Ubisoft has been experimenting with the Far Cry formula over the past few years, eschewing reality for ’80s cyber commandos and yeti hunters, and now they’re taking a page right out of history and going to the Stone Age. But while Blood Dragon and Valley of the Yetis were downloadable expansions, Far Cry Primal is a full game, and Ubisoft seems fully committed to taking players to a fantastical new world. EW recently had the chance to play an hour of the game starting with its opening, then jumped to later in the game to test out the game’s combat systems.
Here are some things we took away from the experience:
It’s still Far Cry….
Despite the game taking such a giant leap back in time and thus necessarily losing series staples like guns and vehicles, Primal is unmistakably a Far Cry game. Anyone who’s played recent games in the series will feel instantly comfortable with the controls and general gameplay mechanics and will be hunting wooly mammoths in no time. (Seriously, it’s the first thing you do.)
… but it’s not afraid to mix things up
Primal is a first-person shooter where you don’t shoot guns! This is a pretty big deal when five of the top 10 selling games for 2015 involve shooting people with guns. But it’s not to say that the game isn’t violent, because it turns out that people in the Stone Age didn’t resolve conflict with gentle debate. Primal’s combat relies largely on close-combat bludgeoning and animal mauling, which is all gorgeously, brutally rendered.
It adds Hunter Vision, which much like Batman’s detective vision in the Arkham games, highlights enemies and interactive objects. Previous games toyed with this idea, letting you craft hunting syringes to temporarily highlight things, but Primal fully bakes it into the experience. If you shoot a wild animal with an arrow, it will attempt to flee, but you can turn on Hunter Vision and track its blood (and if you follow it awhile, you’ll see it eventually bleed out and die). This will likely prove important because you will spend so much time hunting and taming animals. Which brings us to…
Playing with animals is fun
Far Cry has always had wild animals play a dynamic, disruptive role in the game, but Primal will let main character Takkar tame and eventually control the savage beasts. Although I didn’t get the chance to perform this myself, I did get to try out some of the beasts that had already been tamed and see how they play out in combat. For starters, an owl makes an excellent camera. In previous games, you would use a camera to scout outposts and mark enemies. In Primal, you control an owl and fly around the area, scoping out enemies and you can even attack them. Interestingly, you can switch animals on the fly, so I called in a tiger, who was good for stealth takedowns. Eventually, the people wised up to my presence, so I called in the big guns. Which brings me to my final takeaway…
Bears are awesome
I called in a bear, and he just cleaned house, mauling people left and right and generally taking care of business. I felt like Christopher Robin in control of a very angry Pooh who really wanted his honey.
Far Cry Primal releases Feb. 23 on PS4 and Xbox One and March 1 on PC.