Far Cry 3 Preview (Xbox360)

For our hands-on session, with Far Cry 3 we were just playing the multiplayer side of the game, so no impressions about the story or the single player sadly. Even then, we were only shown two maps and two game modes. Domination – a control-point based mode was played in the ‘Sub-Pen’ level, and then Firestorm was played in a map that involved a lot of ruins and grass and stuff. Massive are currently keeping mum about any other maps and modes, but we imagine it’ll be a mix of standard fair plus a few of the more interesting ones like Firestorm, which will talk about in a bit.

You hear companies go on about how their game is ‘team-focused’, but rarely do you see a game that almost forces its players to work together. Everything from how the reward systems work, to certain gameplay mechanics in Far Cry 3 is geared towards meaningful co-operation, and the amusing thing about it is that Massive are assuming teammates won’t be talking to each other. Speaking to Game Designer Dan Berlin, he believed that ‘voice’ communication was a failure, which is why the studio is more hands-on with what they call ‘Teamplay’. Everything you do earns you teamplay points, but certain things earn you more points than others.

For example, anyone and everyone can heal another person – that’s not something that’s limited to ‘class’ (not that FC3 has classes), and anyone and everyone can interact with objects in the environment, and everyone even has a customised Battle Cry that they can use to buff others. All these things net you XP and teamplay points. Taking objectives, killing people around objectives, killing people in a team… these all net teamplay points to a varying degree. If you’re just running around the map Rambo style, you won’t get that many teampoints, and you won’t get rewarded for it (much). Even tagging enemies for others to kill nets you teampoints. It’s all about teampoints.

But what do these teampoints get you? Well think of Kill-streak rewards in Call of Duty, and you pretty much have the idea. In the demo we played, there were only three items on the ‘Teamplay Metre’, and earning teamplay points fills up this metre. It’s not the strongest bit of the game, we’ll admit… only one of the ‘Team Support Weapons’ was really that inspired – the Pysch Gas. The Tier 2 unlock, this weapon drops a gas canister in a local area, and anyone affected by it basically goes crazy – the world turns orange, voices start whispering over your sound system, and everyone on the map starts looking like shadowy demons – and we mean EVERYONE. Even friendlies will look demonic to you, and friendly-fire is turned on for the only time when you’re affected by this gas, so if you’re not careful you could accidentally shoot a teammate (another way in which they encourage teamplay, if you were with people when you got gassed, you’ll know they are your teammates).

Out of the two game modes we tried, Firestorm was definitely the most interesting one – a more dynamic mode, both teams have fuel dumps that they need to defend, whilst simultaneously trying to ignite the enemy caches. Once you light one, you have a limited window of opportunity to light the other, and If you succeed you start a firestorm. When this happens entire parts of the map light up, preventing you from accessing them and a radio appears in the middle of the map. If the ‘winning’ team get to the radio first as well and capture it, they win the match as that calls in a plane to dump gasoline on the fire. If the ‘losing’ team captures the radio, a water plane is flown in to put out the fire and the whole process starts all over again. Think of it like Tennis just with more flames – definitely one of the more interesting gameplay modes we’ve played, and apparently inspired by Massive’s previous game, World in Conflict (An alternative cold-war RTS).

And we haven’t even gotten to the best bit yet – at the end of every match, there’s a small cutscene where the MVP of the winning team (And the other best players) have the MVP of the losing team tied up, and you get to decide whether you punch so hard you fall down too, or whether you show him mercy. As part of the progression and unlock system (which you can read more about in the interview) you can apparently unlock more of these kinds of scenes as well. Maybe we’ll get to kick him so hard our legs will fall off.

So a small but extensive glimpse at the game’s multiplayer mode. It’s hard to tell whether it will be a game changer – it’s more a direct competitor of Battlefield than anything else, but we can easily see this being the ‘in’ thing for a good while before interest naturally slakes. There’s some good ideas here, and Massive have the expertise to know what they’re doing. The lack of classes and the customisation elements will definitely play into their favour. Far Cry 3 is due out on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 4th in North America, and September 6th in Europe.

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