Having now seen Jason escape from Vaas twice, I was given a chance to get hands-on with Far Cry 3 and see some of the depth the game goes to.
Dropped into a village populated by the Rakyat people -- the locals who’ve had enough of Vaas and his pirates -- I get to see what it’s like navigating the stunning island setting. Interaction with some of the villager friendlies gives a decent idea of how the game’s social component will work, but we also get a chance to run into pirates and various animals (some friendly, others not so friendly) along the way as well as give the game’s myriad vehicles an offroad testdrive.
I (Jason) start off in front of a hut in the village and venture inside to find it’s a shop and I decide to buy a better sight for the SMG I have. This is where looting for currency will payoff (though there are other areas to spend your cash as well).
“We pick it up with [Jason] finding a bit of a foothold and then kind of opening up the story on the island to show his progression,” explains Lead Designer Jamie Keen when I spoke to him. “We do that systemically with the game systems that we have.”
Back outside I head up the hill and run into a local up to test his knife-throwing skills against mine, and make it interesting with a bet. A momentum bar mechanic takes a few throws to get used to and then I’m able to hit the target a lot more. How the knife flies and lands still comes down to chance a bit and I end up losing marginally by points, and my entire bet, but the promise of more mini-games like this scattered around the game-world is a nice idea and it was actually pretty fun
But enough mucking around, there’s work to be done. The pirates are jamming the radio towers, which in turn scrambles my map. So one of the first tasks is to take out a nearby scrambler and get a map of the local area online. I head up the hill and move more stealth like on approaching the guarded transmitter tower. I spot three hostiles all split up and ready my bow. The first pirate wanders close and I take him out with an arrow, then creep around nearer to the second enemy. As he heads back in my direction I deliver an arrow to his head and he’s out. I then switch to the SMG as the third guard has realised what’s happening. I scope and fire, securing the area.
Up the ladder and the tower construction I reach the transmitter box, crank it open and cut the scrambler out. To my right is a zip line leading back down near the village. I head over and have a look around at the incredibly stunning scenery before cruising down to find a four-wheeler waiting there. I Jump on and immediately there’s a time-trial delivery waiting for me. I set off over boulders and mounds through the jungle and end up at a lookout where the villager is waiting for the medicine I’m delivering.
Jason develops a myriad of skills throughout the game, I’m told: “The open-world, if you just run through and do the missions one after the other, you’ll get a fair way through the stuff that’s there. But the open-world is really about where you build your character up,” Jamie elaborates. “It’s really about, “ok, I’m going to go along to this next mission”, you might get there and you might find that it’s maybe a little bit tough. “Ok, I’m going to need more guns for this. I’m going to need to be able to carry more syringes”. There’s a few skills that are going to be really important for this. So that’s where you head out into the world, spend a bit of time out in the world, and then bolster your character up and then dive back into the missions again and then you’ll be ready to take it back on again.
“The skill tree’s in there and that’s sort of all about him becoming a Rakyat warrior, following the path of the warrior, which is kind of the Rakyat’s people’s way of life,” Jamie adds. These skills are then depicted in Jason’s tattoo giving the player a visual representation of their personal progression.
“As he gets different skills they’re all going to be reflected in that tattoo that’s going to gradually get up to his arm, so the route that you take through that skill tree is going to dictate the pattern for the tattoo as it develops on your arm.”
Now the medicine delivery is done I head over to the lookout that offers yet another incredible view of the beach below, the ocean and parts of the island to the right. A hang glider sits near the edge so I jump on and launch off the cliff. Flying around I get a look at just how impressive the scenery is; clear blue water, beaches going up to rocks, cliffs and the jungle vegetation that covers a lot of the island. I also spot a hostile camp, that if cleared will be taken back by the Rakyat.
I glide down to the beach and have a look round first. Hopping over some rocks and closer to deep water a shark swims by. I aim the bow with arrow pulled back at the ready. I can’t do it though. Not yet anyway.
Hunting in the game will open up the chance to craft accessories to broaden your carrying capacities. The amount of weapons, ammunition and syringes you can carry will all depend on the type of holsters you craft.
“That’s the idea, you start off and you’re dropped in the middle of nowhere, and you’ve got a pistol and nothing else and you’ve got no idea,” furthers Jamie. “And you end up in this place where it’s like you gradually get to know it. It suddenly starts to feel more like a super market. You understand how things are working, you start seeing things like, buffalo. Ah, I know that I need a buffalo hide.”
Plants and medicine skills are also crucial, some in unexpected ways, and taught to you from the crazy doctor we’ve seen in the gameplay trailer.
“You’re learning more about how things are going to interact around you in the environment,” says Jamie. “[You’ll know that] ok, I need to go and get that plant because… I’ve got an outpost over there and I’ve seen that the guys in the outpost have all got flamethrowers. Right, I need to be able to be protected against flame so if I go and get these plants then I can come and make the syringe that’s sort of going to make me flame proof. So it’s that idea of finding little things that are going to help you along the way and solve your problems along the way.”
Injuries can be healed in various ways as I saw by holding B, Jason broke his dislodged thumb and put it back in place. Also when a piece of shrapnel stuck in his arm, holding B again I see him pull the protruding object out and wrap up the wound - a system not unlike that in Far Cry 2, only here is appears to be far more graphic and jarring.
Sneaking over to the pirate’s beachside camp I spot the alarm and its trigger switch, on the hut closest to the entrance. I have to take out the five guards without any of them triggering the alarm. I take out my camera and tag the ones that are close, which lets me see their outline through structures and shrubbery when they’re close enough, allowing me to tactically plan my approach.
Waiting by the fence as one slowly approaches I take him out with an arrow headshot. Then I creep in and around the alarm hut to see another guard on the watchtower and two surveying the other side of the compound. Another arrow takes out the watchtower guard but another pirate has noticed the first of the bodies and is running for the alarm. Not wanting to alert the other two I run over and just as he reaches the switch I stab a knife into his back.
Creeping back around I line up the far guard in the bow sight. I deliver a direct hit but the final guard has now realised what’s going on and runs for the alarm. I switch to the SMG and again just as he reaches the switch let off some bursts that save me facing the potential swarms of enemies had the alarm sounded.
The Rakyat now reclaim this compound and the surrounding area making it a safe area to walk through and expanding my friendly part of the map just that little bit more. I jump in a jeep to head back the other way and somehow end up cruising offroad through the jungle.
With a strong theme of insanity presented in a lot of what we’ve seen already, I ask Jamie how prevalent this is and if Jason actually crosses over.
“A lot of insanity elements come through very heavily in the narrative, cause that’s where we can really work with character,” he explains. “That’s where we can really work with emotion and looking at development there’s a lot of stuff we can do with the way that other characteristics are portrayed, the way that Jason reacts to certain situations.
“So one of the interesting things that we have in the development of Jason as a character is that he has these friends that arrive at the island at the same time as him who he has to go off and try and rescue. And then at certain points during the thread of the story line, you’re going to run back into those guys. And in the interim parts Jason is going to be laughing, he’s going to be killing guys, he’s going to be freeing the island and getting more heavily involved with the Rakyat, meeting characters like Sitra. And then you suddenly get thrown back into this place where you’re with those guys who haven’t been through all those experiences. And so you have this, you know, not a confrontation, but, yeah a contrast between where you’re heading and where those guys are still at.”
Jason’s progression from victim to killer allows players to reflect on how far he delves into this role.
“It’s kind of this interesting mirror that gets held up every now and again to see,” Jamie continues. “Okay, so Jason’s making these decisions and it’s taking him in this direction. These guys (Jason’s friends) are still in this kind of headspace so how do those two kind of sit with each other? And they’ll be commenting on - “Okay, you’re that guy, you’re doing that? Really, you’ve just killed a thousand people? Really? Are you there?”.
“So it’s an interesting little thing. It’s something that the writers are very keen to explore is that idea of, what is it that you’re doing during the course of playing the game? A lot of the time you’re just doing a lot of shooting and that kind of thing, following a lot of objectives. So there’s a slight mirror that the writers are trying to hold up with that. To get people’s impressions a little bit about what it is that you’re actually willing to do when you’re playing games.”
Can Jason completely lose control though and go insane himself?
“I think ultimately we’re going to ask players to make a lot of those judgments for themselves about, you know, where Jason ends up. There’s some choices that the player [is] going to be able to make. They’re going to dictate which way he’s going to go, how’s he going to fall, how’s he going to see how all this stuff has affected him during the course of the game and the narrative and the way it’s progressed.
“The thing with the insanity is that there’s a really delicate balance for us as well. When we were looking at the insanity and the idea of this, kind of lie, this craziness and that kind of thing, there is a really fine balance between insanity and crazy. Because it would be very, very easy for us to just go completely balls out, mental the whole time. You kind of lose something with that.”
So how did the team go about combining all these systems that they have in the game and maintain the FPS shooter feel?
“It’s been one of the things about the game as a whole that’s an interesting part about working at Ubi,” Jamie explains. “And an interesting part about working with this team is that you have all these different influences from all these different projects and stuff like, you know, you’ve got people that have worked on Splinter [Cell] and Assassin’s [Creed] and you’ve got guys that were in the movie industry and other game studios and stuff. And everybody’s pushing to get what they want in to the game. And quite often the way that resolves itself I think in some other titles and stuff is just, come on, it has to be this. So you make compromises across the board.
“I really feel like we’ve been super ambitious and we’re just pushing it on all fronts,” Jamie says in conclusion. “And I think it’s great and it’s been some really interesting moments on the floor where one guy’s pushing for this and another guy’s pushing for that. You know, you get these big clashes of personality but it’s great, because it means that we end up with… we are pushing the boundaries on all fronts. And it leads to this situation where I think, we’re sort of surprising people with, you know, yes it’s the depth of the narrative, yes it’s the great shooter mechanics and now with these shows, yes the great open-world experiences as well. And so it hasn’t made it easier to develop by any stretch of the imagination but at the same time I think it means we end up with this really rounded, complete experience, which is really gratifying not to have to compromise on and to allow that ambition to come and shine through.”
With an amazing looking environment and so many interesting systems in place, Far Cry 3 is definitely not one to miss. I certainly can’t wait to see more.