Far Cry 3 Review:
Far Cry has always been a series with tremendous potential. The open tropical areas of the first game provided a lush setting for a fairly pedestrian adventure, marred by the eventual appearance of game-breaking mutant monsters. Far Cry 2 brought things down to earth with a gritty story of mercenaries in Africa, but suffered from irritating gameplay decisions like constantly respawning enemy outposts and a tendency for your character to have malaria attacks in the middle of firefights. Far Cry 3 is the promise of the series finally realized, with a compelling narrative driving you through a breathtakingly beautiful and hostile tropical island that challenges without irritation and guides without being restricting.
Jason Brody is on vacation in Asia with his brothers, his girlfriend and a few other friends. They’re doing the rich white American kid tour of the continent, racking up huge bar bills on daddy’s Black Card and generally making asses of themselves in front of the locals, when a skydiving trip to an unremarkable island ends in disaster. They’re captured by human traffickers, led by a clearly unhinged man named Vaas, destined to be ransomed and sold into slavery. Jason’s Army-trained older brother manages to bust the two of you out at the beginning of the game, but gets killed because you decided to stop ten feet outside the slaver camp to read a map. Jason manages to get away, and is rescued by Dennis, a local resident who initiates the naïve but surprisingly adept Jason into the island natives’ warrior culture.
From there, Jason sets about rescuing his remaining friends and ostensibly getting off the island, but slaughtering a couple thousand people changes a man, even if it’s in the name of liberty. What results is a dark and sometimes drug-fueled descent into the depths of human behavior and an interesting exploration of the line between sanity and insanity, morality and immorality. Jason interacts with a number of memorable and well-written characters, each of which embodies a different vice that holds sway over the island. There are precious few “good guys” in Far Cry 3, and even Jason himself is not particularly likeable, even if he is understandable. The story is trying to do some very interesting things, and for the most part pulls them off, although to delve further into it would be to enter spoiler territory.
So Much Time, So Little To Do
Jason’s odyssey takes you through 38 missions that offer the most guided and scripted experiences in the game. Here is where you’ll escape burning buildings, man the turret in numerous AI-driven vehicles, explore long-forgotten tombs hidden beneath abandoned World War II era installations, and get to know the shady characters inhabiting the island. It’s roughly a 10 hour journey straight through, but to sprint through the story alone is to miss the entire appeal of Far Cry 3.
The island is absolutely crammed with a wide variety of content. The immense map is revealed by reaching broadcast antennas, scaling them, and deactivating a jammer at the top, not unlike the way Viewpoints work in the Assassin’s Creed series. This will reveal the immediate area and show you available missions and activities. The brilliant part is how all the disparate activities lead into one another due to the rewards they provide.
Strike That, Reverse It
The most immediate problem at the beginning of the game is your inability to carry much in the way of bullets, loot and weapons. Jason must hunt the wildlife and skin his kills to craft bags and pouches to hold more ammo and loot. You never really see Jason from the third person, but I imagine by the time he’s fully upgraded he has more pouches than a Rob Liefeld character. To move around the map and hunt the specific game you need to craft each item, fast travel is the most useful option, which leads you to outposts. Outposts can be liberated to unlock new fast travel points and eliminate enemy patrols from an area. You get bonus XP for liberating outposts stealthily, which levels you up, allowing you to buy more skills in the extensive skill trees, making Jason a more effective warrior. Collectibles in the world also provide XP, as well as loot to sell for cash which can be used to buy customization items for your weapons at the stores in each liberated outpost. Oh, and as you deactivate more antenna, weapons become free in the shop. And completing certain numbers of side activities and collection goals earns you specialized weapons unavailable otherwise. And all of a sudden it’s 4AM and you have to leave for work in three hours.
Far Cry 3 is a tremendously immersive and time-distorting game. It never wears out its welcome because of the variety of tasks at hand combined with the unpredictability of the enemies and the island itself. A digital camera lets you tag enemies from a distance, making them easy to track visually even through cover. Performing recon on a target location is extremely important, but several times I found myself suddenly stalked by a tiger or a bear while I was in the process of scouting an outpost from cover. Caged predators in outposts can be freed to wreak havoc among the enemies guarding it. The enemy humans are just dumb enough to be believable, and with practice it becomes possible to torment them creatively while remaining invisible. Of course, the game is perfectly willing to accept a player who just wants to stride into camp and start shooting, too, but you’ll have to be extremely quick on the trigger, especially as the game progresses and the enemies up their arsenals accordingly.
The balance of Far Cry 3’s gameplay and world is remarkable. It’s challenging without being frustrating, it’s helpful without being handholdy, and it’s unpredictable without feeling random. It is one of the best open world shooters I have played, ranking up there with theS.T.A.L.K.E.R. games and the first Crysis as far as giving you a playground in which you may do as you please.
Two multiplayer modes are present in Far Cry 3. Co-op is a four-player romp through various locations on the island, featuring characters unrelated to Jason’s plight who ended up on the island six weeks prior to the events of the single player game. It loses the open world feel in many places, but the gunplay of the game is satisfying enough to stand on its own in a co-op setting, and there is a decent variety of mission types.
Competitive multi consists of standard modes and a very detailed weapon/perk unlock system similar to that of Call of Duty. It leverages the basic combat gameplay well enough, but by limiting things to enclosed arenas it comes off as more adequate than exceptional. Honestly the multiplayer options are mostly just nice-to-haves; the star of the show here is the solo campaign, which may explain why the online servers have been so deserted, even on launch day.
Must Buy 3
Aside from the occasional texture glitch or stray enemy phasing into a rock (a problem easily solved with well-placed explosives), Far Cry 3 is a technically brilliant and expertly balanced gameplay experience that offers an immense amount of content and a high degree of polish. At the time of writing I have put nearly 60 hours into it across two playthroughs, and will probably play it a third time on PC later on. I suggest you do the same.