ECTS 2003: Far Cry
Kristan checks out the ECTS PC Game of the Show.
With the ECTS Best PC Game of the Show gong already under its belt, Far Cry is very quickly establishing itself as "Yet Another Great Looking FPS with Convincing AI and Authentic Physics".
Just a quick glace confirms all of the above; the proprietary Cry engine for one is a fine foundation to build the game on, allowing for stunning scalable views of up to 800 metres of the dense Caribbean island, packed with rich foliage, rippling water, and blinding sun. Just two and a half years in the making, it's an engine which Crytek's effusive executive VP Faruk Yerli reckons is "so flexible, you could make almost any game with it; racing, flight sims, whatever".
Running on a GeForce 4 at ECTS with no loss of frame rate, the proprietary Polybump mapping techniques employed lent every surface a crisp and credible level of detail, while the environment and character physics deliver appropriate responses when you, for example dislodging barrels, or even a prone corpse if you're feeling twisted. Add destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and it's the type of game graphics card companies fall over themselves to demonstrate.
Spectacular views require power, brother
System specs should be reasonable, mercifully, with a GeForce 3 equipped PIII 800 with 256MB RAM suggested as the minimum spec. As ever, if you can push that up to a P4 2GHz, with a Radeon 9700/GF FX with 512MB RAM, then you'll be able to play the game as German developer Crytek intended.
The game itself is based around Freelance mariner Jack Carver, who finds himself stuck on a Caribbean island after a brash female reporter named Valerie had offered him an 'incredible sum of cash' to take her to this 'unspoiled paradise'. But guess what? A 'mysterious militia group' greet Carver's arrival with gunfire and destroy his boat. A week later, he's stranded on the lush jungle island with 'nothing but a gun and his wits to survive', the 'gorgeous' Valerie's gone missing and there's talk of a madman's 'insidious agenda'. Why can't we all just love each other?
Pier, the first of the two demo levels tasks Jack with first of all seeing off a clutch of enemies based near a camp. Testing out the physics system, you can shoot out a clutch of barrels, which topple over and tumble down the hillside crushing the advancing militia. If you fail, however, you get to see the AI system in action. First of all the enemy react to the direction of the sound, according to Yeril. Chasing up the source of the sound, they then frantically scurry around looking for you, scattering in a believable manner and shouting among themselves.
With the enemy picked off one by one with your Assault Rifle you can't help but feel the squirting blood effects need toning down a tad. We know it's an oft repeated complaint, so we hope Crytek's listening, as it spoils an otherwise flawless looking game. Once they're all dead, you can make your way down the hill towards the beach to the next point of combat. At this point, with no danger present you really start to take in the impressiveness of the engine, with a marvellous sense of scale and an overwhelming amount of intricate terrain detail and incidental touches at every turn.
After swimming across the water, you head up the bank towards another cluster of enemy. With a sentry post up ahead we decided to give our Sniper Rifle a try, attempting to pick off the first victim from a distance. But from such a range, we missed; such was the unsteadiness of our aim. At this point a whole posse of mercenaries turned their fire in our direction and headed in our direction. Suffice to say they started hunting for us, but we took them all down one by one, heading for a gun emplacement on the top of a hill. With our enemy in sight at the foot of a steep bank, we took aim. Seemingly too far away, we attempted a few wayward sniper shots but missed horribly, succeeding only in alerting them to our presence. At once they scattered, regaining their poise behind cover and firing back at the source.
During our initial impressions, the AI is certainly a cut above that seen in traditional FPSs. The claim is that battles in Far Cry will be unpredictable and never repetitive, with 'advanced adaptive group tactics', with all manner of units including snipers, stalkers, scouts, and grenadiers that 'engage you from all angles, distances, and terrains in coordinated strikes'. Apparently Commanders will even 'call for reinforcements by land, sea or air'. We won't have long to wait to find out either.
Meanwhile at the adjacent demo pod, Crytek's affable Mr Yeril was demonstrating the Hang Glider, which appears during the Pier level, and will be one of several vehicles you'll be able to make use of in the game, including a boat, Jeep, Truck and more. The key thing with the Cry engine appears to be its flexibility and unflinching ability to render vast areas from the air without making the level look like it's floating in space.
Skipping to the next demo level, Research, we progressed through a beach and cave area before ending up in a large militia hut with multiple exits and windows. The enemy presence was quite large, so the AI was again shown off to its full effect. This time we got our arses kicked, which doubtlessly demonstrates that you can't go in all guns blazing; forcing you to choose you position carefully and take out stray militia with caution and preferably without alerting the others in the vicinity.
Long long long
The game also boasts 'unparalleled long range gunplay', with the 800-metre scalable view system allowing the team to throw in some new weapons such as the motion-sensing binoculars which allow you to lock onto enemies from a distance. The diversity of the combat, be it at close or long range, promises to give it a more credible feel than most 'clear the room, move on' game mechanic of traditional FPSs.
The game is set to ship on November 28th with 16 single player levels, six multiplayer maps, 22 weapons and the possibility of mod tools too. "We'll maybe release them at the same time as the game," said Yeril, "but possibly a few months later, we'll have to wait and see".
Yeril faithfully promised that Far Cry would be "almost entirely bug free" when it ships, thanks to the team's rigorous in-house QA department. Now wouldn't that be a novelty?
As we mentioned in yesterday's news story, a sequel is already being in the planning stages, with Crytek set to get to work on it shortly after the original's mid November release. Console versions of Far Cry are also in the works, with Xbox and potentially PS2 editions emerging mid next year.
A demo is also promised in the run up to the game's release, so expect our full demo impressions as soon as that appears. Should Half-Life 2 slip, as seems to be everyone's expectations despite Valve's continued assurance, it's nice to know there's a game that can fill the breach.