The true definition of insanity, it seems, is getting excited for a first-person threequel. We've become so inundated with ways to shoot people in the face that it's hard to get enthusiastic when another one trundles along, but there's something special about Far Cry 3. It's something that threatens to make this one of 2012's most memorable games, and certainly one of its craziest.
Far Cry's always a series that's done things a little differently. The first game, when Crytek was on the beat, was one of the pioneers of open world gaming, as well as one of the most technically impressive experiences of its age. Its island paradise stretched out into the distance, a shooting sandbox that spilt out across countless beaches.
Ubisoft Montreal's sequel took a shift in tone, replacing the paradise with a bleak vision of Africa inspired in no small measure by Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Gone was the sense of combat as fun, and in its place was a game torn through with rife, presenting you at each turn with the grim consequences of your actions.
Far Cry 3 finds a middle ground, but it's smart enough to pluck only the best elements from its predecessors. You're on an island that resembles a paradise - there are the long stretches of sand, the crystal blue waters and breathtaking cliff-faces. Scratch away at the surface, though, and you'll find that it's a cruel world that's defined by its own insanity.
The open world that's defined previous Far Cry games returns, and a tour from the peaceful heights enabled by a hang glider shows that it's as beautiful as ever before - played on a high-end PC, Far Cry 3's got the capacity to stun with its generous draw distances that lay out a sun-kissed heaven for as far as the eye can see. It's an effect that the consoles would do well to replicate, and we're told by Ubisoft that they're well on track to do so.
And this time out the island's more alive than ever before. Away from the small towns and safe houses that act as a haven, wildlife stalks the shrubs and plains of Far Cry 3's island. There are packs of wild dogs, wildebeest and shoals of fish. What's absolutely brilliant about their inclusion is how they've been woven into the gameplay itself.
On one level, the wildlife acts as a new class of enemy. Those dogs are likely to attack you when you're out exploring alone. Go for a swim and you're likely to come into grievous contact with a shark. Then - and surely this will never cease to entertain - you can just punch the dumb fish in the face.
It gets better. Wildlife can be turned upon your enemies if you've the know-how - at one point in our brief sojourn across the island we came across a camp of bandits who also happened to be stowing a wild bear in cages. A couple of well-placed shots on some shabby looking locks and all of a sudden Gentle Ben's not so gentle, savaging the bandits in a flurry of fur and claws.
Compared to other shooters it feels a little unhinged, but Far Cry 3's a more than competent shooter in its own right. Gunplay's tight and punchy, complemented this time out by a bow and arrow that enables a more stealthy approach. It also proves extremely satisfying to stalk an encampment, silently dispensing with guards before moving in and going loud with an AK-47 to finish off the job.
It's a taut game, then, that knows how to spread out its own insanity across an open world first-person shooter that's incredibly adept. What could make Far Cry 3 that little bit more interesting is that madness though - and goodness knows the genre needs a little crazy right now.