“2097 AD. Secret agent called Snake is sent to Phobos, which was terraformed and turned into a green paradise and citadel of Galatex Corporation, the largest corporation of the solar system. Now this fortress was attacked by some Dancer, who turned a satellite of Mars into a bloody hell. Moving to a single purpose known to his own, he has left behind only corpses. Commanders of Snake don’t care for Galatex, but they really want to know – what exactly Dancer hunts for?”
Far Cry: Massive Attack is an interactive fanfic gone horribly
wrong right. A slightly wonky looking Solid Snake has been brought back from the dead to infiltrate the Phobos-based facilities of an evil future megacoroporation, and to track down and eliminate a mysterious villain known only as “Dancer.” So, it’s Metal Gear meets Doom, right? Well, the Martian moon is now a jungle planet, and there are suddenly Xenomorphs crawling around in the vent shafts for no coherently explained reason. Oh, and it’s all in Russian, although subtitled in something vaguely looking like English.
Being a Metal Gear fanfic at its heart, there’s no shortage of exposition through lengthy cutscenes and codec conversations between Snake and his support team. I’m fairly sure that even if the translation from Russian wasn’t endearingly broken (it ends up reading like Peter Chimaera’s greatest hits), it’d still be mostly nonsensical. This is crossover fanfic, and references to other games, films and even comics are thrown in haphazardly. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on what the mod is about, there’s a boss fight against a superpowered, satellite-protected American televangelist and his squad of zombie commandos.
This is one of those mods where the creators talent is far outstripped by their ambition. The level design is often nonsensical, with important doors clearly marked as temporary placeholders, and the formerly quite competent Far Cry AI seems to just flail around blindly. For everything great, there’s something broken; a surprisingly exciting turret gunner section/car chase is accompanied by enthusiastic Spanish Ska-metal, but is undermined by your AI driver occasionally deciding to take a shortcut through a solid wall, or a chunk of road deciding that today would be a nice day to turn incorporeal just as you’re about to drive over it.
Still, there’s some bizarre genius underpinning the whole experience. An Aliens-themed level sometimes manages to come closer to the nailbiting atmosphere of Rebellion’s original Aliens Vs Predator than any recent game in the franchise, in spite of alien AI that frequently struggles to navigate the narrow tunnels connecting the chambers of the authentically gooey, biomechanical hive-structure. Later on, a zombie-filled Resident Evil tribute turns into a jaunt through a shockingly authentic Silent Hill, perfectly capturing the feeling of descending from fog-bound suburbia into rusted industrial hell. It’s interesting how easy it is to convert a regular FPS enemy into a creepy horror creature with just a few model tweaks.
And Then John Was A Zombie
As thick and fast as the mismatched references and cameos come, this is a surprisingly long mod, easily comparable to many full-priced action game campaigns. While it isn’t quite as long or nearly as playable as Far Cry’s sprawling single-player arc, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed my time with it. It’s outright broken in places, and particularly grievous bugs forced me to roll back a checkpoint or two, but there’s some genuinely clever game design at work here. Even some of the apparent mistakes seem to be semi-intentional, with a particular late-game enemy type looking like an animation rigging experiment gone wrong. In action, they look quite intimidating in their strangeness, but when killed, they often pinball comically off into the sky as their animation constraints are released.
Things only get weirder as things progress. The story descends from regular fanfic insanity into the special kind reserved only for mid-90s anime endings as you approach the dreamlike final section. The wobbly cutscenes and slightly hamfisted animation just adds a certain degree of charm to the proceedings, too. This almost feels like the video game equivalent to low-fi indie films like Manborg – self-aware, absurd, slightly broken and far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. You might want to play on Easy mode to smooth over the worst of the difficulty spikes, but this is worth playing just to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
You can grab Massive Attack over on ModDB here, and the original Far Cry can be found for a handful of your earth-dollars on both Good Old Games and Steam if you don’t have it already – it was bundled with every video card under the sun back in the day, so there’s a good chance that you’ve got a copy gathering dust in the bottom of a box somewhere. I’m going to be diving back into this strange, weird world once more – I’ve heard that there’s a secret level based on System Shock lurking somewhere in this tangled mess. Anyone find it? Do share in the comments box below.
As an interesting aside, the team (or individual – it’s hard to tell) behind Massive Attack is currently working on a full standalone cyberpunk game called Zero: Scary Tale From The Future. It’s being developed in Unity, and there’s some rather exciting looking early gameplay footage, concept art and screenshots on the official page here.