I managed to log some time with both Far Cry 3 demos they have on the show floor. One is four player objective-based co-op, the other is a brief snippet of the single player campaign. I played the multiplayer demo first, and it seemed fairly standard in terms of controls and such. Very “Call of Duty” inspired, left trigger aim down the sights, snapping to targets, running by pressing the left-stick button, stabbing dudes via the right-stick button, etc. The stuff they had the four of us doing was somewhat interesting though, particularly a bit of a sniping contest that took place between the more conventional, but still “tropically flavored” (my term, no one else’s) “kill all them dudes what got the guns” bits. Here the four people playing aren’t really in any danger as the enemies are solely focusing on some hapless gentleman in a boat. Instead, the objective here is to outscore your friends, 2 points per kill, bonus points for headshots (no idea how many as I did fairly terribly and registered zero headshots…tied for last…let’s move on). I asked the fellow running the demo whether the map editor would be making a return and apparently it will (yay!), however it didn’t sound like you could custom design these co-op style missions. Apparently it is actually a full-blown side campaign, taking place six months before the story of the main game and featuring four unique characters that may play some role in the events that take place later.

On to that campaign which… I have very mixed feelings about. I am one of those people that found Far Cry 2 insanely brilliant after forcing myself to spend some more time with it. I admit, getting run over by a jeep after walking for fifteen minutes IS hella frustrating…but the rewards that game offers over the long-haul are worth it. Trust me; it was like an Anton Chirgurh simulator at some point (if you don’t know who that is start watching all of the Coen Brothers movies starting with Blood Simple…you’ll find him eventually). ANYWAY, this seems to have disposed of much of what that game interesting in favor of a more traditional narrative structure.

Now, that narrative still seems pretty atypical in contrast with the modern military/near-future sci-fi milieu that is dominating shooters these days (there ARE exceptions, don’t yell at me). First off, the demo does start with a topless woman straddling you and some manner of bizarre ritual going on, involving arm tattoos and many MANY shirtless men shouting. We then flash back to before this nonsense happened as you navigate the jungle, stabbing mercenary/pirate-type guys and blasting flamethrower toting armored chaps (remember Lethal Weapon 4’s intro? No…don’t worry about it). The flamethrower was actually kind of interesting to use, as it was toggle able as opposed to “hold down RT to spray flame, release to cease doing so” I was expecting. You just tap hard, fire burst out of that thing and to stop it you hit it again. A minor quirk, I admit, but it was still noticeable. I don’t think the fire tech is as big a thing as it was in Far Cry 2 (well, they even capped it in that, which was disappointing to hear. No infinite grass fires for me), but it did seem to spread a good deal, as there was a point where I was sniping dudes from a rooftop only to find it was now engulfed in flame from that explosion a minute or two prior on the other side of the building.

But whatever, describing combat is boring. Bottom line, this isn’t an open-world game in the same way the second was. I asked if there were open-world segments and it sounded like some missions would be a bit more open-ended, but he was quick to point out the different approaches to the firefights you can take what with the variety of weapons and whatnot, so…no, it doesn’t sound like it will be like Far Cry 2 in terms of vast open spaces, driving vehicles, etc. The section I played was VERY linear, directly reminding me of SAW at one point, when the villainous Vaas (alliteration!) starts taunting you via a pile of television old SD TVs. There was a nightmare/hallucination sequence later that also used the TV screen motif. It looked cool but…again, linear. The game seems to be trying to go for some Apocalypse Now, war driving people insane slant with its story. I’m willing to stay open-minded in the sense that this could still be an entertaining game, but the sandbox aspect was my absolute favorite part of the franchise, so removing, or at least severely limiting, that side of it definitely dampens my enthusiasm.

Still, graphically it was very nice, and the facial animations and voice-acting from Vaas was pretty strong as well. And it is possible this was a very small section of the game that was conducive to making a good demo, and things broaden some after this point. Who knows? Not I, but I shall come September when the game is released. Until that time, adieu.