Perhaps ironically, perhaps not, Far Cry 3 opens with a psychotic bandit lecturing you on the nature of insanity. Crazy is doing the same thing, expecting different results, goes the oft-quoted saying. And again, for the third time now in this series, you are surrounded by a jungle, up to your arse in trouble.
You're soon up to your neck in it, and beyond, as the bandit kicks a cinderblock, bound to your feet, into a deep pond. The protagonist, this time a guy named Jason Brody, struggles free of his bonds and surfaces in a cavern in a two-stage quicktime event. He then transits into a one-man ambush of the bandits' camp, a scene of civilian executions and other atrocities.
Far Cry 3, due in 2012 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, seems to deploy much of what made the first two games critical successes: Richly detailed environments with complex lighting and heart-in-your-throat sound design. The drowning escape sequence, Brody is fighting to free himself, surrounded by dozens of corpses tethered to their blocks, arms bound and raised over their heads in a ghostly pose. In the shootout, Brody was free to use the sniper scope to scan a very broad environment, using it to identify hostiles, assets, and his objective, a helicopter. The thugs went about their business in the desaturated colour of the scratched-up scope. I saw all of this in a live gameplay demonstration at E3 2011.
What unfolded was reasonably conventional combat that, while plainly the optimal way to negotiate the challenge, was not forced by the game itself or funnelled to the key points by the environment. Brody sought out a zipwire to begin his guns-blazing party crashing, but I got the sense he could have run in on foot and handled business that way, if a bit more difficult.
Enemy AI appeared very challenging, as the demonstrator was constantly flanked and taking fire, but naturally shrugging it off. Cover was abundant and firing from it blindly was the predominant tactic I saw. A sense of action-movie desperation pervaded the encounter.
Introducing the sequence, our demonstrator said only that Brody had found himself on an island, his boat had been destroyed, his girlfriend had been kidnapped, "and everyone here is crazy." It seemed to be in the South Pacific, as a wrecked World War II-era fighter was part of the landscape during the brief exploration period preceding Brody's capture.
The game is being developed by Ubisoft Montreal, which handled Far Cry 2 and served up the rich visuals one expects of a game series with its roots in CryEngine. I was shown the game on an Xbox 360.
In the windup of the opening battle, Brody fights his way to a helicopter, puts a gun to the pilot's head and orders him to take off. The helicopter is barely airborne when a rocket-propelled grenade slams into its fuselage, bringing it down with an ear-ringing explosion.
Brody blacks out and awakens where he started. Surrounded by jungle, up to his arse in trouble, and the bandit lecturing him on the nature of insanity.