GAME NAME: Far Cry 3
DEVELOPER(S): Ubisoft Massive
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC (Tested)
GENRE(S): First Person Open World Shooter / RPG
RELEASE DATE(S): 30th November 2012
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game this good.
Actually, I think good is a little bit of an understatement, especially when talking about Far Cry 3, the latest instalment in Ubisoft’s open world survival series.
Packed full of clever ideas, beautiful graphics, interesting concepts and solid gameplay, Far Cry 3 could well be the greatest game released this year, something I (and probably a lot of other people out there) never thought they’d hear themselves say.
Appearance isn’t everything
Far Cry 3 revolves around Jason Brody, an American tourist who is captured (along with his friends) by pirates after skydiving onto Rook Island, a tropical hell hole located somewhere within the South Pacific. After witnessing his older brother ruthlessly murdered, Jason must learn the ways of the island in order to save his friends and, ultimately, seek revenge.
Although well acted and interesting enough to see through to the end, Far Cry 3′s greatest achievement is one I didn’t even see coming. You see, the game’s narrative revolves around the concept of madness, and its approach to this concept is perhaps the most intriguing methods of storytelling I’ve ever seen in a game.
Jason Brody is not a murderer by nature. He’s not a marine, and he’s not a trained assassin. Jason Brody begins his time on Rook Island as an ordinary American 20-something year old, one with rich parents and no worries. He’s the kind of person that you wouldn’t expect to be the protagonist of an action game, and ultimately that’s why he’s so likeable.
But within the first twenty minutes of the game, Brody witnesses his older brother gunned down by a psychopath and is forced to kill a pirate in order to escape. In any other game, this would be nothing more than a simple tutorial mission, one we’d all overlook without a second thought, but Far Cry 3 forces you to really think about what it is you’re actually doing. Jason raises his hands, shaking, unable to comprehend that he just took a human life… and for a second, we can’t either.
From then on, Jason is forced to go to war with those who hold the island captive and, with the help of the local tribe, arms himself with a plethora of weapons in order save his friends. Within an hour, killing is second nature to Jason, and the more brutal the kill, the more XP the player is awarded. During one mission, in which the player is tasked with burning down a drug plantation, Jason shouts about how much he loves the carnage he’s creating, a stark contrast to his feelings at the start of the game. The worst thing? We love it too, and Far Cry 3 takes no shame in making us feel uncomfortable about how much we begin to enjoy the almost commonplace act of in-game slaughter.
I think this is mainly due to the fact that Far Cry 3 never breaks its first person perspective. We are Jason Brody, whether we’re setting fire to a forest, hunting a deer or pushing a machete through a pirate’s chest, and the game never lets us forget that fact.
However, none of this would work without the game’s cast of characters, mainly its cover star, the evil pirate leader Vaas. Vaas is incredibly well acted, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in recent video game history. He is truly insane, and I loved every second he was on screen.
Brody’s friends are also a pleasant addition, and finding them is by far the best part of the game’s campaign. Each one serves as a link to who Brody used to be, especially his girlfriend, who often comments on Jason’s changing nature and even comments on how worried she is that the island is moulding him into something he’s not. “For the first time in my life, I’m taking control” responds Jason, and it’s hard to disagree with him. It’s as uncomfortable as it is superb, and I loved every second of its twisted story.
Well, nearly every second.
The second half of the game whisks you off to a completely separate location, which is surprisingly bare compared to the game’s starter islands. Vaas, your friends and everyone else you care about disappears with it as well, and what you’re left with is an ending that just doesn’t live up the game’s opening chapters.
Still, it does nothing to tarnish the game as a whole, and luckily you’re let loose on the original island again as soon as the missions have been completed.
The real star of Far Cry 3 however, is Rook Island itself.
Perhaps the most detailed and beautiful game world I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring, Rook Island is a phenomenal triumph for the open world genre.
From its sprawling mountain ranges, to its dense jungle environments, to its vast oceans and gushing rivers, Rook Island is, to put it quite simply, beautiful. In fact, it may be the most graphically stunning game I’ve ever seen, especially on a console. It’s like if Naughty Dog made Skyrim. Huge in scale, but intrinsically detailed all the same.
Not only that, but it’s also colourful, a rare sight for a genre that normally can’t seem to pull itself away from a grey based colour palette. Vibrant is perhaps the best word to describe Far Cry 3.
Admittedly, the PlayStation 3 version did suffer from some graphical issues during my time with it. Screen tearing is a bit of a problem, and there’s some noticeable pop in when running through the game’s more open areas. Although expected with a six year old console, it still left the none PC versions of the game feeling a little rough around the edges.
Far Cry 3′s gameplay is a vast improvement over its predecessor, 2008′s Far Cry 2.
Shooting is great fun, and the game provides you with a varied selection of guns and explosives to purchase or unlock. New weapons, such as the bow and arrow, help to spice things up a bit, whilst returning favourites (such as the flame-thrower) help to keep things familiar for fans of the series.
An open world also means that there are multiple ways to approach any situation. Stealth has been refined this time around, and players can throw rocks to distract guards before moving in for a silent machete kill. Failing that, players also have the option to charge in all guns blazing, or gain a vantage point in order to snipe enemies from afar. It really is up to you.
Animals also play a large role in the game, and Rook Island is literally packed full of them. From docile tapirs all the way up to bloodthirsty tigers, animals are a fantastic addition to the series that often prove to be as deadly as Vaas’ army of pirates. All animals can be skinned in order to craft a variety of upgrades for Jason, and some can even be let loose on your enemies, providing a deadly distraction for those looking to sneak into an area unnoticed.
Although single player missions help to advance the brilliant story, they do feel a little limited, especially when compared to the game as a whole. Most missions have required parameters, mostly involving not being noticed by a group of enemies, and although this may make sense in context, it does suck some of the fun out of infiltrating an area.
Still, the game makes up for this fact by providing the player with a ton of side missions to sink their teeth into. By disabling radio towers (Far Cry’s equivalent of Assassin’s Creed’s viewpoints) the player is shown a specific portion of the map in greater detail, allowing them to attempt new missions and collect new loot. It’s all incredible fun, and completing Far Cry 3 100% will prove to be anything but a chore.
Jason can also be upgraded using XP collected by completing missions and killing enemies. Upgrades help to enhance the overall experience, and its three-tree perk system caters to a number of different playing styles.
Driving also makes a return, and although it does make getting around the island a little easier, I still found it all a bit clunky, instead preferring to traverse the island by foot. New transport methods, such as jet ski’s and hang-gliders, are a great addition though, and ones I went out of my way to use upon discovery.
Keep your enemies closer
Like its predecessor before it, Far Cry 3 also contains a multiplayer mode. Although technically solid, I found the whole experience to be, sadly, rather dull. The fluidity of combat that features so prominently in the story mode is lost within the online realm, and the mode ends up feeling more like a clunky Call of Duty clone (albeit it, a far prettier one.)
A co-op mode is also available for those who prefer to work together instead of against each other, but again the mode falls short due to balancing issues. With four players, co-op is an enjoyable distraction, but any less and it becomes a surprisingly difficult slog. But, like multiplayer, co-op is an entirely separate package that can be easily skipped over if you so desire.
Far Cry 3 is perhaps one of the greatest games of this generation. and offers proof that with a bit of thought, a touch of imagination and a whole heap of clever design choices, a sequel really can be better than the original.
Personally, I enjoyed every second of Far Cry 3. From hunting pigs with an RPG to launching a quad bike off the top of the game’s sprawling mountain ranges, Far Cry 3 has provided me with an experience I am very unlikely to forget anytime soon.
Although rough around the edges and a little naff towards the end, Far Cry 3 is truly deserving of your time, and even more deserving of our second ever perfect score.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have pirates to kill.