Once you get the hang of setting traps, crawling under huts, or sniping from guard towers, Far Cry is as fun as any first-person shooter you've ever played. This is the game Metal Gear Solid 3 wanted to be. The frequent driving sequences are exhilarating as you bust through barricades and swerve around falling trees with missile-launching helicopters in pursuit. The beautiful palm trees, clear blue skies, and reflective rivers are very easy on the eyes, although the plants look a bit sparse and chunky up close.
The jungle sound effects are nothing short of fantastic. Unfortunately, each loud explosion is followed by a high-frequency hum that lasts a few seconds. This is meant to simulate "ringing" in your ears, but it's actually headache inducing! The voice acting is professional, although the dialogue is laced with profanity.
The simple storyline takes a dramatic turn once you become injected with a serum, giving you primal, super-human abilities. Far Cry is a satisfying shooting experience that kept me coming back for more, but it's not perfect. Although the framerate remains smooth at all times, grass often appears to "grow" before your eyes as you approach new areas, which looks odd. On more than one occasion I became stuck in some scenery and had to restart at the last checkpoint.
And while the game encourages stealth action, enemies tend to be hypersensitive to your presence, making it hard to carry out sneak attacks. I love the simple control scheme, but the lack of an "action button" can be frustrating when you want to do something simple like open a door or speak to a civilian.
There's a nice four-player split-screen mode, but the expansive environments and worthless radar displays make it hard to locate your opponents. As a single player experience however, Far Cry is the most enthralling Xbox game I've played in recent memory. If you detest first-person shooters, this probably won't win you over, but if you enjoy them to any degree, you'll absolutely love Far Cry Instincts. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
While FF2's graphics are hardly state of the art, they are sufficiently dark and ambiguous to convey a genuine sense of foreboding. The long shadows and moonlight midst give the forest a Blair Witch flavor, and the tiny rooms are extremely claustrophobic. You'll often catch a glimpse of something in the corner of your eye, heightening the sense of paranoia. Like its predecessor, gameplay involves dispelling ghosts by snapping their pictures with a special camera, and timing is key.
Normally several "shots" are required, and the ghosts rematerialize in different places each time, creating a sense of alarm as you frantically search around. Few games sent chills down my spine and made my hair stand on end like Fatal Frame 2 - the game is actually distressing at times! The "heartbeat" controller vibration, otherworldly sound effects, and hideous ghosts combine to create an immersive, frightful experience. Adding to the tension are some of the most effective cinematic techniques I've ever witnessed in a video game. Even the "spirit radio" audio clips are unsettling.
FF2's difficulty is fair, the save points are copious, and load times are negligible. Unfortunately, the game is marred by design flaws that become increasingly apparent as you progress. With regards to your camera, the game designers took a beautifully simple concept and over complicated it beyond all rhyme or reason. With an excessive number of interchangeable parts, upgradeable functions, and customization options, Fatal Frame 2 has the dubious distinction of being the "Gran Turismo" of horror games. You're even forced to perform "combos" with your camera, which is just plain stupid.
Another problem is that your movements are severely limited, with invisible walls that often impede your progress. The controls are responsive enough - until you need them the most. During ghost attacks the frame rate suffers and the controls become flakey to say the least. As you encounter more powerful ghouls, successfully executed "fatal frames" are anything but, and you soon learn the concept of instant death. I should also mention that my copy of the game is buggy and requires about 10 minutes to load a saved game! In the final analysis, Fatal Frame 2 is undeniably scary, but lousy design and technical glitches prevent it from taking the series to new heights. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Once you go fisticuffs however, this game is off-the-hook! You won't find any floating jumps or fireballs here - just flurries of punches, suffocating holds, and bone-breaking special moves. The impact of the hits is palpable, and it's great how blood splatters onto the screen and drips down. It's especially satisfying when you straddle your opponent on the ground and start pummeling his face with your fists. The characters even bleed and bruise in a realistic manner.
Fight Club sounds like a typical button masher, but the game really takes on a cat-and-mouse vibe as you alternate your attacks with blocks. Cool reversal moves are available, like when a guy attempts a kick and you grab his leg and throw him. When a bone-breaking hit is applied, the action slows down and zooms in to x-ray the carnage in all of its glory. Coupled with crunching sound effects, it's quite dramatic. Fight Club's matches are mercifully brief, giving the game a "one more time" quality. The surround sound is amazing, and the excellent, high-octane music really gets your blood pumping. The story mode is fairly addictive - at least until the stages start repeating.
The locations are a mixed bag. The rainy parking lot with the neon lights looks absolutely stunning, but the docks look awful with that static gray "water" in the background. Other interesting areas include a flooded basement and an airport. Fans of the movie will recognize a number of characters including Tyler Derden, Pretty Boy, and Meat Loaf. I don't know what Wolverine's grandfather is doing in this game, but he's pretty tough! Fight Club is one low-profile title that took me by surprise. My friend Scott and I really enjoyed beating the crap out of each other - more so than usual. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Much of the blame can be heaped upon the unruly camera system. Your view is limited to a tilted overhead perspective, so instead of seeing interesting layered scenery and majestic skylines, all you get is dirty streets and brick walls. The characters are large, but that's because the camera is zoomed in way too close! Thugs tend to loiter on the edge of the screen where you can't even see them. Yes, that happened in the original Final Fight game, but at least your character was visible at all times! That's not always the case here! This problem is irritating with one player, and unbearable with two players.
On top of that, the visuals tend to look terribly drab and washed out. In one stage I assumed the "fog" was supposed to be smoke in the bar, but then it followed me outside! Perhaps the grayish colors were meant to hide graphical imperfections, but it looks terrible. The game's main story mode is just a series of encounters separated by cut-scenes whose main purpose is the mindless spewing of profanity. If that's why they call this "Streetwise", then I'm embarrassed for Capcom. Even my wife (who liked the original Final Fight games) saw through this, comparing it to a high school project tossed together at the last minute. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
You control the exact movements and combat formations of each squad. As a unit, a squad can apply suppressing fire, bound, rush, and employ various other military techniques. The game's tutorial is confusing, but it taught me a heck of a lot about tactical warfare. During actual missions, satisfaction is derived from placing enemies into crossfire and tossing grenades into bunkers. Most of the time however you'll be orchestrating tedious, deliberate movements to keep your troops out of harm's way.
This game is really hard to learn. The tutorial runs well over an hour, and even the "basic controls" are daunting. Should you take a break from the game for a few days and then try to jump back into it, you'll be hopelessly lost. I gave Full Spectrum Warrior a good try, but once my "run and gun" mentality kicked in, this game ate me alive. There are a few technical issues as well. When positioning your men with the formation cursor, the cursor often gets lost in the scenery.
Although you can refer to an overhead map, it's still extremely easy to become disoriented. And as I mentioned before, FSW is very unforgiving. Still, you have to judge a game for what it is, and Full Spectrum Warrior really does apply proper military tactics to realistic scenarios. In my opinion however, this is more work than fun. Bump up the grade by one letter if strategic simulations are your thing. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Speaking of which, could these characters possibly be more unattractive or unlikable? The two female characters are butt-ugly, and the two guys have an irritating "trying too hard to be hip" thing happening. The mini-games exhibit an astounding lack of imagination. Most involve collecting items, squashing bugs, or carrying orbs back and forth to a goal.
The action is fast-paced but the distant, wide-angle camera makes it hard to tell what's going on. Some variations incorporate hazards like timed lasers, spinning fan blades, or dropping floor tiles. But instead of spicing things up, they just add a random element to an otherwise mindless experience. In most games you can attack your opponents via the B button, but it's hard to direct your kicks and punches in the midst of the fracas.
The best mini-game in the whole package is "roller balls", but that's just a big Super Monkey Ball (GameCube, 2001) rip-off. Fuzion Frenzy's graphic quality isn't bad, but all the futuristic city locations look the same - pretty boring! This has got to be one of the most unappealing multi-player games I've ever come across. I find it astonishing that Microsoft felt this deserved a sequel! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.