“Far Cry: Vengeance” review

by on Mar.05, 2010, under Wii Game Reviews

Game: Far Cry: Vengeance
Developer: UbiSoft Montreal

The ultimate punishment for miscreants …

When it comes to personal qualities, stubbornness can be a double-edged sword. While it’s obviously a useful attribute to possess during some of life’s trickier challenges, there are times when common sense dictates that you should just turn it off and admit defeat. Unfortunately, while I do have stubbornness in spades, I’m sorely lacking in common sense, as this belated review of Far Cry: Vengeance (FC:V) will testify to.
I picked up the game in early 2007, despite the veritable mountain of online reviews that warned me against such a purchase. You would think that after reading paragraph after paragraph of disparaging and vitriolic commentary on this game from a multitude of sources, I would leave well enough alone and purchase some other title instead.

Unfortunately, it was round about this time that “stubbornness” reared its ugly head, exposing its well meaning desire to experience the game for itself before passing summary judgement. Over a dozen joyless hours later, having played through roughly half the game, I’m finally going to bow my head, shamefaced, and admit that the rest of the gaming press probably did have valid reasons for writing what they did. Consider this article penance for my heresy. At the very least, I may prevent some unlucky soul picking up this title out of a bargain bin at a major gaming outlet.

The game is part of the Far Cry franchise of first-person shooters that was first developed in 2004 for the PC platform by Crytek Studios. Possessing an incredibly long single player game, fantastic visuals, decent multi-player modes and non-linear game-play, Far Cry became an instant hit with hard-core gamers. With the upcoming debut of the Wii console, it made sense that publisher UbiSoft would want to leverage their popular trademarks on this new platform. FC: V was thus commissioned, based on the Xbox sequel Far Cry Instincts: Evolution and slated for development by a new team based in Montreal.

The story focuses on Jack Carver, our hero with a mysterious and violent past, as he continues to deal with the consequences of his gun toting adventures in previous games. Joining him as both friend and foe are a trio of lifeless characters who spout dialogue that is just as bland as they are. As with many console only titles, the plot is completely disposable and involves disaffected rebels, oppressive government forces and mutated humans going toe-to-toe with our protagonist in a variety of settings. The dialogue is cheesy and is packed full of sexual innuendo and psychopathic posturing.

It is quite evident that during the development process a lot of the highlights of the original game were considered for this sequel. The gaming environment is still set in the South Pacific (well, it’s implied rather than clearly stated) and the mandatory beach and jungle settings we’ve grown accustomed to are still present. A bit of variety has also been added in the form of some shanty towns, mines, caves and dense jungle regions. To assist Jack with his violent tendencies, a wide ranging arsenal of weapons was provided. The usual hand-guns, rifles and explosives are present, as are a range of vehicles and fixed weapon emplacements to drive and gun respectively. The environments are still non-linear, although there are less of them, presumably due to the technical limitations of the Wii platform. In short, all the essential ingredients (sans story) for a high quality Far Cry title are present. All that was required were some elegant systems and polish necessary to develop these raw components into an AAA title. Unfortunately for us, it would appear that every possible mistake conceivable was made during the development process of this beast.

The most obvious omission within FC: V is the complete absence of the high quality graphics and animations of the original PC release! To date, this is the ugliest Wii title I’ve had the misfortune to witness. The combination of low-resolution models and grainy textures combine to create a muddy palette of pixels that make identifying many in-game objects nigh on impossible. Yes there are technical limitations of the Wii that restrict resolutions to a maximum of 480p, but other shooters like Call of Duty 3 have managed to present quality visuals so there really is no excuse for these lacklustre results. While I’ll admit that bad graphics don’t make a game bad, they sure as hell don’t make shooting your opponents easy. Trying to take a head shot against a target becomes a ridiculous “hit and miss” affair (pun intended) when you can’t tell where your victims head is, and some of the target hit-boxes seem to be incorrectly positioned.

Luckily, dishing out some “serious smack down” on the opposition is made painfully simple due to the virtually non-existent AI routines (again, pun intended.) There is a nifty alert system, that triggers aggressive actions by your foes when they notice your presence, but its implementation is questionable at best. Soldiers will become active for no apparent reason, even if you’re carefully hidden behind a building. On other occasions you can easily dispatch guard after guard by just running up behind them and slashing them with your machete; apparently you move just like the Phantom does (albeit without the purple tights!) Entire squads of rebels can be regularly found sauntering around without a care in the world, as you routinely dispatch their compadrés within ear (and occasionally eye) shot.

Some reviewers have commented on the control system for FC: V being the most intuitive of the Wii first generation shooters to date. Sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with this. While the standard move and shoot commands are fine (and pretty well mirror up with Call of Duty 3’s controls,) sniping or tossing grenades/rocks is a frustrating exercise. Flicking the nunchuk to throw grenades is simple and intuitive, but trying to determine where the blessed thing will land after you throw it is another story. The same problems exist when you throw rocks to distract nearby soldiers; mix in the cranky AI and you have another good reason to leave the explosives at home and stick to dual-wielding your firearms instead.

Sniping is just as bad. Zooming in with weapons is triggered by thrusting the wii-mote forward at the screen. Unfortunately each weapon only has one zoom magnification, and the sniper rifle’s zoom is exceptionally big. When you thrust the wii-mote forward I can guarantee that you’ll manage to shift the aim point off target a fraction in any direction. Once this happens, trying to find your target again can be a tedious affair, especially if you’re target is set against a jungle backdrop. Often, you will need to zoom back out again to re-acquire your target, and if it happens that your foe is carrying a sniper rifle too, chances are you’ll be dead before you can take him out.

The wide assortment of vehicles would be a pleasant distraction from the incessant gun-play if it wasn’t for the uniformly twitchy controls that they all exhibit. They all handle like motor-scooters with a loose steering column and are nigh-on impossible to steer effectively at speed. The jet-ski is a notable exception but that’s only because you have plenty of ocean to use as you fish-tail your way across the waves (yet another pun intended.)

The developers did include a predator mode for Jack that allows him to trigger a variety of super-human effects like rapid movement, jumping and low-light vision when conditions allow. These abilities are powered by a predatorine meter that increases gradually after each weapon head shot or melee kill that you make and, unsurprisingly, diminish as you use your powers. This would have been a nifty addition to the game if there was ever any reason to actually use them. The poor AI and irritating controls relegate use of these abilities to the few enforced situations where they are automatically triggered by plot events. The rest of the time, you tend to just use the heal ability instead to top up your health with a shake of your nunchuk.

There are a few other less serious irritants that plague the game. If you drop a pair of akimbo weapons for one on the ground, only one of the weapons you drop appears. Thus, if you change your mind and pick up the original weapons, you only get one. There are plenty of geometry issues on some of the levels where you can get stuck on the occasional crate, edge or rock. Some of the set-piece battles can be incredibly difficult (even on Medium difficulty) and with the save-game checkpoints being few and far between, some of these scenarios can take upwards of 10-15 minutes to complete.

There is multiplayer available but its limited to a two player split-screen affair that makes the graphics even crappier than they were in single player. There is no cooperative game-play (a feature that might have added another ½ llama to this review) and the two death-match modes and eight maps look like they’ve been tacked onto the end of the game as an afterthought.

It’s obvious that FC: V was a rushed job that was attempting to piggy back off the highly anticipated Wii console release. The game is nearly identical to the excellent Far Cry Instincts: Evolution for the Xbox; yet, all the developers seem to have accomplished is a shoddy port that frankly, the world would have been better off without. Overall, I’ve invested (or wasted, depending on your point of view) a good 15 hours of game play to reach what appears to be the half-way point of the game. Perhaps the next 15 hours represents the pinnacle of first-person shooter experiences since Half-Life hit the internet in the late 90’s, but I seriously doubt it … and I expect no-one will ever be stubborn enough to find out. It should be noted that the only reason the game got the score it did is because I may need somewhere to go if I find anything worse in the future!

If you see this game in-store, steer well clear of it. If you find it included as a free gift in your favourite cereal packet, switch to a different brand. If your partner offers it to you in return for sexual favours, leave them and join a monastery where they allow you to play computer games instead. Rest assured, each of these choices are the lesser evil!

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