The video game landscape is filled with long-running first-person shooter franchises, from the incredibly popular Call of Duty and Halo, to Doom and Battlefield. But few have left an indelible mark on the industry quite like Far Cry.
From what began life as a tech demo, the series has endured for over 16 years, producing 14 games (including Far Cry 6) that have sold over 50 million copies and spawned an utterly atrocious movie.
This is the story of Far Cry.
Way back at the 1999 E3 conference, Crytek was a newly founded German gaming company, showing off a tech demo called X-Isle: Dinosaur Island that demonstrated the capabilities of the CryEngine. Aimed at Nvidia’s hardware, the graphics card maker was so impressed by what it saw that a deal was made to distribute X-Isle alongside its cards as benchmarking software.
Click on image to play gameplay video
Following a canceled FPS called Engalus, Crytek was approached by Ubisoft to see if it would turn X-Isle into a full game—it obliged.
The open-world tropical island setting remained: mercs and mutated monkeys replaced the dinosaurs, and an ex-US Special Forces soldier called Jack Carver was introduced. Far Cry was born.
Far Cry (2004 – PC)
Name: Dr Krieger
Bad guy animal rating: Rat
Remember Krieger? Most people don’t.
The first Far Cry was praised for its graphics, which were stunning at the time. Crytek put the CryEngine’s ability to create realistic, massive outdoor areas and long draw distances to great use. It might sound quaint now, but FC was one of the first games where players could point at something in the far-off distance and say to friends, “See that, I can actually go there.” These were no static 2D backgrounds.
In addition to those fantastic draw distances, Far Cry had some of the best water seen in games up to that point, amazing foliage, realistic physics, and even early HDR. As such, the graphical demands ensured it was a PC-only title for the first decade following release—a PS3/Xbox 360 version arrived in 2014—and it required a monster rig if you wanted the settings maxed. It was a scenario famously repeated in a later Crytek game also set on a tropical island, Crysis.
Click on image to play gameplay video
Unlike most FPS games at the time, Far Cry features elements usually reserved for other genres. Players can decide how they want to approach combat, including using vehicles and boats scattered about the island. There’s a stealth meter affected by stance, shadow, and if the player is standing in thick vegetation, too.
While there are few “mystical” moments throughout the Far Cry series, most games (Blood Dragon being the most notable exception) have a basis in reality. That’s not the case in the original, which involves Carver taking on genetically mutated monkeys and humans while searching for a journalist. And while the series is famous for its charismatic antagonists, the first entry’s Dr. Krieger is pretty forgettable, even in his mutated, final-form.
Despite a less than engaging plot and only being available on PC, Far Cry sold nearly three-quarters of a million units in its first 4 months and earned plenty of glowing reviews. It still holds the highest Metacritic score of the entire series on PC (and an all-time FPS favorite among some TechSpot staff members). But it will primarily be remembered for starting a franchise that’s lasted into the 2020s and probably beyond.
Far Cry Instincts (2005 – Xbox)
Wanting to bring the joy of Far Cry to consoles, Ubisoft Montreal developed Far Cry Instincts, a remake of the original. The hardware limitations on the Xbox meant the game had a very linear approach, and the graphics were downgraded, obviously, but it does add some new weapons, dual wielding, and multiplayer modes. New storyline elements help introduce feral abilities, which grant increased speed, night vision, quicker health regeneration, and a melee attack with claws.
Click on image to play gameplay video
Despite a few problems, Far Cry Instincts was quite well-reviewed. A planned PS2 version was canceled.
Far Cry Instincts: Evolution (2006 – Xbox)
Far Cry Instincts proved popular enough for Ubisoft to make a sequel. Picking up where Instincts left off, Evolution is a side note in Far Cry history, offering pretty much the same experience as Instincts, albeit with a shorter campaign and some new weapons, vehicles, and multiplayer mode. It wasn’t as well-received as its predecessor.
Far Cry Instincts: Predator (2006 – Xbox 360)
Predator, released on the same day as Evolution, had nothing to do with a mandible-mouthed alien that can turn invisible, sadly. Instead, it packaged together remastered versions of both the first Instincts game and Evolution that were graphically enhanced for the new console. Reviews scored it quite favorably.
Far Cry Vengeance (2006 – Wii)
Ask people which Far Cry game got the worst reviews, and most will likely say either Primal or New Dawn. The actual answer is a remake of FC Instincts: Evolution on the Wii called Vengeance. And deservedly so as it is utter, utter garbage.
Click on image to play gameplay video
The game utilized the Wii’s iconic controller for combat: aim by pointing at the screen, zoom in by moving the Wiimote towards the TV, slashing movements for the machete, and so on. The control scheme was a good idea, but it didn’t work too well in practice.
Vomit-inducing graphics, technical issues, frame rates dropping into single figures, and horrendous AI combined to make what is officially the least-loved Far Cry so far.
Paradise Lost (2007 – Arcades)
Wanting to squeeze every bit of life out of Far Cry Instincts, Ubisoft published Paradise Lost, an on-rails arcade shooter based on the console game. Two players use the stationary light gun turrets to blast through the five levels, much like the more popular Aliens: Extermination, just not as good.
Far Cry 2 (2008 – PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Name: The Jackal
Bad guy animal rating: Honey Badger
A complex man
Ubisoft decided to move away from the tropical island setting and into Africa’s wilds with the first main sequel, letting players pick from a group of non-speaking heroes. Far Cry 2 also has a more open world that offers greater variation when tackling objectives, a day/night cycle, gorgeous graphics, and the lauded fire propagation mechanism, but it’s not without problems.
Like many people who played Far Cry 2, I still shudder when I hear the words “malaria pills.” A main character suffering from an illness is interesting, but the mosquito-borne disease can be a pain—attacks occur throughout the game, requiring a constant supply of pills.
Additionally, there are times when the realism goes a little too far, with degrading guns that jam and break and vehicles that require regular maintenance. The constant onslaught of enemies can feel relentless, plus the game launched with several technical issues.
Far Cry 2 also introduces buddies, NPCs who offer, amongst other things, different ways of completing main missions. You can even euthanize buddies who become too injured by giving them an overdose or shooting them in the head, which is about as dark as you can get in a game.
No Far Cry title causes as many arguments as Far Cry 2. It falls into the love it or hate it category—some think it’s the best entry, others say it’s the worst—reviewers, though, definitely fall into the former camp.
Far Cry 3 (2012 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360; 2018 – PS4, Xbox One)
Name: Vaas Montenegro
Bad guy animal rating: Blood Dragon
“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?”
The highest-scoring Far Cry—averaged across all platforms—and many people’s favorite, Far Cry 3 returns to a tropical island setting while introducing many elements that have become series staples: radio towers that reveal the map (taken from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed), dangerous animals that can be used for crafting, and a 2 – 4 player co-op campaign.
Stealth also gets a massive upgrade, allowing you to take out entire bases like you’re Chuck Norris crossed with a ninja. Shooting and melee combat is better, and RPG elements come in the form of a skill tree with the pretty cool (to some) effect of adding to your sleeve tattoo when a new ability is learned. Weapons are customizable, and animals can be used to take out enemies.
All these new features allow players to pick a play style without compromise, be it the all-guns-blazing approach or the silent, unseen method.
As with previous entries, Far Cry 3 looks beautiful, especially when watching the wildlife go about their business. But there’s one thing everyone remembers about the game: Vaas Montenegro.
Brilliantly portrayed by Michael Mando, who later appeared as Nacho Vargo in Better Call Saul, it’s difficult to find another video game character that embodies ‘charismatic insane psychopath’ quite like Vaas—though Mark Hamill’s Joker in the Batman: Arkham games comes close. Eight years after its release, gamers still spout his “definition of insanity” line, despite Vaas being the main antagonist only during the first half of Far Cry 3.
As for the negatives, not everyone enjoyed the main quest; Jason Brody isn’t a loveable hero; there are some hokey moments, and quick-time events have plenty of detractors. Still, it was loved by critics and gamers alike, selling 10 million copies in under two years. Meanwhile, Vaas will always be remembered as one of the best bad guys in video game history. Mando last year hinted that he might reprise the role—could Vaas make a surprise appearance in Far Cry 6?
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (2013 – PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Name: Colonel Ike Sloan
Bad guy animal rating: Crocodile
“When Colonel Ike Sloan was born, he crawled out of the womb with a knife between his gums.”
Besides the mutated monkeys in the original game, the Far Cry series has mostly been grounded in reality—that went out the window with Blood Dragon. The game is essentially a standalone expansion to Far Cry 3, one inspired by the best action/sci-fi movies of the 1980s. Some elements have been simplified or removed completely, including crafting.
Featuring animals such as the Devil Goat, Cyber-Shark, and the eponymous Blood Dragon, Ubisoft had its tongue firmly in its cheek with this one. Fans of the 1980s love the game, of course, as there are references to everything from Predator and Commando, to Krull and Cobra. It even stars a legend from the decade, Michael Biehn, as protagonist Sergeant Rex ‘Power’ Colt.
Blood Dragon offers a short (about 8 hours) if enjoyable and at times very funny experience. It scored well and has the honor of being the fastest-selling downloadable title in Ubisoft history.
Far Cry 4 (2014 – PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Name: Pagan Min
Bad guy animal rating: Elephant
Not your typical villain
Building on Far Cry 3’s success, the next entry in the main franchise moves the action to the fictional Himalayan country of Kryat, replacing one charismatic antagonist with another: Pagan Min.
They do say that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, yet the biggest complaint about Far Cry 4 is that it’s just a prettier version of its predecessor. It does look fantastic and shares many of FC3’s gameplay mechanics, but there are plenty of new elements, including a grappling hook that complements the verticality of the landscape, being able to kick objects, and the ability to hide corpses. Plus: riding on an elephant like it’s a living tank is awesome, as is exploring the beautiful landscape in a gyrocopter.
Far Cry 4 is also less linear than what came before; players have to decide whether to follow a progressive or traditional Golden Path member, a choice that affects the nation’s fate and leads to different endings. Elsewhere, both co-op and competitive multiplayer modes are improved, including being able to take a friend along to help in your single-player campaign.
One of the most talked out aspects of Far Cry 4 is, once again, its villain. He might not reach the brilliance of Michael Mando’s Vaas, but Pagan Min—voiced by industry legend Troy Baker—is another memorable antagonist, one whose complicated relationship with the player-controlled Ajay goes beyond the usual bad guy vs. good guy.
Far Cry 4 gained positive reviews, if not quite as glowing as most of the previous games. Nevertheless, it became the series’ fastest-selling game and had the most successful launch week.
Far Cry Primal (2016 – PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Cool Bad Guy animal rating: Skunk
Enjoys a bite of human flesh now and again
Ubisoft listened to the complaints about Far Cry 3 and 4 being too similar and decided to try something different. Possibly a little too different. Fry Cry Primal lacks firearms, vehicles, and every other modern item as it’s set during 10,000 BC—the Mesolithic age—and stars a protagonist seeking revenge on the cannibalistic Udam tribe for destroying his village.
In addition to the period-related changes, players can tame animals that roam the fictional Oros valley, including Mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and brontotherium. These are summonable to help in battle, and players can even control an owl to scout and highlight enemies. There’s a big focus on melee, given the lack of guns.
The setting helps Primal look amazing, and some of the familiar Far Cry gameplay elements are here, such as taking over camps, crafting, and skill trees. But taking the shooter out of FPS was a step too far for many fans, and it’s quite repetitive. Moreover, bad-guy Ull is no Vaas, Min, or Seed.
Reviews for Far Cry Primal ranged from average to good, though it was the second-lowest scoring entry until Far Cry New Dawn came out.
Far Cry 5 (2018 – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia)
Name: Joseph Seed and family
Far Cry animal rating: Honey Badger
Divine, fan of poor-quality tattoos
Far Cry 5 waves goodbye to exotic environments, bringing the action to the US for the first time. Set in Hope County, a fictional region of Montana, players battle the Seed family headed by Eden’s Gate cult leader Joseph Seed.
Far Cry 5 follows the familiar path: a large and gorgeous open world, outposts, vehicles, animals, crafting, skill trees, etc. It’s even got the dream-like sequences. New additions include being the first FC to feature customizable characters and vehicles, as well as planes for engaging in dogfights. The mission structure is slightly different, too; players progress by gaining Resistance points—earning enough lets you take on a region lieutenant.
Having to eliminate each Seed family member before reaching Joseph is a nice change from the usual campaign, especially as players can fight each boss in any order. You can also explore the entirety of the map pretty much straight away, though the game tries to encourage against it.
Far Cry 5’s Guns for Hire system is one of the highlights. Players can recruit locals to fight alongside them, including specialists with their own skills, such as sniping and air support. And who can forget animal companions like Boomer the dog and Cheeseburger the bear?
While not on the same level as Vaas or Min, Joseph Seed is a great main bad guy, though his sister Faith is arguably more memorable. There’s also a co-op mode in which players can allow others to join their campaign, and Far Cry arcade—a multiplayer and map editor where people can share their creations—passes many hours.
Despite Far Cry 5’s reviews being generally favorable, it’s still the lowest-scoring entry in the main series by a tiny margin. Many reviewers called the failure to examine religious fascism during a time of extreme political divisions in the US a wasted opportunity. There’s also that downbeat ending. The criticism wasn’t reflected in the game’s sales though: Far Cry 5 made over $310 million in its first week, eventually becoming the best-selling Ubisoft game on the last generation of consoles.
Far Cry New Dawn (2019 – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia)
Names: Micky and Lou
Far Cry animal rating: Crab
Sisters are doin‘ it for themselves
Definitely one of the franchise’s most controversial entries, many who have never played Vengeance consider New Dawn to be the worst game in the entire series. In reality, New Dawn isn’t bad. It’s just far too similar to Far Cry 5.
Set 17 years after the last game, it might have been better-received if sold as an expansion or DLC rather than a standalone title. A few features are introduced, including new companions, weapon crafting, and expeditions, the latter of which sees players travel to other areas of the US to gain resources.
Some of the additional weapons are cool, and you now have the option of either liberating an outpost or scavenging it for more ethanol.
But none of this was enough to appease gamers who felt they were being served more of the same. Combined with a pair of forgettable twin protagonists who are more annoying than intimidating, and you can understand why New Dawn sits as the second lowest-scoring entry.
Far Cry 6 (2021 – PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia)
Name: Antón ‘ El Presidente’ Castillo
Far Cry animal rating: Yet to be determined
“Look at me, Hector”
Hopefully, the next Far Cry game will see a return to form with another charismatic-yet-evil bad guy, this one played by Giancarlo Esposito. Like Vaas actor Michael Mando, Esposito is a Better Call Saul alumnus (Gus Fring), and is currently finding fame as The Mandalorian’s Moff Gideon.
Esposito plays Antón ‘El Presidente’ Castillo, leader of a fictional Caribbean island called Yaram that the player is trying to restore to its former glories by toppling the tyrant. It sounds like all the usual Far Cry staples will be here, including a new Fangs for Hire system.
The game was delayed from its original February 18, 2021 release date due to the pandemic. Rumors place the new launch at the end of April but don’t hold your breath.
Far Cry: the movies
The Far Cry series proved so popular that it has produced media beyond the games. In 2008, notorious master of shit movies Uwe Boll directed the Far Cry movie. Boll has been behind the camera of several video game adaptation atrocities, including Alone in the Dark, a film so bad it can induce madness in those who view it, like a cheaply made Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Not surprisingly, being stranded on a tropical island with Vaas and catching malaria is more enjoyable than watching this drivel.
While not a full movie, the 30-minute Inside Eden’s Gate short film launched in 2018 as a tie in with Far Cry 5. With Greg Bryk once again in the Joseph Seed role, it tells the events that lead up to the start of FC5. It’s actually quite good.
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