When Far Cry: Instincts came out on the Xbox in the fall of 2005, it quickly became one of the better first-person shooters for the platform. However, when the Xbox 360 launched a couple of months later, Far Cry: Instincts wasn’t backwards compatible with Microsoft’s next-generation console. Ubisoft’s solution to this problem was to re-release Far Cry: Instincts for the Xbox 360 and to sweeten the deal, they included Far Cry: Evolution, an expansion that was simultaneously released on the Xbox. The two-for-one package is entitled Far Cry: Instincts – Predator.
In the initial Instincts chapter, players take on the role of Jack Carver, a former Navy commando running a charter boat business in the South Pacific. When a female journalist with money to spend asks Jack to show her the World War II wrecks surrounding the Jacutan islands, he obliges, only to have his boat get blown to splinters by a group of mercenaries. Stranded in paradise, Jack begins to search for answers. The burning question: who's going to pay for his boat?
As a first-person shooter, Far Cry has a lot going for it. Besides taking place in a tropical locale, the environments are immense, loaded with enemies, weapons and vehicles such as ATVs, water scooters, hovercrafts and gliders. It's also got some unique elements including the ability for Jack to set up traps in the jungle, such as a branch whip or a claymore mine, to help thin out the throng of mercenaries. The big twist of the game occurs towards the midway point, when Jack is captured and players are introduced to the main villain, Doctor Krieger, a mad scientist conducting experiments that rival Dr. Moreau in the animal-human hybrid category of creepiness. It's at this point that Jack becomes part of the island's experiment. Injected with a strange serum, Jack develops feral abilities that make him faster, stronger and improve his senses. It's probably not the best idea to make a test subject out of the man you're trying to kill but I guess that's what makes a mad scientist mad.
The Evolution chapter picks up shortly after the Jacutan Archipelago incident. While drinking his troubles away, Carver meets a beautiful smuggler named Kade. After being seduced by her "charms" (not once but twice, he's an animal, literally), Kade convinces Jack to help her on an arms smuggling deal with some local pirates. Naturally the deal goes wrong and Jack once again finds himself stranded on a tropical island, this time surrounded by legions of pirates and native warriors.
While the Instincts story is a full-fledge game in itself, coming in at approximately 10 hours of gameplay, the Evolution story is more of an expansion, lasting about half that time. It introduces a few new weapons to the arsenal, including pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and a blowgun that uses poisonous darts to neutralize feral abilities. Speaking of feral abilities, since Carver never found an antidote for his disease (or gift, depending how you look at it), Jack begins the Evolution chapter with his previous abilities, not to mention a new one; the ability to see climbing points on shear walls. This leads to my biggest complaint with the Evolution story, an element I believe should never appear in a first-person shooter: platform jumping. The last level in particular is one giant jumping puzzle and it makes what should be the culminating level into a totally forgettable one.
That's not the only problem with the Evolution chapter however. The expansion also uses unlimited enemy spawns as a sign to players that it's time to move on to the next area, but if players get stuck at a certain point, such as the Shanty Town safe house, unlimited enemies makes it difficult to figure out how or where you need to go to carry on the story. That's not to say the Evolution chapter is a bad one, it just doesn't compare in scope, quality or originality to the Instincts chapter.
Visually, Far Cry: Instincts was a game that took the Xbox to its limits, in large part due to the massive environments. As it transitions to the Xbox 360, not much has changed. The resolution is higher and if you look close enough you’ll see some improvements to the water, in terms of ripples and waves, but gamers with a standard television will have a tough time noticing these little touches. If anything, they’ll notice the character and weapon models are surprisingly blocky. The game still looks great, especially in the way it presents an exotic locale that actually looks and feels like a tropical island, but there’s nothing next-generation going on here.
When you’re done with both singleplayer campaigns, a fairly robust multiplayer suite awaits. Up to 16 players can compete in Chaos and Team Chaos (deathmatch modes), Steal the Sample or Seek and Secure (objective-based modes), or the coup de grace, the Predator mode. In the Predator mode, one player is granted feral abilities and competes against the remaining players who play as mercenaries. The mercenaries have to work together to reach a transmitter in order to power a sonic alarm that kills the Predator. However in order to the reach the transmitter, the mercenaries must travel through the Predator’s territory; a difficult task indeed. Multiplayer is further expanded by Far Cry’s solid map editor that allows players to create quality multiplayer maps quickly and easily, using a mix of terrain and building sets.
So let’s go over this one more time. Far Cry: Instincts – Predator is two games in one. You get the original Instincts chapter plus the additional Evolution chapter. Here’s the kicker for those of you who already completed the Instincts chapter in the previous Xbox version: you cannot unlock the Evolution chapter in Far Cry: Instincts – Predator without finishing the Instincts chapter first (unless you know the cheat code, of course). Bit of a pain to be sure. Here’s my recommendation: if you already own Far Cry: Instincts for the Xbox, you’re basically getting the same game plus an okay expansion for $60 USD. Not a great deal, proceed with caution. However, if this if your first exposure to the Far Cry series and you’re a fan of first-person shooters, you’re getting an excellent deal, though not necessarily a next-generation experience. The choice is yours. Either way, I know I’m looking forward to the future adventures of Jack Carver.