Retro Saturday Episode 10 :: Far Cry

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It’s not a well-known fact, but Far Cry was developed by Crytek (the same studio who made Crysis). In fact, Far Cry preceded Crysis and was developed by the studio to showcase the strength of its Crytek engine. 14 years on, we are on the cusp of Far Cry 5 releasing while Crytek and Crysis are relegated to Pepperidge farms.

What makes Far Cry special? Was the original so good that it merited 5 direct sequels, 2 extremely popular villains and one prehistoric prequel? Was there something in the debut adventures of Carver that sowed the seeds of a franchise. Well with Far Cry 5 releasing tomorrow (25 March 2018), there is no better time than today to take a look.

The story is of a time long gone, when the Indian cricket team lost more than they won, The Rock and Undertaker were still relevant in WWE, and yours truly was a devout PC gamer. Like most of my games in that time, I played Far Cry two years after its release, when I was squarely in my college. It remains to this date the only Far Cry game that I have played (not counting the alternate ending in Far Cry 3, which I played at my friend’s place, and ended the game in 15 minutes). I wanted to play Crysis, but my laptop just couldn’t run it. It could, however, run Far Cry, and Carver could almost look like the Prophet (If I closed my eyes), so Far Cry is where I spent my time.

Until then, I was more used to FPS with clearer lines of sights. Counter-Strike 1.6, Unreal Tournament, DOOM all had cover and corner but all of them were really well defined and mostly had regular shapes. Then in came Far Cry, full of bushes and trees and all the green and all the water that my laptop was barely handling. Instead of spending majority of your time in the line of fire, Carver spent most of his time in cover, with a really slim line of fire and sight. He could mark his enemies using his special binoculars, and overhear them talk or hear their footsteps to get an idea of their general location. Plus if a guard spotted you, he would run away and attract other guards, making it imperative to be hidden at all times.

I know what you’re are thinking, Far Cry isn’t a stealth game. And that’s what blew my mind in the first place. Even though the game let me mark enemies, and stay hidden, a full frontal assault was still the best way to get the job done. So in a weird way, it warped that stealth mechanic and added a layer of tactic to your rush, in a way that you turned and shot knowing where your next enemy will come from.

At that time, the open-ended nature of the quest system irritated me a bit. In fact, contrary to the popular opinion, I enjoyed the indoor more corridor type missions more, another side effect of my extensive exposure to Counter-Strike no doubt. But as time crawled on, and I saw my friends attempt the same mission (as nauseating as it got) with a different approach entirely, opened me up to the idea of possibilities.

As was common in India those days, I only played the single-player portion of the game. The narrative offered was pretty standard run of the mill summer blockbuster material, to be honest, and I never placed any special value in it. But zooming out a bit and realizing that Crysis also dealt with secret experiments and genetic engineering, and you begin to wonder whether Crytek had a thing for that sort of story.

Of course, Far Cry’s main motive was not to show off Crytek’s deep understanding of game mechanics. And admittedly the current Far Cry franchise owes more to the antagonist central theme of Far Cry 3. But both the idea of the original game and its influence on the franchise is clear. Open world, open-ended beautiful looking exotic locations, filled to the brim with both flora and fauna. A world where you would stop midway on your way to the next objective and just stare at how the light was reflecting off the sea. Far Cry was what you called photorealistic those days. Yeah, Far Cry was that beautiful.

What that also means, is that Far Cry hasn’t aged that well. Especially, when you go into the game thinking that this was supposed to cutting edge graphics at one point in time. Though if you are still hell-bent on trying out the original Far Cry, PC remains the only/best platform you can play it on. Which is a good thing to be honest, since the console ports of the game were underwhelming (oh how the times have changed!). You could buy the Far Cry classic on the Xbox 360 and PS3 digitally, but really what’s the point. The essence of Far Cry lies in wowing you with its beauty, and in order to replicate that effect, picking up the latest Far Cry remains the best option.

In fact, one could argue, that the story of Crytek makes for better reading (something like that Obsidian article maybe). Or maybe we are better off discussing the evolution of the entire Far Cry series than talk about the single game. Far Cry is not a classic that everyone should have played at least once, but it does remain a very important step in that ladder which would eventually take us to the top of the photorealistic tower. Not bad for a game which started off as a tech demo.

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