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TVG ventures into an all-new heart of darkness with Ubisoft Montreal's second crack of the Far Cry whip...
Way back in 2008, at the Tokyo Game Show, this previewer named Far Cry 2 among the top five games of the event. Whatever anticipation gamers had for that title, almost everyone ultimately came away disappointed with the final release, due to niggling issues in what was otherwise a beautifully crafted first-person shooter.
So when admiring the environments in the lush setting of Far Cry 3, it's important to retain some healthy scepticism with how the finished game may turn out. Regardless, by using the CryEngine 3, Ubisoft has once again produced an incredibly pretty setting for its mysterious return to jungle flora, as central character Jason Brody finds himself alone on a lawless island full of nutcases, and his girlfriend and pals have been kidnapped or disappeared. One of the craziest of all the island's inhabitants is antagonist Vass, whose Mohican haircut and deranged mannerisms are just hints at the insanity within his head. A penchant for plunging people into pools with a cinderblock attached soon becomes focused upon Jason himself, as his situation becomes ever more desperate.
Exactly where this island is remains mysterious within not only the canon but also in the media, with various industry sources placing the island in either the Pacific, South America or even Antartica. Dan Hay, a producer for the game at Ubisoft, told TVG that it's somewhere in South East Asia, perhaps the Indian Ocean. Whatever the real location is, one thing is clear: no-one seems to know!
It's not long before - in true videogame fashion - Jason manages to wrangle himself free and embark upon an appropriately vengeful attack upon one of the island's military bases. Once again, the player is afforded a wide range of approaches with which to take out the establishment. Having witnessed multiple playthroughs of the E3 demo, it's refreshing to see that players can either stealthily sneak around barricades and fortifications, using knives to silently and stylishly kill the soldiers one by one, or go all guns blazing into the centre of the base equipped with automatic rifles and explosives. The dynamic behaviour of the AI is impressive, as is the chain-killing opportunities of that classic gaming trope: the explosive barrel. There were also subtle signs that some kind of XP system will be included, with small yellow numbers appearing on screen after key events, such as multi-kills. Unfortunately, Ubisoft afforded no further details on this ambiguous matter.
They were, however, keen to stress that very little outside of the main story is linearly scripted, and players can take a variety of different methods in order to complete the same goals. The game also looks beautiful, with CryEngine's famous environmental crafting abilities once again put to effective use, though the art direction has made slight strides away from the gritty, dry realism of Africa and into the somewhat more stylised, colourful palette of almost cartoon-like tropics. This theme of style over realism is quite visible throughout the demo, particularly when Jason launches himself through the air, knife in hand, to land on the unsuspecting enemy with the blade expertly pierced into his skull.
Exactly how the mission structures and free-roaming nature of Far Cry 3 will play out once the details of the world are fleshed out is as-yet unknown, though if Ubisoft can take on board the criticisms levelled at the second game and continue to create the world-class settings they are so well known for, then 2012 could very well deliver that rare excellence that Far Cry 2 attempted to, but never quite achieved.