In honor of Far Cry 4’s impending release later this year, let’s take a trip back to the game that started it all. The original Far Cry, developed by Crytek and published by Ubisoft, was released for the PC in 2002 before the graphical revolution really kicked off with the first Crysis, was one of the first games to release on the original CryEngine. While pushing the envelope in a lot of interesting and exciting ways… it just really isn’t that good of a game to somehow inspire a sequel, let alone three of them. Yet even here, gamers can see the seedlings of what would become hallmarks of the series hallmarks.
Without a doubt, Far Cry’s weakest element is its story; which are only further hindered by the open world elements. At one point, Jack Carver himself asks the other characters “what do you think this is, a bad spy movie?” Which is basically what it is, a cheesy spy movie with an element of the Island of Dr. Moreau thrown in for good measure. With the exception of Jack Carver himself, who is arguably the sanest out of the three protagonists if only by the virtue of recognizing just how insane his situation is, all of the major characters are unmemorable. The “stranded on a mad scientist’s private island, getting hunted by strange beasts” plot itself is predictable right down to the “surprise” plot twist that is neither a surprise nor particularly necessary. Other then that, the only real hiccups with Far Cry are a few minor, questionable level design choices and a few situations where the game’s relatively open world nature actually works against it.
Likewise, Far Cry does extremely well at demonstrating how scripted boss fights fare in open world games. Without spoiling too much of the game’s surprisingly linear story, the final two showdowns in the last tenth of the game are surprisingly anti-climatic. The main antagonist in particular is defeated fairly quickly despite having mutated into a “superior lifeform.” Guess you shouldn’t have picked the Trigen that was the easiest to gun down, eh Dr. Krieger?
Comments on the game’s shortcomings aside, Far Cry does manage to deliver very well on all the bullet points on the back of the box. While the levels are still corridors, they’re open enough that you can be forgiven for mistaking them for a living world and frequently provide several avenues to a given gun battle, allowing Jack to avoid some enemies entirely by simply staying out of sight. Enemy AI communicates with one another, mercenaries retreat or call for back-up with a signal flare when ambushed, Trigens roam wild and frequently come to blows with the mercenary army, and the world generally carries on without you. Overall it’s a very magnificent world only occasionally ruined by situations that were clearly contrived to make the player sweat (seriously, what PMC issues rocket launchers to sentries assigned to stand guard in an underground laboratory?) or otherwise breaks the immersion.
To conclude, Far Cry is “above average.” It is an entertaining roller coaster to be sure, but it lacks the incentive to give the amusement park another visit once you’ve seen and done everything.