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Far Cry Instincts (Xbox)


By Michael Palisano

Based on the popular PC shooter but revamped for the Xbox, Ubisoft's Far Cry Instincts features a deeper storyline, a newly robust map editor, and other additional features. Far Cry Instincts immediately impresses with its beautiful island environments, smooth frame rate, intuitive controls, and a riveting storyline. The gameplay mixes stealth and FPS action, creating a tense, visceral experience throughout. It's graphic engine is also quite impressive and nearly matches the detail and breathtaking beauty seen in the PC edition, save for some long load times. Far Cry Instinct's unique design allows players to take command of a variety of vehicles and use of special Feral attacks later on to take out foes with deadly precision. All of these features are quite impressive, but this doesn't even scratch the surface as to why Far Cry Instincts is one of the best FPS titles on the Xbox yet.

Set on a remote tropical island called Micronesia in the South Pacific, Ubisoft's Far Cry Instincts has players in the role of Jack Carver. He's a former soldier who operates a tourist boat and gives journalists tours around the island. One day, a 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. On the surface, Micronesia might 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 is where the game should truly set itself apart from other FPS titles. While Far Cry Instincts is based on the PC version released last year, Ubisoft is promising a number of improvements that should make the game even better. The characters and events in the PC version will be further elaborated on in order to give players a greater sense of the storyline. There will also be a number of new abilities such as being able to throw rocks to distract enemies without setting off a massive counter-attack.

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 in all, 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.

Far Cry Instincts' controls are excellent for a console FPS, offering superb responsiveness and intuitive play for the system. 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 these 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 definitely 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.

At certain points, Jack will also need to battle these mercenaries up close, and can sneak up behind them and use his knife. In order to survive, 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. The environments in Far Cry Instincts are fully interactive and he use this to his advantage to make his attacks less predictable. He has the ability to swim can go 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 running around, Jack can also use a variety of vehicles to traverse the island. Far Cry Instincts will also include a number of driving sequences, which look breathtaking in their realism and intensity. 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 Far Cry Instincts changes around half-way through and becomes something else entirely.

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 explore deeper into the game, Jack will transform into ever stronger versions of himself with the innate ability to see things in heat vision mode, and jump huge distances. This gives Far Cry Instincts a unique feel that few other FPS titles can match, making the action even more exciting than it initially seems. Its single player game looks quite intense with an engaging plotline that unfolds at a breathtaking pace. Far Cry Instincts will also feature a surprisingly robust online mode which allows players to battle it out and survive in an even bigger jungle called Xbox Live. One of the coolest online features is the ability to create your own maps, then download them and share them with other players online. The game's map editor feature 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. Far Cry Instincts also includes a number of cool 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 mode 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.

From a visual standpoint, Far Cry Instincts looks fantastic and pushes the Xbox to its limits. There is a price to pay, and that is long load times, including a long cinema whenever you start the game up. However, the resulting payback means the game's engine is truly impressive with a massive scale of the island environments that is nothing short of breathtaking. The island is populated with realistic trees, water effects, bushes, beaches, and dense jungles to create a cohesive, realistic environment. The weather effects also look impressive, with the time changing from daylight to night, from dawn and dusk. Obviously, the lighting will play a key role in your stealth tactics, and the attention to detail in shadows is also quite impressive. Far Cry's character animation looks especially impressive, with each mercenary looking and reacting realistically to the events in the game. What's more impressive is that the environments are fully interactive allowing you to destroy objects, explore inside buildings and more. Far Cry Instincts' highly polished engine gives a cinematic feel to the action as you switch between on-foot, in-vehicle and stealth modes. The high polish extends to the weapons as well. Each weapon will look and feel authentic, giving Far Cry Instincts' arsenal a realistic feel. You experience the adventure from a variety of viewpoints, with standard first person modes complimented by impressive sniper modes where Jack can view the action from a safe distance in an incredible amount of detail. From an aesthetic standpoint, the is absolutely beautiful, with the island giving off a deceptively tranquil appearance with an incredibly dangerous world lurking below the surface. The production values are superb, you can hear the mercenaries talking to each other, birds chirping in the distance, along with the sound of gunfire and explosions. Far Cry's storyline is also interesting and immersive, as Jack uncovers the mystery behind the mercenary presence on the island and gradually finds himself transformed by it. This approach is unique in the FPS genre and creates an interesting dynamic that makes Far Cry Instincts feel like a mixture of Lost and Survivor, with a touch of Halo thrown in for good measure.

Far Cry Instinct's mixture of brutal action and stealth elements creates a tension and realism in the gameplay that few titles on the market have even attempted. The game's visuals are stunning in their beauty and detail, creating a cohesive, believable environment that immerses players into the action. However, the most impressive aspect of Far Cry Instincts lies in its unique approach to the genre, mixing standard military operations with supernatural abilities. This gives you a great deal of flexibility in how you go about completing each mission. Since you can attack enemies from a variety of locations and use different tactics, you have a great deal of freedom. This emergent gameplay aspect of the game is excellent, though the main solo game unfolds in a fairly linear fashion if you follow the paths provided. The sophisticated AI of your opponents means they are smarter and less predictable than foes in most games. This approach definitely sets the game apart, and the intense storyline propels the action and keeps the player motivated as mysteries begin to unfold. Further adding to the experience are Far Cry's unique online modes, which take full advantage of the game's unique setting and player abilities. Add in an extensive yet easy to use map editor, unique Predator mode deathmatches and you have a game just as exciting online as it is off. Far Cry Instincts is definitely one of the best-looking Xbox FPS titles to date, with a robust graphics engine on par with Halo 2 and Doom 3 from an aesthetic standpoint. This is definitely one of the best-playing games on the system as well. Its engrossing storyline, intuitive and responsive controls, and a challenging game that creates an excellent pace that intensifies as you go deeper into the jungle. Far Cry Instincts is a highly polished, immensely playable and enjoyable game that makes it one of the best Xbox titles to date, and a must-purchase for fans of the genre.

Grade: A

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