Far Cry 2 Console Hands-On
One of the biggest Ubidays announcements was a simultaneous release date for Far Cry 2 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. We celebrated the occasion with our first console hands-on with the game.
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Far Cry 2 has long been on our radar as one of the most technically impressive games currently in development. While PC owners have been assured of the game for quite some time, console owners have been teased with a mixture of news from Ubisoft. When it was first announced, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game didn't exist--then they were announced, but everyone assumed that they would come after the PC version was completed. So we rejoiced yesterday when Ubisoft announced not only a Q3 2008 release date for Far Cry 2, but that the game would be released on all three formats simultaneously. We grabbed a hands-on with the Xbox 360 version of the game for the first time to see how the console versions are coming along.
With so much advanced technology at work in Far Cry 2, we were uncertain as to how the team would get everything working on consoles. Would the PS3 and the Xbox 360 be able to replicate the weather effects, the complex physics and enemy AI all while rendering the incredibly detailed African vistas? The answer is yes--and with relatively few sacrifices. Every single feature of the PC version will make it into the console versions intact, and while it won't be rendered in 1080p on either console, it will support 720p display. Seeing the game running, that resolution looks more than sufficient to render the absolutely stunning African environment.
We spoke to Dominic Guay, the technology director on the game, who told us that there's nothing on the PC version that won't make it into the console versions--even the level creation tools are currently expected to be featured. Guay was uncertain about how console owners would share maps, however. The only thing that's still being figured out is the number of players that will be featured in the multiplayer mode. Officially the number is set at 16 players, but Guay admits that this is still being tested for up to 20 players within Ubisoft's office in Montreal. Typical broadband speed may allow even more players, but the more pressing limitation is on the size of the maps, which he says become too busy with more than 20 players. According to Ubisoft, the limit is likely to stay at 16 people on the consoles to ensure a decent performance.
After talking facts, we jumped into the Xbox 360 version to have our first play of the game. We didn't get to choose our character in this demo, but the final game will feature nine male characters and the other eight will show up as friends and allies. As with Grand Theft Auto IV, your character will communicate with other people in the world using a mobile phone, contacting them when he's completed a mission or satisfied an objective. One such character that we met was Frank, an Irish football fan who handed out a mission to destroy a water supply line. The supply was being used by local militia to sell water to foreign countries and fund arms deals, and destroying it would allow Frank to take out the captain of the rogue group.
Although Guay encouraged us to simply mess around in the world, we decided to take the mission and checked our map before jumping in a jeep to get to the objective. With the map checking in at over 48 square kilometers, using a vehicle is pretty much a requirement in Far Cry 2, and you'll have a choice of jeeps, boats, and the trusty hang glider from the last game. If your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you can hop out and use a wrench to fix it up again. The driving works in pretty much the same way as it did in the first game, except this time you can do cool things such as strap explosives to a car, drive it into an enemy ammunition dump, and detonate it from afar.
While driving around the world, we noticed all the same attention to detail that makes the PC game so visually arresting. Sunlight permeates the leaves as you stand beneath the trees, and wildlife such as zebras roam the area, oblivious to the civil war going on around them. There won't be any deadly animals in the game; the developers decided it was more annoying than fun to have lions in addition to enemy militia to worry about.
While you can save your progress anywhere you like on the PC version, you'll have to make it to safe houses on the PS3 and 360 to sleep and save the game. The PC version will also have safe houses, which allow you to go to sleep and set an alarm to wake up at certain hours of the day. This is particularly useful if you want to attempt a mission in the cover of darkness, as you can set an alarm and wake up at dusk to complete the mission. If you want to wait in real time, a full day cycle takes four hours in the game. All the wind, rain, and storm effects will be featured in the console versions, and realistic weather patterns from Africa have been incorporated to ensure they occur at the same sort of frequency as in real life.
Back to our mission. We began fighting with one group of enemies near the water pipe. Even though the enemy AI was at a fairly easy difficulty level, we still found them to be quite difficult to kill. While enemies would occasionally clump together, most would effectively use cover and some would even help wounded comrades up off the ground. While you can inject yourself with a healing drug if you become wounded, if you're heavily wounded you can be rescued by one of your allies as long as you've made friends in the game. Thankfully, an American ally called Warren came into the area to pull us out when we were fatally injured, pulling us to a safer area and giving us some new weapons to boot. It's an interesting gameplay mechanic to be revived by someone else in the game, but you have to be aware that your friends can be killed in the process of saving you, and they'll disappear from the gameworld completely if they're killed.
There's a whole lot more to Far Cry 2 than we've covered here, such as weapons that jam, rockets that you can bounce off walls, and a great map/compass system, but you can read about them in our other previews of the game. In the meantime, be assured that the console versions of Far Cry 2 look just as promising as the PC game, and we're amazed that the jump to consoles has been done without compromise. Far Cry 2 is set for release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in Q3 2008.