Ever since the Far Cry series launched back in 2004, it’s taken gamers across tropical islands, the perilous African countryside, humungous snowy mountains, and even to the Stone Age. It’s also introduced us to some fantastic villains, with Far Cry 3’s Vaas and his ‘Definition of Insanity’ still a vivid memory for gamers who found themselves in trouble in the game’s tropical paradise (Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min is still my personal favourite antagonist, though).
It’s certainly been a series that’s full of character, and one that’s always delivered a thrilling first-person shooting experience. Baring that in mind, and with the release of Far Cry 5 coming next week, we thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to take a brief look at the history of the series, its vast array of releases, and what’s coming in the future.
2004 – Far Cry
“Well, slap me silly, because not only does Far Cry offer utterly sensational visuals and jaw-dropping gameplay, but it also heralds the arrival of developer Crytek, which now joins id Software and Valve at the head of the shooter class… A stunning achievement.“ – PC Gamer
The one thing I always seem to remember about the original Far Cry was that you needed a ridiculously good PC to run it. It’s not a good memory – I couldn’t play the bloody thing until years after it came out. It truly was a game that was reserved for the ‘PC Master Race’…
Of course, it also happened to be a ridiculously good game. Putting you in the shoes of Jack Carver, you’re sent into a tropical paradise to help rescue a reporter from a vicious bunch of Mercenaries. These Mercenaries were smart too; they’d take cover, they’d call for help, they’d try flanking you – you really were up against the odds.
Thankfully, Far Cry had incredibly large levels that would allow you to approach the action in a multitude of ways. The tropical setting wasn’t just there to look pretty either, with each environment offering a variety of different ways for the player to try and conceal themselves.
These were all fresh and innovative ideas for a first-person shooter at the time, and they really helped make Far Cry stand out in the crowded genre. It’s still a much-loved title for gamers even today and rightfully so.
2005 – Far Cry: Instincts
“Awesome in every sense of the word. This is a big game, with a lengthy single-player story, a full multiplayer suite, and a level editor thrown in for kicks. Graphically, it pushes the Xbox to its limits and delivers some jaw-dropping visuals as it immerses you in lush jungles with sweeping vistas.” – Gamespot
Fortunately, it wasn’t long until console gamers could take part in some Far Cry action, with Far Cry: Instincts bringing a condensed remake of the PC title to the Xbox in 2005.
Obviously, the Xbox wasn’t as powerful as the high-spec PCs, so it couldn’t handle everything that the original Far Cry offered. This meant that Far Cry: Instincts’ levels weren’t as open in design and typically sent players on a much more direct route. It was a shame, but hey, it was worth it to get that Far Cry experience on console.
Whilst some things were cut though, Far Cry: Instincts did offer a few unique features. One of those was Jack’s new ‘Feral’ powers – special abilities that gave him enhanced speed and strength, night vision, and even a brutal melee attack that could easily wipe out foes. It ensured that you didn’t just have to depend on guns to take down your enemies, which was a bit more exciting given the fact that a lot of the game had to be cut down in scale in other areas.
2006 – Far Cry Instincts: Evolution / Far Cry Instincts: Predator
“The single-player game features some welcome additions (pipe bombs are a lot of noisy, nasty fun), while the multiplayer is even more fun than it was the last time out. This is undoubtedly one of the Xbox 360’s best titles.” – Gamespy
The following year saw Far Cry: Instincts get a sequel in the form of Far Cry Instincts: Evolution. The bulk of it was based around a new single player campaign, though some extra weapons and vehicles did sweeten the deal. In honesty though, it lacked the same excitement of both Far Cry and Far Cry: Instincts and felt a bit more like filler content that re-used assets from the last game.
However, on the same day Far Cry Instincts: Evolution released, Ubisoft also released Far Cry Instincts: Predator – an Xbox 360 title that included both of the console games in one slick HD package. It offered a first glimpse at how good the series could look on the more powerful consoles, and given that it released early on in the Xbox 360’s lifecycle, it provided an entertaining fix of multiplayer shooting action for early adopters too.
Still, it felt a bit like a taster for something better that was due to come…
2007 – Far Cry Vengeance
“A bad conversion of an almost year-old Xbox game. Vengeance is playable but it’s a massively disappointing Wii debut for the Far Cry series, and the worst FPS on the console so far.” – Gamesmaster
That better thing wasn’t Far Cry Vengeance.
Far Cry Vengeance was a remake of Far Cry Instincts: Evolution, though it came exclusively to the Nintendo Wii. You know what that means, right? Gimmicky motion controls.
Ok, so the shooting itself wasn’t terrible, but the poor visuals and some sloppy enemy AI didn’t sit well with most gamers. It was a big step down for the series, and felt a little like a cash-in on the popularity of the Nintendo Wii as opposed to a genuine innovation for the series itself. It was certainly a low point, but fortunately it’s the only misstep the series has taken. Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes, right? Far Cry Vengeance was a big one.
2007 – Paradise Lost
I’ll admit, I hadn’t even HEARD of the series spin-off Paradise Lost before I started compiling this feature.
It’s an on-rails arcade-exclusive shooter that sees up to two players working together to fight through more tropical battlefields. I’m a big fan of on-rails shooters, so I’m a bit gutted that I never got the chance to try this out. Why couldn’t they have brought this to the Nintendo Wii instead of Far Cry Vengeance?!
It might not be the most prolific entry in the Far Cry series, but it’s one that clearly did something a little different. I guess it’s time to go hunting through some old arcades to find it…
2008 – Far Cry 2
“The unique setting, brilliant AI and palpable atmosphere, make Far Cry 2 a quintessential PC gaming experience.” – PC PowerPlay
It’s a little hard to believe that there were so many spin-offs of the original Far Cry before we even saw the official release of the ‘second’ title in the series, but it finally came in 2008. Calling it a true sequel might’ve seemed like a bit of a stretch though – whilst the spin-offs used the same characters and a similar tropical setting, Far Cry 2 had a whole new story, a new protagonist, and sent players to Africa. It even had a massive open-world to explore, giving gamers the freedom to approach each mission in their own way.
It introduced some clever ideas, with a big emphasis placed upon the weather and a day-and-night system. These things didn’t just offer a cosmetic change though, but influenced the gameplay – you’d have enemies sheltering themselves from the heat in the day for example, whilst they’d struggle to see you at night. There were also huge fires you could light, which not only looked fantastic in game (I remember being blown away by them the first time I saw them) but could also work as a distraction to sneak around your foes. On the flip-side, you get malaria – every cloud, and all that jazz.
Far Cry 2 was an innovative title that essentially re-invented how the series played thanks to its neat mechanics and new setting. I think its release (and success) is what really set the foundation for how the series would constantly re-invent itself with each future release.
2012 – Far Cry 3
“It’s a smartly designed open-world game with a ton of stuff to do, and the random acts of hilarity that occur out in the jungle will constantly leave you with unique stories you’ll be desperate to tell your friends. If the story had made good on the strength of its initial premise, Far Cry 3 would have been shoo-in for best game of the year.” – Giant Bomb
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little underwhelmed by Far Cry 3’s reveal. It’s not because the game didn’t look good, but rather because it was going back to a tropical paradise. After the innovations that Far Cry 2’s Africa brought to the game, I was looking forward to seeing what locale we’d be taken to next.
I was wrong to doubt it though – Far Cry 3’s setting wasn’t only beautiful to look at, but it was massive, incredibly open, and full to the brim with different things for players to do.
The shooting itself and the open approach players could take to the action felt similar to previous entries in the series, whilst the dependence on using vehicles was emphasised again too – Far Cry 3 had the largest map in the series so far at this point, so you’d need to get around somehow.
What really helped make the game stand out though was the narrative. Far Cry 3 felt more cinematic than ever, whilst the addition of the enigmatically psychotic villain Vaas really made for some stand out moments. Admittedly, there were some incredibly kooky scenes during the narrative that could feel a bit odd, but in all this was the first entry in the series that made me care just as much about the tale and its characters as I did the excellent gameplay.
Far Cry 3 was a massive success with both critics and gamers alike, and it showed that the series had plenty of different things to offer. What it did next was a bit unexpected though…
2013 – Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
“Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a true manifesto of vintage culture, of 16-bit gaming and trash cinema: a gem of rare beauty!” – Everyeye.it
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was a stand-alone expansion to Far Cry 3, with it lending some of the gameplay elements but in in a more linear and focused way. It felt very similar to play, but that’s cool – it’s an expansion, after all.
What it didn’t share was the setting. Forget tropical paradises, and welcome yourself to a neon-lit futuristic world that’s been affected by a huge nuclear war. You take on the role of a cybernetic soldier who gets to fight off ridiculous enemies and use even more ridiculous weapons – it’s like an insane 80s action movie.
This was silliness and over-the-top action at its finest, with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon feeling the opposite of the other releases in the series as far as the context is concerned, but maintaining the tight shooting mechanics and exciting set pieces that’ve made them all so enjoyable to play. It acted as an incredibly fun intermission between the release of Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 and one that showed that the series didn’t always have to take itself so seriously.
2014 – Far Cry 4
“Far Cry 4 truly shines in the almost bacchanalian sense of freedom it bestows on the player as they traverse through its environment.” – Guardian
It only took two years after Far Cry 3 to get the next ‘official’ entry in the series, with Far Cry 4 taking players to a Himalayan country in 2014. This brought a new and original setting to the series once more, with players exploring dangerous mountains as they look to take down the insane tyrant (and ‘King’ of the country) Pagan Min.
One of the best things about the Far Cry series is how it’s managed to make each entry play exactly the same, but still feel unique thanks to the new locations and minor additions to the gameplay. Playing across a landscape that sees you working up and across mountains was incredibly fun in Far Cry 4 and it had players not only checking what enemies might be around them, but above them too.
There was an emphasis on flying around too, as well as using wingsuits to glide across the massive open valleys. Oh, and you can ride an elephant and unleash havoc on your foes. Yeah, it’s pretty fun.
Want to know my favourite thing about Far Cry 4 though? In the intro, Pagan Min asks you to wait for him momentarily during a small meal. This is where you’d typically make your escape, but if you actually do wait around, you’ll unlock an optional ending to the game early on. It’s a small detail and one that doesn’t really affect things from a gameplay perspective, but it’s something that showed that the Far Cry series isn’t afraid to do things differently.
I think Far Cry 4 has been my favourite entry in the series so far, but it’s well deserved praise – it really is a stunning title that’s entertaining from the start right until the very end.
2015 – Far Cry Primal
“Far Cry Primal is the Stone Age survival game we never expected from the Triple A industry, complete with a lush prehistoric world you can explore for hours.” – The Escapist
Far Cry Primal’s release a year after Far Cry 4 was a surprising one, and not just because it came out so quickly – it completely drops the gunplay and modern setting, and takes you back to the Stone Age. Remember a few paragraphs back when I raved about riding an elephant? Well, in Far Cry Primal you can ride a woolly mammoth… can’t top that, can you?
Whilst the Far Cry series has always done a good job of diversifying entries by putting you in different settings, Far Cry Primal completely changes up the gameplay too. You won’t be using guns, but rather the likes of spears, axes, slingshots and bows. Players have to craft them all themselves too, which puts a big emphasis on resource gathering.
The biggest feature of Far Cry Primal though is the animal taming. There are countless animals in the environment around you, and if you lure them in with bait they can be tamed to fight alongside you in battle. Much like Ubisoft’s other massive title Assassin’s Creed Origins, you can even take control of an Owl (instead of an eagle) to scope out environments and highlight enemies. Who needs binoculars, right?
Out of all of the Far Cry titles, Far Cry Primal is definitely the most unique. The gameplay elements completely change up everything you would’ve witnessed before in previous entries, though the foundation of the gameplay in which you conquer camps and slowly take control of the land around you feels the same. Critics seemed to like it too, so it was a great little spin-off release by Ubisoft.
2018 – Far Cry 5
It all leads us to Far Cry 5, a return to a modern day setting. There are no tropical islands, Himalayan mountains, or mammoths to come across this time – instead, you’re in America, the ‘land of the free’.
It’s hard to say how exactly it’ll play, but I do know that for the first time you’ll be creating your own character. There’s an emphasis on co-operative play too, whilst animals play a supporting role yet again thanks to the ‘Fangs for Hire’ mechanic. There’s even the return of a map editor, with the ‘Far Cry 5 Arcade’ that allows you to build you own single player and multiplayer levels using assets from a wide assortment of Ubisoft games. It really does sound like Far Cry 5 could be the best entry in the series – not too long to find out…
Oh, and if you were wondering where the series is going to take us next, Ubisoft has confirmed Far Cry 5 is having DLC that takes players to Vietnam and to Mars… you know, as in the planet Mars. I think it’s safe to say that the future is looking very bright for Far Cry – here’s to another fourteen years of all out shooting (and spearing) action.