My favorite things about Far Cry 2 won't be in Far Cry 3.
I'm really looking forward to Far Cry 3.
How'd I get from there to there? First, pretend you're me. You're at a Ubisoft showcase. You've just played Far Cry 3, single-player and co-op. You sit down with the game's producer, Dan Hay. You first start asking about the stuff that you liked in Far Cry 2 and begin filling up your notebook with a bunch of disappointing answers.
Then, his answers stop being disappointing and start getting very interesting.
My notebook, recreated for you:
- The friend system isn't back. You're not reviving computer-controlled buddies.
- Fire propagation is back. Put some flame to grass and it spreads.
- They have a fast-travel system this time.
- People stay dead when you kill them this time. "When you own an area, you own the area," Hay said. "We have these places where you go in, wipe guys out and you own it." This, of course, is a good thing!
- Your guns won't rust anymore.
- No malaria-pill-taking required in this game. Hay: "One of the things that we got consistent feedback on from Far Cry 2 was—how do I say it—They would prefer we look for another avenue. You can control your health."
- Hold on! All this gun-rusting and malaria-sickness stuff made Far Cry 2 interesting, because it made you less than the invincible warrior you are in most first-person shooters. Nothing like that here? "We want the weapons to be empowering. We want you to be able to pick up stuff, and, when you pick up the weapon, you have the ability to use it. The question is whether or not you have the training. So [lead character] Jason is a regular a guy. This is not a guy who has military training. When he picks up a weapon, he fumbles it."
"In the beginning of the game, you're having a great time, you're hanging out with your buddies. You meet Vaas. And he basically locks you up and you manage to escape. So the beginning of the game is very much about getting away from Voss. Just getting to the jungle. Just surviving. And when you make those first couple of kills, they're up close and personal. They're dirty. You're like oh-my-god. It's more action-adventure stuff.
"Then you pick up a weapon for the first time and you're like, 'whoa, ok, ok' and then you hone in on the idea of, 'I've got a hold of this. I have an AK-47 in my hand, I've got all these guys in front of me and I can kill all of them.' But when you're doing it, all the realization is about surviving. At the moment you don't feel like you're somebody who is out to take over the world. You feel like someone who thinks, 'If I don't fire this weapon, I will cease to exist.' The feeling is something we focus on, the feeling of being a victim. And then we have the transition and the insanity, going from beginning to be able to kill, beginning to be efficient at it, and feeling like there's a good reason for it.
"And then, all of a sudden you meet your friends from the beginning of the game, and they look at you and they're like, "Uh…dude, you're not the same guy you were. You've got a taste for this? What's the deal?' You're covered in tattoos, you've gone wild, you've gone tribal, you've met Citra, who is the embodiment of the island—she's beautiful, she's exotic, she's wild, she's tribal—she's everything that somebody from home isn't, and when you put her side-by-side with your girlfriend, it's not an easy choice. …. That's just a slice [of the game]."
Hay says we'll be discovering whether Jason prefers to turn back to his pre-island life, become more of a killer like Voss or more of a one-with-the-island kind of character like Citra. And the player/Jason will be hallucinating all the while.
- The game is set across an archipelago. The single-player campaign is on one island; the four-player co-op campaign is on another; the player-vs-player battle between the forces of Citra and Vaas are on another.
- The in-game editor lets players build their own islands and maps.
- OK, here's a weird way to hype a game. This is Hay's extended metaphor of what this game's campaign is really about: "You know when you first leave the home and you look at your parents and you're like, 'They don't know anything,' and you look at your group of friends and you're like, 'These are my friends for life.' And then five years later, you look back and you're like, 'What the hell? My parents actually did know what they were talking about, to a degree, as much as I'm willing to admit it, and my friends, some of them were just losers.' We want to capture that… the essence of living that five or 10 years in two months, so that you have the full breadth of a lifetime in two months."
- Co-op, as Hay describes it: "The characters in co-op are already nuts. They are rejects. These four show up and they're already jaded, already rejected by society and they show up and bring their own brand of insanity. And they're pretty good at it." These people worked on a cruise ship. One was a chef, another's a medic, another an on-board security officer. Pirates try to raid the ship. The captain decides to sell his passengers to Vaas. Our four heroes won't settle for this, bail from the boat and try to raise hell. The goal in co-op is to find that captain who sold you out and collect the money he stole from you along the way.
I am sure that Far Cry 3 is not Far Cry 2. It seems that the gameplay stress of 2—the sickness, the mortality of computer-controlled buddies, the rusting of guns—is being replaced by narrative stress—of the scripted experience of maybe going crazy. One of Kotaku's resident Far Cry 2 fanatics is worried that this Heart of Darkness riff isn't going to hold up, given the 3's potentially mindless shoot-everything traditional first-person shooter gameplay. I'm going glass-half-full on this one. I'm looking forward to Far Cry 3 this December, even though it seems very different from the previous, fascinating game in the series.