Far Cry 2

The gameplay is just as free as the world. Like the environment, you can experience and explore the story, characters and missions in whatever way you like best. The one overarching mission in Far Cry 2 is to kill "the Jackal," a warmongering arms dealer selling weapons to every guerrilla group in the country. But as you progress from beginning towards that inevitable end, you'll decide how (or if) to tackle all the missions in between. The difference could be 25 hours of gameplay... versus 100.

What's really unusual for a first person shooter is how those choices present themselves. Like the Grand Theft Auto series, tasks and goals are assigned to you by various characters spread throughout the game's world. Sometimes a character will call you in the middle of a mission and present you with an optional side mission. Other times, the character will actually accompany you on the quest, fighting alongside you and protecting you should you fall. (Enemies will do the same, pulling their wounded comrades out of harm's way.)

Unlike the Grand Theft Auto series, however, most requests can be totally ignored. On our way to destroy a radio tower, for example, we received a phone call from a friend named Frank, who asked us to rupture a water pipe along the path. Doing so baits a warlord into exposing his location, giving the player the opportunity to kill him. If we said "no," we would face less immediate danger, but hurt our relationship with Frank. If we said "yes," we'd remove a powerful enemy, but run the risk of failing our current mission.

One decision leads right into another. Choosing "yes" also exposes Frank to the bad guys, creating a subsequent rescue mission... which you can, of course, accept or reject. Accept and you'll receive more goals from Frank. Reject and Frank will die. Permanently. His missions might transfer, slightly altered, to another character, but you can let him or her die, too. Eventually, should you wish, you can become a lone wolf, finding and completing everything on your own, with no help and no companionship.

Presentation and freedom. Far Cry introduced new levels of both to the shooter genre and, later this year, Far Cry 2 will aim to reset the bar again.

(Interested in Far Cry 2's multiplayer? The developers won't say much at this point, but we do know maps will cover half a square kilometer, as opposed to the full 50. Players will be able to edit maps as well, sharing them over the internet, Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. More details as we get them.)

May 28, 2008