Few next-gen games have got us as excited as Ubisoft Montreal's Far Cry 2. Having seen the game numerous times over the last year the prospect of getting our hands on a near-complete build of the Xbox 360 game for an uninterrupted gaming session was something we simply couldn't refuse. We headed into the free-roaming African environment to see if this ambitious FPS has what it takes to compete with current large-scale FPS king Crysis and switched off our Xbox 360 hours later desperate to get our hands on the final game.
After choosing one of nine playable characters (we chose Josip Idromeno, a 48-year-old Albanian and ex-paratrooper and bodyguard) we were introduced to the game via an impressive cab journey, with our guide giving us a rough outline of the political climate and an overview of what's going on. We took the opportunity to have a look around from the backseat, taking in the glorious views, spotting a plane taking off and watching as a cattle farmer herded his animals across the road.
More than anything else this intro demonstrated the sheer size of the game. The cab driver took a pretty direct route to our destination, but even so it took a fair few minutes to get there. It also showed that movement from place to place isn't going to be easy. We passed through a heavily guarded check point that required some sweet talking and a bribe from our cabbie. Anyway, as interesting and beautiful as this journey was, we wanted action and it wasn't far away.
We don't want to spoil too much of the opening so we'll just say that our first fire-fight came after an explosion caused us to run from a building. We capped a guy in the head with our pistol and grabbed his automatic weapon. Explosions were ringing in our ears and bullets were being sprayed from one end of a road to the other. A war had broken out between the United Front for Liberation and Labour (UFLL) and Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR) - the two rival factions in the game - and we were right in the middle of it. A Jeep full of soldiers pulled up, only to go spiralling into the air in a ball of flames moments later. Taking this opportunity we ran as fast as we could away from the action, but it was no use. A few shots in the back and we were eating dirt, although thankfully help was on hand and we were whisked away to safety.
Far Cry 2 revolves around the two warring factions and an arms dealer known as the Jackal. The Jackal is supplying weapons to both factions, effectively fuelling the war and profiting from both parties. Your task is to take him out, denting the war effort on both sides and hopefully bringing an end to it completely. Of course, this won't be easy, so you'll spend an awful lot of time taking missions for each faction as you gradually home in on your target. It's how these missions work and the open nature of the environment that looks to separate Far Cry 2 from its FPS competitors.
Missions are handed out by factions and by arms dealers. Faction missions curry favour with the factions and earn you some much needed diamonds (the game's currency), while arms dealer missions give you access to new weapons, purchasable from a computer terminal. Missions themselves aren't especially different to those seen in other games (kill so and so, get some intelligence info from someone, etc) but the way you approach each can vary quite drastically. Your incredibly handy map shows all routes to your objective as well as any locations you've marked by using your monocular - such as sniper positions and ammo crates - giving you a tactical advantage.