Far Cry doesn't have an original bone anywhere in its well-sculpted body. Blasting my way across a tropical archipelago, I kept getting a sense of deja vu, as if I'd visited these places and shot these people before. It just hadn't been anywhere near as pretty in the past.

I'm a bit of an innovation junkie, so of course I was a little disappointed to see that the game didn't offer anything really new, but at the same time I can't fault a game for not trying to do more, especially when it does what it does so exceptionally well. At some point the game's designers decided that all they wanted to do was take all the mechanics of other popular first-person shooters (FPSs) and blend them all together into a single super-game, doing nothing new, but doing everything a little better than those that came before.

The game's best qualities are its most obvious, which works out quite well for us reviewers. Frankly, I could spend this entire review talking about the graphics, and between the intricate character modeling and the beautiful particle effects, I'd probably run out of adjectives before I ran out of things to talk about. This is the kind of game that had me looking at the screenshots and wondering, 'Ccould it possibly really look that good?' It's even better in motion, though, when all of the various elements blend together to create a greater whole. A soldier runs out from behind cover and I open fire-the gunshots rattle in my ears, bullets slam into the wall just behind the mercenary, causing puffs of concrete to plume outwards, until finally one of my bullets slams hits the merc's temple. A cloud of blood appears behind his head, splatters on the wall, and his body topples forward. Carried by momentum, it falls against a railing, then slides down onto the floor, dead.

In a way, the above action sequence above is a perfect example of the game at its best; when all the mechanics work together to seamlessly create truly thrilling gunfights. This effect is only heightened by the open-concept level design, which allows players to pick and choose when and where they're going to fight, using actual tactical thinking to a certain extent. There's even the giddy thrill of accomplishment that comes from being able to look through a sniper scope, shoot a mercenary, and know that it might take as long as five or six minutes to get to the corpse.

Now, given how overwhelmingly positive everything in this review has been up until now, it's about time for the other shoe to drop. Yes, there is a bad side to the game, one that grows naturally out of the designer's lack of ambition. It may seem harsh, but I can't help but wonder why such an incredible engine has been wasted on such a mediocre premise.

I'm not speaking just of the plot-actually, if I were to do that, I couldn't write for very long, because there really isn't a plot to speak of. Sure, there are some characters who flap their virtual gums and talk about how terrible things will happen if keycard A isn't used in slot C, but it all comes across as so generic that it's hard to care what's going to happen next in the "'story,"', especially when the only characteristic the main character (Jack Carver; – you might remember him as the main character of every FPS ever) is given is that he's kind of stupid. I mean, is there anyone so nave that they would inject themselves with a syringe that has a giant Biohazard symbol on it?

The bigger problem is that as the game progresses, it gets decidedly less fun to play. The reasons for this are twofold. -First, a good number of the game's later sections take place indoors, and the game suffers every time the lush open spaces are taken away. While there seems to be infinite possible variations when dealing with mountains, valleys, bays and rivers, all concrete hallways look the same, which makes the sheer number of them that have to be walked through almost inexcusable. I wish that the company that was able to do such incredibly fresh things with outdoor environments had come up with something, anything, to make the indoors less dull, but alas, it was not to be.

The second reason is that the game's "'original"' monsters, the 'Tri-Gens,' are so mind-numbingly boring. This is especially disconcerting when one considers just how good a job the AI designers did with all of the normal mercenaries. Using cover, working in tandem, and seeing their skill levelthat scales upwards as the game progresses and the player encounters more elite troops, -there's a whole lot to love about the enemy AI. Heck, they can even drive vehicles in a fairly realistic manner. Had the game only featured human opposition, I would have been a happy gamer. The only problem I could find with the Mercenaries is that their dialogue resembles nothing less than a perfect facsimile of online gamer-speak. Now, I don't know any mercenaries, and perhaps I'm all wrong here, but something tells me that during desperate life and death battles, they rarely threaten to "'put the smack down"' on their opponents.

The Tri-Gens, by comparison, all seem to have the exact same set of instructions: "Can you see the player? If yes, head straight for the player." Because the enemies attack with no strategy, no real strategy is required to defeat them-just back up and keep shooting. Maybe if there were more types of Tri-Gens, it would be a different story, but there were only three that I noticed: The Hunter, so called because they are, in every way, just the Hunters from Resident Evil; ; The Quaker, so called because they look like they're graphically updated Quake II monsters; and Jumpy Joes, who are just bio-armored mercenaries who spend a lot of time jumping around like idiots. Fighting these monsters jumps from way too hard, to way too easy depending on whether they're encountered in or out of doors, with no comfortable middle ground.

The designers at Crytek have built themselves a truly stunning virtual playground with the Far Cry engine, one that enables them to create huge, fantastic vistas, populated with challenging, yet fair opponents, all of which can be interacted with in a fairly realistic manner. Despite my reservations, I enjoyed my time spent running around the lush islands shooting people. I suppose I just wish that something more meaningful had been going on while I was doing all that shooting. The shooting was fun and all, but it would have been much more satisfying had I felt like all of my murdering had been in service of something. The game's rating? 8.5 out fo 10.

Daniel Weissenberger
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