Far Cry 2 Preview
The original Far Cry introduced a few interesting concepts, but for the most part, it was a pretty standard FPS. The sequel, scheduled to arrive some time later this year (we hope), may implement a truly revolutionary style of gameplay for the first-person shooter genre; one that emphasizes player freedom. Ubisoft Montreal explained much of this theory at last week's Game Developers Conference, and as it turns out, the player will experience both a linear storyline and the thrill of deciding what to do and when to do it. In many ways, the descriptions we've heard from narrative designer Patrick Redding point towards the free-roaming tendencies on display in previous action titles like Mercenaries. You can even take on missions from rival factions, playing one side against the other, all the while increasing your status and unlocking new areas and weaponry. It's an excellent foundation for an engaging game, and we have faith that Ubisoft can deliver the goods.
One of the features that garnered a ton of attention at GDC 2008 was the Infamy Rating we'll have in Far Cry 2. Depending on this rating, NPCs will interact with you differently, and that's the crux of the gameplay experience (beyond the combat, of course). Will this NPC be friendly or hostile? Will they respond favorably to you? Do you have the edge due to your Infamy level? All of this plays a role, even to the point where your health will actually increase with a lower Infamy rating. For example, your character will be suffering from malaria at the start of the game, and you'll have to search for medicine from the surrounding civilians. Doing this in a polite and humble manner will allow your health to rise, but if you adopt the Alpha Male approach and your Infamy goes up, those civilians won't be so inclined to help. Take it too far, and they'll simply refuse even traditional treatment, and that will ultimately result in a cap to your overall health. If this happens, you'll have to stick to your guns - literally - in an effort to conquer the game's required obstacles, and hope you can kill ‘em all before succumbing to a hail of bullets.
Obviously, any writer will tell you that giving the player a lot of freedom hinders the possibility of a cohesive plot. In other words, the developers are facing a major challenge when it comes to creating a story that follows a set line, but is also flexible enough to roll with the player's decisions. However, Ubisoft thinks they have a way of dealing with this obstacle; Redding said they'll be utilizing "bricks of micronarrative," which are a group of generic behaviors and actions that will be available and can function in a variety of different environments. Essentially, this means the player can have plenty of options when advancing through the game and following the story, although those choices may repeat throughout. It's not about focusing on decisions made when facing specific situations, but more like allowing you to explore on your own while choosing from a set of options that will add depth and freshness to the game. Combining a static script with dynamic content is no easy task, and one that developers have failed to complete many times in the past. But Far Cry 2 really is shaping up very well so far, and let's not forget something else- the original was pretty damn good.
We can probably expect much in the way of great weaponry and cool environments, but don't think you'll see an "island rehash." Actually, it seems this sequel has been inspired by Joseph Conrad's classic novel, "Heart of Darkness" ("the horror...the horror..."), which should mean we'll be looking at an African safari atmosphere. Well, that or something similar, as evidenced by the screenshots we've seen. Now, those of you who have read the novel - and you should have - may be wondering if there's going to be a major boating trend in Far Cry 2, but the game will retain its steadfast FPS roots and Redding jokingly says they're not "making a boat simulator." On the other hand, there are other aspects from the legendary tale that may be evident in the game, and that includes the character's pursuit of a "Kurtz-like character." If Ubisoft really does intend to follow through on the idea of player freedom, though, a lot of the story will have to be open to character decision and interaction. It's best not to expect something as open-ended as Oblivion, but this production certainly won't be as linear and straightforward as most any FPS you've ever played. That alone should be enough to pique your interest, yes?
According to IGN, Redding really loves the idea of a story that hinges on our own imagination. He said, "you need to decouple premise from story; [the premise] that's been plastered on the back of the box [players] forget about that after probably an hour after turning on the console." The more we hear about the game, the more we're starting to wonder- just how much of this experience will be limited to following a story and a set path? There has to be a plot line to follow, but with all this talk of free-roaming, we're really hoping to see something akin to Knights of the Old Republic-like decisions as we play. You know, the kind of decisions that completely alter the path of the storyline and directly affect the outcome of the game. It's a very entertaining thought, especially when - and we have to repeat - we're talking about a first-person shooter. Let's hope Ubisoft Montreal can manage to strike a fine balance between the linear progression we're all used to and the added freedom we'll all appreciate. If they can manage it, we should all be in for a very big treat.
As soon as they nail down a release date, we'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, we suggest you pay close attention to any new details regarding Far Cry 2. It's gonna make a big splash...
2/28/2008 Ben Dutka