Far Cry 3 Preview (Xbox360)

So it’s all about those breasts, right? It’s about the nubile young woman writhing atop Far Cry 3’s lead protagonist moments before whispering machismo-filled nothings into his ear, and then turning to a crowd of chest-beating, haka-dancing forest warriors to declare him alpha male prime; the manliest of all men that ever was; ready to lead his peons into glorious combat and his women to new heights of hitherto-unseen ecstasy. Moments later you’re slow-motion stabbing somebody in the neck and stalking your combat arena on a wave of testosterone. Welcome to modern gaming.

If ever there were a couple of minutes’ footage that summed up everything that’s wrong with the teenage-boy wish fulfilment fantasies that most FPS games have become these days, the opening scenes from this vertical slice of Far Cry 3 would have no contest. Devoid of any narrative context, they come across as a barrage of visual imagery intended solely to provoke a reaction in a core male audience, likely alienating anybody that doesn’t have a penis and indeed those that require at least a sliver of justification for the virtual acts they undertake. The question however, is whether or not that was the intended reaction, and whether or not Ubisoft is purposefully toying with player expectations.

I‘m sure he deserved it

By the end of the demo, I’d slant towards a distinct “yes”. Far Cry 3 looks to have a much more ambiguous moral compass hidden beneath its surface, and those briefly titillating moments seem likely to be a part of a grander design that will hopefully form into something with merit beyond visual arousal. It might be disgustingly opportunistic PR to shove them front and center as they have, but looking beyond the grinding gives hope that we know all too little at this point.

Indeed, during our brief play session, it’s quickly apparent that Far Cry 3 is going to be no ordinary experience. One moment you’re diving off a nostalgia-tinged cliff into the sorts of tropical-blue waters that have seldom been traversed since the original, the next you’re graphically blowing up a man with a gas tank strapped to his back, wandering through swathes of neon lights and CRT monitors, aiming an arrow between the eyes of a flaming tiger and then walking a visionary path in a payote-tinged dream sequence that features male pole-dancers and a strong suicide motif. Charismatic antagonist Vaas is menacing and intriguing, and likely lies at the heart of whatever mystery philosophising that Far Cry 3 might have up its sleeve.

Looking to the functional for a moment, played with either controller or keyboard and mouse, it’s immediately apparent that the beating heart of Far Cry’s action remains relatively untouched. Weaponry is responsive and enemies drop with a suitable amount of force, the cover mechanics are intuitive, and a satisfyingly deadly bow caters for silent and stealthy approaches whenever necessary. Waves of grunts look to be supplemented by the local wildlife and mini-boss style characters whenever necessary, and although a jeep-mounted turret section was included for good measure, it offered some satisfying feedback and a deadly level of force.

As did they

Overall then, running and gunning through this limited arena left me wanting more, and provided they can maintain the action through cleverly-placed choke points in the inevitably massive open-world island, there’s no reason that Far Cry 3 should mechanically disappoint.

But then there are plenty of shooters that can boast the same appeal, so it’ll eventually boil down to whether those snippets of exploitation are part of a larger whole. Given their completely left-field approach with Far Cry 2, you’d have to hope that Ubisoft is cooking up something interesting and divisive, and not just controversial for the sake of selling units. Whatever the outcome, we’ll be eager to find out.