Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Far Cry

Despite being the talk of the town when it came out, Far Cry failed to even temp me into buying it. Damned if I know why it's even in my GoG library now, except as part of some package deal. Still, having bought it I feel somehow obligated to give it a chance, so off I go!

I won't bother with many screenshots. As a graphics card trial-by-fire, Far Cry's been proudly shotted and screened all across the internet by endless l33t-d00dz in the thirteen years since it came out. Suffice it to say there's lots of pretty foliage to admire. I must admit the game successfully both marketed and delivered its main selling point of large, lush, smoothly landscaped outdoor levels, and as level design goes it's quite good. As for everything else, well...
I can't tell whether that magazine was left lying around as ironic self-mockery or whether FarCry's developers really had deluded themselves into thinking they held some kind of artistic high ground over redneck shoot-em-up games. Granted, the high damage/health ratio of gunfire makes you think more actively about cover, positioning, steady shooting and such than you would in the Dooms and Duke Nukems of the '80s and '90s, but this was nothing special. By 2004 the trend toward "realistic" FPS games was already in full swing and other examples like the Half-Life mod Day of Defeat had years prior already implemented frailty more decisively, and done it online both ways through the snow.

I'm not a big FPS fan. To me, FPS is a user interface, not a game genre, and the ones I can stomach are the ones which manage to provide an immersive atmosphere, like Half-life and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In contrast, pretty rustling bushes aside, Far Cry's aesthetic portion was almost entirely phoned in. You play some kind of nondescript badass secret-soldier-super-agent-type... guy... dude... of sorts, yet one whose dialogue can't even muster the questionable dignity of Connery's "'elloe Pushy" all the while your enemies are taunting you with crotch-grabbingly witty one-liners like "I'm gonna tear you a new one!" that would've seemed trite and tired even in junior high - all voiced by only the finest-quality unpaid interns.
Somehow, this is all delivered in earnest.
You trudge through lots of box-filled warehouses. The villain's an unabashedly German mad scientist. Also, there are goblins. Or, y'know, big muscular growly simian things with claws and teeth and somehow even less personality than the chimps they're supposed to have mutated from.

I suppose all this might yet pass muster if the enemies' AI was not as simplistic as their aesthetic, but the grand total of two behavior patterns wears thin after the first five or six chapters. Dumb as bricks but heavily armed and abundant, it's more the randomized, utterly nonsensical nature of their movements which can surprise you. Yet, again, getting shot by some random grunt who ran aimlessly into the brush and got lost for five minutes only to come up behind you accidentally makes clearing each level a mind-numbing pixel-hunting chore. That's not even counting the part where they can see through walls.

All in all, Far Cry's actually not as terrible a game as I always assumed, though as always I have to ask why developers have historically tended to cut corners on easily amenable bells and whistles. Good ideas cost no more than bad ideas, especially when you're already spending an arm and a leg on your fancy new graphics. Would it have killed them to think up some enemies that are... not goblins? Big guns, big trucks indeed.

Whatever, they were selling graphics and the graphics sold, no matter how unimaginatively they were used. I wonder, how many of these hopelessly generic "grunt with boomstick" shoot-em-ups have I missed over the years?
And do I really care?

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