Five is Not Enough: Let’s Rank the Far Cry Games

Mike Diver
Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation Xbox PC Gaming Nintendo

Far Cry 5 has been a fantastic anecdote factory in the first quarter of 2018. A game where apparently random elements can crash together to create memorable moments of emergent gameplay-cum-storytelling (who hasn’t rescued or recruited a citizen of its rural Montana setting, only for a bear to come charging in a second later and tear them up?).

Far Cry 5  might have divided critics on some levels, but few can argue that at its best, it’s a mighty fun playground of hyper-violent, and ever-so-slightly slapstick, possibility.

Far Cry, the series, will celebrate its 15thanniversary in 2019 – and since it’s been around, there have been, well, five main games. The numbering rather helps to keep track of them, huh. But there’s also been spin-offs and remakes aplenty. And with that in mind, we’ve pulled together a top ten Far Cry games list, which may or may not feature the same game a couple of times, kind of. And no, this isn’t a “complete” list of all games to bear the Far Cry name – but really, is anyone about to argue that Paradise Lost needs including here?

10: Far Cry Vengeance

(Wii, 2006)

We’re starting from the bottom, as it really is a case of the only way being up when it comes to Far Cry Vengeance. A Wii exclusive, this remake of Far Cry Instincts: Evolution–- which we’ll come to shortly,  was itself the sequel to a console remake of the PC-only original. Yet, while the original was an indisputable classic, this Wii-imagining suffered from ugly graphics, a jerky frame rate, braindead enemy AI, temperamental Wiimote controls, and a list of other problems so lengthy that it makes us weep just thinking about them.

The game looks like a title made for a previous-gen system, and continually frustrates with its unpredictable motion controls. Suffice to say, this is one best left in the bargain bi… No, no. Actually, just the regular bin will do.

9: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

(PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, 2013)

This standalone spin-off of the previous year’s Far Cry 3 looked great on paper, taking the exotic locale of its parent title, shrinking the map size down to a digestible DLC scale, and soaking everything in a hammy neon-tinged sci-fi aesthetic. It cast you as the Michael Biehn-voiced Rex “Power” Colt, a super-solider sort, in a relatively brief adventure that mixes cybernetic silliness and some extremely tongue-in-cheek cinema-stolen story clichés.

If that wasn’t appealing enough, it also chucks in some ruddy great laser-carrying dragon beasts that love to chow down on blue-blood-pumping android hearts — just for good measure. Sounds exciting, right?

But then you play it, and sadly, it’s everything but. Disappointingly formulaic and devastatingly dull to look at (those magnificent dragons aside), Blood Dragon is the kind of slog where two hours of play feels like ten. It’s got some cracking music, but even that begins to get gratingly repetitive. A massive missed opportunity.

8: Far Cry Instincts

(Xbox, 2005)

An Xbox-exclusive remake of the first game, Instincts streamlined its predecessor to provide (what today feels like) a strangely linear Far Cry experience. The story’s not changed – the player is one Jack Carver, charged with stopping the mutation experiments of a standard-issue mad scientist type by the name of Dr Krieger. Its tropical setting would be revisited, and massively expanded on, in Far Cry 3; but even today, there’s a sun-kissed brightness to Instinctsthat’s hugely appealing.

Although, perhaps that impression is a result of coming to it after the muddiness of Vengeance and Blood Dragon. The shooting’s perfectly competent, but the cut-scenes are hilariously bad – Ubisoft might have brought in Stephen Dorff to voice Carver, but he’s displaying none of his Hollywood chops here.

7: Far Cry Instincts: Evolution

(Xbox, 2006)

Evolution on Xbox was a – wait for it – far cry (uh, we so went there) from the disastrous Wii version. The different name thing was no doubt insisted upon, so as to not soil the good name of this more-than-serviceable Instincts sequel. Continuing pretty much straight from its predecessor, Evolution is short on story – you’ll see the credits in around six hours – but its expanded map creator and additional multiplayer modes gave those with flair to share greater resources to show off their abilities.

Both Instincts and Evolution were packaged together, for the 360, as Far Cry Instincts: Predator in 2006, featuring as-expected graphical improvements. Unlike and 3, though, this first-game package sadly isn’t backwards compatible on Xbox One.

 

6: Far Cry 5

(PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, 2018)

You can check out the full Fandom review– and further articles– for a more detailed analysis of the fifth Far Cry proper. But the basics are as follows: everything that’s great about it, save one cuddly but lethal bear by the name of Cheeseburger, pretty much existed in previous games; and while it thankfully loses the climb-a-tower-to-unlock-the-map mechanic of and 4, having everything essentially open to the player from the start rather blunts any narrative edge the game creates in its opening moments.

Nevertheless, it’s rarely not fun, outside of the staggering tonal disharmony – here’s some stunts, and now here’s some torture, because sure – and the Montana it presents to wreak havoc in is one of gaming’s prettiest open worlds yet. Mostly more of the same, then, and a little worse for it when the minor improvements aren’t all that much to write home about.

 

5: Far Cry Primal

(PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, 2016)

A genuinely different Far Cry, this prehistoric sandwich filling between the chunky sustenance of the fourth and fifth main games sent players back to the Mesolithic Age, around 10,000 years ago. No machine guns, then. Instead: spears, axes, slings, and fists. Oh, and rather than cassowaries or honey badgers to worry about, lethal though those critters were, now there are sabre-tooth cats and dire wolves to soil your loincloth about. However, there’s a twist – your character, Takkar, can tame animals, bend them to his will, and use them to strike fear into his enemies.

And, y’know, murder them. If you like. Like Blood Dragon, credit has to go to Ubisoft for offering Far Cry fans something unexpected with Primal, and that it doesn’t live up to the qualities of most of the main games isn’t to say it’s bad, at all. But after the strong story of its parent title, Far Cry 4, Primal was always going to feel like the lesser offering.

 

4: Far Cry 3

(PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, 2012)

Towers for hours. Just endless climbs. All so you can unlock another area of the map, revealing some gear stashes and pirate squats, and some old smouldering tyres and that. But while the fatigue of vertical progress sets in quick with Far Cry 3, its luscious tropical island(s) setting, packed with plants to harvest for vital medicines and animals to skin for ammo pouches and the like, just pops off the screen like a postcard from your next perfect holiday getaway. Obviously, this place is largely packed with deadliness – from sharks and crocodiles to the gun-toting pirates who get you into the pickle the story starts with – but it’s such a vibrant and organic world that it sucks you in quite effortlessly.

Until you have to climb another tower, anyway. Far Cry 3 might have ranked higher here, were it not for two things (other than the towers): its whole The Intruding Everyman White Dude Is Gonna Save The Indigenous Folk thing, which feels dodgy from the get-go, and the fact that said Everyman White Dude is such an awful douchebag. Just, the worst. Spoiler: be sure to choose the ending where he [REDACTED].

 

3: Far Cry

(PC, 2004)

Well, you’ve got to give respect to where all of this started, right? The one game on this list not made by a Ubisoft studio – Crytek did the honours, with Ubi acting as publisher – the first Far Cry laid the basics for much that followed: a wild and unpredictable open world, a non-linear approach to (outdoor) mission completion, and a story that misses as much as it hits but who cares here because mutants. Okay, so the Trigens – primates and humans that have been subjected to the aforementioned mad scientist’s shady experiments – are pretty far down the pecking order of Far Cry villains (Far Cry 3’s pirate leader Vaas, played with infectious glee by Better Call Saulstar Michael Mando, has got to be right at the top, there), but they look so goofythat, well, they’re just dumb enough to work.

Unlike Vengeance, though, the AI in the PC game could be brutal – don’t be surprised if you’re being shot at through walls, because those guys, they see everything. Fart, and you’re so dead.

 

2: Far Cry 4

(PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, 2014)

While playing a lot like Far Cry 3.5, with the same climb this and drive that and hey look this guy’s kinda kooky huh elements at play, Far Cry 4’s move to some stunning-looking Himalayan mountains, and a strong story of a native returning to his homeland to find it rocked by civil war, have it feeling more engaging from the very start. And what a start it is: beautiful and bloody and just the best introduction for another great series bad guy, the Troy Baker-voiced Pagan Min, who is as loquacious as he is lethal.

The verticality of the mountainous setting gives 4a dimension that 3never had, and the game’s developers take advantage of this, leaving mini-helicopter “buzzers” around the map. Hop in one, because this is such a gorgeous game world (that Shangri-La section, just, *chef kiss*), and it’s often best appreciated from the skies. Just be careful not to fly into one of those blasted towers, yeah. Also: riding elephants into enemy occupied outposts is never not cool. (Just don’t let them die, because that really isn’t.)

1: Far Cry 2

(PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, 2008)

Let the arguments commence. Undeniably the most divisive Far Cry game yet, the second main title looked at what the series had done before, and then took the safety off. In Far Cry 2, weapons break (like, all of the time – seriously if you think Breath of the Wild was bad for that, you’ve seen nothing), the in-game map has to be held up by the player while they’re navigating, vehicles break down almost as often as the guns. And, oh yeah, you have malaria. There’s no getting around it – it’s inflicted upon you practically right from the start.

The game’s African setting mercifully features no aggressive fauna, unlike following series entries, but the main antagonist, The Jackal, has a magical way of restoring cleared-out enemy outposts to fully functioning capabilities in next to no time at all – something that will frustrate players coming to this after later games, where reclaimed territory remains friendly throughout. In almost every conceivable way, this game is trying its damnedest to kill you – and some will lay down and let it.

(The console version-only specialist save points can be murder on your progress.) But dig in those heels, and stick with it, because once you uncover the dark heart of Far Cry 2, and begin playing to its rhythms, a realisation dawns: this is the most ambitious, most unfiltered and uncompromising Far Cry to date. And as such, it thoroughly deserves its number one position here.

Mike Diver
Author of Indie Games: The Complete Introduction to Indie Gaming (2016) and How to Be a Professional Gamer: An Esports Guide to League of Legends (2016). Games writer and critic for FANDOM, Official PlayStation Magazine, Eurogamer, Nintendo Life and more. The Gaming Show (BBC) writer/researcher.
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