Far Cry: Instincts is a shooter like no other: it had been long delayed, rumored to be cancelled, resurrected and hidden, all within three years. Plus, the PC title was released earlier this year—but PC users take note: Instincts is an entirely new game…
People lucky enough to have played it at E304 billed it as one of the most advanced FPS titles of all time. Well, it’s been more than a year, so the question is: does it still make the cut? Three words: Oh. Hell. Yes.
Far Cry puts you in the well-trodden shoes of Jack Carver, a “Harrison-Ford-esque” ex-soldier that spends his time piloting his ragged boat around to civilians, to make ends meet. On this particular jaunt, you’re taking a sultry greenhorn reporter by the name of Valerie Cortez on tours of shipwrecks. After allowing her to explore the nearby coastline on your jetski, you settle down for a nice nap. Of course, you wake up to see a helicopter lazily drifting toward you and your boat…and then it opens fire. Carver jumps overboard mere seconds before the ship explodes, the video sequence ends and you’re suddenly in control of Jack.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the review, I must say that the intro sequence is easily one of the most “edge of your seat” FMV’s I’ve ever witnessed. And the game only gets better from there.
Considering that the game’s a tad more than two years old (development-wise), it’s absolutely dazzling. It’s one of those titles where you ask yourself “why the hell is this the first time I’ve ever seen real-time swaying grass and ambient natural animations?” Crashing through underbrush or crawling on your belly through tall grass adds a level of immersion I’ve never experienced before. Plus, while lying/crawling prone, you can roll on to your back, to give you a better visual on your target. The first time you utilize this maneuver, you’re crawling beneath a cabana, turn over and fire a shot through a small hole in the floor…directly into your enemy’s face.
And what a variety of enemies you’ll find here! You’re basically thrust on to an island full of expertly trained military, and sadistic scientists who experiment on humans. It’s the tried-and-true formula of “attempting to create the ultimate soldier” by tampering with their DNA. Of course, Instincts has a much more plausible storyline: similar to “The Relic”, the local inhabitants have long ingested herbs and local fauna resulting in a euphoric state of mind. Of course, scientists get wind of this and immediately think: ultimate human weapon!!! So there’s the crux. In the beginning of the game, you’re sneaking around the island, killing guards and following the instructions of a mysterious benefactor who’s giving you nav-points through an earpiece you acquire from an enemy installation. You discover that they’ve kidnapped Valerie, so your instinct is to save her while trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
The introductory levels (prior to Carver’s “evolution”) show that you’re part of an incredibly detailed world, one where you’re very much in a “kill or be killed” state of mind. In these levels, you learn how to distract enemies, set traps (which, by the way, will remind you of Arnie’s efforts in “Predator”), survey your surroundings and swim. In the areas where you can jump into the ocean, you’ll be treated to blurred vision, as well as ambient fishies. It’s suave little details like this that make Far Cry such a treat to play, and it only adds to the immersion.
But it’s not until you’re taken hostage, that the game takes off. You see, after a failed attempt to outrun a missile-loaded chopper while driving an unarmored Hummer, you regain consciousness and realize that you’ve been experimented on. After breaking free of the chair they bound you to, you punch through a solid-steel door, and literally kill your enemies with your bare hands. What the hell happened? Where’s Val? Who did this to you? These are all questions that you’ll unravel answers to while playing.
The graphics are absolutely dazzling, from the island vistas to expressions on the face of your enemies. Honestly, in the first two hours, you’ll get capped from looking at the foliage and wildlife on the island, instead of at your enemies. Likewise, when in “enhanced” mode, you’ll see blurring at the corners of your screen, reminiscent of the Alien mode in the PC version of Aliens Vs. Predator. The world is so involved, that you’ll often veer from your nav points, just to marvel at a waterfall or a densely-wooded ravine—it simply looks that good.
Insofar as sounds, home theatre players will be in absolute heaven. Bullets will ‘SPANG’ realistically through your speakers in contextual firefights. Dive under water, and sounds are muffled, but bullets striking nearby rocks and sand will reverberate exactly as if you were there. Character interaction is also top-notch. There’s a lot of chit-chat you can observe from the grunts, yet officers are “all business.” In an early scene, after a handcuffed Val kicks an unsuspecting grunt in the cojones, the commanding officer says “keep it up, and I’ll throw you to the boys when I’m done with you.” To which she replies acidly “oh…they wouldn’t even know what to do with me.” Genius! Grunts will whimper in pain, or run away screaming if you don’t finish ‘em off quickly, resulting in a raised alarm. The score is outright dazzling, and straight out of a Bruckheimer film—oh yeah, audiophiles will be in for a treat!
Far Cry also gives a bunch of new gameplay elements which haven’t even been attempted in other FPS titles. For example. Pressing the black button brings up a trap menu, where if you happen to have the required materials nearby, you can set traps for unsuspecting enemies. Initially, the L trigger is mapped to rocks, so set a trap, throw a rock as a distraction, and watch your enemy fly. Nice! If you’re unable to set traps, you can sneak in two modes (crouch and prone) to deliver a brutal stab to the back of your enemy. Quick, violent and effective. You’ll find that the majority of your ammo is gleaned from fallen mercenaries, so trap-setting and stealth-kills will be your staples. Think more in the vein of Sam Fisher, rather than Duke Nukem.
Plus, there’s a radar mode similar to Metal Gear Solid, sans visual cones. Usually, once you make visual contact, your enemies will show up on your HUD as blips. Green means unsuspecting, yellow means slight alarm, and red means that they’re on to you. And this ain’t the garden variety shooter. If you don’t tag an enemy before they raise the alarm via earpiece, and you’ll suddenly find the area crawling with mercenaries, with a visual of you in mind.
Thankfully, it’s not all creepin’ and sneakin’. Carver is eventually used as a human experiment, with a remarkably slick outcome. Instead of his butterfly melee attack (which works quite well in the beginning), you eventually gain a beastly claw, which you can use for a sneak-melee kill, or if an enemy is standing on a precipice, you can run and swipe, and send them flying into the air. Or, on the ground you can do the same, and swipe them into the air, flailing and screaming. Feral vision, mentioned above, goes hand-in-hand with Feral Scent (think Logan’s acuity in X2: Wolverine’s Revenge). Likewise, you learn to super run and super leap, which eventually becomes a staple in later levels. Carver will have to leap over long chasms, peek into the dark with his night-eye abilities, and track enemies through densely wooded areas with his newfound scent powers. If you’re anything like me, the shooter elements will eventually take a back seat to hand-to-hand kills—trust me, it’s a LOT more satisfying.
Another spiff first is the ability to pilot a hang glider, soar on zip-lines, coast on gunboats, careen around in Hummers, rock-hop on a Quad, along with other free-roaming vehicles. It’s exhilarating, the first time you steer a gunboat at full speed on to the shore, and crash into a mercenary cabana. Also noteworthy is the ability to free-aim and fire while in most of the vehicles, solving the Halo problem of no shooting while driving. My only real issue is that of control while maneuvering the vehicles; the left analog pilots the vehicle, while the right is your handgun. If you’re straight outta Halo or Darkwatch, this takes a while to get used to. However, once you master it, you’ll see vehicle combat in a whole new light.
Multiplayer games are made with feral abilities in mind, and host the standard suite: Chaos (deathmatch), Team Chaos, Steal the Sample (Capture the Flag) and Predator. The last two modes are something to shout about. While Steal the Sample is a glorified CTF, there are a couple of neat twists. First, you can use your low-end weapons while in possession of a sample. Also, if your health is extremely low and/or death is imminent, you can pass the sample to a nearby player. Suave. But, by far the best multiplayer mode is Predator. The mechanics are simple: feral soldiers are on one side, and “normal” grunts are on another. The normal grunts must make it over to the feral area to power up a sonic device (which takes nearly a minute), to eradicate the ferals within earshot. Sounds easy right? Break into an area, flip a switch and guard it. Well, ferals have unlimited respawns, and grunts respawn by dodgeball rules: until one of your boys takes out the feral, you’re dead with no respawn. Kill a feral, and the whole team comes back. Ideally, when tackling this mode, you’ll want to play at a 2:4 player mode, with the numbers in favor of the grunts. Otherwise, it’s an outright slaughter, and the game’s over in less than a minute.
Insofar as unlockables, there’s a suite of cheats and gameplay footage available to be unlocked, but the best addition is the map editor. Whether you’re playing offline or online, your maps can be uploaded to other players for their perusal. It puts a nearly infinitesimal replay value on the shooter…long after you’ve beaten the single-player game (which, trust me, is nothing to sneeze at). The mechanics are on-par with those of Tony Hawk’s “Create a Park”—they tend to be ultra user-friendly, so you’ll be crankin’ out maps in no time.
Overall, Far Cry: Instincts is an absolute triumph in every sense of the word. I feel like I’ve left certain aspects of the game out, but if I was to exalt every minute detail of this scorcher, the review would be 15+ pages long. Sufficed to say, if you’re a FPS junkie, this one’s a no-brainer.
Graphics: 9.8 (Quite possibly the best-looking FPS to date, and that’s sayin’ something.)
Sound: 9.0 (Dazzling sfx, hilarious dialogue and a top-notch score will not disappoint.)
Gameplay: 9.8 (Though single player is amazing, FC:I will floor you in the multiplayer department.)
Unlockables: 9.5 (Cool FMV and cheats, but the big treat is the map editor, ‘nuff said.)
Overall: 9.5 (BUY. THIS. GAME.)