I played and reviewed Far Cry Instincts on Xbox last year and despite some niggling flaws the game was an enjoyable rumble in the jungle. When news arrived that Ubisoft were planning on releasing an expansion, naturally I was pleased and like any first person shooter fan couldn’t wait. Well Far Cry Instincts Predator has arrived on Xbox 360 and whilst it may only be a port of the Xbox version does it hold up well against other games on the system such as Call of Duty 2, GRAW or Perfect Dark Zero?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game then let me enlighten you. Firstly, Far Cry Instincts Predator features the original Xbox Instincts which as you may or may not know is a reworking of the PC original; but also includes the all new expansion Far Cry Instincts Evolution which follows on from Instincts story. In Instincts players took control of ex Navy, Jack Carver a highly skilled smuggler whose day turns into a nightmare after meeting Val Cortez, a sassy client wishing to take pictures of some wreckages. As soon as she leaves the scene to take a closer look Jack is turned upon by some unknown assailants in helicopters who decide to blow the hell out of his pride and joy water vessel. From here on in Jack has to survive against all odds as it’s kill or be killed against what seems like an army of highly trained mercenaries. Evolution follows on from the Instincts story and offers more of the same although this time Jack is fully maxed out with his predator abilities from the offset (more on those later).
What differentiates Instincts from your regular shooter is the fact that Jack is thrust into a Jungle environment; which means plenty of foliage to hide or sneak about in. Jack is able to enter a sneak mode as well as go prone so that he can scope out areas before moving in. With the extra power of the Xbox 360 the environments are a lot more open than the Xbox version giving a real sense of scale. However the pathway is always pretty clear especially as a radar places objective markers for Jack to head towards, meaning players will never truly get lost.
Gamers can tackle the game as they see fit and in this respect is one of Far Cry’s better features. For example players can use stealth to either avoid or sneak up on foes which offers a completely different playing experience to those who favour charging in with guns a blazing. Jack is able to set up traps as well such as claymore mines and spikes attached to branches which incapacitate enemies with a single blow. What I did find nice is being able to find a covered spot in the long grass or in a watchtower and snipe away at distant confused enemies with a silenced weapon. The enemies do react accordingly and will notice fallen comrades at times; although as with most first person shooter AI this was rather inconsistent throughout the game as some enemies were blissfully unaware that their partner had bit the bullet, literally feet away from them. There are also things like water and land based vehicles to jump into and speed away which again their use is purely optional although at times being in a vehicle has its advantages especially when being pursued by numerous mercenaries in helicopter, jeeps and on foot.
The AI does do a reasonable job of looking like it is intelligent although like I said is still very flawed and inconsistent. The enemies appear on your radar as green dots, the green representing their current awareness level. Enemies will investigate any strange sounds or movement which shows up on the radar as a different colour. Naturally when Jack is discovered the dots turn red and all hell breaks loose. Players can use the awareness of mercenaries to their advantage and with a stones throw to lure enemies; Jack can set up some nasty traps. It is entirely possible at times to actually take out entire groups of enemies without ever been seen.
Jacks nightmare seems never ending and at some point in the game he is captured and injected with some strange serum which eventually mutates his body. Whilst the mutation doesn’t turn him into a monster it does give him some animalistic qualities such as being able to run at great speeds or see in the dark. The most used of Jacks abilities is probably going to be what is called the Feral Attack which sees Jack lunge at an opponent with hands outstretched for an impressive attack which sends the unlucky victim flying through the air. It’s a one hit kill and acts in a similar way to Master Chiefs plasma sword in Halo 2 in that you merely need to be in range and locked on to an opponent for it to work. The predator abilities are a welcome inclusion to the game and are there to compliment the game play if you so choose to use them. On some occasions you will have to use them but more often than not they are optional. In the Evolution story Jack has all of the abilities from the beginning of the game and once again players can choose whether to use these or not although the regenerating health is something which cannot be switched on or off; I guess it worked for Master Chief!
The Evolution story offers a more open ended play experience at times and after the game’s opening scenes, players are able to explore three islands at liberty. This approach to missions is very welcome and an improvement over the instincts linear missions. In general Evolution is more of the same as the first instalment but offers plenty of excitement from the start to finish, remaining a captivating experience as the story meanders around Jack and new girl Kade as they take on guerrillas and soldiers who also have the same abilities as Jack. In fact these moments were handled pretty well as the mutant enemies would leap all over the place and then suddenly be behind you attacking viciously.
Far Cry Instincts Predator isn’t without its problems and there is probably one thing that will annoy many gamers. That is the controls which are either ridiculously cheesy, as in having aim assistance on which seems to take away much of the playing experience or incredibly over sensitive. The over sensitive controls pose a problem when trying to line up shots in the heat of battle, especially against non stationary targets. Whilst eventually I got used to it, sort of the problem was always there and more often than not I would take unnecessary damage simply because I needed to take my time to move the crosshair slowly in order to get the headshot I desired. I think a number of gamers will find issue with the sensitivity and yes they can be tweaked in options but in my opinion still felt broken regardless of the settings.
Far Cry Instincts Predator is an Xbox port with the added inclusion of higher resolution textures and longer draw distances. At times during play the jungle environments are impressive to look at although closer inspection reveals some ugliness appearing on occasion such as horrid looking textures on some distant surfaces. There are some impressive indoor locations as well which show off some great looking lighting, although some of the effects aren’t rendered in real time and are simply painted on to surfaces such as some interior shadowing. The predator effects are handled very well and I especially like the way the screen warps when entering the predator dash mode which is also complimented by Jack panting as he runs at great speed. I did notice some frame rate issues at times, especially when turning in the outdoors; however these moment didn’t affect game play as much as it did my eyes.
Far Cry Instincts Predator features some rather impressive water effects which look like the real thing, well sort of. Waves can be seen on expanses of water and in general looks good enough to swim in. Well, Jack can take a dip at anytime but underwater things become a less impressive and rather lacking. The character models are also a little underwhelming and although an improvement over their Xbox counterparts do look rather ugly especially the leading lady Kade in the Evolution story who Jack actually gets to have sex with. The usual problems also arise in terms of enemies all looking the same with little variations on character models. Again this is something first person shooter fans have to live with until someone makes a game where everyone looks different in a similar way to how Oblivion’s population all have their own face at least.
The sound is of a high standard and with Jack being voiced by Hollywood actor Stephen Dorff offers some impressive aural entertainment. Dorff does an excellent job as far as I’m concerned at being the ruthless one man army with a chip on his shoulder and although most of his lines are expected and perhaps a little cheesy he does deliver them with the gritty ness and charm you would expect from a guy like Jack Carver. Other voice acting featured is pretty basic and lacking the depth of Jack’s character and there will be plenty of time where you will hear the same phrases spoken over and over by the clone army of mercenaries or guerillas. The ambient sounds are quite nice although certain sounds seemed to loop quite frequently which took away from the feeling of being in a real jungle environment. The gun sound effects are reasonable although I do miss the sound of Jack’s .45 he starts off with in the PC version of the game which sounded perfectly meaty. There is a lot of music in the game which as expected becomes more intrusive when the action heats ups. For the most part the music compliments the action very well although sometimes turning it off for a more life like experience is worth while especially as none of us are accompanied by action music as we walk to the local store.
Far Cry Instincts Predator offers plenty of hours playtime what with the two stories to complete on multiple difficulties and of course the multiple ways in which to tackle objectives means that for the single player there’s plenty to see and do. For those with Live or friends then there are other modes of play such as split screen death-match and team games as well as the awesome predator game type. What is more Far Cry Instincts Predator features a comprehensive map maker for all you budding “mappers” out there. Whilst it’s not as complex as some of the PC map making tools available it does offer gamers the chance to get really creative and make some master pieces which can then be shared with others over Live.
For those of you looking for achievements then Far Cry has them for both single and multiplayer modes. Most of them are based on skills used in the game such as stealth kills and other such antics whereas a number are awarded for simply beating the game on the difficulties provided. Overall to get them all will take some hard grafting multiplayer sessions and beating the single player games three times each.
Far Cry Instincts Predator is a welcome inclusion to the Xbox 360 library of games especially if you missed the Xbox version. For graphics junkies there are some issues but as we already know this is a port and not developed from the ground up for Xbox 360. The game play is very solid and the story is engaging enough to warrant being gripped throughout Jack’s adventures. I have enjoyed playing the game regardless of the control issues which I’m afraid does hamper the playing experience and perhaps will be too much for some people to bear. Either way if you are looking for a decent shooter that offers much personality and is a far cry from the urban shooters such as GRAW and Battlefield 2 then Far Cry Instincts Predator is well worth a look and perhaps well worth your cash especially if you have Live and are willing to invest the time in being creative with the map making tools. Either way if you have never played a Far Cry game before then now is the time as Far Cry Instincts Predator has a lot to offer.