Beware serious spoilers for every numbered Far Cry game except the first. You have been warned.
Sequels tend to be like Russian dolls: they get bigger and bigger until the little doll that started it all is buried deep. Or to use a food analogy, like a Five Guys milkshake - taller and sweeter with more whipped cream on top every time. Who's going to say no to the extra sugar? Not me. And so the cycle continues. More cream is squeezed from the nozzle of a dispenser, a fatter doll is slotted into place and since we never look back, we take for granted that what we're enjoying is the way it's always been.
It always pans out the same way. You turn up a bit late and slightly sweaty, because in East London every street looks the bloody same. You then get shown a Powerpoint presentation extolling the virtues of 'Big Shooter Next' multiplayer, and soon after you and your fellow journalists are herded next door where sixteen glowing screens are humming in darkness waiting for you.
It's great, not least because you often get free posh sandwiches, but because it's a perfect way to judge a multiplayer game's potential. Online gaming is about shared enjoyment - so when you hear the gasps, the shouts, the swearing and have someone level an accusatory finger at you then call you an arsehole, you know a game has potential.
Far Cry 3 is going all out to encourage those yelps. Everything about it is being built to encourage teamplay - to keep your side fighting the good fight together. For example, myself and my cohorts were at one stage approaching a Domination point - a lonely spot caught halfway between a wrecked submarine that sits in a murky green dock and the dark interior of a network of jungle caves.
Name: Quarbani Singh
"The enemy team has something I want," booms the thick, African accent. "Bring it to me." And with that the match begins. My whole team sprints out of our headquarters and into the courtyard, and I clamber into the driver's seat of the huge, factory-fresh Jeep waiting for us. I take a glance at my map of the town as the engine turns over, and... and watch as everyone else on my side jogs off down a dusty street towards the enemy HQ, oblivious to the dirty great cars parked outside our base. Some things never change.
This is not the Africa of the brochures, of mustard savannahs, shimmering waterholes and slow-motion cheetah kills. There are no excitable anthropologists roaming these villages, no jeeploads of middle-class safari goers heading out in search of big game. This is not the Africa of the National Geographic.
Spare a thought for beleaguered developers at this time of year. Getting a major project out on time, on budget and up to scratch typically entails a superhuman commitment to the cause, marriage-wrecking long hours, and a sworn renunciation of selfish luxuries like sleep and personal hygiene.
Far Cry 2 is not overshadowed by Crysis and is not a helpless attempt by Ubisoft to milk money out of the brand. The heart of this first-person shooter sequel-by-a-different-developer is choice - choice in a big free world. Not a particularly original idea; most current-gen reboots boast the same sort of premise. But it's enough to set Far Cry on its very own unknown course - one with a rather surprising amount of role-playing mechanics, buddy characters, vehicles and malaria.
In his review of the original Far Cry , Kristan characterised the game as something of a tease, a temptress, shamelessly flaunting its beauty in front of anyone who'd look - and hypnotised by its lip-lickingly lush jungles and shiny, pretty guns, few could resist. It's a mantle that seems to have been eagerly taken up by Crysis, Crytek's new poster girl - it's been teasing us for years in exactly the same way.