I’ve had the original Far Cry since it released, though at the time my PC didn’t run it wonderfully and in the eight years since I’ve had plenty of other games to take my attention – especially the Massively Multiplayer variety – not to mention the RSI in my wrist that prevents me from playing shooters (or anything that requires me using the mouse the entire time, such as Torchlight 2) so needless to say I’ve never gotten around to playing it. [However, as I write this, it’s in the process of installing so who knows!]
What I have been playing lately is Far Cry 2 on the Xbox 360. I still haven’t figured out why it’s called “Far Cry” because it is nothing like the first game other than two very basic aspects: it’s a first-person shooter, and you’re a mercenary. How can it be a sequel to Far Cry if it is in no way whatsoever related to it? The only answer: Ubisoft owns the IP and whored it out to their own development studio.
There’s been plenty of complaints about Far Cry 2 that I’ve read, most of which boil down to “repetitive missions,” “superhuman AI” (the AI isn’t good at all, but enemies can spot and shoot you from ridiculous range) and “wtf with the respawning enemies?” I whole-heartedly agree with those, and for the Xbox I can add “crappy controls” and “horrible shooting mechanic” (which is not good when your game’s genre is “shooter”). Part of the poor shooting mechanic is directly related to the lousy controls, though. But for me, they make this the single most frustrating shooter I think I’ve ever played on any platform. It’s nearly impossible to control without aiming assist, and the aiming assist is the poorest implementation I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile the controls are actively fighting against you. When you first try to move the camera with the right stick, there is a resistance so it won’t move accurately right away. Then once it gets going, there’s a momentum effect so I end up flailing the camera all over the place trying to aim. Picture a PC-platform FPS player the very first time he ever tries to play a console shooter, and that’s what you’ve got with Far Cry 2 and I’m an experienced console shooter for nearly a decade thanks to the aforementioned RSI.
If I had to split things up I’d say that even though I’m finding the African setting a bit boring, the team who designed the world and came up with some of the environmental concepts (it has a dynamic weather system, a day-night cycle, and environmental effects such as catching grass and trees on fire which is always fun) did a fantastic job. But the programmers who handled the controls, shooting and interface weren’t up to the task.
So when I watch videos for the upcoming Far Cry 3 I’m paying more attention to how they’ve addressed my complaints of Far Cry 2 than anything else. I think they’ve pulled it off. Just from watching game play videos, I’m going to say Far Cry 3 will be essentially a continuation of what they tried to do in Far Cry 2 (without actually being a sequel to that game either…) but with everything fixed this time. The controls look spot-on this time, and also appear to have adopted “genre standard” on the console platform. Shooting and movement is fast and fluid, and despite the multiplayer appearing for all intents and purposes to be a “Call of Duty clone” it looks fun enough, and certainly better than Far Cry 2 which has hands-down the worst multiplayer I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. I’d rather play nothing but Medal of Honor (2010) multiplayer, which is universally slammed as being very poor, than ever set foot in Far Cry 2 multiplayer again. But hey, it did have a map editor, which you pretty much never see these days, especially on a console platform.
Ideally what I’d like out of Far Cry 3 is “Skyrim with guns.” And just from the game play videos, I think Ubisoft Montreal might be coming fairly close to that for me. In addition to all the “wacky enemies” (which seems to be the whole theme of the game: “How many wacky ways can you kill our wacky enemies?”) there’s wildlife which can actually be hostile this time (both predator animals and prey if you anger them) and you can skin the animals to learn recipes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if maybe there are plants to gather to create health potions too. Maybe. Either way, what I want is a Skyrim-like sandboxy virtual world to blow up as I wish. Now, I think once you finish all the developer-written story quests in Skyrim, the Radiant quest system continues to randomly generate tasks for you, so you could effectively play Skyrim forever. I suspect once I finish the story in Far Cry 3, the game is over and done. I doubt I can make a home and get traveling NPC companions either, but at least there is a faction system this in Far Cry 3 and building up reputation and taking over enemy outposts will let a friendly faction move in.
I don’t think Far Cry 3 will quite achieve my loft dream of “Skyrim with guns.” But it just might come close… We’ll find out in early December!