Available: March 2004
Demo: available (496 MB)

Far Cry *Multiplayer Preview* © Crytek / UbiSoft
Preview by: Andreas Misund Berntsen

I’m not really sure why, but I always seem to get this special feeling of happiness when I start playing a highly anticipated first-person shooter that actually delivers on all accounts. If a game can mesmerize me in terms of graphics, audio, gameplay, AND multiplayer then I’m literally in gaming nirvana. I came close to this the first few days of the closed Far Cry multiplayer beta. By now there’s a second version out that I’ll base this preview on.

The beta lets you play on a total of four maps, over the Internet, or on a LAN. The game supports a few nice modes so far, like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and assault where one team tries to capture strongpoints, while the other tries to defeat the attackers. Far Cry also supports mods, but none were included in the beta, so we’ll have to see what pops up after the game’s release. People have already started altering some of the files in the beta, altering the maps to a varying extent. With the very intuitive editor that’ll be included in the retail version I’m sure we’ll see a lot of interesting stuff coming up.

Monkeybay is the first map I’ll talk about. This might be the most popular map so far, but it also suffers from a few problems, namely the spawn points, and how you can exploit them. The map takes place on a fairly big island with a rather big stone temple on one side, and an even taller hill on the other. This map works especially well in team deathmatch, because each side has good vantage points for sniping. The hotspots are on the temple, where people from both teams spawn (although one team more rarely than the other). The rest of the hotspots are in the bay that connects the two sides, and by the other team’s jungle camp. This map has two gun-boats, which let you quickly travel around the map, fire rockets or machine gun rounds. Another thing that makes the map fun is that you can find a few well hidden alternate routes, leading to camps, weapons, or other useful things.

In a game like Far Cry the weapons are crucial to the success of the multiplayer modes. There are plenty of close-range, medium-range, and long-range weapons. To name a few, you have a machete, a pistol, a jackhammer shotgun, various sub-machine guns, the OICW, a machine gun, a rocket launcher, and a few kinds of grenades.

I’ve heard a few complaints about the weapons so far, but in my opinion the selection covers just about everything you need. The weapons also have some of the most realistic models seen to date. Most of the weapons have alternate firing modes (usually a rocket / explosive shell, or with the ability to zoom). Last but not least, the projectiles you fire don’t instantly go from your weapon to the target, so there’s finally a slight delay, making it seem a good deal more realistic.

One of the major design decisions behind Far Cry is that long-ranged combat is crucial to your survival. What that actually means is that using a sniper rifle you can zoom in a kill an unsuspecting player from very, very far away – without a loss in framerate or detail. This could get supremely frustrating when someone found the perfect spot to hide, but fortunately the developers saw this coming. When playing it’s usually very easy to spot a “camper”, because the sun reflects in the weapon’s scope, immediately revealing his or her hideout.

The whole aspect of breath hasn’t been explored much in first-person shooters, but Far Cry takes it into account in several ways. The breath meter of course drains when you’re under water, but you can hold the breath key to run faster for a little while (even faster if you’re only holding the machete or the pistol), or it can let you zoom in further and make your crosshair a bit steadier when using the sniper rifle.

Dune is the only level added in the second beta, but it’s also my second favorite so far. Here the attackers start on a beach relatively far from the first goal; located on a base by the main island. You capture a stronghold by standing next to a marker for a few seconds, and if it’s captured then all focus goes to the next one. However, the defenders can build walls and bunkers, making it considerably harder to gain entrance. To maneuver the map you can use jeeps or a gunboat. A quick attack can often be smart, but the maps allow for several strategies, so if you prefer to hide in the bushes and sneak by the shores then that’s all up to you. The second stronghold is by a group of huts and cabins, located neatly by the beach. This spot lets you attack in many ways, so it can be smart to make good use of the buildings and other kinds of cover. The final stronghold is by another, more heavily fortified base. This base was used to stow away large boats (unfortunately none of which can be used by you.), but the waterway is a possibly entrance if the defenders have built walls elsewhere.

Airstrip is another assault map, which takes place in the jungle for the most part. The first stronghold requires you to penetrate player build walls to capture a tower .The second is very close to the airstrip, and is easily accessible. Defenders need to watch in many directions, and make good use of the nearby watchtower. The last stronghold can be tricky for the attackers, since clever engineers can build up very heavy defenses, make use of the nearby watchtower, and more. There is a secret way in, but I’ll leave it up to you to discover it.

The last map is the one I like the least; the map named Radio. This map consists of four small islands, connected by hanging bridges. This map is pretty much only good for regular deathmatches, and you need a fair amount of people, because it has A LOT of places to hide.

It is said that graphics alone don’t make a game, but in Far Cry’s case it doesn’t hurt it one bit. In fact, the game looks awesome. The detail can be scaled well to suit just about anyone, but with a high-end video card it’s just looks terrific. Another effect not used in a lot of games yet is that if you use the OICW’s explosive shell on a wall then it’ll actually look like something exploded there and even more so with a rocket launcher or a grenade. You can’t blow up parts of buildings like in Söldner, but it’s still nicer done than in many other recent games. Dynamic shadows have become very popular in first-person shooters, but Far Cry uses it very rarely when outside. Even without a lot of dynamic shadows the game might be the prettiest to date.

The same goes for the audio really. The multiplayer beta doesn’t have a lot of voices or music, but the sound-effects are just incredible when played in 5.1 surround. The rockets in particular sounded great on my Logitech Z-680 set, giving the sub a nice workout – actually more so than I can remember it has in a long time. The rest of the weapons obviously sound great as well, and are just about as realistic sounding as you could ever want.

The past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of fun with this beta. I’m sure it’ll be a great hit when it’s out, but the developers do have to iron out a few map related things, which I’m sure they’ll do.