Far Cry Instincts and Evolution are both staggeringly good looking Xbox games, but as Xbox 360 games they'd look rather ropey. Thankfully Ubisoft have beefed up the visuals somewhat, making for an altogether superior looking game. The most obvious improvement is the new HDR lighting, which replaces the rather excessive bloom lighting from the Xbox games. Foliage also looks far greener and more alive than on the Xbox and various new grassy areas have been added around the environments. The frame rate also seems a step above the Xbox games, but still suffers from bouts of slowdown in areas that feature numerous light sources.
Water in the Xbox game looked great, but going back to it after seeing the Xbox 360 game's water in motion isn't pleasant. On the 360 the water moves in a strikingly realistic way, with soft waves undulating in an almost photorealistic manner. The illusion is destroyed somewhat when you notice odd, hard-edged sections to the water as it hits the shore, but on the whole it's very impressive indeed. Character models, too, seem slightly improved, but it's only really noticeable if you directly compare the game to the Xbox versions. Judged as a next-gen game the models are a little basic, but they're still an improvement.
Cutscenes are used sparingly, but they're done well, with solid voice work and impressive in-engine visuals. The in-game audio accompanies the action well, with the music changing to match the current situation, and the weapons all sound deadly in their own right. Predator is really a very polished version of the Xbox games, and while it's easy to see where the visuals could have been improved further, it's by no means ugly, even by next-gen standards - you'll just have to have played the original Xbox version recently to see where all the improvements have been made.
In addition to the two single-player campaigns, Predator includes a healthy number of multiplayer modes. Split-screen is fun, but Xbox Live play is where the most entertainment can be found. There's the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch game modes, with support for 16 players, but the 'Predator' mode and the new 'Seek and Secure' mode are the real stars of the show.
'In the 'Predator' mode a team of soldiers must make their way across the island while a predator tries to take them out.'
In the 'Predator' mode a team of soldiers must make their way across the island while a predator tries to take them out. This predator has all the abilities that the 'feral' Jack has in the main campaign, and despite being hugely outnumbered, the battles are immense fun. There's a fear brought about when attacked by a predator that is unlike any other I've experienced on Xbox Live. The screams from your online team-mates as a fast moving, hugely powerful killer rips through the middle of your formation are testament to the success of this hugely original game type.
Predator mode alone would have made the Xbox live experience a worthwhile one, but the new 'Seek and Secure' mode offers similar amounts of entertainment. The team-based mode requires you to capture and hold positions on a map to earn points. If you've played the excellent Call of Duty 2, this will seem familiar to that game's Headquarters game mode. Online play seems consistent with the Xbox games and I found most games to be relatively lag free. A number of larger maps that weren't included in the Xbox version of Instincts also make vehicle use more important and add some variety to proceedings.
The map maker from Instincts on the Xbox was a great addition to the online game, and it's been included here with a number of small improvements. Even if you have no skill (like me) you can download maps from other users, in theory giving life to the online mode far beyond that of the typical console FPS. It's worth noting that Xbox owners who purchase Far Cry Instincts Evolution can import their existing maps created in Instincts and take advantage of the improved map making tools. Seeing as you can't do this if you buy the Xbox 360 version, how interested you are in the map making aspect should figure in your buying decision.
Ubisoft pushed the Xbox to its limit with Far Cry Instincts' game engine, and while this Xbox 360 compilation feels like a stroll in the park for the new console, it's still a thoroughly entertaining first-person shooter. The 'Feral' abilities make the experience unlike most other games out there and some of the online game types are immense fun. Far Cry will certainly go onto bigger and better things on the Xbox 360, but newcomers to the series shouldn't be disappointed.