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Far Cry 3 - "testing the psyche of a pampered and fragile generation"

How Ubisoft's unhinged shooter treats players like adults

The more you see of Far Cry 3, the less like a simple sequel it seems. With the writing duties transplanted to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's Jeffrey Yohalem, we should expect something a little more nuanced than "a man turns up on an island, and everyone is tongues-out bonkers for guns".

The wide range of insanities that infest the tropical islands aren't just an excuse for everyone to be violent, but a theme that's at the heart of the story. There's a kernel of insanity in every character. As charismatically psychotic as Vaas is, one brilliant villain is not enough to carry a game.

That's why every character will have his or her own conflict between a seed of grieving insanity, chafing against their equally important nugget of sanity. We've already met Dr Earnhardt, the islands' very own botanical alchemist who seems to take the role of a medically reckless spirit guide. But what the latest round of hallucinatory videos and our hands-on demo seem to imply is that our hero, Jason Brody, has a few errant bolts in the wrong sockets himself.

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Drug trip
Compounding the twist on reality, Far Cry 3 has a strong theme of induced hallucination, too. The island's mushroom population is an important part of the story, and Earnhardt's experiments revolve around getting the purest, most behaviour-changing hit from them. For Yohalem, it's about creating an Apocalypse Now for a generation of youth who've never known conscription - testing the psyche of a more pampered and fragile generation. "We're trying to create a dialogue about modern culture," says Yohalem. "No-one's made a game that deals with our current generation of young people."

Yohalem credits his audience with intelligence. Joss Whedon and Dan Harmon acknowledge the tropes and clichés of their beloved genres: Cabin in the Woods is a movie about movies, and Community is a sitcom about sitcoms. In the same way, Far Cry 3 acknowledges its form, in a way that's more subtle than breaking the fourth wall. It weaves experience into the narrative. It abuses the expectations we've built from other games and movies. Like BioShock throws the issue of free choice in your face in the environment of a linear FPS. "Far Cry 3 could never be a movie," says Yohalem. "Interactivity is a fundamental part of the story. The player, whoever he is, is another character." It's almost possible to forget that Far Cry 3 is still a fun and bloody sandbox shooter.

Our demo begins with Jason Brody, the man who went on holiday and watched his friends get killed, completing his survival rituals and becoming a warrior. He speaks to the people who trained and embraced him, his forearms covered in the tattoos that tell the story of his time on the island. These tattoos are generated by your own exploration, hunting and story progress and optional missions. Your tattoos will probably be unique, as rumours of Far Cry 3's linearity are easy to overstate. While there will be scripted moments, in terms of mission structure it'll be a "first-person Assassin's Creed II".

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With his status as warrior confirmed, Brody feels equipped to lead a solo assault on Vaas' island. Months of survival have transformed him into a physically hardened, mentally fragile murder factory. We leap off a cliff and into the placid waters, enjoying the fish and manta rays. Far Cry 3 has a rich ecology that, like Assassin's Creed III, comes with an open-world hunting game that plugs into the island's economy. Reaching the other side, we stealth kill a man on a pier, leaping from the water like a stabby salmon.

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