Say what you will about 2008's most divisive game, Far Cry 2. Mention enemies that crushingly pop back to life the minute you turn away, like Boo's from Mario turned mercenary.
Bring up a massive African savannah with very little to actually do. Comment on how weapon degradation, car repair and constantly injecting yourself with malaria medicine devastated the game's pacing. Whatever you said, though, you probably won't have brought up its multiplayer. That's because no-one played it.
Well, relatively speaking. Gamers were too busy with Call of Duty, Bad Company and Halo 3, all brilliantly executed and leaving little room for new contenders. But Ubisoft have learned. Multiplayer here isn't tacked on like in so many titles keen for an extra back-of-the-box bullet point, but researched and thought about and researched again.
For one, an entire in-house development team has been given multiplayer duties, so there's no danger of Ubisoft spreading themselves too thin. And it shows. In a recent hand's-on event in London, lead multiplayer designer Daniel Berlin told us controls were key, "Ubisoft Massive has a saying: if the controls are not good enough...it doesn't matter how good the game looks, it doesn't matter how cool the game modes are." He might be on to something.
These aren't empty words, but a clear game plan. From how guns feel to fire, how equipment feels to use, and how players can slide, sprint and zip-line through levels, control in Far Cry 3 has been given some serious consideration. You feel like a real person moving through the world rather than a head on a stick, pushing off the ground with both hands after a fall, vaulting over cover with weight and skidding on your knees if you duck while sprinting. It's not quite as committed to parkour as Mirror's Edge or Brink, but it's close.
Playing like CoD, with crouching on B, iron sights aiming with L and melee a click of the left stick away, Far Cry 3 seeks to give shooting fans the toolsets they're familiar with rather than re-writing the rules. There's already a shooter vocabulary for millions - why change it? Like CoD, levels are small and tight, sightlines and chokepoints have been carefully constructed, and the pace of matches is whip-fast. The modes we played, however, were more Battlefield 3 than anything.
First, Domination. Think BF3's Conquest: a number of flags are spread around the level and your team's job is to hold them all. It's not as thrilling safe in the knowledge a tank isn't going to come bursting through a wall behind you, but smaller levels don't require as much aimless wondering and you're never far from the action.
Players always spawn at their own base and though it's disheartening to start at the beginning upon every death (especially after a lengthy ten-second respawn), it smartly facilitates teamwork by gathering groups together, ready to sprint into battle. Whether teams rush in head-first or try a tactical flank is up to them. Shooting is solid and levels are well designed, but this tropical tug-of-war is less an original concept and more a spin on an existing one.
Unlike Firefight, which is different from anything you've seen before. A team of eight defenders have to protect red fuel barrels spread throughout the map. Attackers must ignite them. The kick-over-barrel-then-get-lighter-out animation is lengthy, giving defenders time to interrupt with a spray of bullets, but the meter is continuous, meaning one attacker can pick up where the other left off.