Far Cry 2 was a great game," says Far Cry 3 Producer Dan Hay. "I played it and I loved it. But we went online, looked at what people were saying and decided things had to be tweaked." If they were paying attention, Hay's team would have left with a long list.
There were the enemyinfested checkpoints, endlessly respawning bastards no matter how many times you cleared them out. There were weapons that would explode and fall to pieces in your hands in the middle of a firefight against foes who ate lead like the Terminator.
Those same bulletproof sods made stealth near-impossible with their psychic AI routines, and ten of them would shoot you full of holes the instant one saw you.
Everyone in the world was hostile, and crossing the beautiful world wasn't a journey, it was an expedition - if you didn't come properly equipped you wouldn't make it halfway. Weapons were essential, but so were syrettes full of morphine, malaria drugs, a decent set of wheels, and a place to sleep along the way. The game was so obsessed with building a brutal and realistic world it didn't care whether you were enjoying yourself or not.
But Ubisoft Montreal's new Far Cry team know all that, and Far Cry 3 is all about fixing what came before. "We want to give the player the opportunity to turn on the action whenever they want," says Hay. "We want to make sure the AI isn't just hammering you with bullets. We want to let you move around the periphery of an area, making the game wait for you."
"We want the player to feel like they've got the tools at their disposal to really engage with the world however they choose," adds lead designer Jamie Keen. "So the way you stay hidden and the way the AI interacts with you has been improved. We've got an amazing stable of games around us at Ubisoft Montreal, and we've looked to Splinter Cell for inspiration.
"The game's not all about stealth, but you'll be able to play in a much stealthier way. It's not going to suddenly break as you're playing and have you cursing the AI. In fact, getting the enemy AI right is a really big challenge for us, and it's something super important that we really want to nail."
But you'll need something to shoot them with when you're done hiding, so those guns have been made tougher and their bullets hit harder. "We spent a lot of time discussing degrading weapons," says Hay.
"We don't want to punish the player, so the reality is that when you pick up a weapon, you're going to shoot it and you're going to be successful. As for respawning enemies and camps, if you go through and find someone and take them out, that's an action that's got to feel real. If you take out a character and you put them in the ground, they're staying in the ground."
It's an all-new team behind Far Cry 3, working with Far Cry 2's Dunia engine and following the lead established by Ubisoft's former Creative Director Clint Hocking, who has since left Ubisoft to work with Lucasarts. Shortly after the release of his game, Hocking hit the comments thread in a post about Far Cry 2 on games writer Tom Francis' blog Pentadact.com, defending some of the more radical decisions and explaining why the game was the way it was.
Why is everyone, your friends included, so hostile? "Because they are bad fucking people!" Hocking laughs. "They are self-interested, dangerous assholes. Don't be so high and mighty, errand boy. You've probably killed and burned and stabbed more people than all of your buddies combined. Why do you think you are the one we hired to kill The Jackal and not one of them?