Ninety-nine pence. Ninety-nine pence.
Oh glorious days of the bargain bin classics range, where did you disappear to? Digital download, no doubt. But it’s just not the same.
An entertainment shop recently opened up next to Central Station. They had original boxes of Unreal Tournament 2oo3. I can only assume they snapped up the bottoms of all the barrels and decided they could sell them. Well, I can’t talk — I went in and bought something — Far Cry. For 99p.
I also got a copy of Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene (lack of accents and hyphens may or may not be erroneous there) for £2.99, which is much better than £25 for the digital remaster (and that doesn’t even have bonus tracks, so nothing is lost — the mastery on this edition is bro tier anyway).
The funniest thing about Far Cry is that its auto-detector auto-detected the lowest of all settings for me. So, as I trust the machine, I started playing on these just to see how it would go. It ran at more than 650 frames-per-second, so I decided I could do a little better. With all the settings pumped up to max, it still runs at a good 150fps — making the entire game a beautifully smooth ride.
The game is part open-world navigation, part linear-as-an-elven-arrow-shaft corridor shooter. A turn-about tag-team of a game, setting you up with vehicles from boats to jeeps to hang-gliders (as difficult to control as in Master System Sonic 2) as you traverse lush tropical islands and then throwing you into grungy bunkers and research stations.
It’s not “just” a shooter, but it’s not exactly an RPG. The shooting is augmented by a stealth system, which allows you to sneak up on people to kill them (evening the odds against large groups). You can also distract people by throwing rocks, but I prefer to do this to lure them into my safe killzone behind a bigger rock.
Of course, the stealth has as much chance of back-firing once you blow your cover, because those dirty AI troopers have a nasty habit of flanking you. Once you’ve clocked people with the binoculars they show up on your radar for ever more, but you know how little attention I remember to pay to that kind of thing.
Run Through the Jungle
The open-world areas as almost (almost) sand-boxy. You have an island, you have stuff strewn across it — go play.
The problem is that… It’s a shooter with a particularly limited selection of weapons. Even though you can only carry four weapons at any one time, there are only pistols, SMGs, assault rifle, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and machetes. Since getting sniped is a common occurrence in the open areas, you can’t go without your counter-sniper kit — and the SMGs and assault rifles are just machine guns that use different bullets.
That means that, when exploring the world, there isn’t really anything to find. Another vehicle to replace the one that got trashed, a few bullets, maybe a slightly better assault rifle if you’re really lucky. Which is a shame, because it would be really nice to explore, to be encouraged to explore. There are no datapads, no unique artefacts, no civilians to talk to, no side quests or hidden challenges. The open world areas are just another kind of corridor: the space is only an illusion.
The difficulty level also fluctuates quite badly. Sometimes, you’ll be facing overwhelming odds with nary a health kit or armour vest to be found — other times, you’ll take a car right through a hot zone and come upon two health kits while you’re completely unscathed. The game doesn’t slowly escalate, it see-saws violently.
I’m sorry, I really have to complain about them. Far Cry is about half indoor corridors, and half expansive jungle landscape. Fair enough.
Unfortunately, it uses a checkpoint system — no save, no quicksave. The game, and only the game, decides when to take stock of where you are. There’s ostensibly nothing wrong with this approach; you can’t surf through difficulty spikes millisecond-by-millisecond with 1 hit point left, so challenge is parcelled up as they want (though hitting a checkpoint with less than half your hit points will reset you to half on loading to it).
The problem arises in the outdoor areas, where the checkpoints appear to be scattered only across the most linear path between objectives. The game half encourages you to go off the beaten track — where after quite a while of cutting down scattered mercenaries, it might reward you with a headshot from miles away (or worse, a hail of missiles). No checkpoint, all progress gone.
In that sense, the outdoor areas are really a challenge of finding the path the designers expect you to take. If you follow the checkpoint breadcrumbs, you might be rewarded with more bad guys, but you’ll also have less ground to re-cover every time you die. On the other hand, the outdoor levels are huge open worlds that give you loads of different routes to take. They just… only put checkpoints on the correct one.
Far Cry is not an unpleasant game. Wandering around the tropical jungle is nice enough, then stealing a boat and cruising around the rest of the level is nice again. Even the bad guys seem very bright and breezy to match the sun-soaked landscape.
But it’s really only a nice game. The world is empty — this feels like the setting for something much deeper and more wholesome than we ended up with. It’s an empty warehouse with a few crates in it but room for a million more. You look around, but under the luscious canopy there’s nothing there (“fur coat and nae knickers”, as the saying goes). The story is skeletal, the weapon suite is skeletal. While the indoor areas are solid, standard fare, the game never really expands to fill the outdoor areas.
However, it does come with an editor…