GC08: We saw Far Cry 2
Ubisoft recently released a few images of Far Cry 2's map editor so since I was able to attend a presentation of the PC version in Leipzig, I thought you might want to learn more about it. Get your reading glasses and join me inside.
The first thing that struck me when I saw the game on a huge HD TV set was the impressive graphics. Added to the resolution used – something we’re not quite used to seeing yet on consoles – the game really kicked ass visually speaking. The presentation was divided into two equal parts, 15 minutes of random gameplay with the creative director and 15 minutes to introduce us with the level editor.
Clint Hocking - creative director - played the game in normal mode but despite that he died many times – a lot more than he wished anyway - which tends to prove that the difficulty level isn't that easy. During this demo session we were told about the importance of the buddies we can make in the game and the fact that you can choose among a certain number of them. In fact, the more you use them, the more importance they have in the story. They give you missions and if you stick with them, they will help you when necessary – like for example by helping you recover during a fight when you’ve been hit. There even is some sort of class system and if one of your lieutenants - or captains - happens to die, he will be replaced by the next in line in the hierarchy. Which brings me to an important point: your allies don’t come from the Scottish Highlands, they’re not immortals and once you lose them, you can’t get them back. No need to mention you really want to take care of them, all the more as they grant you new abilities as the game progresses.
Moreover, the game asks you to unlock different safe houses to occupy with your buddies so you can then have access to weapon caches or new missions for example. The map you use in the game looks like a real map as, when you use it to find your way through the African wilderness, you see it in the main character’s hand. It’s rather funny to see him check the map while driving, just like those tourists you see in their car during the summer holidays. Since I’m talking about the driving sequences, it’s worth mentioning that you can repair your vehicle when it gets broken. You simply need to open the hood and fix it with a tool.
Like I said before, the graphics are amazing, the savannah looks real (I was stunned by the way the baobabs look). The build we saw had a few framerate issues but other than that there were few glitches – apart from the occasional pop-up. The sound is great too: the weapons sound perfect and you get to hear the local wild animals depending on where you are – savannah or jungle for example.
But enough with the campaign mode, let’s talk about the editor. I found it not only user-friendly but also very complete with a great amount of possibilities. Because I only saw the PC version, I found the interface looked vey similar to the usual PC stuff but I was guaranteed that the console versions would be just as good and simple. It will probably be a little less practical but anybody should be able to create their own maps easily enough. Don’t worry about bad “architects” though, there will be a ranking system for all the maps created by the players so you don’t waste your time on a very bad one.
The editor actually is the same tool the team has been using to make Far Cry 2 for the last three years. There are several tools you can use like the erosion tool to create mountains for instance. You can then add textures and use the noise tool to make an organic field. You can even select the altitude where you want the textures to be applied, which makes everything a lot easier and faster. The same goes with trees that you can add anywhere you want but the editor places them in a logical way so the savannah you create looks as realistic as possible, all this in just a few minutes time. You can then instantly jump into your map to visit your creation and check that everything looks the way you want it to look.
Now the great thing about the editor is that, say you regret creating a savannah and that you wish you’d gone for a jungle instead. No problem, you simply select the jungle environment and the map is automatically updated to look like a jungle. Even the sounds adapt to the new environment so you won’t hear animals that are not supposed to be there. You can then add roads, decide how big they are and again, it’s all very simple because the terrain adapts itself to the road you build. So there really is no need to anticipate anything, you do whatever you want, whenever you feel like it.
You can also add vehicles, weapons or buildings and again, you can place them anywhere, turn them around, put them above the ground in mid air, it’s really your call. The developers wondered at some point if they should "forbid" people to do such crazy things so the maps stay as realistic as possible but they finally decided it was best to let the players decide – and that’s where the ranking system will come in handy I guess.
To create a river, it is also quite easy. You simple need to cut away a part of the jungle – or savannah – and flatten the terrain. Then you use the texture tool along the river for a more realistic look and finally choose the water level you want. You’re also free to decide the time of day or the type of weather – everything changing in real time with the shadows moving or the wind blowing in the trees, amazing! Like I said, you can visit your map whenever you want and then it feels like you’re in the game, with the environment reacting to your every action – when you fire at the trees for example.
At the end of this presentation, we were shown a map that had been created after five hours of work. It was sort of a warehouse environment or a plant of some sort. Since you can place all the pipes and buildings the way you want, the developer had made a kind of crane. It was not really a crane but it looked good enough to pass for one. I can’t wait to see what the players will be able to invent with a bit of imagination. Lego Far Cry? Close to it. Last but not least, the editor will warn you when something is wrong in your map so you have a bug-free experience when you play online. Hence, it will be impossible to have ill-placed spawn points that would either kill you instantly or prevent you from moving for example.
So that’s basically what I learnt during this interesting presentation. I have to say I’m really looking forward to trying the game at home when it’s released. Just a word on the console versions of the game to finish this very long article. I was able to try the 360 on the showfloor – see the gameplay video from Leipzig - and it’s also technically awesome. I didn’t get to play for too long though as we were in a rush but Lunik attended the presentation of the console versions and he learnt that the physics engine will be more limited than on the PC version. Just like what Snoopers and Pipomantis said in the Ubidays Gamersyde Diaries, throwing a grenade on a fence or a building won’t blow it up. There will be particle effects but that’s about it and though it’s a shame, we’ll still have a huge open environment, an impressive fire engine and a great looking game. Unfortunately, although the editor was supposed to be demoed on consoles too, it didn’t happen because the person supposed to show it didn’t make it on time. So we’ll have to be patient and wait for a dev diary, who knows?
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