Far Cry Instincts was released on the Xbox in September 2005 and earned a place as one of the best first-person shooters on the system. Six months later Jack Carver is back in a game that offers more of the same, plus an improved map making tool and a brand-new multiplayer game mode. At a rather attractive budget price it's certainly a game that Instincts fans should pick up without question.
In Far Cry Instincts Jack learnt new Feral Abilities as you moved through the game, but in Evolution Jack starts with all the abilities at his disposal. It makes sense that you'd have these abilities from the off, but it results in a campaign that feels rather samey. The enhanced vision, super speed, melee attack, super jumps and the rest are just as fun as ever, but it's just not as exciting as it was in the first game.
Enemy AI is rather hit and miss, just as it was in the original game. If you're spotted by a soldier he'll often call out for support, and hurt enemies will retreat to try and get to a better position, but at other times they seem plain dumb. If you're firing from a distance and aren't hitting an enemy, he'll remain totally oblivious, carrying on his regular stroll up and down the shoreline, finally jumping to attention when a bullet grazes his arm. Stealth kills also seem rather too simple, with enemies fixed in one direction, almost oblivious to what is behind them.
There are a few new additions to your arsenal, such as remotely triggered pipe bombs and a new Feral Climb ability, but it's really the same kind of action you'll have played throughout Instincts. It's also rather short, and feels rather underdeveloped compared to the first game. Still, for the budget price you get a perfectly entertaining single-player campaign, plus some rather brilliant multiplayer game 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 from Instincts 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. 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 on the Xbox 360, this will seem familiar to that game's Headquarters game mode. Online play seems on par with the original Xbox game and I found most games to be relatively lag free. A number of the maps are larger than those found in Instincts, making vehicle use more important, adding 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. Owners of Instincts who purchase Far Cry Instincts Evolution can even import the maps they've created previously and take advantage of the improved map making tools, making Evolution well worth the money if you're into the map making part of the game.
On the Xbox the Far Cry engine is still unmatched, but compared to the improved Xbox 360 version of the game, the engine is starting to show its age. The jungle environments still look impressive, but the excessive bloom lighting is rather off-putting. The frame rate also seems to bog down a little more than it did in Instincts, but it rarely becomes a big problem. Aside from weaker, but by no means poor, visuals, this is the exact same game as what's included as part of Far Cry Instincts Predator on the Xbox 360.
Had Evolution been released as a full price game the short single-player campaign would have been a huge disappointment, but considering that it retails for under £20 and there's an impressive set of online game modes included as well, it's a steal. A few new ideas in the single-player campaign would have put this up there with Instincts as an Xbox classic, but if you want more of the same you can't really go wrong with Evolution.