New first-person shooters such as Far Cry show how far the genre has evolved, argues
Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.
Fans of PC first-person shooters are spoilt for choice this year. Although I am still playing last year's uber-FPS, Planetside, several other titles are luring me away.
The action takes place on a tropical island
Chief among them are Unreal Tournament 2004, with its incredibly dynamic multi-player gaming, and Far Cry, a stunning title developed by German game studio Crytek and published by Ubisoft.
Set on a series of exquisitely realised tropical islands, Far Cry concerns an ex-special forces soldier getting drawn into a dangerous world of heavily armed mercenaries and science gone mad.
The visuals here are so significant - the game would be impressive even if its play mechanics were more mediocre. There is an unprecedented level of detail, with much of the action taking place on sun-drenched beaches and in dense jungle.
Action and stealth
Cevat Yerli, Crytek president as well as creative and technical director on Far Cry, says the game's setting was inspired by a holiday to the Maldives.
"Seeing the beauty of that landscape I thought, hell this could be a great location for a game," he said.
Alongside the splendour of the graphics, the sheer expanse of the in-game environment and the remarkable AI from the enemies, who call in support and dog you with their pursuit, bolster the impressive accomplishment of the game.
Crytek were not motivated because they felt the genre had got stale, however.
Far Cry is more than satisfying my cravings both for your basic shoot-em-up pleasures and for the experience of innovative, immersive and downright impressive gaming
"Never. Not for top products," said Mr Yerli. Their primary ambition was "to establish a new reference product".
So how did they plan to transcend qualities that already existed in the genre? One key aim was to combine FPS action elements with stealth, and provide the gamer with extensive freedom of movement.
Such factors were "a primary goal of our design," said Mr Yerli, who established Crytek with his brothers Arni and Faruk, and brought together an international team for their projects.
Evolving AI, involving proactive enemies, as well as increasing amounts of online play, is making new demands on gamers.
"Absolutely," said Mr Yerli. "One of our goals was to make the single-player experience similar to a multi-player game - non-repeating, intense and, most importantly, very personal in order not to frustrate but to challenge the gamer.
"We try to teach the gamer, who has been entertained with linearity for 10 years in shooters, to think different whenever they die."
But how will the next-gen shooters build on the achievements of Far Cry?
"We have to wait and see," said Mr Yerli. "But I see many games trying to replicate at least what we have shown as a new benchmark."
I can't say I am not excited about what is coming next - Painkiller, Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Halo 2 on Xbox.
But for the while, Far Cry is more than satisfying my cravings both for your basic shoot-em-up pleasures and for the experience of innovative, immersive and downright impressive gaming.
Far Cry is out now for PC. A version for consoles, Far Cry Instincts, is in development.