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X3F Hands-on: The beginning of Far Cry 2 on a movie theater-sized screen

A few years ago the gauge for graphical fidelity was how good water looked in engine. Today, it's all about fire. Alone in the Dark, Call of Duty: World at War, Gears of War 2 and now Far Cry 2 all show off its flash by igniting the world in flames.

We were able to hit the classy Yorkville area of Toronto, Canada, to launch of Far Cry 2. While we've played around with the map editor and fired a few rounds at other events the launch party was special because we were able to play the entire game projected onto a movie theater screen.

Gallery: Far Cry 2 (Ubidays '08)

Ubisoft Montreal has made great strides in describing how different Far Cry 2 is to the original. Gone is the main protagonist Jack Carver, replaced with nine playable characters with a different look and back story. Throughout the game players are introduced to NPC friends, literally called best buddies in the game, who help the player throughout his adventure -- these NPC characters are actually the playable character not selected in the game.

The beginning of Far Cry 2 is reminiscent of the start of Half-Life and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Sitting in the back of a SUV the player is driven through the lush jungle of the beautiful but deadly African setting. The, quite-long, introduction sets the player up with a number of plot points as the driver/guide brings you into militia controlled territory. One thing is clear, the area is quite hostile and there is no turning back.

Finally arriving to your destination the player is suddenly showing signs of malaria; a hazy brown cloud frames the player view and suddenly you black out. Waking up, shaking in pain the player is greeted by The Jackal -- a vicious arms dealer who the player has been sent to hunt and kill. As the player writhes in pain from malaria, The Jackal promises he cannot be caught or killed as he mocks your current situation and leaves the player to die from the disease, leaving a gun on his night stand and a knife stuck in the wall, inches from the players head -- a remnant from a threat of death during the conversation.

Shaken out of bed by an explosion the player grabs the knife and gun and makes his way out of the now burning building. Finally taking over gameplay the basic tutorial begins: crouching, jumping, aiming and reloading are all outlined. Controls will immediately feel familiar to players of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Outside militia fight with locals until a local spots me and the enemies begin to fire in my direction, emptying a clip into a pair of enemies and picking up an automatic rifle I made my way into an alley way between two sets of firefights. Downing another pair of adversaries my AR runs dry and I pick up a dropped shotgun. From behind a building a group of enemies make their way toward me, one is immediately stopped with a shell to the gut and suddenly the malaria takes over and I pass out on the ground.

Waking up in a supply closet I'm greeted by an annoyed mercenary who allows me to save and resupply. After being taught how to heal, I'm tasked with fixing a broken down car that looks suspiciously like Mr. Bean's classic beater.

Making my way through the jungle in the car I come to my first objective: Take out a pair of enemies guarding a small hut that would prove to be the perfect place for a starter safe house. Creeping from the tall grass behind a crouched enemy I pull out my rusty machete and go in for the kill. Striking him once the enemy staggers forward until a second swipe knocks him out for good. Apparently the kill wasn't stealthy enough because his ally runs around the hut and finds me, knife in hand, and begins to fire. Switching to my flamethrower I lit the tall grass between us and dash for cover to flank the enemy from behind but my blaze picks up too quickly and he is engulfed in the flames.

After setting and forgetting my watch like a Ronco kitchen appliance, I was tasked with infiltrating an enemy stronghold and save a hostage. After a brisk drive through the jungle I made my way to a nearby cliff where I snapped used a recon scope to send weapon stations to the mercenary who provided me with Mr. Bean's whip. Infiltration would prove difficult as eight enemies walked around the environment, but unlike previous games from Ubisoft (Eg. Splinter Cell) the enemies rarely passed through the same route.

Starting a fire at the foot of the camp got some attention and allowed me to pull out my assault rifle and make quick work of a pair of enemies. A third run up behind be and ejected a full clip nearly killing me but a quick swap to the flamethrower and spray later probably left him wishing he had calling in sick. Tossing a Molotov cocktail into a bushel of exploding barrels (why do these guys keep ordering them?) took out another enemy while another was stopped by my handgun. After a few firefights I realize,the enemies seem to soak up too much damage. A head shot should count as one and in some cases it felt like I was fighting super-mercenaries ... but none were any match for my flamethrower strategy.

Skipping over the remaining adversaries I made my way into the hut with the NPC hostage. Inside a man who recognized I had malaria promised to help me if I met him at a bar in the area -- in other play sessions this NPC changed and will apparently be based on who the character plays as. We part ways -- stealing a hood-mounted SUV and a quick hit-and-run later and I'm home free heading back to my safe house.

Far Cry 2 is an interesting animal. Mixing strategic attack with a violent shooter work makes for an interesting concept. My time with it, other than the introductory scene's length, was fun and shows how the game has evolved from its original -- which admittedly only shares a name with its sequel. Of course playing the game on a giant movie theatre with an amazing sound system backing it does change a few things but overall the game is impressive looking and sounding. Along with an in depth map editor, Far Cry 2 promises enough content to separate itself from other releases this year. The jungles of Far Cry 2 are open for attack now on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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