Far Cry

Blast from the Past

FBT goes back to where the Cry began. And gets reduced to tears

The Past

I remember raving and raging about the original FC. I bought it thinking it was a regular FPS, and faced with this open, up-to-me approach after so many Doom-a-like corridors I was … terrified. It was like the first day of school, and very quickly I wanted my mummy.

It was beyond anything I’d played; there’d not been a shooter world like this before, but it wasn’t just the astonishing graphics and brilliantly realised world that felt like a shooter-heavy GTA VC – the hero even had a Hawaiian shirt on – this time it felt like it really was me being the hero; I was deciding how to get things done rather than being led around by my iron sights. And it turned out I was crap at being a hero.

Nowadays, extreme open-world shooters are no big thing. Was FC really that tough or was I just unprepared for the non-linear shooter world? Will it have mellowed? Have I toughed up?

With the FC series stuck in perma-reskin since FC3, I’m looking forward to playing the game that started all this open-world shooter mayhem.

Still a Blast?

We’re Carver, the classic hero; ex-military now a hard-drinking loaner who runs a boat charter in a remote part of paradise. Hired by journalist Val, he takes her to a nearby atoll to investigate something; Carver gets to see the something up-close when he and his boat are blown sky-high by an RPG. Washed ashore, Carver is contacted by someone called Doyle who explains the island is a secret facility guarded by mercs, and Val has been taken prisoner. Tooling up, Carver needs to rescue Val and get himself a new boat.

I’d say maybe a third of this game is staring at the load screen. Not just because it takes a good minute to get the game reloaded, but because of how often I get killed. I just keep dying. The AI of the mercs is good, they wander aimlessly, chatting or milling about, but if you get spotted it’s go-time. They’ll run for cover, work around you, keep you pinned down while others flank, and they’re are brutally accurate. Carver can only take three or four shots before he’s down, and he always gets hit three or four times. And there’s no quick-save. Paradise this isn’t.

But it is paradise to look at. I can’t believe this is over 15 years old. While FC is showing its age, it’s still astoundingly beautiful. It may not have the minute detail but the design, the look and feel, it’s real. Palm tree-lined beaches with clear water filled with fish and turtles, rainforests with encampments and old ruins to navigate, huge open valleys and rivers, it’s great. Until someone spots you and ruins the moment. Most of the time we’re just given a marker and make our way there; even when the game’s being cheekily linear about the approach such as bottle-necking you in a crevasse or only appearing open-world (or just killing you when you stray too far, like I needed more ways to die), it still feels very open. And you need that open space. To run screaming.

I can try to sneak around the mercs, swim between islands, stay hidden in bushes or thickets (whatever one of those are) but if you get spotted you’re pretty much dead. You can stay hidden but it takes a lot of work and they don’t give up once they’re onto you – they’ll investigate and keep investigating, making logical assumptions about where you might have moved to. In short, the AI is smarter than I am. At least change out of the bright red Hawaiian shirt Carver! I must stick out a mile.

Carver is part of the problem though. He’s supposed to be ex-special forces but this only seems to extend to knowing how to reload. The only edge we have is previous FPS experience which is no good here; Carver doesn’t have any special abilities, traits or tricks besides tag n’ track binoculars, which later get upgraded to heat-sensors letting you go Predator on the Mercs. But not a very good Predator. The odds are already heavily stacked against him; even something as cool as using a hand-glider tends to attract a helicopter with a mini-gun.

Eventually though, I start to figure things out. This is a realistic shooter; I can’t just go Doomguy on the mercs, I need to work around them, pick them off, watch their routines, or just go full-coward and walk for miles to get around camps. Occasionally though you have to engage, and that’s where it just becomes frustrating. Even if you’re facing a relatively large group they’ll still call in reinforcements - which include Choppers with mini-guns, VTOLs filled with more troops, rocket-armed dinghies come in. Whatever they’re guarding must be valuable. Or dangerous.

It’s dangerous. Of course. Turns out the island is a testing ground for mutants. I'd forgotten about this, and how terrible they are. Naturally those things, the ‘Trigens’ break lose and are running rampant. By now I had my eye in, but the Trigens have none of the merc’s AI or wit. They just spot you from a mile off and come running. Mostly it’s gorilla-type slashers, but later we’re contending with borgified mercs with guns and rockets sewn into them and all the subtlety I’d started to get into goes out the window turning it into a murky barroom brawl.

It’s disappointing too that we start to leave the island behind for the confines of the labs; it just becomes a typical FPS with corridors and caves, and although a standout is a zoo-like holding pen with Trigens and Mercs fighting it out below us as we navigate tension bridges, leaving behind the beaches and mercs for monsters and corridors just makes it samey.

That seems to be a consistent with CryTek; ‘spiritual sequel’ Crysis is essentially FC turned up to 11 with all the niggles ironed out, until the squiddies rock up and ruin it. I guess the Trigen third was added because it was felt FC needed to change up, but blasting the hell out of Paradise was a great deal more fun, and still felt fairly unique. Shame. I was actually enjoying it; well, surviving.

Far Cry is an odd game to play now. It’s been far surpassed and replaying it seems redundant – there’s nothing here that’s not been done better since but it’s got a nice simplicity to it; I’m not farting about hunting skins or helping islanders, it’s a pure shooter that requires you to really get dug in and find a way to survive on your own wits. Carver is a solid reluctant hero type and his observations on the situation work really well; it’s a shame he was never seen again, and Val’s ‘project far cry’ could have seen the two of them going off on other adventures. Instead, Ubisoft just kept remaking this one.

FC is absolutely worth a replay, if you like loading screens, and if you kick it in the head after the zoo level it’s still a cracking FPS that deserves recognition for turning linear shooters into a free-roam free-for-all. If we hadn’t had this we’d not have had Borderlands and for that, I think, I thank it. Still, if I was Carver, I woulda just set up on one of the little islands with a Wilson Volleyball and just left the Trigens to run rampant like the ending to Jurassic Park.

2004 | Developer; Crytek | Publisher; Ubisoft

Platforms; Win, PS3, X360