Far Cry 3 certainly does things differently. In just 20 minutes of playtime we had taken a load of magic mushrooms, blown away a pack of tigers with a shotgun and flown a paraglider directly into a man's face.
Traditionally a game about the open world, Far Cry 2 showed an incredible amount of potential but fell short from greatness because of a few stupid game mechanics and a single player which simply became repetitive. Ubisoft recognised its mistakes and has come back with Far Cry 3, but has all been fixed?
From our roughly 3-hour playing of the game, it appears that for the most part, yes, it has. However, best to hold out for a full review as that initial excitement could easily turn monotonous, as did Far Cry 2.
We set out from the start of Far Cry 3, which is stressful to say the least. It sets the tone for what is a much darker and more violent game than previous ones in the series. A sort of holiday highlight reel, backed by music from M.I.A, plays through. This then cuts to the game's protagonist, Jason Brody, trapped in a bamboo cage with his brother.
Wandering around the cage, Apocalypse Now-style, is Vaas, the main enemy in the game. Your brother, succeeds in breaking you both free and you sneak across the camp. Vaas eventually captures you and shoots your brother, giving you the chance to run free. What follows is an exciting blast through one of the many dense jungles that dot about the islands of Far Cry 3.
Knocked out at the end of his chase through the jungle, Brody wakes up in a much quieter village, where he is asked to unscramble a nearby radio mast to help villagers trying to rebel against Vaas's forces, who control the islands.
And that's it: you are then given an entirely open world in which to wander about. Choose to follow the mission structure and individual elements of the game will be introduced to you. Or you can just explore and see where the game takes you. The latter, however, will likely mean you very quickly end up dead, simply because getting about the world of Far Cry 3 requires quite a tasty selection of guns.
We chose to tackle a few early missions, which opened up mechanics such as capturing bases from groups of soldiers to use for fast travel, or unscrambling radio masts to reveal details on the map, Assassin's Creed style.
Then came a mission where we were told to go visit a character called Dr Earnhardt. Holed up on top of a mountain, a fair distance away from where we were on the map, we needed to hop in a Jeep to get there. We should mention that handling has taken a big leap in the right direction, although we did manage to crash a lot. In fact one crash, which saw us rolling off the edge of a cliff, led us to a jet ski. We then tore across the rivers and lakes towards Earnhardt's house.
A combination of great voice acting and the precarious position of his house on the top of a cliff edge set the scene for a fairly memorable mission. One of the other members of your group of island-going friends is in hiding at Earnhardt's house and you are asked to grab a selection of mushrooms for the doctor to help make her better.
Climbing about caves set into a cliff edge, while hallucinating in all sorts of weird ways, this is a neat mechanic and one that feels a lot less gimmicky than, say, the malaria episode of Far Cry 2.
We did notice, however, at this point, that the Xbox was definitely at its limit. Having seen Far Cry 3 running on a PC and then the console version, it still looks good, but if you want all that lush island beauty then PC is going to be the version to go for.
After this, we decided to run about and explore a bit. Far Cry 3 uses an intelligent and well laid-out waypoint system for maps that makes it easy to negotiate the game world. You also get upgradable character stats and skills, which are earned by completing missions. These then translate into either new skills or boosted stats and are represented by a growing tattoo on your arm.
While exploring, we came across the tiger we mentioned in the intro. It was quite a beast to take on and, had we not been brandishing such a powerful shotgun, it would have probably killed us. Then came another base attack, which we simply stumbled across in our ramblings through Far Cry's islands.
This time we set loose a caged bear on to the unsuspecting troops, having sneaked up on them. The stealth element as well as the actual gunplay and shooting has also been improved for this game, helped in part by the dense jungle environment which makes it easier to crawl about and hide.
All in all then, Far Cry 3 is shaping up to be a good improvement on its predecessor. But we need to spend a lot more time with a game this vast to be sure. The story alone is reason enough for us to want to delve deeper, so who knows, get the gameplay right and Ubisoft could have a real winner on its hands.