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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Far Cry Instincts Predator (Xbox 360)


By Michael Palisano

Taking the franchise several steps further, Ubisoft's Far Cry Instincts Predator includes numerous enhancements that make the Xbox 360 the most technically advanced to date. Enhanced graphics, with incredible water effects, improved light sourcing and an even deeper map editor are the biggest changes for this deluxe edition of the original game. Ubisoft has also gone a step further by including more than a dozen new missions in Predator mode, which expands on the events of the original game. While the basic gameplay and premise remain largely unchanged, this is a great update to the series. Players who already own FCI on the original Xbox may feel slightly shortchanged, but those who haven't experienced Far Cry yet are in for an intense engaging experience.

Set on a remote tropical island called Micronesia in the South Pacific, Ubisoft's Far Cry Instincts Predator once again puts players in the role of Jack Carver. He's a former soldier who operates a tourist boat and gives journalists tours around the island. On one fateful day, a young journalist comes knocking and asks him to get her some close in shots of the island. She's investigating the mysterious goings on, and leaves him in his boat. Suddenly, this strange mission turns incredibly dangerous as a group of mercenaries attacks his boat and nearly kills him. After narrowly escaping this attack, Jack suddenly needs to rely on his survival instincts in order to survive, as he becomes a man hunted by an army of highly skilled foes. Micronesia seems like an isolated subtropical paradise, but Jack soon discovers that the island is crawling with mercenaries who seem to be hiding something. Once they discover his presence on the island, they begin an all-out assault to capture or kill him, to prevent him from finding out the islands secrets. The adventure begins on the shores of the island, but players will quickly find themselves trying to survive in the jungles deeper inland. This lush tropical setting is where FCI Predator sets itself apart from other FPS titles.

In order to survive against these trained paramilitary soldiers, Jack will be need to use and master a variety of weapons, including machine guns, missile launchers, grenades, and pistols to kill enemies. There are 17 unique weapons types, but this just barely scratches the surface of the survival tactics available to him on the island. While he doesn't have much to defend himself with initially, he can take weapons from the mercenary camps, using their own tools to kill them. Some of the sniper weapons are incredibly powerful and sophisticated, allowing him to kill enemies from great distances. Since the mercenaries will immediately go into attack mode and search for him when one of them is killed, using these long-range attacks can give him a head start. Using these sniper attacks let him disappear into the jungle before they can reach his location. Gaining a head start is crucial because the enemies are quite intelligent and use complex tactics in battle. The developers have given the enemies what is called the FAR, or Full Action Response AI system. Once they've become aware of your locations, they'll react with coordinated strikes that can come from any direction. There are a number of enemy types including snipers, stalkers, scouts, and grenadiers who can attack you from any distance. They can use the islands different angles and terrains to find your location. The player will be challenged to outsmart the mercenaries and can attack them in a number of ways. One of the most clever is the use of traps, which he can set in tree branches, and can kill an unsuspecting guard as they search for him. He can also kill enemies at close range by sneaking up behind them and knifing them, offing them without making a sound.

FCI Predator's controls are excellent for a console FPS, and use the Xbox 360's controller more than adequately. The basic controls use a similar system to Halo, you use the left analog stick to control Jack's movement and can turn and look around using the right stick. You can change your stance from standing to crawling by pressing on the d-button. Players fire using the analog sticks, and can change weapons easily. The interface is also fairly straightforward, with an onscreen radar that shows you the general direction you need to be headed, quite handy since its easy to get lost in the dense jungles. In addition to the standard FPS play mechanic, players can control seven different types of vehicles including tanks, boats and, even hang-gliders. Using them is fairly easy, you basically need to walk near them and hold down the X button, and Jack will automatically take over the vehicles. The controls are fairly consistent from vehicle to vehicle, making them much easier to control. You use the left analog stick to steer and can fire at any foes using your standard weapons, or can in certain cases, use the onboard encamped weapon to clear out foes. Driving the vehicles is reminiscent of Halo, though the controls here only allow you to view the action from the first person perspective, making them a bit trickier to use. The mercenaries are much easier to kill from land, sea or with the vehicles, but these take damage as well, so you have to be careful to jump out of them before they explode. This open-ended, emergent gameplay approach gives you a great deal of flexibility in the method and tactics you'll use to complete each mission. This makes Far Cry Instincts more unpredictable than most other FPS titles on the market, giving players an incredible amount of freedom.

In addition, you can use close-range combat techniques to sneak up behind enemies and cut them with your knife. Jack will also need to use the environments to conceal himself from unknowing foes. For example, he can use the dense forests to hide behind, climb trees and more to evade detection. You can also climb underneath huts and fire through holes in the floors to take out enemies. The interactive environments in Far Cry Instincts allow him to gain the element of surprise, making his attacks unpredictable. He has the ability to swim underwater, look up at an enemy at the shore, then leap out of the water, grab them and slice them before they can react. The environments themselves can be used as weapons, and you'll be able to set brutal traps to kill any mercenaries that get in your way. You can set tree branches to snap when a trip wire is pulled, immediately disabling an enemy. In addition to traversing the island on foot, you can also use a variety of vehicles to traverse the island. There are several intense driving sequences, which are smartly implemented and feel organic in the game's structure. While driving, you can shoot through your window at opposing vehicles, turn and shoot while driving and use the vehicle itself as a weapon against these enemies. All of this sounds fairly traditional for a FPS title, but the gameplay changes about half-way through when Jack's inner-animal is unleashed and he becomes something more than human. Something changes inside Jack after he's been on the island for awhile and learns some of its secrets. After being injected with a mysterious substance, he finds himself transformed with superhuman strength and abilities. He can lock onto an enemies' scent, and perform predator attacks to take them out violently and immediately, giving them no chance to respond. He also develops other abilities such as running incredibly fast allowing him to elude capture easily. He can also perform a variety of what are called Feral Attacks, cutting enemies quickly with his bare hands. As the game progresses and you go deeper into the jungles, Jack will transform into ever stronger versions of himself with the innate ability to see things in heat vision mode, and jump huge distances over gaps with little effort.

FCI: Predator's single-player missions are intense with an engaging plotline that unfolds at a breathtaking pace. There's a surprisingly robust online mode which allows players to battle it out with each other via Xbox Live in a variety of modes and maps. FCI: Predator also lets players create and save maps, then download them and share them with others online. Predator's map editor has been upgraded with new features, items that gives you more flexibility when designing levels. It's implementation is intuitive. The HUD is quite powerful yet easy to use, allowing you a great deal of flexibility with terrain levels and other features. Players begin their map with an open area and can map the terrain, changing elevation and basic layouts to make an ideal zone. The next step is to add vegetation and plants to the island, and finally, players can test their level out before locking and saving their map. FCI: Predator features several innovative multiplayer modes including Chaos and Team Chaos modes where you need to reach a certain number of kills. There's also a Steal the Sample mode where you have to capture an opposing team's sample and bring it back to your base to score a point. However, the most interesting online variation is the Predator mode. This pits a single Predator with superhuman abilities against a team of Mercenaries with the objective having the mercenaries cross the Predator's territory and try and reach a transmitter that will kill the Predator when activated. The Predator will respawn if killed, but the mercenaries can only respawn if they can operate the transmitter and kill the Predator. This leads to some interesting strategies and is definitely the most challenging and exciting online game because it extends the storyline to the online mode with the least amount of watering down.

The original Far Cry Instincts was based on the PC version and featured numerous enhancements, but with Predator, Ubisoft is taking the franchise a few steps further. Featuring all the levels from FCI, Predator also includes an entirely new set of missions called Predator levels, which expands on the original maps. These missions are also available on the original Xbox in the form of an expansion pack called Far Cry Instincts Evolution, but both complete games are included in this version. Taken together, this means that FCI: Predator includes more than 17 single player missions and 22 multiplayer maps, which gives Predator more longevity than the original game. In addition to these changes, Predator's graphics have been enhanced and scaled up to 360 standards. The most dramatic change this time around is the much cooler water effects. The physics engine with the water is breathtaking, with realistic wave action, reflections and transparency that goes far beyond the original game. FCI: Predator's draw distance is also much greater, with more detailed fauna and plants than the first game. Additional improvements have been made to the map editor, which offers a greater variety of objects and items to use, and a larger area to create. Players who found themselves frustrated by the first game's long load ties will be happy to learn that this has been improved dramatically as well, with levels showing up much quicker on 360. Aside from these changes, FCI: Predator is basically the same game you remember, with most of the game's enhancements largely confined to aesthetic upgrades. The enhanced graphics definitely show off the 360's processing power, but the question is whether this new edition is worth it.

While Predator retains Far Cry's mixture of brutal action and stealth elements, the visuals and additional levels definitely add plenty of depth to the game. Impressive new water and light effects are definitely pleasing to the eye, though have little effect on the game itself. The gameplay is what's really key, and while the initial levels are fun, the increased intensity when you face the mutant foes later on is where the single player game really shines. Adding the new Predator levels onto the existing framework extends the game's length, and the new maps are challenging and intense, though they don't really add much that the previous game hasn't seen before and FCIP's faster loading is another worthwhile improvement. If you've already played the Xbox or PC versions, there isn't that much new here, but those who haven't experienced the franchise yet will probably find this new version offers plenty of excitement with excellent replay value occurring with the extra levels and multiplayer modes. Far Cry Instincts Predator is probably the most technically advanced and polished version of the game to date, and it's definitely worth picking up if you haven't played the game yet. Players who already have other versions might want to wait a few months to grab this version at a lower price.

Grade: B

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