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Far Cry 3: brand new HD video, why multiplay's a beach

Five minutes of brand spanking new in-game HD action plus impressions of the most beautiful action multiplayer in 2012. Stace Harman spends too long looking at Far Cry 3's scenery.

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Some of my most enduring memories of places I’ve visited are rooted in the physical features of the environments – the otherworldly landscapes of Iceland, vast emptiness of the Australian outback or juxtaposition of India’s bustling city streets with its serene mountain forests.

But these impressions say nothing of my experiences in those countries which, for the most part, were formed through interaction with people; be it other travellers or local communities, sparsely populated or densely congregated.

And so it’s unsurprising that my first foray to the idyllic surrounds of Far Cry 3’s tropical island follows much this same pattern; a vivid memory of standing on the brilliant white sand of an unspoilt beach with a lush, verdant jungle at my back, achingly azure depths as far as the eye can see and the brilliant crimson of spilled blood from a gaping wound.

It seems I’ve been shot in the back, again.

Alas, it’s very difficult to fully appreciate the mesmeric scenery when there’s a son-of-a-b***h lurking around every corner with a fistful of fury and a bag full of bullets, every single one of which bears your name. Here, it seems that the locals herald your arrival at the gates of paradise by sending you straight to the depths of hell.

Respawning, I head off in the direction of the nearest arbitrary location that’s to be captured for reasons I neither know nor care for – I’m sulking because I can’t spend more time on the beach. Regrettably, this means heading underground, away from the natural beauty of the exterior locale, and into the tight, dank, sweaty corridors of a concrete munitions dump. Passing through a slightly wider, less well-lit room, I’m shot from behind and I’ve barely turned through 90 degrees before I’m on the floor, prone and bleeding out, again.

The cycle repeats and it seems it’s simply an afternoon for being shot in the back; this I attribute in equal parts to my own failure to “check my corners” when indoors, my insistence on standing still to marvel and the scenery when outside and too slow a turning circle when using a 360 controller.

There’s a marked reduction in the number of bullets that are drilled into me once I ditch the pad and take up keyboard and mouse, though it’s then necessary to reduce mouse sensitivity to its lowest setting to avoid manic twitching (it’s surely no coincidence that we’re being shown a game known for its beauty on a PC powerful enough to host Skynet).

My kill ratio finally starts inching towards respectable and the remaining rounds of Domination pass in a flurry of gunfire and Battle Cry – the team-based buffs that affect allies in the immediate vicinity and grant the initiator a handful of team support points.

Team support points grant access to powerful offensive weapons such as psyche gas, which can be unleashed on a handful of the opposing team, causing them to see every other player as a black-silhouetted demon of indeterminate team assignment.

Each round is bookended by an optional map tutorial, voiced by star-antagonist Vaas, and an interactive cut-scene in which the best performing player of the winning team is offered bragging rights over their opposite number on the losing side, opting either to beat them to death or free them.

Each round is bookended by an optional map tutorial, voiced by star-antagonist Vaas, and an interactive cut-scene in which the best performing player of the winning team is offered bragging rights over their opposite number on the losing side, opting either to beat them to death or free them.

With little opportunity to leisurely explore the iconic environs during frantic multiplayer bouts, it’s through these slender ties – and the occasional zip line – that elements of Far Cry 3’s single-player fiction, with its themes of civil unrest and preoccupation with insanity and hallucination, are introduced to the multiplayer. With just two multiplayer modes on show, it’s curious that Ubisoft chooses this occasion to re-introduce one of the defining elements of Far Cry 2: fire.

Twisted fire starter

In the parched African savannahs, fire played the role of both indiscriminate force of nature and deadly antagonist. In Far Cry 3’s firestorm mode, Ubisoft is looking to recreate these destructive characteristics by once more inviting us to get our fingers burned.

We’re tasked with igniting two capture points in the opposing team’s encampment, prompting a radio comm-link to be revealed which, if activated by the aggressors, will call in air support to dump gasoline on the blaze thus ending the round.

However, if the radio is secured by the defending team it will call in a very similar looking aeroplane to douse the flames with water, which conveniently looks very similar to gasoline but has the opposite effect, thus resetting the round.

Far Cry 3’s appeal is tied inextricably to the promise of wandering off the beaten track to explore its island habitat and interact with its host of dangerously unhinged characters. It’s difficult to ascertain from just two multiplayer modes how much of that promise exists outside of the single-player campaign and while the multiplayer content we’re shown is fun, it falls far short of the level of engagement that looks to be offered by the campaign.

Other multiplayer modes might offer more in the way of consistency by incorporating the central themes of the main game, rather than relying on an association with its predecessor, but at this stage Ubisoft is declining to comment on what form those modes might take. I can only speculate how awesome it might be to have a mode based around the camera, in which opposing teams have to out-snap each other or capture varied examples of the island’s fauna and flora.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to exploring every corner of the island, marvelling at its beauty and being the one to shoot people in the back, all on my own lonesome. It’s a beautiful location, after all; it’s just a shame about the people.

Far Cry 3 launches on PS3, PC and 360 on September 4 in the US and September 6 in PAL territories.

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