Once upon a time, Far Cry was the great hope of modders everywhere. Its paint-like world-building tool appeared joyously easy to use, and its incredi-graphics seemed malleable to all sorts of visual experimentation.
That didn't really happen. Half-Life proved a more suitable mod-foundation, and any number of mooted Far Cry efforts didn't make it far past the drawing board. So it's great to see one finally make it out the door (though worth noting we've had two other splendid FC mods in the last year.)
The Delta Sector is both a single and multiplayer mod, but its main goal - and its greatest accomplishment - is to squeeze every last drop of pixel-juice out of Crytek's now-aged first engine. The results are incredible:
(Click on the pic for a big'un).
Actual, honest to god screenshot. Promise. OK, it's not quite Crysis-level but it makes a damned good try at it. Perhaps more importantly, it runs beautifully. If you'll allow me a lapse into stat-speak for a moment - this is running at 50fps on a GeForce 8800 GTS at 1680x1050, with the HDR tweak enabled (add -DEVMODE "r_hdrrendering 7" to your Far Cry shortcut, though you'll need to turn off anti-aliasing).
The trees are sadly not destructible, but the tall grass waves prettily and there's a ton of incidental detail such as falling leaves, flocks of birds and butterflies. I left the mod running during a quiet scene while I went to make my fourteenth coffee of the day, and upon returning found my normally manic kitten sat motionless in front of my monitor, mesmerised by the gentle sway and flutter of the verdant vista. I'll confess to having done the same myself for a few minutes.
As a game, it's an odd'un. Of course it's an FPS using Far Cry's mechanics, and a narratively bankrupt one at that (plus talk of 'aircrafts' makes me wince), but the substitution of FC's tropical beaches for Euro-forests changes the play-style quite a bit. There's not much call for stealth - enemies fall, somewhat mercifully after Crysis' ultro-Koreans, after just a couple of well-placed bullets - but the challenge is spotting them in the first place. The vegetation is so dense and their armour so tree-coloured that you're forced into a unfamiliar and often thrilling degree of awareness and caution. The AI isn't really aware this is the case, but it does mean you can apply curiously effective backwards logic as to why an enemy is standing stock still. The constant paranoia of whether each new clump of trees might hide an Angry Machinegun Man makes it almost a Vietnam game. A shame it doesn't ditch Far Cry's 'orrible checkpoint save system, though.
It's only three singleplayer levels and thus more an experiment than a full game, but it wrings so much out of Far Cry. With crushing modteam inevitablity, the menu music is hideous, but once you're in the game it's just you, your guns and the genuinely incredible scenery. Honestly, you won't believe it's running on a four-year-old game.