Far Cry has been talked about with great enthusiasm from the moment Crytek's first-person shooter was revealed. We were treated to five single-player levels of the latest code and the quality of the game before us never fell below impressive. Just this once, believe the hype...
You play Jack Carver, a boat-for-hire mariner, and his latest fare has gone the way of the pear. Cocksure reporter Valerie crossed his palms with a ludicrous amount of silver to buy a ride to a paradise island. However, all is not well in paradise and Jack's boat is quickly destroyed by artillery fire and in no time he's lost the girl and his money.
As if that wasn't bad enough, there's an army strong band of militia dotted throughout the small island chain, sporting heavy artillery, gun boats and choppers. Add to that the insult of starting in a makeshift prison and things look rather bleak. So begins Jack's adventure to find the girl and get the hell out of there. If only it was that simple...
The first thing that strikes you about an up and running Far Cry is its appearance. Sure, the graphics are gorgeous in the screenshots but when you see it in action and realise it looks every bit as, if not better, than those lush screens, it still manages to impress the hell out of you. It's worth noting here that the sound is cracking, crystal clear and the gunfire is shudderingly top notch. The demo we played had no music and, to be frank, it suited the game to a tee. Ubi Soft did say that incidental music would be added to normal gameplay but personally, we'd leave it out. It really doesn't need it and it would be a crying shame if musical cues were present to highlight potential danger and the like.
The second thing that will strike you about Far Cry is that you die. A lot. An awful lot. Yep, dying seemed the order of the day. Even Ubi Soft's 'resident expert' shed his mortal coil on many an occasion, grimacing at one point "and they toned downed the difficulty on this version!" We were playing it on the default medium setting and yes, our PC FPS skills were a little rusty, but the plain truth is that when you take damage it really rips into your health bar at an alarming rate. And if the heavy artillery guns mounted on choppers, boats and in fixed positions start biting into your flesh, well, kiss your ass goodbye in, ooh, about three seconds. Actually, make that two.
Which may sound depressing but in reality it wasn't. The experience never stopped being top gaming fun: you just shake yourself down, think 'what a dumbass I must have been for using that approach' and come up with a better plan. And that's what Far Cry encourages and excels at - throwing situations at you that require a strategic brain and an accurate trigger finger.
The game is objective based and non-linear in approach. How you accomplish set tasks is really up to you and they can be incredibly varied. The finest example we saw came at the end of level two, which culminates in a boss-type confrontation between little old you and a mini-army backed up with an attack helicopter. The actual objective here is to reach the highest level of a derelict aircraft carrier and get the lifeboat tied to its railings. Taking on the enemy was very difficult and best avoided. The answer was simple but not immediately obvious to the gaming brain as we've been conditioned to play our games on rails. How many games can you name where you can circumnavigate around what is tantamount to a boss confrontation?
While you could take on the enemy and win, a much simpler approach is to get to the top deck of the carrier to initiate the objective and then simply jump over the side into the water. After a little time paddling about in the water we found a breach in the hull, which enabled Jack to stand and use his gun. A little bit of visual searching revealed that the lifeboat was way up above us but, critically, well in the view of our sights. A few moments later we'd shot the ropes tying it to the railings and hey presto, it fell into the sea. We hopped on, and off we went to the next area.
This kind of gameplay is the norm for Far Cry. There aren't set plays to win situations. It's really down to your brain and trigger finger, with the former proving the most important on many an occasion as you're simply so out-numbered you haven't got a chance of going toe-to-toe with the bad guys.