Despite humble tech-demo beginnings and a long and oft-delayed development, Far Cry stormed onto the PC scene last year as one of the most playable and original first-person shooters in a long time. The game's massive, open-ended environments and dynamic AI made for one intense firefight after another, making it a hit with even jaded shooter fans. Now Ubisoft is working to bring Crytek's winning game to the Xbox, complete with all the action that made it great on the PC. But Far Cry Instincts will be more than just a simple port--hero Jack Carver will be granted some beastly new powers this time around. Writer Patrick Redding explains.
The Hunter and the HuntedBy Patrick Redding, Scriptwriter
When we set out to adapt Far Cry for consoles, we knew right away it wasn't going to be a simple matter. To most players who know the PC game, the Far Cry experience evokes the huge tropical environments and the open-ended style of shooter play. We needed to start with that, but we had to build on it. Console gamers run a gamut of tastes and styles of play. They expect a lot of depth and a variety of systems. So we took the core element of the PC game--the idea of being hunted--and set that as the launch point for Far Cry Instincts. From there, things evolve until the situation has reversed itself and the player becomes the ultimate predator in the South Pacific jungles of Jacutan.
The evolution of our player character--Jack Carver--is at the heart of Far Cry Instincts. The game's theme is "adapt or die," and in the story this is linked to the research of the main antagonist, Dr. Krieger. The feral human is the culmination of Krieger's obsession. The feral human is not a mutant or hybrid. In Krieger's view, they are average people who have been "coaxed" into reactivating their dormant animal physicality. This can only happen in natural settings of unique purity and violence, by applying ancient techniques, originally crafted to let the indigenous hunters of Jacutan move through such environments at will, to harness their adrenaline, their fight-or-flight instincts.
There are essentially three flavors of feral ability: sense, strength, and speed. The individual abilities are unlocked incrementally over the course of the game following the injection, generally when Carver finds himself in situations that put pressure on his survivability. In other words, he adapts.
The interesting wrinkle is that these new adaptations are all powered by adrenaline. Players expend adrenaline every time they employ feral sense or feral speed. Over time they can exhaust themselves, and at least initially they'll need to rest in order to regain adrenaline.
Feral sense is really Carver's ability to use all his senses in tandem, creating a clear and startlingly precise picture of the surrounding environment and all the things living in it. This lets players clearly perceive the scent and heat trails of living things--often several minutes old--and track those trails to their source. It also lets them perceive the details of their immediate environment at night and in low-light conditions and detect the presence of other warm-blooded animals (including people) in the area. Finally, it augments their normal situational awareness to an almost extrasensory level. Feral strength reflects Carver's capacity to bring all his physical power to bear in a functional and reflexive way in any situation. This permits players to unleash open-handed attacks of devastating ferocity, capable of flinging an adult man several meters, crushing skulls, and breaking spines. Every weapon becomes portable: Players become capable of ripping heavy weapons loose from their mounts and wielding them like sidearms. Many of the weaker structures become susceptible to a good solid punch from players, which is useful when trying to get through boarded-up doors or a rusty padlock.
Feral speed perfectly embodies how Carver can achieve short bursts of power otherwise impossible for even the most athletic human. At a full gallop, players run more like a jungle cat or primate, lower to the ground. The exertion and expenditure of pure adrenaline narrows the subject's field of vision and limits the duration of the sprint. By exploiting their feral speed, players can coil up and release that power in leaps of incredible distance There are other aspects to the feral abilities: improved recovery time and regeneration or rapid healing of injuries. But there are always drawbacks to tapping into this kind of raw, unfettered power. Even as Carver's abilities increase, there are constant reminders that he's just a man and that he indulges his ancient predatory aspect at some peril. When he first wakes up after his "treatment," he discovers that Krieger has implanted a tiny device in him that regulates the pace of his evolution but also makes him vulnerable to some countermeasures that the doctor has put in place specifically to keep his test subjects in line.
At a key point before the last third of the game begins, Carver experiences a notable "improvement" in his feral abilities, including how he uses adrenaline. But again, there is a disturbing element to how this works that forces the player to question the ramifications of using these abilities in an uninhibited way.
Of course, as everyone knows by now, our story mode is only one part of what Far Cry Instincts has to offer.
We're bringing out a completely unique multiplayer package that takes full advantage of all our wilderness settings. Over Xbox Live, 16 players can compete in all the classic game types they're familiar with (each with a distinctively Far Cry twist), plus the new predator mode.
This mode combines elements of co-op, capture the flag, and team deathmatch by pitting a squad of mercenary players against a lone predator player. Naturally, what the predator lacks in numbers he makes up for in power. He has the full arsenal of feral abilities, maxed out. The mercs have to combine their efforts or risk getting picked off one by one. The predator has to stop the mercs from securing a transmitter tower that can trigger his kill switch and end the game for him. It's tense and incredibly action-packed.
With Far Cry Instincts, we've also taken on one of the great challenges of console multiplayer gaming: We're giving gamers a built-in map editor that lets them create original arenas built with all of the terrain types, vehicles, weapons, vegetation, and structural pieces that ship with the game. It's intuitive. It's easy to modify, easy to test, and--best of all--easy to share the fruits of your design with other gamers, over Xbox Live.