Far Cry Instincts: Predator
It's not a true sequel and barely a partial one but Ubisoft's latest Far Cry game still has a lot to like.
Like adding excellent homemade relish to a McDonald's burger, Microsoft's consoles are building a nasty reputation for taking current-generation content and sprucing it up barely enough to satisfy the next-gen crowd. The latest example of this is Far Cry Instincts: Predator - what is essentially a re-release of Far Cry Instincts (full review) on Xbox with the bonus stuff found in Far Cry Instincts Evolution thrown in for good measure.
Now don't get me wrong. Far Cry Instincts was one of the best games on the Xbox and delivered a damn fine first-person shooter experience, but that's not necessarily enough of a reason to play through it again. If, however, you didn't get a chance to spend much time with man-cum-beast Jack Carver in his low-res incarnation, this slightly-higher-res instalment will be just what you're looking for.
The story in the Evolution part of the proceedings starts off with Jack driving a government agent named Val Cooper around a remote Pacific island. After helicopters attack the pair and whisk away his charge, Jack is on the trail - literally. The opening act's plethora of weapons soon makes way for new animalistic abilities that let you kill with a blow, jump higher, run faster and, yes, smell your foes. Learning your new abilities and wondering where the frankly surprisingly interesting storyline will take you next is a big part of the charm of this game.
The other part is how fun it is to kill as many people as possible. There are a lot of ways to do this. You have the Rambo way of shooting up everything that moves, the Snake way of sidling up beside your next victim for a stealth attack and the American Werewolf in London way of ripping out the throats of anyone who dares to stand in the way of your quest for the truth.
Apart from the beefy original story mode there's also the new content that arrives via Far Cry Instincts Evolution. Predator mode, unlocked once you finish the main Evolution mode, is essentially another eight levels imbued with more freedom in how you go about checking off the objectives. The other big change is that your beast-powers are in place from the offset, which takes away from the dramatic flair association with your discovery of them in the main tale.
The singleplayer modes already provide a lot to keep you busy but there's more, in the way of several multiplayer modes available off- and online where you and up to 15 friends and foes can fight in standard game types and an extra, beastly one too. Add in the improved map editor, which makes creating your own levels less of a pain, and you've got one bulging package.
There are, however, a few niggling points to make. Enemy AI seems widely variable. Sometimes they'll charge you like donkeys while others they'll intelligently try to surround you like hyenas. Then there's the checkpoint-based save structure, which works against you more often that I'd like. It would be unfair to say that it's always a problem. It's not. But you will become frustrated when it does underperform and you're forced to repeat scripted sequences until you learn the enemies' patterns. The deal breaker for many, though, will be that the graphics haven't been bumped nearly enough. There's room for a lot more fancy stuff here, which is disappointing after seeing Ubisoft Montreal push the Xbox so hard with the original console version.
That said, unless you've been playing the first game since it came out and demand something as appealing in a pseudo-sequel, Far Cry Instincts: Predator offers plenty to do and mostly smiles on your face while you're doing it. The Xbox 360 is already brimming with high-quality first-person shooters but this is another that will set comfortably among the Halos and the Call of Dutys.