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ups: New, unique single player, excellent graphics, deep map editor, awesome multiplayer.
downs: Feeble and stupid enemies, unlimited traps aren't that necessary, vehicles can be touchy.

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Far Cry: Instincts Review
game: Far Cry: Instincts
four star
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Ubisoft Montreal/Crytek Studios
view related website
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 07:58 PM Fri Oct 28th, 2005
last revision: 07:58 PM Fri Oct 28th, 2005

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Click to read.Carving Out a Niche on Xbox

Asking someone to play Far Cry on the Xbox after playing the PC version is a little like asking someone to watch Predator 2 after already seeing the first one moments earlier. The PC Far Cry was innovative in its vast, nascent landscapes, go-anywhere, do anything open-endedness, and a few nice surprises thrown in. Many hailed it as the next Half-Life for the PC-which is going a bit far; in gaming we need innovation, not replication, so the necessary \"awe\" factor will not be held against it. Still Far Cry awed many, including this reviewer. And now it\'s on Xbox and, somehow, better than before. Yes, Far Cry: Instincts is proof that a port of a game need not emulate it\'s parent, it can go off and do what it wants unsupervised, and mature into an independent property of its own. In other words, Far Cry: Instincts rocks.

We\'ve seen the Xbox hardware pushed to some hellish extremities in Halo 2, Doom 3, and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. But you\'ll be shaking your head saying, \"how\'d they do that,\" more often in Far Cry: Instincts than you\'d think. For one, the game has been retooled entirely; yes, it\'s not go-anywhere, do-anything anymore, but that\'s fine; multiple paths are a plus. Also, the graphical beauty that is Far Cry has not been diminished in console version, if anything, it has been enhanced. There are more effects than before--and maybe a little too much of the \"bloom\" effect. But the game is simply gorgeous, from speckled tropics to dense forests, and you\'ll be in for a treat--often overwhelmed. You can see far, sometimes for miles (depending in the layout of the area) and the land doesn\'t \"pop in\" like in many games (yay!). The vehicles can be a little finicky, but they\'re not dismissible entirely. The traps are interesting, but strange, but you can hardly fault it there, unless you\'re very picky. And the AI isn\'t always intelligent. Even counting these hiccups, Far Cry: Instincts is a marvel of a game, a fine piece of software, and yet another reason to go online on Xbox Live.

A Cut Here, a Cut There

The gameplay is changed almost entirely from the PC version. The game starts familiarly, with Jack Carver arriving at the island under mysterious circumstances--and most of the game will remain mysterious throughout. Still, you\'ll be doing similar things to the PC version like looking for certain people, staying hidden, and having some fantastic firefights. Some scenes will be familiar to fans, but overall, this is an entirely different baby. You have traps, for one, which you can set and lure curious enemies into--by throwing rocks. At first the fact that you have unlimited rocks and traps seems strange, but as you play you find it works. More than that, it gives incentive for being stealthy--to survive, that is. There is no way to tell if you\'re hidden, no meter so to speak, but being stealthy works because of all the foliage placed throughout the game. Running and gunning is also optional and not always as difficult as you would think, thanks to the enormous targeting reticule for the SMGs--the pistols are little more difficult. Still, you\'ll rarely find yourself in the open. And if you do, you\'ve always got that huge reticule.

The game is more linear than the PC version, but there are the option of taking different routes and attacking bases in different ways. I went back and tried tackling one area from different directions and each outcome was dramatically different. One, for instance, allowed for more run-n-gun play, heading up into the densely forested hill, I was able to stalk my prey and use more stealth kills. The game has quite the variation of gameplay.

As a major change, we have the \"feral abilities.\" These abilities grant Carver feral strength, feral leap, speed, vision. My favorite has to be the feral attack, though, which allows you to dash at, and kill, your opponent with cat-like reflexes. If you hit, you\'ll launch them into the air in what is--I have to admit--one of the more satisfying kills in videogaming. It closely resembles the sword-charge from Halo 2, but you\'re opponents scream more.

Far Cry: Instincts also retains the vehicles from its PC cousin, but they feel awkward and difficult to control. There are jet skis, hang gliders, Humvees, gunboats, motorboats, hovercraft, and ATVs for you to wreak havoc in. They\'re fun for a while, but, as I said, awkward. Instead of panning out behind the player, it stays first person and allows you to look around and shoot while driving. Essentially you can get more skilled at driving/shooting, but because it\'s difficult to look and drive at the same time and the vehicles are easily up-ended, it becomes more useful to you to just get to where you need to go, and not engage enemies. My favorite vehicle, however, is the Jet Ski which feels very responsive and, because it\'s small and fast, can navigate small canyons--this makes it extremely valuable in multiplayer. Even then, you\'ll find the vehicles more suited for transportation than combat.

My biggest complaint about Far Cry: Instincts is that the AI isn\'t quite as brilliant as Ubisoft has been pegging it as. Let\'s not forget that they\'ve messed up before with Rainbow Six Lockdown\'s asinine artificial intelligence. And while Instincts\'s AI is not nearly that bad, it\'s hardly intelligent. For instance, I threw a grenade into a heavily guarded camp, taking out a few enemies. But two of them, facing away from me toward the grenade blast, backed into where I was hiding. I shot at the first until he died, and the second, oblivious to my firing, backed straight into the pointy end of my knife.

Still, there are times when they\'ll hunt you and surround you in a competent way, they just don\'t take much effort to kill and, therefore, never have time to fully get into the hunt. For this reason it misses the fifth star. The enemies seem to grow more competent as you progress through the game, or, in the very least, they\'re put in greater numbers with greater firepower. So the challenge is still there. But I still felt like I was shooting into a barrel full of fish, at times.

Let\'s eat; fresh meat!

While the single player campaign is a big portion of the whole of Far Cry: Instincts, there is also multiplayer. Take this bad boy online (or split the screen in quarters) and you can play \"steal the sample\" (Instinct\'s version of capture the flag), regular deathmatch or team deathmatch, or you can play the coveted Predator mode--by far the best addition to the multiplayer. Predator, like juggernaut from Halo, makes one person extremely powerful and pits the others against. The Predator gets all the abilities from the single player game and a nice arena to make a mess. Still, the Predator is not just an uber-powerful version of the other players; the Predator has to rely on stealth, strength, and feral abilities to hunt the opponents. Guns, while usable, just don\'t have the panache of sneaking up for the kill. Games of Predator get the most interesting (and twitchy for the prey) because you never know where the Predator is. The game does give the team the ability to \"feel\" their heartbeats speeding up (demonstrated by the controller vibrating faster and faster) as the Predator gets closer to them. Of course, if he\'s that close, you\'re likely dead already. So the effect is mostly to freak out unsuspecting prey.

On top of the excellent multiplayer modes is one very powerful map-editor. Far Cry: Instincts gives myriads of options for map creation. You can actually raise the ground up to 200+ feet or drop it way below sea level. Allowing the distortion of the landscape is huge to the success of the map-editor, and, needless to say, you can think up some pretty wacky maps. Place some vehicles, buildings to run around in, and even some more plants and trees to pretty up the map. The amount of variety is quite astounding. And after you\'ve made a few, you can publish them on Xbox Live and share, even download some other people made. And that\'s quite cool.

Overall, Far Cry: Instincts is, in many ways, better than its PC cousin. The multiplayer is better, the map-editor, stronger, and the addition of feral abilities makes it a strong contender for best shooter on Xbox. While I don\'t think the single player campaign is as good as it could be--after a while, you\'ll stop being stealthy altogether, and also, the enemies are somewhat easy to kill--but Instincts is clever enough to be eerie at times, difficult enough to be a challenge, and fast-paced and frenetic to keep you on your toes. Just wait until you start hang-gliding and you\'ll be wondering why no one did this in a first person shooter before.

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