Far Cry Instincts: Predator Review
Far Cry Instincts was a bit of a surprise hit when it was released last year for the Xbox. PC gamers loved the original title for its wonderful, bright graphics and interesting open-ended style of action, but console gamers had no idea what a Far Cry actually was and the PC veterans were pretty sure that the massive size and scope of Far Cry's tropical island settings would be too much for the Xbox. Well, it turns out that console gamers embraced Instincts for what it was; sure, it didn't look quite as good on a regular TV and the gameplay wound up being a little more limited than the PC version, but there were no Trigens (the super-annoying enemies from the last half of the PC version) and the recreation of the whole plot made for an almost all-new game.
Now, Ubisoft is bringing Far Cry to the Xbox 360 with an extended version. Not only is there new content, but they've tacked on another subtitle: this is Far Cry Instincts: Predator. It's a stupid name, but Predator packs a lot of value in and winds up being quite a bit more than a brainless higher-resolution X360 port.
What you'll get with Predator is the original single player campaign seen in Instincts from the Xbox, and a new second campaign that's a little like an expansion pack. It's a separate story with a new vixen for our hero Jack Carver to trudge around after. The enemies will pop up all around you and can move very quickly, but you'll also get some new gameplay in this second campaign that's more open-ended, like the original Far Cry on the PC. Want to do the standard charge on the enemy base? It's possible, but there are usually a couple of other routes you can take, including a stealthy one, to make replaying this campaign more interesting.
Sadly, the annoying nature of the new enemies you fight, as well as a rather frustrating level of jumping puzzles brings down this new Predator campaign a notch, and the fact that the whole thing lasts about five hours (as opposed to the other campaign which lasts roughly ten) means that if you're in it for the single player and have already played the hell out of Instincts, then this one might not be for you.
But it's the multiplayer that makes this game. Along with the Xbox version of Far Cry, this game allows you to make your own maps and play them online with other people over Xbox Live (a first, that I know of, for console FPS titles). Yes, you can actually construct your own maps with a fairly easy-to-use interface, start up a custom game, and all players will download your new map from you and jump into the game. It's usually pretty obvious when someone's made a custom map because it takes many hours to make them seem actually natural looking; custom maps often have squared-out basins or silly heights, so the immersion level isn't too high. The fun level is way up there though with quite a few of the levels we tried, and that of course is the most important.
The included maps for Predator's multiplayer mode are generally pretty good stuff. Included are the standard online FPS modes like deathmatch, CTF, and teamplay variants, but the maps really make this unique. Predator adds some sharp-looking new maps, and I really enjoyed the variety that Ubisoft has generated out of the same basic tropical-island environment.
Your arsenal in Far Cry includes a pretty standard complement of submachine guns, grenade launchers, pistols, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers. Unlike many games, though, this game arbitrarily limits the range of certain weapons quite a bit. The MP5 or pistol you start with simply can not hit an enemy that's a football-field distance away, even if it's certainly been possible in most games. This is a very significant balancing move, and it means that you've always got to be considering the range of your weapon. You won't be getting sniped by just any gun, but at the same time, you can't pick people off half-way across the map with your pistol either. Luckily, the crosshair changes from white to red when you've got someone in your sights that's also in your gun's range, so there's no guessing from this perspective.
There's also the Predator power-up which can be had. It's a little like Quad Damage from classic FPS Quake, but here you'll gain a higher run speed, health regeneration, vision that lets you see your opponents glowing in orange, super leaping ability, and a powerful lunging melee attack that usually kills your enemy instantly. It's a good balancing tool, although you'll find that with maps this size, no one can really go on a massive rampage like people did with the Quad Damage in Quake's claustrophobic hallways.
From a graphics perspective, Ubisoft has upgraded the visuals somewhat, but if you played Instincts on the Xbox and Predator on the 360 on identical non-HDTV screens, you'd likely have trouble seeing the difference. Of course we get the HDTV resolutions in moving to the 360, but the polygon counts on characters, gun models, and other world objects doesn't seem to have been increased. I respect this decision, though, as the team has put more effort into adding new gameplay in single- and multiplayer modes instead of just turning up the eye candy.
I do want to note, though, that the water in this game is some of the best I've ever seen. Far Cry has always been known for wonderful, huge, open environments, but the guys at Ubisoft really outdid themselves with the water on both the original Xbox version and on this 360 version. The water actually has waves that (mostly) realistically flow and wash up on shore. While the whole effect isn't quite as realistic as some sort of super-complex water physics system that will probably be the future of game physics, it's certainly a very convincing alternative.
If you haven't played Far Cry for the Xbox already, then by all means you should pick up Far Cry Instincts: Predator. It's got a satisfying and fun single player mode, and its online play has the unique feature of being able to run both original maps and custom created ones. The graphics aren't going to wow your 360-less buddies like, say, Oblivion will, but Predator brings plenty of fun to the table and the Live play has been put together very well. If you're sick of the original Xbox version, though, then you might want to pass on this title, unless you've just got to see Jack Carver and his enemies in HD glory.