You've heard plenty by now about what's unique in Far Cry 2: its open-world gameplay set in a massive section of the African savanna; its dynamic social hierarchy of warring mercenary factions allying and reorganizing themselves based on who you befriend and who you kill; its advanced physics and weather systems that allow you to destroy small buildings, watch the resulting fire spread across the dry plain grass, then see a storm come in and quash the flames. The game's campaign is seriously ambitious, but if Ubisoft Montreal can pull it all off, I'm expecting it to be something special.
There are three modes in Far Cry 2 multiplayer: Deathmatch (in delicious flavors like team and free-for-all), Capture the Diamond, and Uprising. If you've ever even caught a whiff of a multiplayer shooter before, Uprising is the only one of those I'll need to explain. It sticks you in a map with three control points and randomly nominates one player on each team as the commander. That guy's the only one who can capture each of the points, by hanging around them for 20 seconds each. Once you've got all three points, your team has to take out the other commander to win. But, of course, he can keep retaking the points you've already gotten if he's crafty enough. The match I played ended up in a back-and-forth stalemate until time ran out, so you'll need real team coordination to hold all your captured points and kill the opposing team's leader.
Your choice of class only seems to determine your weapon loadout. The six classes are guerrilla, gunner, commando, sharpshooter, rebel, and saboteur, and each one of them has a specific focus. The sharpshooter starts with a sniper rifle. The guerrilla has a combat shotgun, Molotov cocktail, and other close-quarters attacks. The rebel uses a flamethrower, while the gunner carries a heavy machine gun. All of the classes seem to control basically the same; the game has a more slowly paced, deliberate feel than what you'd be used to from Call of Duty. It's probably closer to Halo in terms of basic movement and so on.
That would be a decent amount of variety already, but in this post-Call of Duty 4 world, you can't really make a multiplayer shooter without some kind of character-progression system, so each of these classes can be upgraded up to three times. You earn experience points mid-match by pulling off specific tasks, like flag captures or kill streaks, and those points translate into diamonds. You can then cash in a diamond to raise one of the classes up one level, which will unlock alternate primary and secondary weapons and things like that. In ranked matches, you'll have a persistent account where your classes' upgrade levels are carried from one game to the next, and the experience-point curve for gaining diamonds here will be steep. But in one-off custom matches, you'll be able to earn diamonds fast enough to upgrade multiple classes in one match or one session. The catch, of course, is that you lose that experience when you exit.
Some of the unique things from the campaign do show up in the multiplayer. I torched a grassy area with the flamethrower and then had to high-tail it out of there as the whole area was soon ablaze. A good number of simple structures (shacks and such) seemed nice and destructible (they done blowed up good, is what I am saying). Anything sturdier appeared to be static geometry, though, based on the effects of the exploratory grenades I chucked around. There's a full day/night cycle in here that visibly progresses as you play. One map started at dusk, and I had to admire the sunset over the mountains before getting shot in the back of the head by someone who was probably thinking, What is that idiot doing just standing there? Interestingly, since you're mercenaries, there's no fancy equipment like nightvision to aid you when it gets dark, so it can get pretty tough to see your enemies once the sun is down. At least, that was the case on the LCDs at the event, which had pretty shallow contrast, as LCDs tend to have.
Far Cry 2 ships with 14 maps, a respectable number by any measure. But there's also a full level editor in here, which sounds fairly robust: it has internal checks as you're editing that give you an idea of what the frame rate and performance will be like in real-world conditions. Expect a community rating system to (hopefully) float the best of the best to the top of the heap.
The ambitious campaign mode is by far still the main attraction to me in Far Cry 2. Ubi may be talking a big game with the feature set there, but it sure does sound good (and original) on paper. The multiplayer modes stick much closer to established multiplayer-shooter formula. But they seem like they could be a pretty good way to squeeze some extra life out of this game once you've wrung all you can out of the campaign, which itself seems like it could be worth running through two or three times.
I permit you to check out all the new multiplayer screenshots that Ubi released today, and Gamershell also has a whopping five new trailers of the game to keep your Far Cry lust sated.