Far Cry Primal – Preview
On a warm Wednesday night in Sydney, IGN Australia held a preview night in conjunction with Ubisoft Australia to show off the upcoming action first-person “shooter”, Far Cry Primal.There were 16 PS4 booths set up for us to play on, and after a few beers and assorted festivities, we got down to business and took the controller in hand to set about seeing what sets this Far Cry apart from the previous ones.
As the screen fades in from black, we are sitting in front of a campfire. To my right, a rather large grey wolf sits, staring at me wantingly. We are on a mountain looking over a fairly wide river. I notice something running across its banks – a bear. It’s chasing something down, though I couldn’t quite tell what it was. Either way, it was running for it’s life.
I called my owl, and the camera shifts to a 3rd person view of the owl who flies overhead as you take control. You can use the owl to mark distant targets or to survey the landscape nearby. It’s range is limited to your general vicinity, so you can’t simply cover huge sections of land, but combined with your own hunter vision, which allows you to mark targets and collectibles, was quite handy.
My wolf and I tracked the bear, who had caught and taken down it’s target – a wild boar – downstream. As I crept up on it from the relative safety of high ground, I flung my spear in the hope it would take the beast down. It didn’t. The spear pierced it’s hide, but that didn’t stop the bear from becoming enraged, and charging up the nearest incline to take me on.
It’s here that my wolf sprung into life. It leapt in front of me as I was about to take a massive swipe to the face, and tried grabbing the bear’s neck. I won’t lie, it looked pretty damn cool. It was, ultimately, a fruitless battle though. My wolf was taken down fairly quickly by the woolly beast, and I was soon to follow. Damn.
One of the PR reps points out that instead of battling the bear, I could’ve tried to tame it by throwing out some bait for it. “You are a beast tamer” he mentions, before taking me to a screen that shows off all the different beasts that you can tame and utilise as a companion as you wander the wilds. It doesn’t look like there is any shortage of beasts in Far Cry Primal, something that Kevin Shortt, one of the game’s writers who was present for the evening, explained to me in a brief chat.
“There are actually double the number of animals in Far Cry Primal than there was in Far Cry 4…” he responded when I mentioned it seemed like they had doubled down on the animal/hunter interactivity and in turn the emergent gameplay that stems from it. “We really wanted to make sure that we give a good impression of the animals that existed in that period”.
I picked up the controller again, this time with the goal of doing a little exploring. Being a pre-release alpha version of the game, not all of the games map was open, but the traversable area was still quite large. I came across a rival tribe at an outpost, which work similarly to previous Far Cry games. Take down all the enemies, and the outpost is cleared. I also came across a large open cave that was home to a rather aggressive black mountain lion. I put a spear in it’s side and it ran, but before it could get away I ordered my wolf to chase it down, and it did so with gusto.
The weapons in Far Cry Primal are primitive, as you’d expect. There are no guns, so you have to tackle the literal ‘sticks and stones’ approach. The demo we played gave us a short and long bow, a club and some spears. Your bows are most handy in ranged combat situations, though considering the nature of the combat in Far Cry Primal, you can expect that distance to be closed down relatively quickly when taking on beasts. Taking on other hunters is a little different story though – they seem more than happy to attack you from distance till they run out of things to throw at you.
One thing mentioned prior to the play session was that Ubisoft Montreal toyed with the idea of having the characters speak English, though after the first session it was quickly decided to go down another route. Instead, they hired linguists to create their own language for the Neanderthals, which is pretty amazing I think.
The in your face nature of the combat shows off character models in a nice way, and in typical Far Cry fashion, it looks quite nice. In fact, there seems to be a lot about Far Cry Primal that is very familiar to anyone who’s played an Ubisoft game in the last 5 years. You will collect herbs. You will skin animals and craft things from what you find. You will climb mountains and light bonfires that open up portions of the map. A lot of it felt like I had done it before, and whilst that raises some alarm bells, there is still a level of intrigue to Far Cry Primal that makes me want to see where it takes us.
Thankfully, we won’t have long to wait. Far Cry Primal releases 23rd February on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
* Massive thanks to IGN Australia and Ubisoft for putting on the night, and to my brother, who won the tickets and invited me along like the good fellow he is.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.