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Far Cry 3 preview: Wandering off course


First and foremost, if you haven't played Far Cry 2, you're a monster. Let's just get that out of the way up front. I note as much because it's with my deep-seated love of Far Cry 2 that I approached today's hands-off presentation of Far Cry 3 ... and came away kinda worried.

To be clear, the game is early. As in, "It's coming out some time next year" and that's all we know. Additionally, the demo shown off was actually just what was demoed during Ubisoft's press conference yesterday, albeit steered by Ubisoft game designer Andrea Zanini. So, given that, I haven't seen all that much more than what you saw yesterday. What troubled me, however, was the conversation I had with narrative lead Jason VandenBerghe post demo.

Gallery: Far Cry 3 (E3 2011) | 5 Photos

But first, let's start with the demo. Like you saw during Ubi's presser, main character Jason Brody is sneakily snapping photos of gun-toting thugs brutalizing islanders when he himself is cold-cocked, tied up, and dropped down a murder hole. After some frantic struggling in the water, Jason manages to free himself of the ropes and swim to (relative) safety. Seconds later he's sneaking up on another such gun-toting thug, using the sound of a waterfall as cover to silently murder his potential captor.

And despite the subtle narrative tunneling, it all looks and feels very Far Cry 2-esque -- the tropical setting certainly doesn't hurt. But as the structured demo continues, that feeling fades. Ubi reps Jamie Keen and Andrea Zanini spot a temple in the distance, note the possibility of exploring said temple, and instead choose to continue down the narrative tunnel set in place at the beginning of the demo. Jason's next stop is a nearby village full of more bad dudes, but rather than leaping down and murdering a potential enemy, Andrea pulls out a sniper rifle and blasts a distant gas barrel, exploding a bridge and two henchmen in the process. That feeling of openness disappeared almost completely as the demo continues down its narrative rabbit hole.

After the explosion, the village lights up with action. Bullets start popping off from every direction, and Jason must find a way through the village and into a helicopter -- the same helicopter from the stage demo that eventually plummets from the sky after being hit with an RPG. Andrea steers Jason toward a nearby zipline, which he fires from while ... zipping into a dilapidated shack, only to quickly exit and dive into a nearby river. Soon, he's lost the track of his captors and he's sneaking up to the doomed helicopter, only to once more fall into the clutches of the game's first, low-scale gang leader -- the same gentleman who (literally) kicked off the demo with your attempted murder.

But as narrow as the demo is, its what narrative lead Jason VandenBerghe told me afterward that got me distinctly more worried. "If Far Cry 2 was talking about factions and global conflicts -- the effects of global policies and what happens in this really messed up situation -- we want to bring that down and talk about individual conflict," he explained.

He adds that his team is "absolutely inspired" by the fact that Far Cry 2 aimed to tackle larger topics than the average video game, but says that FC3 is "about the insanity of people" rather than the effect of global conflict on individuals. To me, that says his team is missing the point of what made Far Cry 2 so very special. And that's really, really worrying.

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