The sheer scale of Far Cry 3 is something not to be taken lightly. The world map, like the previous titles, is a maze of detail with wildlife, radio towers, outposts and much more waiting to be explored and interacted with. Starting the game, players are dumped into the mind of Jason Brody. A “regular” guy in every sense of the word, his holiday with friends is cut short in one of the most brutal and controversial ways we’ve seen in a game to date.

The establishment of Far Cry 3′s protagonist into the world is an integration baptised in fire. The opening segments shows you, in one single swoop, how serene and violent Far Cry 3 can become – as if two sides of a coin. In fact, Ubisoft have clearly aimed to instill a sense of respect in the player for the characters, the world and the story alike. Character and world development appear to be a paramount inclusion here as characters interact with you on a personal level not really experienced before. The fourth wall, a wall that’s generally respected and observed – rather than tinkered with, is something Ubisoft are clearly interested in manipulating from the start. While the first string of missions, whether they’re character or world driven, are relatively straight-forward. Simple at first, they do act as a robust stepping stone for the path ahead. Starting a mission will see the map hone in on the player. This focused attention will see gamers constricted in movement and only able to explore a designated percentage of the map – a percentage respective of the current narrative. While it might sound a little constrictive, it’s an implementation that works surprisingly well.

Moving through a bustling village, we’re suddenly out in the open – finally moving on our own accord. Heading through the forest, the tranquility is suddenly disturbed by the sounds of growling and screaming. Standing there, staring at nature in its most purest form, we were surprised and equally delighted to see the world operating around us as an enemy foot patrol is set upon by wolves. A random occurance, the fight and subsequet struggle was brief and brutal. A blip in the grand scheme of things, that short but startling moment immediately enchanted us to believe the world would operate with or without us. As their lifeless bodies were dragged away, dragged deeper into the forest for consumption, we turned out attention to the main objective – to re-activiate a radio tower. The radio tower missions themselves, might appear to be relatively bland at first, but they come with a host of rewards: more areas, more missions and essentially more to do.

Placing the narrative to one side though, you might be wondering what the franchise offers to those truely sandbox gamers this time around – and the answer is a lot actually. There’s radio towers to repair, as mentioned above, as well as outposts to liberate, animals to hunt, a whole skill tree of upgrades to aquire, the option to buy and sell weapons and so much more – that’s not to mention the range of vehicles you can use to find these areas like cars, a jeep, a hand-glider and jet-ski – to name a few. There’s other nifty additions to the game which see rocks and walls tagged with Ubisoft dev graffiti. Finding this graffiti, and activiating it, will see a series of time trials opening up for the player. There’s also assassination missions to tackle. Another welcome addition to the sandbox element of the game, assassination missions require players to head to a location, as indicated on the map, and assassinate a chosen target. The stipulation here is the character must be removed under pre-set conditions. For example: some characters must be assassinated using just a bow and arrow, while some assassinstion missions ask the player to use nothing but a knife. While these missions are enjoyable – thanks to the added sense of difficulty, they can prove to be a little frutsrating too as a deviance from the desired method will reward you in nothing but failure.

The overall feel of gameplay stems from a similar experience – the one found in Far Cry 2 – so you shouldn’t expect to be alienated by the controls if you’ve played previous Far Cry games. Weapons, in case you’re wondering, do feel much heavier than previous outings. They now feel weighty and robust this time around. The actual arsenal itself, or what we had hands-on with, will contain some familiar “standard” weapons like the AK-47, generic handguns and grenades as well as beefier rifles and more. Ubisoft has also attempted to innovate and appeal to the predators out there by including a bow and arrow. While it might not feel as satisfying as other weapons, the bow and arrow does offer up a customisation that’s unique as the tips of the arrows themselves can be cusomised to cater to your intended outcome. The tips come in explosive rounds, incendiary rounds and traditional heads that, when found, are ready to be equipped.

Having hands-on with any game can immediately tell you how the game is shaping, or will, shape up. While a multiplayer/co-op mode was off the books for the time we had, we can say that from what we experienced – Far Cry 3 is looking to be the most visceral, the most brutal and the most rewarding Far Cry 3 to date.

Far Cry 3 launches November the 29th here in Ireland, and December the 4th in the US.