It seems that every game developer with blockbuster aspirations these days must include some form of cooperative gameplay or multiplayer. The trend is unquestionably a good sign for those who prefer to enjoy a game experience with friends online, but designing a standalone campaign that captures the spirit of the single-player while still crafting a unique experience is not easy.
Ubisoft has added a 4-player co-op campaign to Far Cry 3, complete with unique protagonists and a plot apparently unrelated to that of the singleplayer. Four of us had a chance to demo the new mode at E3 2012, and it’s safe to say our impressions are somewhat mixed.
There is no need to deny that Ubisoft has modelled their co-op campaign after Left 4 Dead, but have managed to build the experience around four unique characters who fit the offbeat plot and attitude of Far Cry 3 perfectly. The four characters hell-bent on revenge are far more experienced in weaponry and violence than the game’s new single-player protagonist Jason, which is bad news for the hordes of local criminals that populate the tropical island.
Before beginning a stage of the co-op campaign, the players are allowed to choose their preferred class from one of a selection. The standard ‘Bodyguard’ that deals massive damage from a medium distance, as well as long-ranged ‘Snipers’ are all selectable with specific primary and secondary weapons assigned to them. Loadouts are allowed to be customized before beginning, but exact details on how options would be unlocked or gained were not discussed.
The bridge level demonstrated on stage at the Sony press conference was the map in question, tasking the team with repairing a train, then planting several explosives on a bridge while constantly defending one another from a steady stream of attackers. Even though the action or enemy AI was not lacking in any particular way, the gameplay in this specific stage was extremely straightforward – sometimes painfully so. The enemies were seemingly identical in type and behavior, which is extremely noticable when compared with the games that Far Cry 3 so strongly emulates.
For a majority of the experience, players are simply required to spot where enemies are spawning from, take cover, and wait for their shot. The individual classes inherently deal with waves in differing ways, but given the previously mentioned structure, the experience never really evolves into anything beyond clearing an area. Compare that with the fact that ‘repairing’ a train means firing a blowtorch anywhere on its structure fills a bar, and several opportunities for varied gameplay are missed entirely. We’re not criticizing the mechanic itself – since it appears in several military shooters – but with four players in one area, one could have been required to perform a more intricate task to advance the campaign.
Even though the experience was straightforward and simple, it wasn’t without its share of technical issues. Upon first launching the game, one player bringing up the pause menu after readying the campaign for launch caused the campaign to load for one player, but froze the remaining three on the cinematic introduction. After restarting the stage, all things worked fine, until a teammate being revived failed to be removed from the prone position. Since the player was technically alive, teammates could not revive them again, and the character was essentially stuck until being killed by the bridge explosion.
While watching helplessly as your comrade begs for assistance amid a barrage of gunfire certainly upped the drama and tension, being the one that suffered from the glitch was not as entertaining. Technical issues like these certainly happen, but the nature of the gltich and the lack of extensive gameplay actions and systems that might justify such an error only led to frustration.
Overall, Far Cry 3‘s co-op campaign simply is what it is. The same cover-and-fire gameplay and sequential objectives, but with three other players to enjoy it with. The gunfire and action was satisfying and well-designed, but the overall objectives and mechanics couldn’t help but seem lacking. This is certainly new territory for the series, so it’s entirely possible that the developers have played it safe, and introduced entertaining personalities for players to enjoy as a team.
There’s no doubt that fans of the Far Cry 3 world and attitude will find plenty to enjoy with the co-op campaign, but those hoping that the structure and variability would more closely follow the lead of Left 4 Dead look to be disappointed, at least from this showing.
Far Cry 3 will be released on for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
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