Around the launch of the Wii, some of us were concerned that publishers would go for the easy out by simply tacking on Wii motion controls to existing games, rather than building a game around the unique features of the Wii itself. With Far Cry Vengeance, Ubisoft did a little of both. This first-person shooter takes some of the content and plot elements that appeared in Far Cry Instincts Evolution for the Xbox and weaves in new sections and levels designed for the Wii. It's an interesting solution, because this allowed Ubisoft to recycle existing content while also creating some unique content for the Wii. However, Far Cry Vengeance is a game that delivers some mixed emotions, as well as plenty of lackluster visuals.
In Vengeance, you get to play as Jack Carver. Who is Jack Carver? That's a good question, since the game throws you in with relatively little introduction to the character, his earlier adventures in Far Cry Instincts, or the reason why Jack possess powerful animal abilities. This omission is strange; when the Xbox 360 got its version of Far Cry, it included both Far Cry Instincts and Far Cry Instincts Evolution to get newcomers up to speed. At any rate, Jack is just your typical guy who happens to possess superhuman feral abilities, and thanks to a sultry and exotic woman he's thrust into an adventure involving rebels and genetically modified warriors, all taking place in a lush tropical paradise.
When Vengeance is at its best, you feel like you're a completely unstoppable killing machine. You can leap over walls, shred guys to death with your claws (and send them flying through the air), and run-and-gun with a variety of automatic weapons. Of course, that's not too hard against this dim artificial intelligence. Basically, the AI characters exist in Vengeance for you to kill them. Often, if you kill one, his buddies about 20 feet away won't notice. When they do, most of the time they're happy enough to stand straight in the open to let you line up a shot. They're also horrible shots for the most part, as you'll be hard-pressed to die at times despite the amount of lead they throw your way. In fact, you won't even need to shoot them; a tactic that worked through large portions of the game is to simply use the melee attack to kill them, then use the boost that you get for a melee kill to heal any damage you incur.
The single-player story consists mainly of levels taken from the Xbox version of the game, but not all of it is here. Various plot elements and sections were stripped out, presumably to make room for some of the new Wii-specific content, such as a new training level that gets you up to speed on how to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to move around and fight. Other Wii-unique content basically has you holding positions against waves of attacking enemies, so it's sort of a shooting gallery onscreen.
The controls take a little bit of getting used to, but they're pretty intuitive for the most part. The Wii Remote can be an accurate pointing device, which makes it almost ideal for shooters as it's pretty easy to pick off the many bad guys who cross your path. Or you can melee attack someone by simply slashing with the remote. However, all is not perfect. Trying to spin around is a pain, as there's simply no way to do so quickly or easily. A bigger issue is the sniper controls. First, to zoom in with the scope you must awkwardly shove the remote toward the screen, a motion that throws off what you were aiming for, which means you've got to reacquire the target while zoomed in. This is a process that can take several valuable seconds, at which time any enemy snipers you were hoping to take out have a free shot or two on you. Since it takes only a couple of sniper hits to go from full health to dead, this makes sniper battles infuriatingly difficult.
At your disposal are a variety of modern-day firearms, including pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles. Jack can carry three types of weapons at a time, and he can dual-wield pistols and submachine guns for extra firepower. In addition, he can toss grenades, pipe bombs, and Molotov cocktails, as well as rocks to distract guards, though that's hardly necessary in this game. On top of all that, Jack has a vicious melee attack for close-in strikes. And then there are the feral powers, which were a result of Jack's adventures in Far Cry Instincts. You can build up "predatorine" by scoring head shots or killing guys with his melee attack, and predatorine is used to power up his feral abilities. Jack can automatically heal when his powers kick in, and he has a killer claw attack, enhanced mobility, and the ability to detect the scents of enemies. There are also vehicle sequences, so sometimes you'll get to drive around in all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel drives, and even on Jet Skis. Instead of using the remote as a steering wheel, you'll rely on the control stick on the Nunchuk to steer, which lets you use the remote to fire your weapons. So you can try to execute drive-bys, but the vehicle physics and controls are so loose it's almost impossible to hit anything while you're driving. Thankfully the vehicle sequences don't play a huge role in the game.
Vengeance ships with a multiplayer suite, if you can call it that. There's only two-player split-screen multiplayer, and trying to play a chaos (deathmatch) or predator game with only two people is sort of like trying to play football with just two people. It's just not that much fun. The experience is basically reduced to a situation in which whoever detects the other guy first can get the kill, but you'll usually take enough damage that when that player respawns, you'll be killed, and the circle of lameness is continued until the round ends.
On another note altogether, we encountered a crippling flaw that corrupted our progress through the game completely, forcing us to restart the entire game, as our saved game wouldn't stop crashing. It was replicated on different Wiis using different copies of the retail game, which indicates that it's entirely possible for the save file to become corrupted somehow.
The PC and Xbox versions of Far Cry were renowned for pushing the visuals on each platform to the limit. You'd never know it from looking at Far Cry Vengeance on the Wii, because the visuals are a muddled mess. Vengeance doesn't look anywhere near as good as the Xbox version of the game, thanks to chunky models, low-res textures, and a struggling frame rate throughout the game. The visuals are also marred with lots of draw-in and pop-in of objects onscreen. For instance, when bad guys rappel out of a helicopter they're shadowy figures, but as soon as they hit the ground their textures pop in and they appear normal. The audio is OK, but it mostly recycles the sound effects and voice-overs from the other versions of Far Cry.
By mixing existing content with new content for the Wii, Far Cry Vengeance tries to have the best of both worlds. However, the end result is far less than the sum of its parts. Lackluster graphics, AI, and gameplay all conspire to do in this chapter of the franchise.