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Far Cry 3: Ubisoft unleashes its tropic thunder

Welcome to the jungle, again...

The Far Cry games don't share a common storyline (or even a common continent), but there is one thing that unites them all some of the most stunning open-world environments ever seen.

We could have quite happily lost ourselves in Far Cry 2's gorgeous central African savannahs, for instance. Which is just as well, as we seem to remember spending most of our time there being totally lost, with a tatty map in one hand and a rusty wrench in the other, attempting to fix a knackered jeep under heavy gunfire. Great game, that was. Far Cry 3 should be even better.

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Why? Well, for starters, you're going to need a bigger wrench. According to narrative director Jason Vandenberghe Far Cry 3's tropical islands will be ten times the size of Far Cry 2's expansive grasslands. While you're rolling that nugget of information around your brain, you might also like to consider that it's big and dangerous.

The entire island range has been cut off from the civilised world, and the only authorities its crazed inhabitants answer to are propelled from the barrel of a gun.

Inhabitants such as Vaas, a Mohawked gent you meet during the game's opening act. Conflicted by insanity, he can't decide whether to have a philosophical debate with you or tie your leg to a cinder block and hurl you into a natural spring. Eventually, he chooses the lesser of the two evils and it's into the drink you go.

ISLE BE DAMNED
The story of your escape from this underwater graveyard appears to be scripted and linear, as intro sections tend to be in even the most openended of games, but it hints at some of the ways in which Far Cry 3 will offer the kind of freeform tactical possibilities that aren't normally associated with first-person shooters.

The key to survival is using the fertile open environment to your advantage; at one point we snuck behind a waterfall, where we were free to watch and observe our surroundings at our leisure before choosing the perfect moment to lash out and begin hostilities on our own terms.

The irony is that you may have to end up siding with unsavoury types such as Vaas as the story progresses, with Ubisoft Montreal aiming to present you with tricky moral dilemmas that led to uneasy truces. But if you end up pissing him off, at least you can console yourself in the fact that the island probably is big enough for the both of you.

Sheer size alone doesn't make for a great game environment, but all the right noises are coming out of the developers' yap holes. "We're focusing on taking that scale and making it dense," elaborates Vanderberghe, "so that around every corner there's something to find or see. We ask ourselves: if there wasn't anyone to shoot in this game, could it still be fun?"

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It's a sound design philosophy, but don't worry: there will be people to shoot. Oh so many people. Whether Vaas is top of that list or not will probably depend on your moral compass

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