acting.  Overall, not as compelling as Half-life or Halo, but still better than the vast majority of FPSs we've seen lately.

 

Despite the healthy amount of health and armor power-ups, the game can be really tough.  The enemy soldier A.I. is excellent, at least on par with Half-life's.  The soldiers exhibit awesome small unit tactics as they lay down cover fire and methodically advance on the player's position.  If there is a fault with the A.I., it is that the soldiers exhibit some super-human senses, and it can be nearly impossible to sneak up on some of them.  If a player is forced into a firefight with a large number of soldiers, chances are he or she will be toast, though knock-down, drag-out firefights where the player stumbles out with a few health points left happen occasionally and create a thrill when they do.

 

The game takes a good twenty hours to complete and is a joy during the entire run.  Unlike many of the games I've played lately, there isn't really a dud among the missions, though a few do stand out as better than the rest.  I especially liked the ability to distract the enemy soldiers by throwing rocks or rolling barrels down hills.  I know it has been done in other games (especially the recent third-person stealth games), but I still find that having enemies who respond to “real life” stimuli really sells me on the realism of the game. 

 

far-cry-3.jpg (30126 bytes)         far-cry-4.jpg (41850 bytes)

 

The realism is helped tremendously by the solid physics engine present within Crytech's Cryengine.  I got untold hours of joy out of just pushing things and watching them roll or bounce down a hill.  The realistic way gravity and other forces were applied to the interactive objects was awesome.  By now, most of our readers will have seen the Half-life 2 tech demo that shows the support beams being shot out from under a shed and the shed's resulting collapse.  The physics engine here isn't asked to do anything so dramatic, but I get the feeling that the later projects using the Cryengine will be capable of such things.

 

The only place that Far Cry or its physics engine seems unpolished is in the area of vehicles.  Our hero has the option to pilot any number of vehicles during the game, but the vehicles themselves seem to have little real “weight” to them.  I felt similarly about the Warthog in Halo, but Far Cry's jeep is far more “flighty” than even the Warthog.  The glider is much nicer, but the ground vehicles just don't handle realistically.  Driving a jeep off a cliff is cool, but it doesn't have the same jaw-dropping realism while plummeting that we see when we push a barrel off. 

 

Still, it's nice to even have access to vehicles in a game this large.  And, trust me, though it is usually possible to go from one area to the next on foot or by swimming, doing so will add a good five hours to the game play.  These levels are huge and having sea, land, and air transportation at one's disposal is very helpful.

 

Given its great graphics, fun game play, cool physics engine and amazing graphics (hold it, did I say that already), Far Cry takes its spot at the top of the hill for “next generation” first-person shooters.  Doom 3, Half-life 2, or Halo 2 (or maybe even the Chronicles of Riddick) might come along and knock it off its lofty perch, but Far Cry is enough of a heavyweight that it won't go down without a fight.

 

- Tolen Dante

(May 2, 2004)

 

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