Outposts have a 360-degree approach, and rather than endlessly respawn à la Far Cry 2, now a flag represents conquered settlements which can then be fast-travelled between. No matter your angle of attack, though - C4 strapped to an ATV, stragglers marked through a zoom-lens camera and picked off one by one, entire camps razed through the return of propagating fire - you're always brought back to the buffalo.
Animals are an unknown quantity, a variable which builds on the brand's emergent world. The island menagerie is Far Cry 3's biggest draw, but they can disrupt even the best-laid plans. During a stealthy escape from Vaas' camp in the opening, dogs roam, tails wagging and noses at the ground. When guards offer them a sniff of your scent, they take off after you, leading to a frantic tumble down a razor-edged cliff. It's a set-piece, but a good one.
The islands are covered in an almost suffocating sheet of natural sound...
And keep clear from deeper pockets of undergrowth where jungle cats prowl on the lookout for prey. Upon leaving Vaas' hideout, one set upon us and killed us in two swipes. Later we discovered they hate water, and their bassy growls carry far, making it a dead giveaway. Every beast has a distinctive call, and together they cover the Rook Islands in an almost suffocating sheet of natural sound, a cacophony of buzzing insects, cawing birds, warbling frogs and distant roars.
Teeth and claws are dangerous, but so is existential horror. Your running goal is rescuing friends kidnapped during a holiday, and as you visit them throughout the game they'll chart your changes, holding a mirror up to the creature you're becoming. "We want to give you that feeling in the pit of your stomach," says Hay. "That feeling of, 'Oh, God, what do I do?" The story takes you to some dark places, and the results are written all over your face. And your appendages.
Instead of binary moral decisions, personal transformation comes from three upgrade paths: the Heron, Spider and Shark. Each technique learned (cutthroat takedowns, knee-slides, faster sprinting) appears as a tattoo on your forearm, a legacy of your personal story slowly enveloping your humanity. You start a man and become an animal yourself.
Far Cry 3 takes it back to the tropics, but this time there's more than men to watch for. There's love and loss. Insanity. Darkness. Tough choices. And there's a massive cat in a bad mood.