It's not in Africa, there's no malaria, the guns don't degrade and the inhabitants won't kill you on sight - at least, not until you try to kill them first. Oh, and there's fast travel. Far Cry 3 is a game with a keen eye on fixing the flaws of its predecessor.
Shown to us in an exclusive demo ahead of Ubisoft's press conference today, Far Cry 3 is an attempt to combine the best features of the previous two games: lush visuals, a world that's designed to be explored rather than rushed through, some determinedly mental residents and some grand ideas about story.
In a setup that rivals only Dead Island for the attention it would receive from Holiday Watchdog, you play Jason Brody, a luckless chap who's seen his friends killed and his girlfriend lost in the period before our demo starts. He's left to navigate a series of islands (we only see one, but producer Dan Hay hints at more) populated by some exceptional nutjobs. This is a place beyond humanity, where shocking cruelty is the order of the day.
"What scares us?" asks Hay. "We're not afraid of what's under the bed, we're not afraid of what's in the closet. We're afraid of the guy who comes through the window at three o'clock in the morning with a knife. That's this game. How do you deal with it? How do you manage it? And how do you deal with it at the other end of the world with nobody to help?"
This cheery question is embodied in the demo by Einstein-quoting lunatic Vaas, who treats Jason to some bug-eyed philosophy before tying him to a cement block and throwing him off a cliff. The world is filled with similar lunatics, and you'll be given the choice of how to handle them. "You'll come across these guys doing terrible, terrible things," says Hay. "But you'll need their help, so what does that say about you?"
These charmers are just one level of detail in the world, which retains the franchise's epic scale: distant mountains are there to be visited if you wish, amd the islands are filled with caves, ruins and other distractions, with something exciting hidden around every corner. Exploration is made easier by a reduction of Far Cry 2's legendary brutality, so you aren't being constantly chased by enraged locals - although you will have to deal with local animal life.
"We're giving the player the opportunity to turn on the action when they want to turn on the action," says Hay. This means "making sure that the AI isn't always hammering you with bullets." It's shown by a sequence in which Jason infiltrates a camp to take a helicopter, which is strongly reminiscent of the original Far Cry with a dash of Hitman thrown in.
One guard is silenced by dropping on top of him; another is rushed and has his throat slit by his own knife, which is then thrown through the throat of chum sitting nearby. It's not until the AK-47 comes out that the AI starts noticing things, culminating in a spectacular firefight and helicopter flight cut short by a rocket launcher. (Not shown, but hinted at, was the return of Far Cry 2's flamethrower and its ability to torch vast tracts of the leve.) Cue the return of Vaas and his thousand-yard stare.
What else can we look forward to? The return of vehicles, the removal of weapon degradation (guns will sound different if you've taken them swimming, but they'll still work) and maybe a spot of photography. Jason's DSLR looks to be a key tool in his arsenal, used as a zoom to scope out the bandit camp.