Ever since Crytek and Ubisoft went their separate ways after the wonderful open-world shooter that was Far Cry, gamers have been spoiled with two divergent, but accomplished first-person shooters. On the one hand we got Crysis, which took the Future Tech and aliens concepts from the original game, gave them a graphical glossing with the CryEngine, and placed the action in the urban jungle of New York. On the other, we got the Far Cry series, which built on the whole vibe of mercenary-controlled open worlds in which the player could wreak all kinds of havoc.
In truth, Far Cry 2 was a flawed beauty. The African Savannah setting was original, and the ability to start bush-fires was infinite fun, but a lack of purpose, respawning enemies, and no options to fast-travel on an oversized map hurt the game. Thankfully, after an inspiring Developer Session with Ubisoft’s Jamie Keen, and having played a satisfying piece of the game myself, I’m glad to say that the series has taken the right steps to unleashing its potential.
I sat down at the Far Cry 3 booth keen to test out some of the big-talk that Keen showered the crowd with at the Dev Session. References to a ’360-degree’ approach and a push for people ‘to play it like they have ADHD’ all sounded pretty appealing, and one of the first things I set out to do was to make sure that the game didn’t feel hollow.
I started the demo off in a friendly village. Immediately, the environment didn’t feel like some sub-Saharan hell-hole populated only by diamond-hunters, but a small island community in which people were going about their daily lives. I wasn’t here to take condescending anthropological notes on the local populace however, so I hopped in a van (for it seems that most vehicles are communal property on this island) and headed off to the nearest hostile outpost.
After an attempt to drive into the base all guns blazing ended with my lifeless head slumped against the steering wheel, I went for a more balanced approach. First, I tagged the enemies from a safe distance with my ever-handy binoculars. Then, I shot a fiery arrow into the grass in the base, starting a fire and causing general panic. After cutting a couple of carotid arteries with my knife, I ran in there and flushed out the rest of the baddies.
Once you take out an enemy outpost, it gets taken over by the local, friendly forces, becoming a place to pick up missions, supplies, and fast-travel to. While I felt like going on a roam, I wanted to have some vague goal, so I picked up a flyer asking me to take out a local drug dealer via the local custom of slitting his throat. ‘Ahh these indigenous savages,’ I thought, as I headed out into the jungle in my figurative tan shorts and colonial pith helmet.
I decided to head to my objective via the beach. Here, I was treated to the spectacular sight of a massive rock arch in the distance. Keen was right. The game awakens that child-like sense of discovery where you feel compelled to see and do certain things, but the things you stumble upon along the way make you want to investigate them instead. As I admired the view, I spotted a local man standing over two dead bodies on the beach and crying. I went over, but he wasn’t in the mood for conversation.
After leaving the man be, I spotted on my map that there was a relic just a short swim from the beach. Stripping down to my one-piece bathing suit, I began leisurely paddling out to it, when a shark – A GODDAM SHARK - attacked. Thankfully, this isn’t Jaws, and after a few quick-commands of futile punching, Jason came to his senses and realised that the action is much more effective when carried out with a knife in hand. Suffice to say I sliced the beady-eyed fucker.
Deciding to abandon my pursuit of the mysterious relic, I got back to dealing with this local pusher. I headed up the hill, foraging local plants on the way – which can be made into holsters, weaponry and the like. When I arrived at the shack, I sussed out the enemies’ movements with my binoculars. Creeping up on the base, I waited until my target was out of sight of the others, and – blade in hand – I pounced.
I’d succeeded in my mission just as the locals wanted me to. Sadly, it seems that the dying gargles of my victim were heard by his goons, so – low on ammo – I made a run for it. Just as I thought I was reaching a safe distance, I got attacked by a couple of rabid-looking dogs, one of which I stabbed. With what felt like the whole world chasing me, I ran for a bridge over a canyon and, with nothing to lose, I jumped over the edge without looking. Then it all went dark…
(NB: Unfortunately, it was a dried-out canyon, so my Hollywood escape actually ended in a bone-crunching death. Still, the experience has made me want more. A hell of a lot more)