If you are not familiar with the popular Far Cry game title from Ubisoft for the PC, you have missed out. In Far Cry, you play as Jack Carver. Jack disappeared from the States when his merchandise was used to snuff the nephew of a top New York mob boss. This brings him to the South Pacific to settle on a job delivering fishing equipment to various importers. That is, until he finds the occasional better "side" deals.
The story line starts out with Jack Carver under attack from a couple helos blasting away at his boat, awakening him from his sleep out in the Pacific. Confused, yet surprised, Jack abandons ship diving into the "Caribbeanesque" blue waters. After 10 yards of swimming, bullets pierce the surface of the water zinging by, and sometimes hitting, Jack as he races towards an opening of an abandoned ship wreckage. In no time will you attacking your first enemy as the game delivers you right to them.
Training options? Nope. No time for training. There is no need to look through your game menu for a training module. Training is actually on going throughout the story, and even when playing multiplayer offline/online. Besides the included manual, training evolves throughout gameplay. Nicely places captions (upper left of screen) which don't interfere with your surroundings help you learn the different attacks, pick-ups and vehicle access. As is tradition, walking over items (or next to them) will add the items to your inventory. Walking over first aid kits will bring back your strength. When your weapons inventory is full, you are prompted with very simple graphical notifications as how to swap out a weapon that you find on the ground. As is with Halo 2, be prepared to get some double and triple kills when dual wielding a machine gun. Even entering a vehicle is as simple as walking up next to it and holding down your blue "X" button on your Xbox controller.
In reading reviews online (no, they have not affected my review), the biggest complaint I have seen is when compared to Far Cry for the PC. The comments being made are that the game (Instincts) is far to linear. While I agree with an open map environment as seen on the PC version, I don't think it takes away from the gameplay. However, I did find myself walking into walls behind leaves/trees or driving a boat into an invisible wall. I am not familiar with the logistics, but I assume this is either a limitation of the amount of space on the DVD's that the game ships on, or it's just an easy way out for the developers. This version of Far Cry was written new, and is not a port from the PC.
Gameplay is your typical shooter. Run, jump, stand, crouch and crawl. You get an easy to read radar screen that offers enemy location and awareness. Where Far Cry exceeds (or differs) from most shooters is the plethora of vehicles and the ability to swim. Under water battles are very common online. You will find yourself dodging bullets (or even rockets) while under water. You can even have an all out 16 person knife match in the ocean while submerged.
From pistols, to machine guns, and finally sniper rifles, you can immerse yourself in this game no matter what kind of shooter you are accustom to. You can play the game as "gun and run", or you can find a sniper tower and sniper rifle, and take out a friend almost across the entire map without showing up on radar. When lying down or crouching with little to no movement, you will not show up on radar. However, if an enemy pans the map, and their cross-hairs go over you profile, they are notified that they are on target. I need to mention, I do enjoy auto-aim, but I think the developers slacked a little in this department. Taking aim doesn't require dead-on accuracy. Crosshairs might be a little left/right/up/down, but so long as it's red, you will hit the enemy. Take a shot at their head, and you get a "Head Shot", and take them down with one shot. At least most of the time. I took upwards of 10 shots close range at the back of an enemy noggin, blood spraying on each shot only to see him run, turn around and take me down. Inconsistent behavior in the accuracy department seems to be Ubisoft's strong suit.
Where the PC and Xbox also differ is with one newly added feature. Feral abilities (online/offline) and predator mode for online gameplay. To me, it's like a superman mode. It's fun, but then again, takes away from the realism. Jump higher and farther. Run faster. Hit harder. And finally, you can see yellow trails of "scent" when people are running or stationary, essentially giving you an easier target, especially at night. Everyone knows you are the predator because their controller begins to rumble with the increased heartbeat of the newly released creature in you. I would pass on this "feature" in the sequel, thanks anyway.
Controls and movement is easy. The only complaints I have are the occasional glitches you find on custom maps that get you "lodged" to the point where you can get out, requiring you to restart the game. Even attempts at killing yourself are unsuccessful because self inflicted grenade damage (using your 2 default grenades) isn't enough to get you re-spawned in a chaos match. Finally, I found that I am unable to go from lying down to crouch. One must go from standing, to crouching to lying down, then straight back up to standing. Several pushes of the thumb-stick resulted in no movement at all through game play, requiring me to press the "A" button to jump out of the lying position. Frustrating to say the least, but a bad habit now.
Even the map maker, be it simple, is worth the $49.99 I paid for this game alone. You are not given all the tools to create maps identical to the ones in the game (can't create vines, waterfalls, etc.), but with creativity (as found in Forza's painting/decal mode), the sky is literally the limit when making maps. At the time of this writing, I had downloaded 200 custom maps, equaling 26822 blocks according to my Xbox dashboard. Over half of them are excellent. So much for waiting for developer downloadable maps. Some of these maps created by gamers beat the pants off of the ones that came with the game.
Graphics & Sound
This is the best and worst graphically executed game. Let's start with the great. Water. Best water graphics I have ever seen in a shooter. Be it a dark brown or green swampy map, or a bright beach scene with clear blue waters, it's as real as it gets. The water movement, white water rapids, reflections and shadowing are awesome. The sound of the water matches it's stellar appearance. Jumping into the water, or even watching a hummer fall to it's demise deep into the ocean, the sounds of the splash reflect the mass of the objects. That "attention to detail" is what I look for in a game.
As for the remainder of the game, graphics are on par with pretty much the latest and greatest shooters. Backgrounds sounds are excellent, and match the environment (from monkeys to birds), to the water splashing up against the rocks...and even the occasional waterfall. Where the graphics are literally the worst I have ever seen in a shooter is actually during online play on "custom maps". Players can create custom maps and have them available to be downloaded online and played by millions. However, the maps can be pretty big. Imagine yourself in a sniper tower looking across the land to find oak trees lined up in the middle of the sky. Funniest darn thing I have seen. Only till you get closer do you see the mountains or hills start to fill in. Even the zoom on the sniper scopes won't draw in the missing map. I encountered substantially maps with this glitch...which really does take away from the realism.
If you cruise the forums or boards dedicated to Far Cry, you will see that I am not alone when finding a sound glitch in this game. Throughout the game, you will find that all backgrounds sounds are nixed for a short period of time. You can still hear people walk up on your, weapons firing, and vehicles driving. But the sounds of the jungle, or the water crashing on rocks all cease to exist. Then, out of the blue, you notice that the sounds have returned. Let me add that this is not enough to deter me from recommending this game. I am confident that an online patch could resolve this issue.
I am not a offline, story-mode, campaign gamer. I am all about online, multiplayer, chaotic death matches. Far Cry: Instincts is the first game I have ever played through the campaign on my Xbox (besides Project Gotham Racing 2's track/car unlocking). I have about 40 titles, not all of which are online...including Fable. This game is the first game that has been able to keep my interest and attention span since day one of my Xbox gaming. It's obvious that the online gaming has reached the maturity of Xbox Live with this title. Consistent with the Xbox 360, Far Cry gives you single button ("Y") access to your friends list from any menu. Matchmaking takes a key from Halo 2, not to mention the ability to Optimatch to custom player maps. If you are looking for a shooter that falls in between Rainbow Six 3 and Halo 2, this might be your next purchase. As always, I recommend renting any game before buying. Make this no exception. I recommend this game.