Your social life will be a Far Cry if you use your Instincts and buy this game. "We've created a monster."
Far Cry Instincts.
This game really is a far cry from the PC game. Jack Carver is almost a completely different man, characters have undergone various changes, and there's a whole new dastardly organization to topple. The game kicks off on an adrenaline-coursing high; Carver's private boat is mercilessly attacked by a helicopter, and he's forced to swim to safety in this tropical environment. And to top it all, the woman who accompanied him [some official called Valerie, who later turns out to be more than she seems] has done a runner on his motorboat. One unusual, explosive day in the life of this unlucky man.
The story in Instincts later unfolds into something darker and more sinister [it follows the usual experiment-which-goes-wrong path] but for the first few missions you're in tropical paradise. Sure, the island you're trekking all over is crawling with cold-hearted mercenaries, and there's no time for a spot of sunbathing, but still, it's one beautiful place. Carver's simply a stranger that's being hunted down for the first hour or two, before he takes a much more important role, and for this period of time you undertake a stealthy approach. The urgency of the situation is explained in the tutorial, where you're forced to adapt an almost Sam Fisher-esque stance in order to survive. It's these select few abilities explained here that makes Far Cry different from most other shooters. First, you can lay traps to fool unconcerned enemies that have more brawn than brains [i.e. tie a thick branch around tree, lure mercenary over, he gets lashed into air by flying branch] And also there's a stealth-kill function where you can slash an unsuspecting idiot from behind. Nobody will ever know the wiser, and alarms won't be raised on you. To top it all, there's a huge amount of foliage where you can hide and plan your murderous approach. Or, you can sneak underneath a hut and throw grenades up from cracks in the floorboards.
But if your stealth and sneakiness all goes wrong, there's of course a heated firefight to be had. Some impatient, action-hungry person might want to just run in like a maniac and shoot everything they see, but Instincts is more methodical than that. Right from this opening, it's clear that you're vastly outnumbered; mercenaries are literally everywhere, from strategic positions, gun turrets, inside huts, or behind sandbags. The AI can sometimes go haywire, but for most of the time the enemies are organized and consistent. They are deadly accurate with their guns as well, and from behind their weapon they are probably smiling at your flailing figure, while wondering why the hell you are staying in one place instead of running like a scalded cat. The influence from Ubisoft's prized franchise Splinter Cell is here alright, and there's endless satisfaction to dreaming up ways to clear out the numerous enemies patrolling around. From behind a particularly large tree.
Unfortunately, this stealthy approach is somewhat abandoned when you get past the first breakneck hours. Part of this radical change is due to Carver's monstrous transformation. A crazed scientist performs an experiment involving a serum upon Carver's helpless form; and the result is: "We've Created A Monster." From there onwards, Carver is imbued with some strange powers and gifted with some brutal ways to murder mercenaries. The first power that Carver discovers is the melee slash, which sends mercenaries soaring into the air in a perfect arch. There's some almost hilarious physics here. Later on, Carver acquires the ability of Feral Speed, which turns Carver into some kind of rabid long-distance runner, and Feral Smell, which follows the scent tracks of other living organisms. And with these surreal powers, the game changes its focus; from the sneaky, quiet forest bits, the game suddenly turns into a crazy thrill-a-minute ride filled with choppers, frantic mercenaries and exploding zombies.
And with all this talk about the innovation in the game, I turn to the core component of any shooter; the actual shooting. Far Cry uses an excellent array of weaponry; they are all satisfyingly loud and proud. Even the bog standard M16 is delightful to use. When you get hold of your first fully-blown Sniper Rifle, and hear the echo of a well-placed shot resounding against a skull, you will be stupefied. And there's some wonderful heavy-duty automatic weapons here as well; the Machine Gun is one hell of a gun, and two P90s in your hand can deal out death to everything that dares to come anywhere within your sight. Combined with the excellent physics in this game, each gun is a pleasure to wield and fire.
Despite all this drooling I've done over the gameplay aspects, some of the missions can feel stale when all you're doing is firing a weapon. As I've said earlier, the first sections of the game are endlessly replayable, mostly because they're freeform. But sometimes you can really get fed up of repeatedly smacking mercenaries in the stomach and unloading clips into heads to make them cave in. Some of the duller sections of the game are visually the dullest as well; the rainforest and mines really do spoil the golden atmosphere of the sun-drenched foliage of other areas. And the exploding zombies - why? Why do they have to be featured?!? And why am I forced to trudge through slime, mud and marshes, pointlessly emptying slugs into their heads while avoiding their spontaneous combustions? I could be laughing at how willingly these unsuspecting mercenaries walk into my well-placed traps...
And there's one thing Instincts does unquestionably better than any shooter ever; map editor. Games like Pariah have tried to create a comprehensive creation tool while not going down the bland gridlines of map editors like TimeSplitters. Instincts stomps on Pariah, spits on its remains, crumples it up and burns it on the bonfire. Anything is possible with Instincts' map editor, as it lets you loose with countless little options. And even with its unbelievable depth, Instincts still manages to be user-friendly and easy to use. Without getting bogged down with twiddly tools such as cookie cutter brushes and all that confusing trash, this map editor allows you to shape your very own battlefield. And this is the sole reason why I still play this game; to play around with all the little tools, trying to make a perfect deathmatch arena, long after the campaign is finished. It's far better than Lego.
But you can see by my coveted score of 10 for the graphics [this score doesn't get given out very often] Far Cry Instincts is one hell of a good-looking game. Possibly the best graphics on the Xbox are seen here. The early tropical sections are sumptious; I want to buy a calendar devoted to the trees. White sands, palm trees and the Sun - what more could you want except a ticket to Florida? The environments in Instincts are almost lifelike, from the glistening sea to the sprawling beaches to the dense tropical foliage to the stunning lighting... this really is a graphical masterpiece. Then there's the assorted special effects; you've never seen explosions quite as awesome as these bad boys, just as you've never seen guns that fire with this much visual panache. The vehicle models are great, if sometimes a little vague, the character models are excellent, the gun models are exquisite... erm... downsides? Erm... the sea's sometimes a bit too sparkly? Valerie needs to have a bit less clothing? Erm...
Then there's the audio. The story behind Instincts is told with relish, the voice-overs are very good, from the gravelly drivel of Jack Carver to the everyday talk from the unaware mercenaries you're eavesdropping on. Explosions are ear-splitting, complete with the awkward sound crackle you'd expect from a failing guitar amplifier, and the music that kicks in at specific moments gives the scenario a certain urgency. All in all, there's no real flaw in Instincts' sound, a clean record really. Although it's a bit enthusiastic on the swearing. Just forewarning you.
Have I covered why Instincts is at the top of Xbox's ominous shooter pile in this insanely lengthy review? It has stunning graphics, great sound, meaty gameplay, a stellar map editor, innovation in a tired genre... Instincts even does as much to surpass the brilliant PC game. From the thrilling, but brief, campaign, to the addictive multiplayer, Instincts consistently delivers on all fronts. The result is an essential purchase for gamers online and off, social or not. If you don't own this game, you must play it. It's one of the best games on the Xbox, and an endlessly satisfying shooter.