Earlier this morning I got to sit down with the lead game designer for Far Cry 3, Jamie Keen. This was a small, private viewing for a maximum of ten members of the press; only about five of us showed up. The focal point of the small room was a 42” display that had theFar Cry 3 logo on the screen; “Push Start” pulsed quietly at the bottom of the logo, along with a message that read “Gamescom Demo 2011”. Unfortunately what we saw was the same gameplay section that the game debuted with at E3 earlier this year. Still, we did get to see alternate routes to the action sequence that precedes the protagonist’s escape attempt in the helicopter.

The game’s main character, Jason Brody, started off in a lush jungle environment. Light sliced through the overhead canopy and not too far off was the wreckage of a plane crash that looked as if it had been there for quite some time. The attention to detail in the environments is exceptional; vines twist and coil themselves around the wrecked fuselage and the plane’s scar of destruction can still be seen carved into the jungle environment.

Moving forward, Brody is captured and taken prisoner by the insane Vaas who launches into a lengthy diatribe on the definition of insanity. Those of your who have seen the E3 footage will be familiar with this scene. What Keen was able to tell us, however, is that Vaas is just one of many unstable antagonists you’ll encounter in the game. Each of the numerous antagonists will be fully developed characters with unique characteristics and means of dealing with their problems; and Jason Brody is one problem these antagonists all have in common.

The environment and ambient sounds will play an integral role in your approach to different combat situations. Once Brody was free from his bonds and out of the water, we were told that the waterfall he finds himself behind makes sufficient ambient noise to muffle the sounds of his approach as he takes out one of the numerous enemies in his path. On the other side of the waterfall we were shown a temple not too far away from where Brody emerged. Keen used this moment to tell us that the team behind Far Cry 3 had put in a lot of effort in prompting the player to explore the areas before following objectives. Exploration will be meaningfully rewarded we were told, so hopefully the rewards won’t be inexplicable suitcases with single diamonds in them as in Far Cry 2.

Brody was then seen approaching an enemy encampment where he spies the helicopter he hopes to use for escape. That helicopter became the objective, but in keeping with the sandbox style of the Far Cry franchise there were multiple means of reaching it. Keen pointed out that this setup and options mechanic will be a prominent feature throughout the game. Our gameplay demonstrator took an alternate route to that shown at the E3 debut. He directed Brody up a nearby hill where he found a sniper rifle. Using the scope he sniped an explosive barrel to create a diversion before sliding down a zip-line into the heart of the enemy encampment.

By this stage we had seen a numerical value rising above each enemy killed. An ordinary kill netted a “+10” but a more extravagant kill (like using an explosive barrel to cause a diversion and kill a guard) netted a “+30”. This, Keen informed me after the demo, was for a skill system. The skill system will allow you to “define your gameplay”. That is all Keen was able to tell me but I assume there will be some form of character development and customisation in the game.

The demo ended with, as you all know, the failed escape attempt and Brody’s recapture by Vaas. Nothing much had changed at this point; this is all still the same as what was seen at E3. However, having seen the game in motion I am thoroughly impressed by the level of detail in the surrounding environments. The demo was running on a high-end PC but Keen wasn’t allowed to tell me exactly what hardware was in it as they are still nailing down the minimum specs for the game. What’s more, Keen kept emphasising the importance of meaningful characters and a proper narrative. The plot is being handled by narrative director Jason Vandenberg who was on-hand to discuss the game as well. The gist of it is that plotline is almost first-and-foremost in Far Cry 3 and that is noticeable right from the start; even the environmental elements, like the aforementioned plane crash, tell a story but it’s up to you to find them and fill in the blanks. The numerous characters are fully-fleshed, which for a Far Cry game is something that has ordinarily been secondary to the open-world action focus.

Far Cry 3 is out early 2012 on the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This is one FPS to keep an eye on over the coming months; I am very excited to give it a whirl.