Do we ever tell you the definition of insanity? It's reading the same Far Cry 3 preview over and over again, expecting it to be different. That's why we travelled to Ubisoft Montreal two weeks before E3 to get the low-down on this, one of the most promising shooters of 2012.
First things first: Far Cry 3 is a deeper experience than you think. Yes, it's star is a man called Jason Brody - possibly the most generic name ever - and it's a game where you shoot bad men in the face, but there's plenty happening behind the scenes. For example, the devs are keen to ask: what's the difference between a so-called 'bad guy' and the man who kills him and hundreds like him? Jason Brody may start out as an innocent, globe-trotting member of Generation Y, but he'll be a very different person at the end, after being forced to fight for survival on a chain of islands filled with deadly creatures, insane gangs of human-trafficking pirates, and a whole lot of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
"Well, as Jason, you come to the island, you've never killed anybody - he's not a super-soldier, so doesn't have those skills - and when you meet Vaas you see him as this terrible man, who murders and kidnaps people," explains producer Dan Hay. "You're very different. But then, as you learn more about Vaas - by reading a series of logs, or reflecting on your interactions with him - and then you start to meet up with your friends again, later in the game, you start to think 'How much have I changed? What have I - as Jason - become'."
Of course, all this naval-gazing is for nothing if the game simply doesn't deliver as a shooter. Thankfully, it does. Our demo starts with Jason looking up at the writhing body of Sutra, the girl with dreadlocks from the CG 'stranded' trailer, who has mounted him on top of a stone altar. She whispers into his ear that he's now a warrior, and that enemies deserve to die by his hand. Sutra has been training Jason to survive, to fight back against Vaas - the insane mercenary who kidnaps his friends at the start of the game - and it looks like he's ready. He looks down at his arms, which are covered in tribal tattoos. They shimmer, hinting at some kind of magical or hallucinogenic properties.
In fact, the tattoos are an important part of the game. You get a new tattoo every time you complete part of the game or make a certain decision, be that rescuing a friend as part of the 'main story', discovering specific parts of the island, or completing an in-game goal. Essentially, it's like wearing war medals on your body, and they form a unique record of the way you've played Far Cry 3. They tell Jason's story, and in all likelihood will have a bearing on the way the game ends. Hay adds: "The way we've made this game: theoretically, if Jason called his mum and said 'Hey, I'm going to this island' at the start, then rang her again if he survived at the end, she wouldn't even recognise the guy on the end of the phone".
Back to the demo - Jason gives a rousing speech to a gathering of indigenous tribes-people, who he seems to now be leading. White man comes to the islands to lead the locals in revolt against their oppressors? Apparently, the political message isn't that clear-cut - don't expect to just lead the rebellion and end up as BFFs with the indigenous people. Everyone in Far Cry 3 has an agenda, and the devs are desperate to pull the rug from under the feet of the player. "At the start you're absolutely sure who your friends are, but as you go on you start to question whether or not you still have that harmony," teases Hay.