Monday, May 09, 2016

Revisiting my gaming past: Far Cry

I am currently about two thirds of the way through another replay of the 2004 classic fps Far Cry. It is one of a small number of games that I repeatedly return to. The PC has always had the best back catalog in gaming and it is one of the joys of being a PC gamer that it is possible to play the old classics on a modern PC.

The lush tropical setting is still beautiful and the monsters are as ugly and nasty as ever. The huge open levels are still magnificient. The gunplay is still  good as are are the stealth features. I am enjoying Far Cry but I also have a niggling concern. The experience has not been as satisfying as I expected this return to one of my all time favourite games to be.

The cause of my discomfort is straightforward enough. I find myself wondering if the effort required to get this classic game to run on a modern system is justified by the experiece. Time is doubly cruel to older video games. Every new generation of computer makes it harder to get old games running while every new generation of game exposes the flaws of the past more vividly.

I couldn't get my original DVD copy of Far Cry to run on Windows 10 at all. I trawled various resource sites looking for a solutions to no avail. I tried several patches both official and unofficial. In the end I was more or less convinced that the DVD itself may be faulty so in desperation bordering on panic I spent €8 to buy a new DRM free digital download version of the game from GOG. GOG's compatibility magic did its trick and the game ran first time but it looked pretty bad with with horrible graphical anomalies popping up in game. Happily the gog.com forums pointed me to an unnofficial patch which fixed my graphics problems and even added a few small enhancements, the most important being the addition of quick save. http://www.moddb.com/mods/farcry-addon-mod-fcam/downloads/unofficial-farcry-patch-1505. Finally I had to force Vsync in my Nvidia control panel to prevent adible coil whine from my graphics card but at last the game was playable.

On release Far cry was a sensation. The graphics were stunning if you could afford a beefy enough computer to play the game. The game had massive open levels with huge draw distance unlike anything seen before. The AI was strong resulting in tough unpredictable enemies that required intelligent use of the  stealth system as well as excellent shooting skills to overcome. Of course the 12 year old graphics would not impress anyone in 2016 and open world games (including Far Cry's own sequels) have gone far beyond what this 2004 classic achieved. The once vaunted AI is not so impressive any more and enemies' uncanny accuracy from half way across the map feels unfair in 2016. The game also had a horrible checkpoint save system but thankfully the  unoffical patch adds quick save.

I am still enjoying the game. It is still a classic PC game deserving a place in the libraries of gaming nostalgics and students of gaming history. Sadly however, considering the limitations of its age and the difficulties involved in getting it running I can no longer recommend it to new players.

Aside: One annoyance when playing older games is that almost all of them use EAX environmental audio which hasn't been supported since Windows Vista. I don't have a discrete sound card any more (who does?) but apparently it is possible to emulate EAX on a modern system if you have a sound card from Creative (Alchemy) or Asus (GX 2.5). I am actually thinking of buying one just to experience retro games as they werre intended.

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