The Xbox 360 version of the popular Far Cry Instincts is a prime example of making a good product go a long way. To start with, slightly revamping the graphics and adding another campaign would undoubtedly be less work than making an entirely new Far Cry, yet the end result is a fresh Far Cry title to entice buyers with. It also gives Ubisoft a second chance to catch any potential customers that slipped through the net when Instincts was released for the Xbox. On the other end of the customer spectrum, the die-hard Far Cry fans will likely be unable to resist the idea of a new campaign and potentially better graphics, even if they’ve played the Xbox version to death. In short, there’s a lot of money to be made from an expansion pack lumped in with a game that a load of people already have. Clever? Yes. Greedy? Perhaps. Does anyone really mind about that after they’ve finished playing? Not likely. Far Cry Predator takes the thrilling Instincts story, and adds a solid sequel campaign called Evolution into the mix. With enough gripping gameplay to keep you inside for weeks (and that’s without even touching Xbox Live), Far Cry Instincts: Predator, is a vital addition to any self respecting gamers collection.
In the Instincts storyline, you’ll be running for your life as Jack Carver, a small time arms dealer who finds himself trapped on an island that’s crawling with enough soldiers to defend a small continent. Unfortunately, none of them are there on a peace-keeping mission, and even worse – they’re all happy to kill you the second you peek out from the foliage. After a few levels of dealing with over zealous soldiers, the storyline takes a sharp twist when you’re captured and injected with a serum designed to bring out man’s latent feral abilities. The good news in all of this is that you’ll be running faster, leaping further and have the brute strength of a wild beast. The bad news is that you’ll be running into some of the previous human test subjects that didn’t turn out so well. Throw in some underground labs (not your average research facility), a couple of murky swamps (mandatory nightmarish creatures included), and some fast moving zombies (the worst kind) and you’ll be lucky to finish the game without scaring yourself grey.
Assuming you have the guts to fight your way through the Instincts storyline, you’ll unlock Far Cry Evolution. This time around, you’ll start out with all your feral abilities rather than learning to control them over time, which is handy when you’re thrown into the middle of a modern day pirate war. Just when you’re starting to feel a little smug about your clearly unfair advantage over the mere mortals, the inevitable happens: you’ll meet up with other trigger-happy jungle savages who’ve also tapped into their inner beast. Suddenly your leaps don’t seem quite so high, and your feral punches don’t feel nearly as badass as they once did.
One of the great strengths of these two Far Cry campaigns is their ability to make you so tense you’re likely to suffer a heart attack if anything loud disturbs your playing. Eerie creature noises, anxiety-inducing music and enemies that appear behind you with no warning, all add up to a gigantic case of stressfulness. If that sounds a little off-putting, rest easy knowing that the game now includes three difficulty settings. The easiest of these, Rookie, makes sure there’s enough ammo, health packs and armour lying around the place to equip 10 of you; the enemy also has a terrible aim and the save points are frequent. The only trouble with this situation is that no matter how well timed the save points are, and how conveniently placed the weapons might be, you’re ultimately aware that if the game is giving you a save point, it’s because you’re about to need it. Far Cry is one of the few games you’ll come across that succeeds in making you actually dread stockpiles of ammo.
Although the Evolution storyline can come across as a little sloppy and rushed at times, it also keeps things moving far quicker than during the Instincts storyline. Smaller and more numerous mission objectives give you a better feel for what’s going on without detracting from the overall story. On the downside, Evolution is a little shorter than Instincts, and has a few small but noticeable gameplay faults. Enemies tend to spawn behind you in deserted areas you’ve just passed, and you’ll occasionally stumble across waves of never-ending enemies that don’t stop appearing until you bravely press onwards.
Although the graphics have been refined for the 360, they still seem to be lagging behind the high standard that other 360 titles have set. The colours are still intense and the graphics are sharp enough to pass, but don’t seem to match the idea that ‘improved graphics’ are one of the main selling points for the game. The most immediately noticeable change, however, is the amount of detail on the guns you’re wielding. Each weapon is meticulously recreated, complete with rust and dirt. The sound used in Instincts is fantastic, and still manages to improve on itself in Evolution. If the wailing zombies and rabid jungle freaks don’t scare you enough, the music surely will. The soundtrack ranges from quiet and eerie percussion to frantic tribal drum beats, and everything in between. The impressive sound effects tend to tip the scale between nervousness and full blown fear in most cases. As if wandering around a swamp in the middle of the night isn’t bad enough, you’ll hear creatures rustling nearby, and the water occasionally splashing with unimaginable lurking terrors. One word of warning – the dialogue isn’t intended for younger ears. The language is frequently bad and coupled with the intense amounts of gore, it would probably be wise to keep the game away from curious first graders.
After around 20 combined (and particularly intense) gameplay hours, chances are you’ll be happy with the length of the campaigns, but be ready to move onto the multiplayer gameplay. The multiplayer suite features all the goodies that really made Far Cry Instincts shine, but with added maps from the Evolution storyline. You can partake in a standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and the exhilarating predator mode in which one player gets all the feral abilities, and everyone else misses out. Probably the most subtle and totally addictive aspect of Far Cry Predator is the excellent built-in map editor. It’s incredibly easy to create your dream map - maybe filled with canyons and rocky ledges? Possibly more styled towards a swampy jungle fortress? If you can imagine the setting (short of an urban mall), you can probably create it. And if your imagination fails you, there’s a ton of user-made maps ready and waiting to share and play with online.
Far Cry Instincts: Predator might simply be a beefed up version of one of the best first person shooters to grace the Xbox, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a beefed up version of one of the best first person shooters to grace the Xbox. More succinctly put, it’s a slightly bigger version of an amazing game. Possibly worth your time if you’ve played and enjoyed Far Cry Instincts, but absolutely imperative to check out if you’ve somehow missed out on the Xbox version.