Far Cry Impressions

Ubi Soft's upcoming PC action game using Crytek's graphics engine will be on hand at E3 2003.

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We've been able to play through some of the early levels in Ubi Soft's upcoming first-person shooter Far Cry. Though developer Crytek originally created the framework of the game as a tech demo for its powerful 3D engine, first developing a game called X-Isle, that game was scrapped in favor of an action-packed first-person shooter with some impressive technical features.

The single most impressive aspect of Far Cry is its powerful 3D engine, which will use a proprietary technique called "polybump" to rendering outdoor areas with over a mile (to scale) of draw distance in the game. The game will also dynamically render character models and scale their level of detail on the fly, depending on how far away they are.

We were told that even scenery and objects viewed from very far away won't simply static bitmaps, but rather, fully 3D scenery rendered in real-time, yet Ubi Soft has assured us that one of Crytek's goals will be to keep the game's system requirements "reasonable." At the demonstration we saw, the game's engine also did a great job of rendering nearby outdoor environments, including lush, tangled jungles full of individually rendered blades of tall grass and swaying trees.

In Far Cry, you'll play as a recluse who has retired to the game's tropical island area with his boat, wanting nothing to do with the outside world. At the start of the game, you'll meet a female journalist investigating reports of strange goings-on in the island area, and though your character simply wanted to be left alone, he'll be forced into conflict when the reporter is kidnapped and his boat is destroyed by an army of mysterious soldiers.

We were able to spend some time with Far Cry's expansive outdoor levels, as well as one of its indoor levels. In each area, we encountered enemy soldiers who, according to Ubi Soft, have a close approximation to free will. Though some enemy soldiers will be predisposed to certain actions, such as remaining in one place to guard a certain area, or hanging around a damaged vehicle to repair it, in many cases their behavior will vary between different situations; so you'll find them in different areas doing different things (and possibly exchanging idle chatter) if you decide to play through a particular level more than once. Most of your initial fights will be against these highly trained soldiers, who are often led by a lieutenant that gives his troops orders to divert your attention, or to provide cover fire while other enemy soldiers try to flank.

According to Ubi Soft, you'll notice a considerable difference in how organized your enemies' attacks are if you manage to pick off their commanding officer. What we've seen of the game's squad-based artificial intelligence actually seems impressive; once enemy soldiers got wind of our location, they seemed to do a good job of laying suppressive fire in our general area, though according to Ubi Soft, your enemies will intelligently guess your position when you're on the move--in other words, they won't stupidly continue to fire on the same spot while you sneak past them. However, at the standard difficulty setting, your enemies won't be incredibly organized or be unfairly accurate shots; getting pinned down by cover fire will be as much a dramatic device as it will be a real threat. Fortunately, Far Cry's expansive outdoor areas will feature plenty of cover, and you'll be able to use binoculars equipped with a motion sensor to track your enemies from afar and hopefully pick them off before they get to you. Even Far Cry's indoor areas look impressive; they make good use of dynamic lighting and shadows. Far Cry is scheduled for release later this year.

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