Carrying boxes has become a videogame staple. It’s a chore in Zelda games, a satiric puzzle in Portal, and in Far Cry 3‘s co-op mode it seems to become almost slapstick. The 4-player co-op demo on show at E3 involved a multi-step mission where players stalked through a jungle, ambushed an enemy depot, and defended a train while an engineer fixes the engine. Once the train is repaired it moves through a tunnel and reveals the final area of the level where one player will have to carry a box of explosives out onto a bridge to blow it up.
The player carrying the explosives is unable to fire their weapon and moves at a slower pace than everyone else. As they meander out into the bridge, enemy spawns are triggered and the three remaining teammates must defend their helpless partner (who can also drop the crate for a few moments and help kill enemies).
The idea of defending a teammate who can’t fire back is a staple of online shooters, but Far Cry 3‘s variation on the flag-bearer has an especially incongruous take on the idea. In the tropical setting the sight of one of your teammates carrying a wooden crate through a village while bandana-clad mercenaries open fire from the opposite end of the bridge is almost farcical. It seems like an extra has somehow been transported from a grocery store parking lot into a brutal firefight.
The sight encapsulates all of the absurd details one takes as normal in multiplayer shooters, the stiff disparity between movement animations that are meant to be experienced in first person and not viewed by spectators. Whenever first person games pull players from the privileged view of single-player theatrics, it seems like one is seeing all the bustling absurdity off-stage while trying to stay in character until the scene is over.