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Far Cry 2

For another thing, Far Cry 2 uses fire like no other game before it. Use a flamethrower or throw a grenade into the long grass, and the fire will spread. If you're really lucky, the wind may take it into the encampment, confusing the troops, encircling them, or cutting them off from one side of the camp. Let the flames work for you, and you can attack from another side or just complete your objectives while the guards are all distracted. Just beware. Fire can be unpredictable, and you can even start off an unwanted blaze. If, for example, you don't watch where the back end of your rocket launcher is pointing when you fire off a shot, prepare for a scorched backside. It doesn't take much to set all that dry grass ablaze.

What's impressive already is the sense of a living, breathing world. The atmosphere is strong, and the sense of the land as a believable environment only enhanced by the herds of Zebras and other animals roaming the forests, river banks and grasslands, driven, apparently, by the demands of thirst, safety and slumber. Don't worry: you won't be forced to fight lions or jackals - wisely, Ubisoft decided to omit predators in the interest of avoiding dull man vs. beast combat. Plus it's hard enough modelling convincing animal AI, let alone a full working ecosystem. The game is also set to feature civilian settlements. We've yet to see how the game copes with the general population, but we've been told that they will play a major part in the game.

So far, I've only seen and played a relatively small section of the game, but at the moment Far Cry 2 looks impressive and a far truer follow-on from Far Cry than a lot of fans might have expected. It's going to be interesting to compare the ways in which Ubisoft and Crytek have taken the original Far Cry premise. Best of all, console owners should, fingers crossed, get a game to rival Crysis. At the moment, the PC version has a few visual bells and whistles that the consoles don't, including more realistic and dynamic explosions and more striking fire effects. However, you will probably need a Crysis-ready rig to play it; the demo version was running on a quad-core, SLI system. The PS3 and X360 versions still look stunning, and seemed to be running at a reasonably steady frame rate for what is, after all, still pre-Beta code.

In short, if you're an FPS fan and you're not excited about Far Cry 2, then you should be. Who knows what competition it will be up against when it launches before Christmas, but the Ubisoft sequel already looks like one of 2008's strongest action titles.

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