Here’s an admission: My first real time playing a Far Cry game was at a recent Ubisoft event. I know, I know….I somehow missed the first two titles completely. That said, if the well-designed demo I played is any indication, Far Cry 3 feels like it’s shaping up to be a good starting off point for those like me who just never got around to the series.
I asked the rep on hand, Mark Thompson, level design director on Far Cry 3 at Ubisoft Montreal, about Far Cry 3‘s premise and what it will try to accomplish.
“[Main character] Jason is backpacking with his friends, they get kidnapped by human traffickers, they get brought to this messed-up island and Jason is the only one of his friends who manages to escape. He doesn’t do it because he’s trained for it or anything, he’s just lucky enough to get out. Because he’s the only one who escapes it becomes his mission to rescue all of his friends. He has to learn how to survive among all of these sociopaths. Ultimately, he has to pick up a gun and kill in order to rescue his friends. For a normal person that’s a big, big step to take. The story explores what it means to start to kill — the personal cost of being a hero. It’s often unexplored, this side of heroism. If you look at it objectively, the good guy does a lot of things that the bad guy does, but it’s the cause that he does it for.”
The story explores what it means to start to kill — the personal cost of being a hero. It’s often unexplored, this side of heroism. If you look at it objectively, the good guy does a lot of things that the bad guy does, but it’s the cause that he does it for.
My next target was a powerful enemy toting a flamethrower. This guy was impressive, he was decked out in full body armor, but he went down after I put one between his eyes. I continued my jungle rampage.
The tables turned, however, when that “show you the true meaning of insanity” guy showed up. Y’know, the one with the mohawk pretending to shoot himself with his fingers from the trailer. He’s become the Face of the Game, a new mascot for Ubisoft. He’s in the game proper and his name is Vaas. He popped out of nowhere and stuck me with a knife. That didn’t kill me so much as kickstart a trippy hallucination sequence. I walked down a narrow path made up of television sets as Vaas poledanced on the side, and I got to watch who I assume was the character I was controlling get mounted by a lady… on a ceiling.
“As long as it’s about real believable characters, as long as the drama is driven by real people in human interactions then games can attract more people in,” Thompson continued. “It’s not just about a space marine shooting people to save the world. It’s a more personal story that you can relate to. It was a conscious decision to be non-military. We chose a very specific non-military [protagonist]. We didn’t want to be a super-soldier, we didn’t want to be a black ops veteran, or a disenfranchised cop, we wanted it to be just a regular guy. We wanted to put this regular guy in a completely insane situation to explore how a normal person would react to these kinds of situations.”
Along those lines, I asked if there any non-lethal ways to take out enemies. Thompson responded: ”You can avoid enemies in certain situations. You can get inside the compound here in the demo without killing anyone. But then there are situations where — Vaas puts you in a trap here and your back’s against the wall and you have to strike out, you have to fight.”
We developed this fantastic motion-capture technology. We can record full body and facial motion and voice all at the same time, so we don’t have video game characters, we captured performances by real people…
“First and foremost, it’s an FPS approached from a slightly different angle. Going way back to Far Cry 1, it was ‘surprise.’ It re-shaped the expectations of an FPS. It wasn’t in a corridor, it wasn’t linear. It wasn’t in a built environment, it was in this beautiful paradise. But y’know, a paradise that had gone to hell. That kind of FPS with more freedom to explore, and there’s a huge open world. What we bring new to Far Cry 3 is the layer of narrative and characters that we didn’t have in previous iterations.
“And [Far Cry 3] is really driven by technology. We developed this fantastic motion-capture technology. We can record full body and facial motion and voice all at the same time, so we don’t have video game characters, we captured performances by real people and that really comes across in Vaas in particular. Michael Mando’s performance of Vaas is really arresting, because what you see in the game is that performance. You see the character, you see that guy. You really see his acting come through, the subtleties of his face and his eyes and his body language. Body language is like 80% of communication. It’s done non-linguistically. It’s interesting now, in video games, we’re getting to the point with technology we can deliver that extra 80%. We’ve only had the 20% so far.”
Images of Final Fantasy X‘s wooden mannequins flashed through my head. Urgh. I, for one, welcome this new motion-capture technology. Thompson also elaborated on Far Cry 3‘s multiplayer and what a AAA game needs to do these days.
“Far Cry’s single player is based around two kinds of islands, but those islands are part of a larger archipelago of islands. PvP is on another island. Co-op is on another island again. And then we have the map editor, where people can try to make their own small islands for multiplayer maps. And it’s all the same universe. The conflict between Vaas and the pirates, and the tribes, that plays out in PvP. You either play as the rebels or the pirates. And in the dedicated 4-player co-op story, which is like six missions built on a whole new island, that’s an entirely new story with entirely different characters. But it’s in the same universe. It’s about Vaas and his human trafficking, it’s about kidnapping and extortion … There are some places and characters that you’ll meet in co-op inside quests in the single-player mode. We tie it together like that as well. The game is huge. We wanted to do a massive, massive game. The game has more value now. The way that the industry is moving you need to give people a lot of value for money with a AAA game.”
I walked away impressed with my short time. Graphics were impressive, water didn’t kill me (you can swim in it!) and co-op multiplayer sounds like it will provide a lot of value in this open-world FPS. The controls felt great on the Xbox 360 controller and I’d imagine they’d be even better on PC with a keyboard and mouse – and yes, it will be out on PC, released alongside its console counterparts this fourth quarter. If the new emphasis on story doesn’t get in the way, this might be a good time for newcomers like me to jump into the Far Cry series.