The island-themed, first-person shooter Far Cry Instincts for the Xbox isn't currently playable on the 360. This is relevant because, although this 360 game gets its own name, it's really an upgraded and bundled version of Instincts and its expansion pack, Far Cry Instincts Evolution. It's actually a great value for the money, just as long as you don't already own one of the other releases.
Though lead flies aplenty from all manner of weaponry, and the scripted event sequences turn you into an action movie hero, this first-person shooter isn't all guns in the sun. Much of Predator requires a stealthy approach, and sends you creeping through bushes, setting nasty branch-whip traps, throwing rocks to divert attention and driving all over the back of beyond, all with intuitive and responsive controls.
The sound is also immersive, filled with indigenous birds and rustling leaves. It's not just for show, either. Tension rises with every snapped branch, because the bad guys are smart enough to investigate when they hear you crashing through the underbrush, instead of just deciding "it must've been the wind." But once they've found you, they still do some stupid things, like charging straight toward the barrel of your gun while getting hammered with bullets.
With time, you gain access to "feral abilities" - which enable you to leap insane distances, run at ludicrous speed, actually see smells on the wind and tear opponents to pieces with your bare hands. The sense that you're actually transforming over the course of the story is exhilarating.
That's the original game. Evolution, the second - and much shorter - campaign fumbles a little, with some insipid jumping puzzles and cheap spawning enemy points, but makes up for it with open-level designs, and some juicy added weaponry. Splashing a flaming Molotov cocktail onto some goon's face, sailing a blow-dart into his neck or triggering several of the new pipe bombs simultaneously is cathartic as hell.
Online multiplayer is where Predator shows the greatest longevity. Up to 16 players cut each other apart in vanilla deathmatches, or take over areas in "seek and secure." "Predator", where one player is an infected hybrid, and the remainder set out to end his mutant life, is an awesome new take on the old "kill the carrier" idea. The only real suck factor online is that none of the user-created maps for the Xbox can be imported. We heard some folks complaining of lag while we were playing, but we had no trouble, so take that as you like.
Apart from the gameplay, the most striking thing about Predator is the tropical environment. Instead of yet another set of futuristic corridors, this island paradise overflows with yummy details, from the idly undulating waters to the verdant land cover.
One big, giant, fly in the umbrella drink is that as refreshing as these bright visuals are - especially at HDTV resolution (720p) - it's pretty clear that many of the graphics were ported directly from the Xbox version. Surfaces aren't as detailed as they could be, and a few of the characters look downright unnatural in the improved lighting. Far Cry Instincts Predator is still well worth its price tag, especially considering you get a game and a half - just don't expect to be wowed by its looks.