rAge 2012: Far Cry 3 hands-on

One of this year’s highlights at rAge has to be Megarom’s stand. One title getting a lot of exposure is Ubisoft’s upcoming jungle shooty-fest Far Cry 3, which is still weeks away. That makes us sad. We’re sure that makes you sad too, so to avoid an overwhelming cluster of sads, we’ve been playing the game at rAge.  We’ve also been enjoying the delightful company of Robert Purdy, who is the animations director on the title.

There was a sizable chunk of the game open to those attending the show; a chunk that Purdy explained was only a couple of square kilometres of the entire open world. In the time spent with the game, it’s blatantly obvious that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. There was no obvious objective so this was really an open hands-on. As a result, a fair bit of exploration was done as I made protagonist Jason Brody flit from one interesting object to the next like a chronic ADD sufferer.

The hands-on began in one of the game’s villages that doubled as a safe-zone. With weapon firmly holstered I began exploring the rustic scene but soon found myself on the village outskirts at the foot of a cliff. Above me was one of the many radio towers found throughout the island; the tower itself was a prominent icon on the mini-map.

Exploring radio towers is what unlocks portions of the game’s map. It’s somewhat similar to the viewpoints in another prominent Ubisoft title: Assassin’s Creed. I asked Purdy about the apparent similarities and he said that it was completely unintentional. “We wanted to have somewhat of a unique Far Cry experience where you can go out and have reason to explore an area, and climbing these old radio towers worked well in our narrative because of what Jason has walked into, which is kind of a blood feud between the native people who are trying to reclaim their island, Vaas and his warlords. One thing Vaas does is he tries to control these radio towers so he can control the signal to connect to his people. So by Jason unlocking the towers it does two things: he finds out what’s going on around him, and he also hinders Vaas and helps out the Rakyat. So it is similar to the Assassin’s Creed towers in the mechanic, but it wasn’t an intentional thing.”

Once the tower had been unlocked, the camera began swooping around the immediate area, highlighting the more interesting points in the terrain. Getting back down was as simple as grabbing the zip-line and sliding back into the jungle.

At this point, the typical Far Cry sandbox approach to enemy encounters presented itself once again. I was concealed in the jungle undergrowth but about 30 metres away from me was a group of enemy soldiers standing around two vehicles. Sniping one of them from out of sight resulted in the others fanning out to try and find where I was hiding. At this point I hurled a grenade into the centre of the two vehicles – the resulting explosion killed another two of them. The remaining guy radioed for help but what I hadn’t seen was that the group also had dogs with them. As I rushed forward to kill the remaining soldier, I nearly had my face bitten off by three dogs. With reinforcements arriving in a steady stream I decided to make a hasty retreat into the jungle. And that’s when the ADD kicked in with a vengeance.

A purple flower suddenly appeared on my mini-map; picking it gave me a craftable item of which there are many to collect. Some of the items that you’ll be crafting include ammo bandoliers, wallets and pouches. For those you need leather, so I shot a bushpig in the face and then skinned it. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The mini-map actually does a fantastic job of providing you with things to explore. The world’s size might seem a bit overwhelming but you’re given a constant cookie-crumb trail of things to do that don’t necessarily drive the main story along, but are there to keep you entertained. After I skinned the pig I spotted a hang-glider begging for use. Once Jason had clambered underneath the glider he leapt off the cliff and flew off over the ocean.

A short distance out to sea was a tiny island with a single rocky outcrop. As exploration is part and parcel of any Far Cry title I figured that the small island needed to be thoroughly checked out. It turned out that the island held a small shrine with a heron idol on it. Picking up the idol, the game told me I’d found 1 of 120 idols, but picking it up also resulted in Jason’s tribal tattoo growing a little larger on his arm. “The idols help you figure out the history of the island,” Purdy explained to me, “and because there’s this tribe that Jason is working with now, their history is reflected on their tattoos. When you pick up one of these idols, you get a representation of it on your arm as part of your journey as a Rakyat warrior.”

Jason also has three separate skill trees named after three animals that the Rakyat revere: the shark, the spider and the heron. There are no major skill set distinctions between the three, but they do have vague focuses on different aspects, like the shark skill tree containing a lot of healing skills.

Back on the main island I came across one of the hundreds of random encounters found in the game: a few soldiers were trying (and failing) to get a tiger into a cage. Because I’m a bunny-hugger I opted to take out the soldiers so that Mr. Tiger could bound off into the jungle, free to devour small animals and frolic in the sunshine. Shooting the one soldier resulted in another calling for backup and soon enough the beach was full of soldiers, cars and one pissed off Mr. Tiger. Once Mr. Tiger and I had finished slaughtering the soldiers, he promptly turned around and chewed my face off. I was dead, and with Jason’s death came the end of my hands-on time.

Far Cry 3 is going to be great. If you loved the feel of Far Cry 2 but couldn’t get past the niggling elements like hyper-respawns and irritating check points, then you’ll love Far Cry 3. They’ve fixed the annoyances and kept the best bits. The island setting is lush, colourful and beautiful, and the little touches like how the first-person camera mimics the jolting actions of jumping out of a car or off a cliff into the sea, makes the whole package that much more immersive. 30 November cannot come soon enough.

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