In the original Far Cry, and the spin-offs Far Cry: Instincts and Far Cry: Instincts: Evolution, you played as Jack Carver, an ex-military man who ran around a tropical jungle, shooting mercs and mutated monkey-men. For the upcoming sequel, Far Cry 2 -- which Ubisoft will release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this fall -- you're not Jack, you're not on a tropical jungle, and there are no mutant monkey men. Which makes this a sequel how? We spoke to the game's creative director, Clint Hocking of Ubisoft Montreal, about how, despite these changes, Far Cry 2 is actually more of a sequel (spiritually, anyway) than you might realize.
Crispy Gamer: For those who didn't play the original on PC, or the spin-offs on the Xbox and Xbox 360, what is Far Cry 2?
Clint Hocking: I think the most important thing about Far Cry as a game experience is that it's a game that takes you where you never thought you'd go in a videogame. A natural place, an exotic place. The wonder of the original Far Cry was having people go, "Wow, it's beautiful here, walking on this white sandy tropical beach." We wanted to recapture that. We needed to go somewhere we hadn't gone before more than we needed to go back to a tropical island. So we went to Africa. You probably never thought you'd play a game in Africa, or that a game set in Africa would look this beautiful, or this credible, but not only are you going to go there, but you'll believe it when you see it.
Crispy Gamer: Will you still be going inside abandoned buildings and labs, like in the original?
Hocking: No, there are no real interior levels. Though there are some structures, such as train stations, chemical depots and fuel dumps, and even some villages and towns.
Crispy Gamer: It doesn't sound like this is a continuation of the story from the first games.
Hocking: No, it's not, though it's somewhat thematically linked. We didn't make the original, Crytek did, and the original Far Cry was a retelling of "The Island of Doctor Moreau" in the same way their Crysis was a retelling of "War of the Worlds." But "The Island of Doctor Moreau" is actually very similar to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," which really became a touchstone for us once we decided to go to Africa, and decided to lose the sci-fi elements.
Crispy Gamer: Does that mean those special abilities you had in the first games are also gone?
Hocking: Yeah, they're gone.
Crispy Gamer: Not including the mutant monkey-men is kind of going to change the game. Why'd you take them out?
Hocking: Once we settled on Africa, that aspect of things started to make less sense. It started to feel that if we made Far Cry 2 in Africa with mutants it would be like the Marlon Brando version of "The Island of Doctor Moreau," and that would be so trite and false.
Crispy Gamer: Did you also think that if you went with the mutant monkey people in Africa that you might run into some issues of race?
Hocking: I think, no matter what, there are people who react to certain games. You're obviously referring to Resident Evil 5. There are people who are going to react no matter what. There are people who are afraid of what games are allowed to be about, and maybe rightly so. Maybe we haven't proven that we're allowed to make games that aren't about monsters. People still have those problems with movies.
Crispy Gamer: The original games were somewhat linear and open at the same time, as you had to get from point A to point B, but there were often different ways to do so. Will this game have a similar approach?
Hocking: We talk about Far Cry as being a really wide series of corridors. That worked for the first game. Our game isn't a series of corridors, even wide ones; our game is open. There are some areas you can't enter because the terrain is impassible, but otherwise you can go anywhere else at any time. You can go places by truck or by boat or by foot. So the question isn't, "How do I get from A to B?" The real question is, 'What do I need to do on my way from A to B? I'm going into the jungle, so I need some weapons and some ammo and a good vehicle.' "
Crispy Gamer: Does this more open world mean there are also side-missions?
Hocking: Yeah, absolutely. There's a whole mess of them -- all different kinds. There are assassination missions; you need to raid convoys to get weapons; you need to help doctors and priests and civilians get out of the country in exchange for malaria medicine, since you have malaria in the game, and have to treat your symptoms.
Crispy Gamer: How does that affect the game?
Hocking: Your maximum health is determined by your sickness level, and you have to do side-missions to get malaria pills.
Crispy Gamer: One of the other changes you're making is that you've tossed aside the original game's hero, Jack Carver. Did you do that because Stephen Dorff, who voiced Jack in Far Cry: Instincts and Far Cry: Instincts: Evolution, was a pain in the ass?
Hocking: No, no, no. I think they were actually happy with his work in the game. The thing is, when we started working on Far Cry 2, none of the console versions had come out yet. Far Cry: Instincts was still being worked on. We've been working on this for, like, three years.
Crispy Gamer: If you're not Jack Carver, who are you?
Hocking: There are 12 characters in the game, and you choose who you're going to be at the beginning. Once you do, you remove that character from the pool of characters who can populate the script. As you move into the world, we seed those other characters into the world, in some cases randomly. So you might rescue some of those characters, others you might find through exploration, but either way they potentially become your friends as you work with them. Here's the thing: Any of them can die, and once they die they are gone forever, which means you won't have access to their side-quests, you don't have them helping you in missions or them saving you if you get into trouble.
Crispy Gamer: Aside from the obvious Achievement you'd get from playing as all 12 on the Xbox 360, is there any other reason to play as another character?
Hocking: No, there isn't. It isn't like one guy is the heavy gunner and another other guy is a stealth ninja dude. Though some guys might have a weapon you want, and you can kill them and take it, but then, as I said, you won't have them around to help you.
Crispy Gamer: Are you getting anyone famous to do the character's voices?
Hocking: No, we didn't want to use famous actors, we wanted our voices to be really authentic, since it's too easy for them to become caricatures, especially since our characters come from all over the world. We've actually gotten some good feedback on the voices. One of the characters is from Ireland, and a guy who'd grown up in Ireland told us that the character had the best Belfast accent he'd ever heard in any medium.
Crispy Gamer: Besides the single-player mode, will there be any co-op options?
Hocking: There won't be any co-op. There is a whole traditional multiplayer thing, but we're not talking about it just yet. The game will also have a map editor like the original game did.
Crispy Gamer: Will you be able to send your maps to your friends?
Hocking: Absolutely. You can share maps, rank maps, and so on.
Crispy Gamer: The game is coming out on the PC, 360 and PS3. Do you expect there will be any major differences between them?
Hocking: Not really, though it will obviously look better on PC if you have a really high-end system.
Crispy Gamer: Speaking of which, the original Far Cry was made by Crytek, which went on to make Crysis, a game known for needing some rather powerful PCs to run well. Will the PC version of Far Cry 2 also require a top-notch gaming rig?
Hocking: No, even if you have a PC that's a couple years old, you'll be able to run the game and have it be comparable to the Xbox version.
Crispy Gamer: So will the game use the new Rush song "Far Cry" as the game's theme song?
Hocking: There's a Rush song called "Far Cry"?
Crispy Gamer: Yeah, it's on their new album, Snakes & Arrows. Available now from Anthem/Atlantic Records.
Hocking: There is? I didn't know that. The one everyone else brings up is that song that goes something about raining in Africa.
Crispy Gamer: Oh, "Africa" by Toto. People have actually asked if you're going to have that song in the game?
Hocking: No, but they have sent us versions of our trailer where they've cut that song into it. Which is funny, just not that funny.