Far Cry 3 is a game I'm very much looking forward to. But a few 10-minute multiplayer bursts from publisher Ubisoft's upcoming open-world first-person shooter didn't inspire the same feelings.
I sat down at PAX East to play a round of Domination mode in Far Cry 3's multiplayer session with 15 other journalists and PAX-goers. As we gave ourselves a quick rundown of the classes available — weapon combinations that complement assault rifles, pistols, SMGs, RPGs and sharp shooters — the camera panned through for a quick tutorial on the sun-lit island we'd soon be killing each other over.
I alternated between an assault rifle/pistol combination and an SMG/RPG combo. Domination mode is all about capturing certain sections of the map, like the fish market or ammo drop. But while you and your teammates crouch behind crates for protection, waiting for an on-screen circle to fill indicating the area has been captured, a rival player might get a lucky shot off of you.
This is one area in which Far Cry 3's multiplayer distinguishes itself from the typical drab and overdone shooters you've probably loaded hours into. While most death cameras will recap the shot, perhaps in slow-motion, Far Cry 3 shows the exact projectile of the bullet, and outlines the several shots that were made before it. You can scrutinise this while waiting to respawn.
The Ubisoft developers solely dedicated to working on multiplayer for Far Cry 3 didn't forget to implement other features that would cater to the specific nature of the game. The most notable of these is one of the unique perks you can access after racking up enough Team Support Points. You can call in a scout to see enemies, or you can drop "Psyche" gas that forces all nearby players (your team included) to hallucinate every figure as an indistinguishable shadow. For added fun, friendly fire is then also turned on.
If you want to make everyone playing hallucinate, you'll have to earn enough Team Support Points through standard kill streaks, reviving players and/or the Battle Cry that gives nearby teammates a customisable bonus. You can dictate what kind of team buffs these Battle Cries supply. The demonstration at PAX had standard health and speed boosts.
Unfortunately, the build shown on the PAX East show floor is still pre-alpha, so the rebels and pirates looked ugly, sporting head models that probably weren't supposed to be bald. I'm told that new character renders have recently been created, but not in time for PAX. So these issues should be addressed the next time we see the multiplayer mode.
One of the most important qualities to the first-person shooter genre is your speed and movement. It has to feel fluid, but not too buttery as to feel out of your control. Far Cry 3's movement doesn't feel natural in its current state. The developers designed characters to use movement methods like sliding, but it feels counter-productive when you transition from that to a slow-moving run. Even swimming is faster than your run. Again, I've been told that the Ubisoft multiplayer team is working hard to polish the controls and movements.
You can also conveniently tag enemies or locations to indicate as targets to your teammates (or tag fallen friends to notify teammates that you'll be helping them). Although not many players at PAX were inclined to use this feature, I found that they were likely to follow my instructions when I took lead. It's incredibly helpful and emphasises team play.
I'm not particularly stoked on Far Cry 3's multiplayer. Although the brighter-than-usual colours (for a first-person shooter) were pleasing and there's a clear attempt to distinguish the game from the rest of the haystack (like a few buffs and teamplay features), I can't see myself sinking hours into another shooter that doesn't feel completely right just yet.
Ultimately, I don't intend on playing Far Cry 3 predominantly for the multiplayer experience, but I do wish it felt like a more seamless, fast-paced experience that I'm accustomed to in well-made shooters.