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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

 

Ubisoft's highly-anticipated FPS title, Far Cry from developers CryTek has finally arrived on store shelves and its quite an accomplishment. The most interesting aspect of the game are the jaw-dropping graphics, stunningly detailed environments and amazing draw-distance. The realism allows for amazing sniper abilities that let players blow up objects from afar. Far Cry's other main attraction is it's amazingly sophisticated AI where enemies react to your presence by changing tactics and employing maneuvers that one would ordinarily expect from human opponents. This all ties together to create one of the most immersive, realistic shooter titles to date. Read our review and find out why Far Cry lives up to the hype.

Far Cry begins as a mercenary named Jack Carver escorts a beautiful, yet mysterious photographer to a tropical island. This seemingly tranquil fašade of lush trees, pristine beaches and washing waves is deceptive. It's an illusory island paradise where malicious and deadly traps lie beneath the surface. This becomes immediately apparent when the mercenaries on the island discover the presence of Carver, they blow up his boat and leave him with little to defend himself except the clothes on his back. It falls to him to fight these mercenaries in any way he can. In order to survive his foray into this deadly paradise, Carver can implement a variety of tactics including hiding amongst the dense jungle foliage, commandeering vehicles, employing sniper tactics, swimming underwater and more. You can also use special motion-sensing binoculars to scope out enemies and take them out from a safe distance or can choose to fight them at close range. The array of weapons at your disposal is impressive and includes handguns, several types of assault rifles, hand-, smoke- and flash-grenades, machetes, sniper rifles, machine guns, and rocket launchers to name a few. Players can also use several mounted weapons such as mortars and mini-guns or remote control explosives to kill enemies. You can also use special thermal imaging googles to ferret out enemies in low-light or night conditions. In addition to these standard weapons, you can jump into and ride a variety of vehicles ranging from ATV's to hang-gliders and underwater submarines. While inside the vehicles, players can use their mounted weapons and even change seats if they wish. In addition to combat uses, the vehicles will also help players move faster over Far Cry's vast landscapes. Their performance and use is excellent, and most controls are intuitive and easy to understand. Their functionality adds to the game's realism substantially and each one has excellent control and maneuverability.

The game's AI is incredibly sophisticated, and each of the characters will go about their business as normal until their alarms are raised. However, the mercenaries aren't mindless drones, and will react swiftly when threatened. The won't attack you mindlessly and will scatter and regroup in formations, making them much more difficult to kill and detect. Their reactions makes the gameplay unpredictable, since they can change tactics on the fly and corner you without you realizing it. Unlike other FPS titles such as Unreal Championship or Counterstrike, Far Cry unfolds at a more deliberate pace, and requires just as much brainpower as firepower. In many areas, it's far more effective to try and sneak past foes without being detected than it is to go in with guns blazing. In addition to the standard foot soldiers, there are many types of human enemies in each unit including snipers, stalkers, scouts and grenade launchers who can attack you from all angles. The island mercenaries are a tough lot and are highly skilled. As such, this militia presents a unique challenge to the player because the sophisticated AI routines allow them to react in real-time as events unfold. Even moving around is dangerous.You'll have to be careful when you move, since your opponents can hear even the smallest sounds and will react forcefully. However, they won't always react immediately, and can instead work silently to box you in. The enemies will call in reinforcement troops, change formations, take cover when fired upon and hide behind objects. This definitely adds to the game's realism, and increases Far Cry's tension dramatically. You'll find that the game's AI is incredibly tough and hard to predict, making it crucial to plan out your mission plans beforehand. It's no exaggeration to say that there are points in the game when you feel like you're combating living, breathing foes. In order to survive Far Cry's treacherous jungles, you'll have to plot strategies on the fly and adjust your tactics to rapidly changing situations.

Another technically impressive aspect of Far Cry are it's interactive environments. There are many objects that you can use or destroy for a strategic advantage. For example, you can shoot certain objects such as barrels and make them fall over, killing any enemies standing below them. In other areas, you can blow up a gas tank. It's similar to the system used in Half-Life, but here the structure and implementation makes all the difference. When an object explodes or falls, the other nearby forces are alerted to the fact that something is out there, and will scatter to take cover. While the game's draw distance allows you to attack from a distance using the sniper rifle, that doesn't mean you're entirely safe, the enemy will quickly come looking for the causes of these disturbances. This strenuous attention to detail and realism differentiates Far Cry from other shooters on the market, making it feel as if you're battling through a real tropical island fighting real mercenaries, not mindless bots who stand around waiting to get mowed down. The stakes feel dramatically more intense than other FPS titles. Adding to the tension, Far Cry's engaging storyline slowly unfolds and then takes a dramatic turn about half way through. While it's not the main focus of the game, the plot definitely adds to the experience.

Far Cry's single player game is quite impressive, but the developers at CryTek have added online support to extend the game's lifespan and replayability. There are three multiplayer modes in the game: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch play as you'd expect them to. More interesting is the Assault mode, where one team of players attacks a base held by another team - this is the most strategic and thus, most interesting of the game's multiplayer modes. While many other titles on the market allow you edit levels and terrain, Far Cry's mod system is one of the most powerful to date. The interface is quite intuitive, almost transparent, but that's not it's most impressive feature. Far Cry allows you to switch between the edit mode and play the maps almost instantaneously, giving you the ability to test and tweak created levels almost on the fly. It's an impressive technical achievement made more by the power of the game's astonishingly robust graphics engine.

While Far Cry's sophisticated enemy AI system is borderline revolutionary, the game's graphics and visuals also represent a huge leap forward for the FPS. It's one of the most elaborate and impressive games seen on a PC to date, from both an aesthetic and a technical standpoint. Far Cry's immersive realism saturates the open-ended levels, which take place in large, incredibly realistic environments. The jungle environments look simply breathtaking, with realistic plant life populating the island. Each plant has been rendered with a great deal of care, down to the smallest details, such as individual leaves swaying in the wind. There are many types of plants and a great deal of variations in each species, which definitely makes the environments feel alive. The game's water-effects are equally impressive, with realistic liquid physics causing waves to wash ashore realistically. Bump mapping might seem like a small thing, but you can't really appreciate it until you've seen it in action. This technique adds an amazing level of detail to the experience, making it feel almost photo-realistic - dings and rust appear on weapons and vehicles display dents and bangs effectively. Human characters also benefit from this technology, with scars and bumps visible on faces, making them seem even more alive. The game also uses advanced lighting and environmental effects such as dust, to make the world seem completely authentic and alive. In addition to the painstaking effort evident in making all the small details seem real, the game hasn't neglected the big picture either. The draw-distance offered in Far Cry far exceeds that seen in other games and extends almost a mile. This is amazing to see in practice, but it isn't a gimmick, since it allows the player to attack enemies from quite a distance, or see what the enemy forces are up to. It's a brilliant technology that's been integrated naturally into the gameplay, making Far Cry that much more unforgettable. The overall effect of these visuals is simply breathtaking, making Far Cry stand as an impressive step forward for the genre and a new highwater mark in the technology of PC games.

The can be little doubt the technology involved in the game goes far beyond the benchmark of most current PC titles, but this sophisticated technology comes at a price. While the game can run decently with an above-average machine, you'll sacrifice a great amount of graphical detail. On a standard gaming PC the performance loss causes Far Cry to run slower than it should, making the experience less amazing than it deserves to. Upgrading your graphics card to a top of the line model from ATI or NVIDIA may be a painful expense for some PC gamers, but the enhanced visuals are definitely worth it, especially if you weigh your purchase in light of the many top-line titles such as Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 on the horizon. However, Far Cry alone is worth the investment. It's an impressive piece of eye-candy, but the solid AI, fantastic gameplay and brilliant pacing means it has plenty of substance to go along with its style. There's been a lot of hype and promotion for this game, but the final boxed game definitely lives up to it. Far Cry represents a massive leap forward for the FPS genre in from both a technical and gameplay standpoint, making it a must-purchase, landmark title for PC gamers looking for the next great shooter.

- Michael Palisano



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