Heart of Darkness: Far Cry 2 Preview
Ubisoft heads back to Far Cry, but things are very different this time around. Clint Hocking and Dominic Guay give us a look at their procedural take on Africa.
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For years the benchmark of a new video game engine has been how faithfully it can recreate water. Ubisoft is no stranger to the practice. In 2004, PC shooter Far Cry made water look better than ever, and it used it to good effect too, boosting the realism of developer CryTek's island-bound adventure.
Games have moved on, though, and so have game engines. Ubisoft is returning to Far Cry in 2008 with a very different game powered by software called Dunia. And the new engine is all about one thing: dynamism.
This is most obvious in one of the most frequently occurring props on the Far Cry 2 stage, namely trees. They're littered all over the game world and serve as proof of the technical wizardry Ubisoft's multi-core CPU-focused engine is capable of.
Considering how little developer Ubisoft Montreal has shown off the game, it's fair to say that right now, trees are the main actors in what appears to be a loose sequel to the well-received original.
"We have many, many different environments in the game, but one you'll see an awful lot of is this kind of lightly wooded grassland," Ubisoft creative director Clint Hocking tells us during a preview of the game.
Hocking and technical director Dominic Guay are showing off Dunia, demonstrating to us how the engine handles the punishing environments the team has modeled after real-world locations in Kenya.
The creators are most proud of their technical marvel when wielding an AK-47 (one of more than 30 weapons in the game, each of which will degrade over time) and firing randomly into the trees.
Pixel-accurate dynamically created leaves and branches are ripped from the trees as bullets whiz by, reducing the foliage to near-nothingness. If this is what guns can do to trees, imagine what they'll be able to do to people.
And it's not only bullets that cause damage to environments. Fire is a living element in Far Cry 2, feeding on oxygen and dry air as it ravages the land.
Much of the demo we're shown takes place in the sparse savannah that characterizes the African plains, but there will be much more to see in the final game. The team has created a massive world that covers more than 50 square kilometres.
The distance isn't just an illusion either. Hocking says that trees far away are every bit as real as the ones right next to you.
"If you want to shoot the branch off a tree, that's one thing. If you want to shoot the branch off a tree that's a kilometre away, you can do that, because all of the branches are being simulated all the time," he says.