With original developer Crytek gone, we've seen a string of so-so console games and un-series-like special mutating powers. You'd forgive us then for being completely surprised to find that Ubisoft's own in-house sequel is, well... really very, very good.
Xbox 360 preview code landed on our desks earlier this week and we haven't been able to put it down. Far Cry 2 is a beautiful, ambitious shooter with plenty of unique ideas for an FPS.
The game kicks off with your character (there are a few to choose from) sat in the back of a jeep in a very Call of Duty-style scripted intro sequence. From the back seat we're introduced to the fictional African world Ubisoft's put together, with plenty of wildlife prancing along the roadside and the occasional security blockade from two of the region's warring factions.
Immediately it's clear that Far Cry 2 has gone for a very visceral experience. Every bump in the road rocks your vision and if you look down you can even see your feet. Attention to detail must have been high on the wish list.
With a cough and a splutter, the jeep rolls into our shanty town destination. And then we faint. Turns out we've got Malaria...
In Far Cry 2 you have to constantly battle to keep the disease under control. During our time with the game this mechanic seemed to be a way of keeping us under control and providing some direction to the open-worldly feel of Far Cry 2.
We're soon sent off on our first 'training mission' to go and get some drugs from a local priest. Truth be told, we just wanted to piss off into the savannah and get a tan.
Anyway, after a short cinematic and opening gun fight we come to in a dirty house where two mercenaries have decided we can work for them, rather than die in Mugabe's back garden.
Here we're introduced to Far Cry 2's interface malarkey. LB tops up your health bar using syringes, and your weapon slots can hold a pistol, rifle, machete and one heavy weapon. And bar a few missions to get you into the swing of things, you're pretty much left to your own devices.
The first thing we really noticed was the unprecedented scale of the world. Through trees, grass, tiny waterfalls and hidden mercenary towns, the whole environment is begging to be explored. For us this is one of the few traits carried over from the original.
Again, Ubisoft has gone for a very visceral experience. The first thing we do in our campaign is jog over to the busted car and fix the engine. This was done in one big first-person animation. We popped the hood, stuck a wrench in and cranked the innards with our bare hands.
There's a real sense of interacting with the game's environments too. Your character actually reaches out to open doors, pick up items and interact with the world. Reload animations, as you can imagine are suitably satisfying as it the in-game map and GPS system.
The 'buddy' system is one of Far Cry 2's most interesting concepts. You'll meet many comrades and team with whoever you like best. Down the line buddying up with the right wingman awards bonuses and rewards, each increasing depending on your 'history' with your mate (it looks similar to GTA IV's own friend system).
We'll need to try it out further before we form a proper verdict, but it felt fresh. There's never any annoying escort missions or AI teammates getting in the way. They're quite happy to make their own way around the world. If you die, instead of swooping straight back to the load screen, you're tagged buddy will come and drag you from the floor in a scripted scene, shooting up any nearby foes.