Thursday, October 04, 2007

Down in Africa - Far Cry 2

With Uwe Boll post-producing his movie-version of Far Cry, and Crytek, the original Far Cry developers are putting the finishing touches to Crysis; It's now time to see who or how the Far Cry will continue as a video game - Thankfully Ubisoft are crying far again, only this time; In Africa.

In 2004, Ubisoft shook up the PC first-person shooter genre when it released Far Cry. The game's dazzling visuals earned it high critical praise. The accolades translated into income, with the game selling nearly 425,000 copies in the US alone. Far Cry's success launched a whole franchise for Ubisoft, with Far Cry Instincts hitting the Xbox in 2005, its expansion/semi-sequel Far Cry Instincts Evolution the following year, Far Cry Instincts Predator arriving in 2006, and Far Cry Vengeance tackling the Wii last December.

Unfortunately, Far Cry's success also led to some unwelcome developments for Ubisoft. Just months after the game's release, its German developer, Crytek, formed a "strategic partnership" with Ubi rival and part-owner Electronic Arts. The first project to emerge from that deal is the PC shooter Crysis, heralded as the most important game for the PC with visuals surpassing all Next-Gen consoles.

While disconcerting, the EA/Crytek deal didn't stop Ubisoft from buying the Far Cry IP last year and they recently announced its Montreal studio is developing the first proper sequel to Far Cry, imaginatively titled Far Cry 2 (well they are French). "Far Cry marked the beginning of a new era for shooters. An era of gorgeous graphics and of advanced artificial intelligence," said Tony Key, Ubisoft's vice president of marketing, in a statement. "We are confident that Far Cry 2 will have the same impact again on the FPS genre landscape."

Obviously created for the PC, it's not a sequel in so far as Jack Carver isn't there. Neither are there Trigens or tropical island. Instead, you're on the sprawling plains of the African Savannah, and enemies are angry humans and hungry wildlife. Far Cry as you knew it is dead: long live Far Cry 2.

According to Louis-Pierre Pharand, Far Cry 2's producer "Our research with consumers showed that there was more interest in the earlier parts of Far Cry - the highly realistic parts where you were raiding mercenary encampments using planning, infiltration and then explosive action to win the fight. Many people seemed to feel the game suffered a bit with the introduction of the Trigens, and the fantastical story that they brought with them."

The different focus is clear. There are no nanosuits in Far Cry 2, and no mutant, alien or magical powers. "Neither the player nor the enemy have any 'powers' other than those that any individual human can summon up in extreme circumstances," says Pharand. "The game takes place in two fully open worlds that are five kilometers on a side, with the second world 'unlocking' roughly one-third of the way through the game," he explains. "This gives a playable area of 50 square kilometers, through which the player is allowed to freely travel at any time. The story's also non-linear, dynamic and procedurally assembled using a simple drama-management engine to populate the story with key characters and facilitate the convergence of the story toward major climactic events."

The story charges you with killing a man who's allegedly responsible for selling arms to both sides of a conflict in a failed state. As you go, you'll become embroiled in other stories and conflicts, while you either accept missions provided by the game's principal factions, or play both sides against the middle to further your own selfish ends. The idea is to create a world in which you can plough your own furrow while the story shapes itself to enhance the drama of your actions. "Ultimately," says Pharand, "while several major climaxes will take place for all players, the characters involved in those events, the locations where those events occur and ultimately what they mean, is up to the player."

Far Cry wouldn't be Far Cry without a heavy dose of jungle. While you will be crawling on your belly through the forest, it's not all-consuming like before. The canopy opens up and there are large expanses of open ground where there's hardly a piece of bark in sight. "It was an absolute requirement that Far Cry 2 maintain the exoticism of the original game," explains Pharand. "The African savanna was a natural choice because there are several different kinds of plain in Africa. The grasslands are only one, and allow long draw distances, off-road vehicle pursuits and long-range shooting and sniping.

"Savannah woodlands, on the other hand, actually come to approximate the levels of density you saw in the jungles of the original Far Cry, but in some ways it can feel like urban fighting with small but dense clusters of trees behaving like small buildings. Of course, you can't typically shoot through buildings, while if you think the enemy is on the other side of a stand of trees you can hose it down with a light machine gun to find out."

Ubisoft are hoping that the game will satisfy those looking for the originals jungle combat, while still allowing the series to cover new styles of play. Yet large outdoor expanses feel empty unless you have the people and wildlife to inhabit them, which is where the game becomes yet more ambitious. "Our AI is needs-driven, and the main needs are Rest, Duty and Social," explains Pharand. "Scattered all around the world are what we call SmartTerrain Points - locations where NPCs can perform actions that fulfil those needs. For example, a Sleep point will fulfill the Rest need as long as the NPC is sleeping." As an example: Gazelles will trek to watering holes each morning, drinking water before heading out to eat and sleep in the plains in the afternoon. Enemy patrols, meanwhile, will converge upon their base-camps at night, which means that the experience of raiding a camp at night or during the day will be drastically different. Planning your assault is now about more than just spotting your enemies. It's about choosing your moment, too.

Pharand isn't worried about Crysis. "From what we know Far Cry 2 and Crysis are virtually incomparable, which is great. We expect PC gamers will be more than happy to have two incredible titles to play instead of only one." And I certainly will. Just so long as they can pull this off. Expect it Spring 2008 (for the moment).


Source: Gamespot, CVG.com

1 comment:

Former Grunt said...

This sounds ambitious. Lets hope it wors out better than Boiling Point or even Stalker.