A Far Cry from Great

I had been wanting to play a shooter recently, and since they are never going to release Half-Life 2 for the Xbox (OK, maybe they will eventually) I had been putting up with Tom Clancy squad shooters in the interim. But those are not any fun. So when Far Cry: Intincts finally shipped, I figured maybe it was my ticket for at least the next couple of weeks. I heard the game was fun, and on the long side. Actually the game is pretty painful and on the short side. It’s like the people who write reviews don’t play the same game as the rest of us.

The Good

Here’s what is good about the game: the visuals are great and the levels are huge. You play most of the game on the beaches and jungles of a tropical island and the outdoor areas are rendered with a sense of space and attention to detail that is second to none. In contrast to Halo 2 the levels here really feel huge in addition to being huge. Halo always had a way of making its huge spaces still feel like the same old alien hallways.

That said, the game pretty much puts you on rails and has you run in a straight line from waypoint to waypoint. Once in a while you fall off and wander aimlessly completely lost for half an hour until you find the right tree to crawl under to get to the next area. Oh wait. this part of the article is for the good parts of the game. Stay on target.

The shotgun is fun in this game.

The “feral” or animal abilities add a nice melee attack to your arsenal.

Load times are fast. There are no noticable load times except between levels, and the levels are huge.

No real Bosses. A few guys took more beating than others, but that’s about it.

The game is short. I only played it for one week over two weekends. This is even shorter than Deus Ex: Invisible War which was uniformly denounced as being stupidly short.

I think that’s it.

The Boring

Many of the reviews I read for this game complement the A.I. In my earlier obtuse attack on the game, even I claimed that the A.I. was not completely hopeless. Well, we were all wrong. I’ve had enemies walk right past me and stand there waiting for me to backstab them. I’ve had enemies walk one by one into a room only to be picked off with the shotgun. They run in a straight line towards your hail of gunfire, seemingly unaware that they will be cut to shreds.

But, the A.I. is not really the greatest sin in the game. After all, you can’t expect that much from a computer anyway. The real sin is that the enemies are boring. There are only really two types of foes. They are always in the same places. They always say the same things. They only attack in two ways. And, there is really only one way to get through the game: run up to everyone and shoot them in the face with the machine gun. You can get through about the first 3/4ths of the game this way. After that point, the A.I. “improves” mostly by suddenly being able to headshot you every single time from across the map. This is also boring.

The missions in the game are strictly “move from point A to point B, maybe pick up thing C.” The plot of the game, such as it is, is little more than a few connecting cut scenes between the fetch missions that make up the levels. Halo or _Riddick _look like pretty cliched SF schlock until you watch a few of these cut scenes. At that point Halo comes out looking like the second coming of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.

The reviews I mentioned earlier also drool over the “stealth” gameplay that is allegedly in this title. What they forget to mention is that unlike Riddick or Splinter Cell, the stealth gameplay in this game is boring. Set a trap, toss a rock, wait wait, listen to the soldiers speak their four lines of dialog. THWAP. That’s all there is. You can’t really sneak around the rest of the game because once you are seen, your only chance is to run up to everyone and shoot them in the face with a machine gun. The contrast with Riddick is instructive. In that game, your lack of any weapons forced you to sneak around, and the game was designed around this. There actually were places for you to hide. The melee attacks in the game worked well. The game even gave you a nice quiet weapon to use when you needed it. Far Cry does none of these things. It feels like the sneaky bits were tacked on after beta.

Finally, there are the “feral” abilities that you obtain as the game goes on. These give the rendering engine a cool new way to draw the world. Occasionally the melee attack comes in handy, although it’s too slow to unleash in most cases. I might just be stupid, but I could never figure out what I was supposed to do with the other special powers. The game never gave me a reason to think of using any of them, and by the time I realized that they might have made a particular area easier to get through, I was either already done or I had already been shot in the head.

The Hateful

The game has stupid savepoints. Even more insultingly, you only get one, which is cleared if you accidentally decide to play a different level over again for some reason. Halo did this to me too, but at least in Halo 2 there are no load times.

The vehicles are both boring and useless. There really are not any combat situations that they are good for. They also drive worse than the Warthog in Halo. I never thought i would say that about anything. Running and swimming from place to place turned out to be a lot less painful than trying to ride the ATV bikes through the woods and flipping over all the time.

The stupid exploding mutant enemies are ripped off from _Halo _and emit possibly the most annoying audio ever attached to a video game character. It is annoying enough that not only did my wife ask me to play without sound, but I agreed with her. They are also much less interesting than the Halo version of the creature.

The cheap head shot AI at the end of the game provides for hours of replay time trying to get from one checkpoint to the next. Kill 15 soldiers one at a time, and the last one before the savepoint shoots you down from a bush two miles away from your position. This means you need to use “strategy” to memorize where the sniper is and pick him off ahead of time the next time through. This makes the gameplay “deep”.

The last level is a lava level. This is where I put the game down, and then stupidly picked it up again for the last hour.

Ultimately, this is a game that encourages you to use any means necessary to get to the end as fast as possible. This was pretty easy in the early parts of the game, before the enemies get their cheap headshots. By the end of the game, the whole endeavor turns into a repetitive unforgiving deathmarch. Then you fall in the lava, and your will to live is completely gone.

But, even with all this going against it, it’s still better than a Tom Clancy squad shooter (for single player) and it took a few hours before Karen decided it had to be off off off, as opposed to Brothers in Arms, which only took 30 seconds. By the time I couldn’t take it anymore, I was already at the end. Which I guess is something.

I guess it’s time to play RPGs until Half-Life 2 comes out, if ever.