I’ve always heard good things about the Far Cry series. Without a decent gaming rig, I just never got around to playing them. A Steam sale a couple of months ago convinced me to pick up Far Cry and Far Cry 2, and after playing through a couple of adventure games I decided a change of pace was in order.
At the time Far Cry released it was considered by many to be the best first person shooter in existence. A combination of responsive AI, open-ended missions, and incredible graphics put it a head and shoulders above the competition. Of course, this was back in 2004. A lot’s changed since then.
A world of hurt
I almost stopped playing Far Cry only a couple of hours in. Far Cry is a hard game, even on Normal mode. A ton of patience and a good deal of luck is needed to make it through some of the more challenging battles; in one particularly memorable segment I emerged from a ship to find enemies shooting at me from three sides and a helicopter bearing down from above. I died. A lot.
But I kept playing, and in the end the difficulty is part of what made Far Cry stand out to me. The pacing is constantly shifting – in the space of five minutes that battle may go from mowing down baddies from the safety of a jeep to crouching outside a door trying to evade the notice of a pack of mutant super-soldiers. Between the fast-moving vehicle sections, large-scale, open-air gunfights, and tense, claustrophobic hallway battles, Far Cry is always keeping things interesting, even if it does get a little frustrating at times.
Have it your way
When I first heard the concept behind Halo, I imagined saddling up with Master Chief and zooming around the world in a Warthog. I imagined stumbling randomly across epic battles where the decision to help out or flee was entirely up to me, but each decision could help turn the tide of the war. I’m not sure where I got this impression, and while I love every iteration in the Halo universe, they are sadly fairly linear experiences.
On the other hand, Far Cry takes a much more interesting approach. While the indoor missions are still somewhat linear, the outdoor portions of the game are stunningly open. Generally the objective revolves around getting to a certain point on the island, but in Far Cry the island is completely accessible. Sure, there’s always the potential for a head-on assault, but there’s also generally an option to veer off to the side and set up a sniper post on a nearby hill. Or for the stealthily-inclined, why not just hop in a boat and circle around the island to sneak in from the back?
Far Cry doesn’t quite live up to my Halo dreams, it did introduce me to something I’d never experienced before in an FPS. The open world present in the outdoor levels was a breath of fresh air. Most impressively, the world of Far Cry never gets boring, adeptly straddling the line between being big enough to contain large numbers of exploration options and being so huge as to make players feel lost or off-track.
A worthy addition to the backlog?
There are plenty of other great mechanics in Far Cry that I haven’t mentioned yet. Tagging enemies on radar using binoculars is a great way to keep track of baddies in a big world without making it too easy. The three-faction struggle between the player, the soldiers, and the mutants adds a sense of strategy to some of the battles, leaving it up to the player to help one of the sides or to skirt the fight entirely. All-in-all, Far Cry just feels like a well-thought-out, complete world.
Eight years later, the “stunning” graphics aren’t quite as beautiful and the AI is no longer quite as revolutionary. The scope is still damn impressive though, particularly on some of the outdoor levels, and the game is still quite a bit of fun. Far Cry is a game that I wasn’t expecting to like, and while I certainly have some nitpicks, the overall experience was unlike any FPS I’ve played before. These days it’ll run you $10 on Steam. My recommendation? Add it to your backlog!