Things don't look initially promising. The opening cut-scene in which we are introduced to main character Jack Carver is clumsy and confusing, overwrought with loud action-sequence music, gunfire and explosions. Female interest Valerie Constantine (cynical gamers be warned, CryTek make no bones about which of Val's features we should be interested in) has no sooner jetted away from him when Jack is attacked and narrowly avoids being blown to smithereens by a rocket-wielding islander - he manages to make his way through this Hollywood-inspired intro nightmare and as the game begins we are given an up close and personal look at the muscle-bound protagonist.
So far, so macho - indeed, the opening sequence of the game couldn't be more clichèd. Walking through the sequence of tunnels and caves we now find ourselves in, there doesn't seem to be much salvation at hand. In a cut-scene we are introduced to Doyle, a mysterious man who serves as our contact on the island, and as soon as Jack opens his mouth to talk, a spiel of boorish, cheesy dialogue and questionable voice acting spews fourth. And lets face it, that Hawaiian shirt isn't doing anybody any favours. It's just when you think the game can't descend any more into the depths of action movie clichè and questionable fashion sense when we are given a glimpse of the tropical jungle outside; the teeming island paradise which will serve as a veritable playground for the action to come. And suddenly we are reminded - this is why we're here. There's a whole island of enemies out there baying for our blood, and they know we're here - it's time to get to work.
'...the opening sequence of the game couldn't be more clichéd.'
Indeed, despite the worrying opening, we soon see what Far Cry has to offer. We begin the game much as we can expect it to go on - the vocal Doyle introduces us to the area and sets an objective (usually a location at the other side of the map); how we reach the objective is entirely up to us. The game is populated by heavily armed mercenaries, but don't let their comical dialogue fool you - they are equipped not only with weapons, but also with some of the most advanced AI yet seen in a PC first person shooter. Should they spot you, they'll rally their friends and take up defensive positions, attempting to flush you out - get caught out in the open and they'll make short work of you. Open combat can be a tricky, but thoroughly engaging affair, requiring some lateral thinking and quick firing. Often, preventing the mercenaries from out-manoeuvring you can be as important as anything else and once they've zero-ed in on your position things can turn ugly very quickly indeed.
That's not to say the mercenaries are infallible, as they can often be seen doing some very odd things indeed - start firing on them without letting them spot you and they will refuse to take cover, merely standing and absorbing your attacks; get spotted and run away and they'll soon forget all about you, returning to their daily routine. And that's just amongst the other random intelligence glitches which can occur - overall though the AI on show is very impressive indeed, and proves to make for some very challenging and aggressive battles on higher difficulty settings, genuinely taking first person combat to a new level of enjoyment.
The inclusion of meters indicating enemy awareness and the ability to 'mark' enemies on your radar using your binoculars helps the player remain in control of what could otherwise prove to be uncontrollable. When you've been spotted the meters will fill, letting you know exactly how well hidden you are, and journeying through the jungle can be made much easier by scoping out the area ahead (mercenary camps, road blocks, scouting parties) by using your binoculars, which causes any enemies you spot to appear as a blip on your radar, allowing you to know their exact positions relative to your own at all times. Cunning stuff indeed.
Gameplay is further enhanced by the inclusion of vehicles which you can commandeer. Sometimes getting around on foot is impractical when you need to journey from one end of an island (or occasionally between islands), so Far Cry obliges with the inclusion of a variety of buggies, jeeps, boats and gliders (!) which you can use to speed around in. Handling is satisfyingly responsive and integrated well into the game, judicially interspersing areas of combat.
Equally, the environments of the game are split between lush outdoor areas and more traditional indoor locations, featuring typical FPS fare such as metallic sliding doors, long corridors and, well, more corridors. Despite this change to a more familiar pace (which admittedly does not serve as well when showing off the games better features as the outdoor sections) the game remains just as enjoyable, offering subtle variations in play style and atmosphere - indeed, it's the way the game engine handles moving between indoor and outdoor locations which proves to be so impressive.