by Patrick Steinmann
previewed on PC
Far Crying Out Loud!
For a while now, games have been heading away from fixed storylines and missions that were limited to one solution. Games like 2004’s Far Cry launched and defined this craze for do-what-you-want, sandbox-style gaming, but we have yet to encounter a title that brings us total gaming freedom.
But there’s always time for a first. And, even though we here at HG are always striving to stay objective, I must say that Far Cry 2 is shaping up to be that first, truly open FPS game. Let’s take a look at this upcoming Ubisoft title to find out more.
The Jackal must die
The “sandbox” idea starts with the storyline, set in the Serengeti. At the beginning of the game, you choose one of a good dozen characters, each with their own traits and such. The game itself focuses on one sole “superstructure”: you must eliminate an arms dealer, dubbed the “Jackal”, who is supplying weapons to rival tribes and is destroying the country you are located in. What you do between the opening CGI sequence (the Jackal saying you’re not worth the bullet, and leaving you to die) and the final mission (ostensibly, killing the Jackal) is entirely up to you. Depending on which missions you choose, when you do them, who you attack, who you make friends with, who you support and who you deny help, the storyline will twist and change accordingly – though it will all lead you to the Jackal eventually.
My, my, what an engine!
For Far Cry 2, Ubisoft Montreal developed a new engine. Named Dunia, this might be the most advanced game engine yet. We’re talking dynamic AI, dynamic weather, dynamic wildlife, dynamic equipment, dynamic foliage, dynamic everything. Plants grow, the AI changes tactics depending on your behaviour, vehicles and guns receive damage according to use. Some say it’s merely a tuned version of Crysis’ CryEngine 2, though I'm inclined to think this is far more than an improved model of another engine.
Another feature of the engine is the way it combines (random) ragdoll animations with scripted animations. For example: If you fatally shoot an enemy in the leg, he will fall to the ground in whatever way the script has planned for him, but his movements will be influenced by his injury, as well as any previous wounds he has suffered. Similarly, different weapons will also affect the movements the baddie makes.
Additionally, Ubisoft has said that pretty much everything on the map (measuring around 50 square kilometres, or 19 square miles) is interactive. Shoot down branches, destroy buildings, ignite the foliage, blow up rocks and boulders: you’re pretty much free to go. Heck, if you happen to find yourself in a shantytown (and I’ve heard they’re widespread...) simply shoot your way through the town...
Furthermore, I’ve heard that plants and trees will actually grow as time progresses, so you might well encounter totally new tactical situations at places you’ve been before. Weather-wise, wind will play a big role. Beyond carrying sounds, it will spread wildfires and smoke in the appropriate direction. I expect this realism to carry over into other portions of the game as well, including a variety of weather conditions, along with a day and night cycle which influences NPC behaviour and tactics. Another big plus of all this is that, graphics-wise, the game looks absolutely stunning.