There were a few eyes-on only demos at PAX as well, although none more anticipated than Assassin's Creed. Playing to a full house in the main theatre, the "From Theory to Reality" demonstration traced the game's development over the last several years. While a bit dry, it was really interesting to hear some first hand development tidbits. The goal set out in by the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time team in 2004 was to redefine action adventure games on next generation consoles. No small feat. Now that next gen is finally current gen that question will soon have a resounding and definite answer.
The demo showed some hints of their ambition, and the possibility of actually pulling it off. While the run through was a rehash of the E3 360 on stage demo, Creative Director Patrice Desilets (no Jade Raymond to ogle this time out) chose to take the assassin Altair down a somewhat different path. Without a doubt, it went much smoother than it did onstage a few months ago. Desilets highlighted the verticality of Altair, showing that he can reach up to grab and climb any piece of geometry that sticks out more than two inches. It looks as though it could rival the sense of height and scope of Crackdown. The demo also showcased a bit more of the crowd mechanic that Ubisoft has been touting. Without getting hands on with the game, it's still tough to tell if that mechanic is integral gameplay or a mere annoyance. Regardless, the audience response made it clear that gamers everywhere are looking forward to finding out.
The other big eyes-on demo wasn't as hyped, and the smaller theatre it was held in wasn't nearly as crowded, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Far Cry 2 showed how to put some wow into a demo. It was a beautiful display of graphics, real time effects and strong AI converging into a seamless experience. The follow up to the original Far Cry takes place in central Africa, and opens with your mercenary dying of malaria, as the man you were sent to kill hovers over you, mocking your impending death. Needless to say, you survive your brush with the Grim Reaper, looking to take your enemy to task. Over the course of the game, you will take on a variety of missions for rival organizations, playing one side against the other until you have the necessary means to strike your original target.
Friend and foe AI will be key roles in your success or failure. You can kill any character you want, but they won't be around to help you in a pinch. The demo showed the advantages of having some friends in high places, as a fellow mercenary saved the main character from certain death during a gun battle. Enemies also exhibit similar behavior for their comrades, all of it unscripted. Based on what was shown, the possibilities appear endless.
The game's lush 50 square mile environment will feature several divergent locales (including the necessary jungle area) and not a loading screen to be seen from one end to the other. Among the things showed off in the non-scripted demo were real day and night cycles and weather effects. The weather in particular was impressive, as the wind can whip up so high that it tears trees apart right before your eyes. This title is all about immersion. Even checking your map won't shatter that reality. Rather, your character holds up a map in front of himself to take a look at. A minor point, but you really have to respect the attention to detail.