Sunday, August 05, 2018

Classic Review: Far Cry

German developer Crytek's first game was Far Cry, one of the first FPS to evoke a sense of freedom by breaking out of the linear "corridor" gameplay of its genre predecessors. Far Cry was one of those games that few could play at max settings at launch even with above average hardware. It was an issue that would be exacerbated later by Far Cry's technical successor Crysis but Far Cry had the issue before it albeit to a lesser degree, certainly not not enough to spawn memes.

Far Cry was the last game I played with my old GeForce3 Ti 500 as the poor resolution at which I was forced to run its demo prompted me to get a 5900XT in March 2004*. Even then however, it fell slightly short of the 'Ultra' settings I dreamed of and was incapable of either full screen anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering to any degree without reducing the frame rate to sub 30FPS which is shit. Even with the details set to medium it got choppy in places and had to run at 800x600 for some outdoor heavily populated levels. Despite the disappointment, overall it didn't prevent my enjoyment of the original game experience delivered by Far Cry as high resolution on such a fantastic engine as CryEngine1 was amazing but it certainly made me less surprised concerning the Crysis situation a few years later.

By the time I was benchmarking a new ATi X800 Pro in mid 2005 (GPUs were replaced a bit more frequently than today) the Far Cry issues were tamed boasting a 60FPS with 4x AA / 8x AF @ 1280x1024. Recently I got the chance to return to Far Cry for a third time to enjoy the whole lot on ultra but this time I had 64 bit textures for the first time and the ability to play in 4K resolution.

Reinstallation from CD is untested at this point but a modern download installation of Far Cry from Uplay, GOG or Steam should set up everything without too much tweaking. The game received updates to v1.3 but an additional patch for 64-but systems was released later to include bump mapped rock face textures and increased environment activity. 4K resolution was available in my system after a restart.

Far Cry may seem old to those that have only been playing FPSs for 15 years but at the time, when most weren't even able to play it a max it still looked extraordinary. To see it in it's maximum glory I'm happy to say that it still looks impressive. The graphics gap between this and games that were released five years before it is far greater than the visual gap between this and games made five years after it possibly even 8 years. The original CryEngine is significantly superior to idTech 3 including superior bump mapping but wasn't quite up to idTech 4 as that innovated with per-pixel lighting as opposed to vertex shading. Of course it would have been impossible to render Far Cry's expansive island-hopping environment Tech 4 at the time as evidenced by the mainly darkened indoor confinement of Doom 3 [2004] and Quake 4 [2005] so the trade off in this case was welcome as neither if id's 'tech demos' could hold a candle to Far Cry.

The outdoor environments of Far Cry were truly astonishing and it felt like a living breathing world. You could see distant birds fly, water flowed and rippled and enemies pottered about on their daily routine (before you killed them), but the absence of animals may be noticed by those more familiar with later Far Cry games. The islands are supposed to be lush islands in the Pacific. Old Japanese World War II bunkers, scuttled ships and downed aircraft often provided set pieces for the adventures of Jack Carver, your character and one of the more inappropriately dressed protagonists in videogames.


Weapons feel effective and punchy, they're typical real world 2004 weapons, Desert Eagle, M4 Carbine, H&K MP5, Machine Gun, Sniper Rifle, Rocket Launcher, grenades etc., the usual fare. Interestingly the game has an advanced version of the OICW which was a prototype weapon being tested by the U.S. armed forces in the early 2000's. The OICW never left the prototype phase but it excited Hollywood and videogame developers appearing in many releases including Universal Soldier 2, Die Another Day, the Delta Force games and the Ghost Recon franchise.

Enemy models are well done for the age of the game but there's little variety among the hundreds of human mercenaries who are there to prevent you casually walking to the end game. The genetic mutant army is a little more interesting and diverse and the most science fiction-ey element of the Far Cry franchise which grounds itself to quasi-reality from Far Cry 2 onward. The artificial intelligence on display here wasn't too shabby, enemies took cover when under fire and search for you if they saw you. Sadly sometimes they had super-vision and were able to see you while prone in the long grass, but stealth in this game was never a viable strategy anyway.

This was as far as I recall the first FPS that I played that evoked such an extraordinary sense of freedom. While it's pretty much the norm now, it had to begin somewhere. In Far Cry you required driveable vehicles on the roads or the water in order to reach some objectives, or to just generally traverse the expansive outdoor levels. Sure you had to travel around and do a lot of killing, but the journey to go and do this is still a wonderful experience.

Pros: It's like taking a tropical island holiday (just have to contend with unruly locals). Great weapons, vehicles, scenery and AI. Looks great on a modern system 14 years on.
Cons: A few linear 'indoor' levels are a pretty 'standard' FPS experiences, but an welcome change of pace mid game and there's not as much as most shooters. Later levels with the heavier Trigens aren't as good as the earlier levels.

Far Cry is available today on the Ubisoft Store @ €9.99, Steam @ €9.99 or GOG @ €8.09 but as always often appears for €3.50 or so in many sales.

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