Far Cry: Instincts Review
Written : Tuesday, November 20, 2007
By: Steve Klinger (GT: graf1k)
Around the same time that Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter came out on the Xbox 360, Ubisoft also released another shooter that didn't get nearly as much hype or praise. While not among the most popular series', the Far Cry pedigree is quite healthy and Far Cry Instincts Predator (there's a mouthful) looked to build on the success of the original Far Cry game for PC and the remixed version put out on Xbox the following year, Far Cry Instincts, with a graphical overhaul and a new expansion, despite the lack of any involvement from development team responsible for the original Far Cry, creator Crytek. Okay, you still with me? Good.
Stop, Drop & Roll isn't as easy as it sounds...
In Far Cry Instincts Predator (which will from here on out be referred to as 'Predator' to save my fingers), there are two separate story-lines linked by your character. Instincts is the longer and better campaign which you'll need to complete to even unlock Evolution, the new expansion pack which is about half as long and half as good. You play ex-marine Jack Carver who finds himself running tours in Micronesia after a dishonorable discharge and a couple bad decisions back home in the states. A woman who identifies herself as a reporter, Valerie Cortez, hires Carver to ferry her to the Jacutan archipelago for a tour of the area. When they arrive, Cortez has her heart set on a closer look and rents Carver's jet-ski while he takes a siesta on the boat. Carver's nap is cut short, however, when he is awakened by a Black Hawk helicopter circling his boat. The chopper opens fire on the boat and Carver narrowly escapes with his life as he swims to shore. After making his way past a mercenary camp or two, Carver happens upon a grass hut that has a comm ear piece nearby on which someone is asking for him. The mysterious voice turns out to be a C.I.A. agent named 'Doyle' who was on a mission tracking a mercenary named Crowe and his employer, the 'mad scientist' Dr. Krieger. It's revealed that Cortez is actually an agent as well and was sent on a mission to get Doyle out, but now Crowe and his thugs have her and Doyle needs Jack Carver's help to get her out.
In the process of the attempted rescue, Carver himself is captured and Krieger orders the mercenaries to bring Carver to his lab. Krieger has been conducting human experiments that would make Dr. Moreau seem sane and logical. He is out to 'unleash the beast' inside man and tap into his animal power, the most primitive and animal parts of the Id, and thinks Carver would make a perfect test subject. Injected with a mysterious serum, Carver is knocked out to be transported to another part of the island. But as you'd expect, Carver wakes up and after discovering the power of his new 'feral' abilities, the product of his aforementioned tropical malady, he sets out to kill the man who did this to him and anyone that gets between him and Krieger.
You got knocked the F#@% OUT!
The story for Evolution is pretty similar in that some whacked-out psycho has assembled a small army on a tropical island and Jack Carver finds himself involved again after falling in with a woman that soon has him in over his head. Hell, Doyle the friendly neighborhood C.I.A. agent even makes a return appearance. About the only thing different is that, as Evolution happens after the events of Instincts, you'll have access to all your feral abilities from the very beginning. While this is great fun, it tends to make Evolution much easier than Instincts ever was and at times, it borders on breaking the game.
The tropical setting of Micronesia makes an interesting setting for this sci-fi horror freak show and is a refreshing change from the stale and overused outer space or post-apocalypse motif so popular with most first-person shooters on the market. As you progress through the game, you'll begin to see less and less sandy beaches and by the end of the game you'll swear this island is hell come to Earth what with the smoldering fires, jungles that look like they've been carpet bombed, and genetic experiments gone awry running amok. Also a refreshing change from other games of the genre is the feral abilities of Jack Carver. As you progress through the game, Jack will begin to discover new abilities including super strength, increased speed and agility and hand-to-hand fighting skills that will completely nullify the small army Krieger and Crowe have assembled in this tropical hell. While not very original 'powers', they do manage to differentiate the gameplay of Predator from the crowd.
Unfortunately though, that's where Predator ceases to set itself apart from the pack. When not leaping and bounding all over the island slashing the faces off mercenaries, the combat is run-of-the-mill. The game does offer some interesting weapons including traps that can be set around the island. You can even equip some small pebbles to try to lure your enemies into said traps. Unfortunately, this serves only to point out how incredibly dumb the enemy A.I. is. So dumb are these soldiers that they will stand there and let you run right at them before you take their heads off with your feral punch. They have absolutely no squad routines so don't expect advanced flanking maneuvers like those that are common in a game like F.E.A.R. Nor will they take cover behind objects like the Locust horde in Gears of War. Instead, the enemies stand around shooting you toe-to-toe until one of you dies. That's about as advanced as they get. Occasionally they will retreat, but because they are so stupid about it, it just makes is easier to shoot them in the back until they fall down limp, which brings me to another disappointing point of Predator. The hit detection for Predator is horrendous. You'll find yourself shooting to the left of an enemies' head and miraculously you'll still hit him. Not that you'd know though, as there is absolutely no change in the animation when an enemy is getting shot. They'll run back and forth like nothing is happening as, all the while, you are lighting them up with any number of assorted weapons until they finally just die. While it was possible to get away with stupid A.I. and crappy animations like these last generation, there is absolutely no excuse for it in an Xbox 360 game.
The controls of Predator work well enough, although they are not without fault. When using the feral punch, Carver is pretty much on auto pilot once you hit the button and he'll just jack-up the first enemy he locks in on. This often proves to be problematic though as you'll find yourself trying to feral punch any one of multiple enemies swarming you, only to be betrayed by your auto-targeting punch. It's almost useless in most indoor areas as Jack will often lock in on a guy behind an object you can't get a round, rather than one of the various other enemies you actually have a chance of killing. In fact, the auto-targeting in general is wonky. At times your reticule will follow an enemies forehead as if it were glued to it while other times it doesn't seem to work at all. It wouldn't be so bad if it did one or the other consistently but switching back and forth, it's a guessing game of how much aiming you'll actually have to do this time around. Some of the vehicles in Predator handle strangely as well and could have benefited from more realistic physics, of which there is absolutely none on the land vehicles. The water based vehicles don't handle quite as badly, but they are still far from anything even resembling realism. It's entirely too floaty.
I found the BFG-9000!
The graphics for Predator are definitely a mixed bag. First of all, the quality of graphics is not constant between the two campaigns. Evolution looks better in pretty much every way you can think of from shadows, to detail of textures of the environment to the level of detail in the faces of the characters. That said, neither looks that impressive and for the most part look like an original Xbox game upscaled to HD. About the only thing that really stands out in both campaigns is the water. While the rest of the graphics are sub-par for a next generation game, the water effects in Predator are simply stunning, with Evolution even then having the advantage over the Instincts campaign. In both cases it's some of the best looking water effects seen yet on the 360 and even shames Oblivion in this one respect. The waves gently lap toward the shore and the water is so clear, you'll get thirsty just looking at it. The water even looks fantastic as you exit the sea as you'll get a temporary case of blurred vision as the water runs down your face, similar to how it would in real life. With so much attention to detail given to the water, it makes it that much more confusing why the rest of the game looks so bland. The game does sport an impressive draw distance however, limiting pop-in graphics to nearly nothing.
The sound of Predator is generally mediocre and nothing about it makes you take special notice. The weapon sound effects are pretty dull and lifeless compared to other games, but the number of ambient noises as you make your way through the jungle is somewhat impressive. The game's music is rather interesting and follows the tone of the game pretty well, but again, there is nothing about it that you'll particularly remember about the audio of Predator.
The game is surprisingly stacked with two campaigns, various multiplayer options and a surprisingly in-depth map creation tool for multiplayer. The question though is, will you actually want to play with all Predator has to offer? In retrospect, Predator now almost seems like a retarded version of The Orange Box, whereas the latter is stacked with a bunch of quality modes, the former is stacked as well, although the quality is definitely not there.. The Instincts campaign will last you approximately 10-15 hours, while the Evolution expansion adds another 2-4 hours depending on how you play. The multiplayer is surprisingly deep with various game types and also features any and all usable vehicles from the single player missions. The star of Predators' multiplayer however is the expansive map editor. The size of maps you can make is downright massive and anything can be added and manipulated from foliage to the terrain. I often found myself tooling around with the map editor more than I actually played multiplayer which is apt, as you will assuredly only find achievement boosters playing Predator online anymore.
I guess Red Bull does give you wings...
Predator's achievements are pretty well spread out and generally well handled, although they are far from perfect. The major gripe I have with the achievements for Predator stem from the single player achievements for beating the game on each difficulty. Unfortunately, Predator is one of those games that will not unlock the achievements of the easier difficulties if you beat the game on Hard mode. You'll have to play through Instincts and the expansion three times each to get all the achievements in single player. While this technically adds replay value for achievement whores, it's the cheap, bad kind. The game does give you an extra incentive to try though as there are achievements for beating each campaign on all difficulty levels and a final one for beating both campaigns on all difficulty levels, totaling 170 achievements points across 4 achievements. It's best to leave this until the end though as I can attest to, once you complete the game on all difficulty levels for each campaign, you'll never want to touch it again.
With some better physics and some actual effort put into updating the graphics, Predator could have been a solid game in a technical sense. The campaign is thin, but not so much so that it isn't enjoyable. That said, it wasn't the best move to require the player finish the original campaign before starting the second. It's not like there is some super-haughty plot details to be ruined by playing them out of order or just skipping one or the other altogether. The multiplayer could have used some extra refinements although the depth of the map creation tools was a pleasant surprise for a game released so early in the 360's life-cycle.
Serviceable audio that doesn't offend, nor impress. The music is good but altogether forgettable and the weapon sound effects are rather unimpressive. Ambient audio is surprisingly good.
Predator is a graphical hodgepodge if ever there was one. Instincts looks like an Xbox game up-scanned for HD, while Evolution looks drastically better although still sub-par for the Xbox 360. Both have incredibly beautiful water effects that almost seem out of place when compared to the rest of the game.
Standard FPS jacket when it comes to controls. There is the occasional glitch though when feral punching an enemy. The auto-aim is frustratingly erratic and hinders gameplay slightly. The physics are downright hilarious at times.
Straight forward menu system and gameplay that keeps you moving and the game is quite action-packed, despite some gameplay problems. In-game cinematics are surprisingly well done and would be at home in a Hollywood action movie.
A decent achievement layout, although the fact that the game forces you to play each campaign three times at least to earn all single player achievements is flat-out annoying.
Despite launching with a 'bargain' price for a 360 game, Predator does have a lot to offer. The fact that what it's offering is pretty mediocre for the most part does sour the deal some. If you're looking for a decent single player campaign with a somewhat original story, Predator is worth at least a rent. Achievement whores be warned though, the multiplayer achievements will take you a while and you'll have to play both campaigns no less than four times to get a full 1000 GS points.
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