- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 5, 2016

A player attempts to survive in the Stone Age with a little help from some beastly friends in the first-person adventure Far Cry Primal (Ubisoft, reviewed on PlayStation 4, Rated Mature, $59.99).

This dynamic and dangerous adventure from the acclaimed “Far Cry” franchise offers a player familiar game mechanics tied to its open-world exploration and plethora of resource management activities.

However, instead of roaming around exotic lands in high-speed vehicles and wielding enormous firepower, a player travels back to the Northern European region in 10,000 B.C. as Takkar, a hunter from the scattered Wenja tribe, and uses clubs, bows and spears to survive.

Our scruffy fellow must rescue and regroup with his brethren before they are either killed and eaten by cannibals, torched by maniacs, or are overtaken by the elements and creatures residing in the fertile lands of Oros.

Using his ever-evolving skills as a fledgling, semi-intelligent human, he methodically combs the wilderness for supplies (expect leaf and plant collecting as fervent as a botanist) with help from Hunter Vision (an on demand, visual layover highlighting objects and dangers).

Takkar then learns to use and craft tools, challenges new enemies and helps build and guard settlements to eventually become a fierce warrior and leader.

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Throughout the action, I was fine with skull smashing or skewering the aggressive humans out to kill me, but I wasn’t so excited about the animal hunting, despite it being a necessity for this caveman and not an optional sport.

For example, within minutes of being dumped in a swampy wilderness, I had to help kill a baby Woolly Mammoth by chucking spears at its head and torso.

I really hated doing that and watching the poor beast crumple over and moaning in agony. In other “Far Cry” games, hunting was not always mandatory but using high-powered weapons was often the norm, a bit gratuitous but more humane than a clubbing.

However, my fellow Wenja reminded me that I need food to exist and since no supermarkets or Burger Kings were available, life was going to be a one-day-at-a-time struggle with brutality around every cliff and cavern.

Take the case of Mother Nature getting her revenge very quickly. Roughly 10 minutes later, I accidently wandered into a pack of wolves at night, and my makeshift torch (made from a wood and rock club and animal fat) went out.

The furry hunters summarily executed me for my stupidity.

The great news is living animals play an equally important role in conquering the lands.

As Takkar succeeds in his scavenger missions, battles with the Udam and Izila tribes and meets powerful warriors, he upgrades more skills and, most importantly, acquires the ability to command creatures to assist in his struggles.

After a trippy encounter with a shaman Tensay, he quickly becomes part of an owl’s spirit. As the animal soars about the sky, a player sees what the bird sees and can control it to map hostile or new areas, dive-bomb enemies and even drop bee-filled pottery on them.

Besides an owl, Takkar can eventually tame such creatures as leopards, brown bears and even a mighty bloodfang Sabretooth tiger and Woolly Mammoth.

It was a pure joy to hang with a white wolf and command him from a distance to attack human foes or even a ferocious bear. If my friend got injured, I was quickly able to heal him using some of my meaty health resources.

And, yes, riding into an enemy camp atop a mammoth is a major, empowering adrenaline rush as I stomped on puny humans. Be aware, you’ll need to dive deep into the game to get to that point.

Also, the developer’s meticulous sculpting of environments and its primal citizens never cease to amaze. Locations are abundant with life, vegetation and sounds making exploration as addictive as dangerous for Takkar.

One minute, I may shoot a turtle with an arrow near a river front and watch his friend crawl into his protective shell, the next I simply admire a waterfall but carefully listen for enemy grunts or one of my pet’s roars for an indication of incoming hostiles.

Suffice to report, “Far Cry Primal” delivers an unparalleled prehistoric experience, sure to make any Neanderthal in the family obsessed by its ultimate test of virtual survival.

Note: The PS4 version of the game includes a trio of missions where a player becomes a Woolly Mammoth. It’s as insane as one might think but a rather empowering mini-adventure.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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