I’ve played FarCry at some distant point in the past; mostly multiplayer at a LAN party if I recall. I didn’t finish the single player, but I’m not sure why now as it was quite a long time ago. It’s probably because of this that I completely ignored Crysis when it was released in 2007. The game’s sequel was released recently, but the original was on offer stupidly cheap on Steam last week, so I thought I’d pick it up.
On release, the game was known for requiring something akin to a small cluster of super computers to run on the highest settings, so one clear advantage of first visiting the game four years late is that these power requirements are now easily surmountable (thank you Moore’s law!). My current machine is a 1GiB GTX460 on a 4×2.3Ghz AMD Phenom with 4GiB DDR2 RAM – not exactly top-end gaming hardware, but hardly shabby – and seems to run the game smoothly (although, I haven’t actually measured the frame rate) at a full 1920×1080 with 4×AA and everything cranked up to the highest setting. So, I get the best the game can offer, and because it started with such a high bar, it has aged well so far.
At the start, the game offers large open spaces to roam around in, gives you a simple objective (go here, get this, find data, etc), sometimes a little too much guidance and then leaves you to it, allowing the player to pick from many different possible approaches to a scenario. This combined with enemies that react in the usual gaming way (investigating sounds and dead bodies, etc) allows for quite a dynamic outcome to what happens. These open spaces do fade away towards the end of the game, which becomes much more constrained, a shame really.
The weapons are nothing special to phone home about, a fairly standard collection of military style equipment, but the ability to change the various attachments on the fly is quite handy. They feel fairly balanced – except that trying to use a silencer at longer ranges feels like using a peashooter sometimes, but I’m sure that’s intentional balancing – and the restriction to two primary weapons does require some minor decision making.
Stealth is facilitated well, but only when the game wants it to be. You have a cloaking power that never quiteseems to last long enough – so requires careful consideration of which bits of cover to move between, or when to just stand still and wait. Attacking silently doesn’t attract direct attention, and if you take the effort to scan the area, tagging all enemies with your binoculars, before moving in you can see all their movements on the radar and adjust plans accordingly.
There’s multiple, sometimes large and impressive, set pieces throughout the game for story progression purposes, many of which steal player control. However, while these are well executed, some of them felt just a little bit too cheesy for my tastes. At one point, while overhearing on of these cutscences, my wife actually laughed out loud, folded down her laptop screen, just looked at me from across the room and said “Really?! That accent is rubbish!” (or words to that effect), and while this is probably a little bit harsh, it’s fair to say that the voice of Psycho (one of your squad mates) is cringeworthingly stereotypical.
However, the real problem for me, is that the game seems to become indecisive about its own nature as you progress.
The first major objective is infiltrating a fortified village, a full on attack looks daft because of all the machine guns nests and so on, so I stealth in and get to the hostage entirely undetected. This success is then entirely washed away when two tanks appear and the whole village of armed troops is running towards my building.
The next section involves a lot of travel, much of it on foot, with some in a jeep or boat (if you don’t mind attracting attention, which I do). There’s essentially four mission points, but the spread does require a lot of footwork between locations. This could have been tedious, but these travel-areas are varied and contain a lot of Korean patrols as well, so you always have to be cautious. I think the game just about reaches the limit before even this gets dull however, it’s a fine balance.
Then there’s a harbour sequence that again starts off stealthy and rapidly becomes chaotic – helicopters to shoot down, AA guns to explode, a cruiser to sink, the usual.
Later is a tank driving sequence, where you receive a frustratingly large amount of RPG fire and your allied tanks seem to get stuck a lot. This section was probably the low point of the game for me, and about two thirds of the way through, when my tank was too damaged to safety continue, I had to bail out and run; the mission suddenly became a lot more fun.
Next is an infiltration of a mining complex. Again, I sneak in undetected, and then when I reach the objective location am promptly told I have to kill every enemy near-by to allow VTOL aircraft to land. Wonderful. Why didn’t they just tell me to go on a killing spree to start with?
One of the more interesting twists is the zero-gravity section, inside what is probably an alien spaceship no less, which has more of a tension and (mild) horror feel to it – unfamiliar, dark, disorientating and foreboding landscape; limited ammo; enemies that flit past the screen; and so on. The implementation of the free-floating movement is very good, you get a full 360° rotation on all axis (including roll, although the game uprights you quite a lot anyway) and often there is no clearly defined “down”, so this isn’t just some cheap console “fly” cheat equivalent.
Another vehicle session follows after a bit of foot work and sees you flying a VTOL aircraft – essentially a posh helicopter. This, like the tanks, was another weak sequence for me, compounded by the fact that the mouse sensitivity felt like it was turned down to about zero, so much so that it took less than a minute before I had paused the game and maxed out the sensitivity setting. Now, I imagine that the vehicles probably work pretty well in multiplayer, but in single player these sections are comparatively weak.
It feels like the game just can’t make its mind up what it ultimately wants to be, and while the different sections at least stop the game getting bogged down in repetitiveness, my personal feeling is that most of these efforts are average, and the game only excels in one – stealth – and then only at the start of the game where you get the wide open spaces to experiment with.
Finally, I hit what may or may not be a bug (seems to be some conflicting evidence on the internet) in the final boss sequence – the special weapon you get given at this stage just didn’t work, it refused to lock on to anything, and without a lock it refuses to fire. I can probably reload an older save to try and avoid the problem, but frankly I just can’t be bothered to make the effort…