Saturday, June 12, 2010

Far Cry

Far Cry was now released six years ago, and it's in a weird place in gaming history. It has some modern ideas, but it also sort of screams out that it's the last big shooter before Half-Life 2. Its mix of forward-thinking elements and artifacts of old school shooting seems strange now, and it ends up as a game worth checking out if maybe not playing through all the way.

Graphically, it's a mixed bag these days. The environments still look really nice if you pump up the effects, with long draw distances in the expansive play area and some nice jungle stuff, especially for the time. The characters and enemies look kind of primitive though, and not much better in the story scenes. The music is pretty effective orchestral stuff, and the sound effects are mostly fine, but the voice acting kind of sucks. Some of the conversations you can overhear from far away are neat, but the main character is pretty awful and he doesn't do much for what the game calls a story. It hits on a lot of the obvious action movie standbys, but there's nothing really interesting or unique about it and along with the game itself, it simply goes on too long.

The game isn't as terribly long as it could have been, but it definitely comes from that era a few years ago when gamers equated length with value, and a lot of areas come out feeling like filler. A lot of people still seem to complain when a game's single player mode can be beaten in only six hours, but it's a lot easier to maintain a high level of interesting content over that than a period twice as long. But a bigger issue with Far Cry is not its duration, but how it gets less compelling over the course of it. When you start the game, you're doing a lot of sneaking around a series of tropical islands, trying to accomplish various objectives among a strong mercenary presence. You can go in guns blazing or be a silent stalker, with both approaches valid and pretty fun. There's a mix of vehicles and weapons you can find and use, and one of the game's most interesting bits is the scope which lets you survey an area before going in, marking enemies on your radar. Once in a while you'll pass through some sort of indoor facility, which turns it into more of an old school corridor shooter, and while not as impressive it's a decent change of pace. The AI is still decent today, and it's hard to say it's not a fun formula.

But then the game's plot necessitates that they introduce mutated monsters into the fray, and the game sort of goes into a decline at that point. It's fine at first, with the smaller ones proving a frightening presence that can easily kill you if you let them up close, and another group with guns and an ability to turn invisible providing another unique challenge. But once the really big guys with rocket arms show up, it definitely starts to turn. The game becomes more interested in kicking your ass than showing you a good time, and it can become a slog at points. There's not much that's fun about killing these guys, just spray them with ammo and hope for the best. The bosses are weird too, feeling like perhaps the biggest relic in the game. In a world that presents itself in a mostly believable, if a bit larger than life way, guys who can take dozens of bullets and keep on walking are both out of place and a slog to get past. My will was pretty much crushed by the end, and I finished it more out of a duty to do so than an actual desire to see it through. Crytek makes some impressive technology, but especially if what I've heard about Crysis is true, they need to work on figuring out what people actually like in their games more.

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