After the dual disappointment of Red Steel and Call of Duty 3, it's good to see that the Wii-mote can actually do a half decent job of making you feel like you are firing a real gun - though the quality of the impersonation is still more Les Dennis than Rory Bremner. After a sticky first level or two, with lots of flailing around and peppering walls with stray bullets, the controls of Far Cry Vengeance actually prove to be pretty intuitive and pulling off a headshot is no longer a whimsical fantasy for the Wii owner.
So, with the standard Wii-review preamble about how Nintendo's revolutionary control scheme measures up out of the way, it's time to talk about the game itself. Sadly, it's here we hit a bit of a snag, because there is precious little to be gleaned from Vengeance other than a few hours of reasonable FPS action. As a veteran of the PC original, who only spent a brief amount of time with the Xbox version (Instincts), I was looking forward to revisiting those lush tropical islands and taking a machine-gun toting stroll along white sandy beaches. Instead I got a pretty linear shooter with some pleasant, if blurry, scenery in the background. If this was a package holiday I'd be calling my tour operator by now and demanding a refund.
Rather than just port Far Cry Evolution straight over to the Wii, Ubisoft has commendably tried to craft a new experience for owners of the current must-have console. Good intentions aside, what they failed to do is fill in anyone who didn't play Instincts on the back story, meaning those poor souls without prior knowledge are thrown in somewhat at the deep end. This can make Vengeance a disorientating experience at first, as you wonder who the hero Jack Carver is, why he is so intent on shooting everyone in sight and, most significantly, why he occasionally displays animal-like feral abilities. The closest the game gets to clearing up these salient details is with little character bios on the loading screens but, for the most part, you are on your own as you try to piece together what the heck is going on.
It doesn't help that Vengeance's own plot is pretty thin, as you blindly follow sexy gun runner Kade (that's a woman, in case you were wondering) on a number of ill-fated attempts to earn some dodgy cash on a series of islands filled with heavily-armed soldiers. The plot does pick up as it goes along, with the arrival of another character that's been injected with the same serum as Jack (giving them feral, predator-like powers), who wants to bring about the end of civilisation with a small band of like-powered rebels, but it never grips the player and feels incidental to the action.
Aside from a few missions where you are joined by Kade, most of Far Cry Vengeance is spent alone, following random orders to go from place to place, collect items or destroy something. Although much of the game takes place on foot, with Jack blasting his way through levels that range from jungle trails to shanty towns, there are often chances to leap into abandoned vehicles like jeeps, boats and (my personal favourite) jet skis to progress at a quicker pace. In Instincts, the vehicles were essential to traverse the wide open landscape but here they are merely a fun diversion to endlessly trudging around on foot, as the game world is almost entirely linear.
As I've already mentioned, controlling Jack is pretty simple - with the nunchuck utilised for movement and the Wii-mote used to target and turn around. Shooting is pretty accurate and you can even hold down A to lock the screen, to avoid spinning around mid-firefight. The weapons, ranging from powerful pistols to machine guns and a rocket launcher, all do the job well enough too, though having to push the Wii-mote towards the screen for sniping is as unwieldy as it was in Red Steel. On top of his ace shooting skills, Jack also has his feral abilities to rely on. Slashing enemies with your machete or scoring a headshot builds up his levels of Predatorine and, once full, a simple press of A gives you a limited amount of time to race around at super fast speeds, tearing enemies to shreds with your bare hands. Predatorine can additionally be used to top up your health by shaking the nunchuck, which is handy as health packs and armour are extremely thin on the ground. As the game progresses, other feral abilities are unlocked too - like a super jump and being able to spot hiding enemies by their body heat.
Aside from the old-fashioned linear game design, the most obvious disappointment with Far Cry Vengeance is the visuals. If you've seen the other iterations running on PC or Xbox 360 (or even the plain old Xbox), it's impossible not to be disappointed by the low res scenery and character models that are used here. While there are times when the game manages to look reasonable enough, everything appears very last gen and there is a noticeable frame rate dip whenever you get into a vehicle or man a moving gun turret during the on-rails sections. With the series arguably hinging on its looks, a Far Cry game should be showcasing the very best the Wii can offer rather than just being a mess of blurry textures that would not be out of place in a PS2 game (ouch).
Since its original launch on PC, Far Cry has developed into a pedigree brand, and Vengeance, while moderately entertaining, should have been much more than just a so-so FPS with a well implemented control system. There's not even a good multiplayer experience to get into, as only an offline, split-screen game for two players is included. We expect something special from Far Cry and, frankly, Vengeance just isn't up to scratch. Like a Z-list celebrity, leave this one in the jungle.