Crytek’s original Far Cry game was praised for its beautiful tropical island environments. For the sequel, Ubisoft Montreal took over development and changed up the formula quite a bit. The game was more realistic, and there was a new story, new characters, new gameplay features, and most noticeably, the setting was moved to central Africa.
For the third core installment, Ubisoft Montreal brings back and builds upon many of the well-received features from their first stab at the series, but takes Far Cry 3 back to its roots on a lush tropical setting, this time embracing the theme of insanity. How does Far Cry 3 stack up against other shooters and open-world games, and is it the best game in the series? Read on for our review.
Players of Far Cry 3’s story step into the shoes Jason Brody, a young thrill-seeking male on a vacation adventure with family and friends. After a mind blowing and stylistic introduction which places Jason and co. in captivity on a dangerous island, he escapes the intimidating Vaas (leader of the pirate slave-traders and henchman to the main antagonist) and must rescue his brothers and friends. That’s the setup, but what happens throughout the game’s 10 chapters is a journey of self-discovery and ruthless vengeance. And this game is ruthless in its violence.
Vaas, the poster boy villain of the game, is by far the most engaging and intimidating of the cast but he’s (sadly) only one small piece of the puzzle. Unique and entertaining characters, many of which embrace various types of insanity, are a highlight of Far Cry 3 that lets it stand above most open-world games in how it delivers a story weaved into open-world freedom. The other of course, is the gameplay itself.
Far Cry 3 is a shooter first and foremost, but it’s also an incredibly gratifying stealth game. Players can set up traps with explosives, light trees on fire, distract enemies with rocks, unleash wild beasts to attack patrols as you takedown the overwatching sniper, and sneak through the thick bush.
There are a large variety of weapons readily available at shops and safehouse weapons lockers, but they must be purchased with money earned through selling animal hides and random loot. They can also be made available for free by exploring the map and climbing tall radio towers to remove signal jammers. The reward for the platforming experience is two-fold, as it clears the fog of war on the map and allows shops to access more inventory which in turn, makes the items free to use. It should be noted that Far Cry 3 trades in the physical maps of Far Cry 2 for the more common menu map and mini-map.
Weapons can be customized with anywhere from 1-3 attachments, depending on the item, ranging from suppressors to longer-ranged scopes. They can even be repainted for a price. Suppressors are the most important because when attacking outposts, there’s a significant benefit to liberating them without being detected. Using sound-suppressed weapons is just one way of making that easier. There’s also a bow and arrow, that can be loaded up with custom crafted explosive and fire arrows, but the most versatile tool is Brody’s blade.
The realism of playing in a first-person perspective is taken to a new level with Far Cry 3, and eliminating enemies up close and personal with takedowns is just one example of that. Players earn experience for completing missions, side-quests and liberating outposts, along with killing enemies, and as they level up, they can unlock skills, many of which offer Brody new and improved takedowns. Unlocking and mastering these skills drastically changes how players can approach combat scenarios and how efficient they can be at succeeding as a silent killer. Takedowns range from jumping on enemies from above and grabbing a throwing knife to toss at a nearby second enemy, to chaining together multiple melee kills and pulling the pin on a grenade the foe is wearing and kicking them forward. Other skills directly add to Jason’s attributes and stats, for things such as holding breath longer underwater or reloading certain weapon groups faster.
The Asian-pacific archipelago of Rook Islands is a highly polished wonder, and its detail is matched only by the details in the animations, not only of the beautiful wildlife residing in the mountains and forests, but of everything Jason does. From climbing and jumping, opening doors and getting in/out of vehicles to fixing a dislocated thumb and sliding down the steep side of a hill. Nearly every physical action Jason takes is rendered in real-time, including shooting over cover. Throw in the takedowns and seamless transitions from surface to water, and the level of first-person immersion in Far Cry 3 is unprecedented.
Crafting plays an important part in the game and gives more purpose to exploration and wildlife. A variety of animal hides (even sharks!) are required to craft better storage containers, from holsters to grenade pouches. And there’s a significant advantage to being able to carry four weapons as opposed to one, and having 96 inventory spaces versus a dozen. With plant life, players can cut off different colored leaves which can then be used to craft a variety if syringes, whether they be for basic health replenishment, or boosts to track animals and enemy soldiers. With the crafting and customization, players are continuously rewarded and encouraged to do more outside of the main story missions. The side-quests even factor in as certain hunting missions are required to find rare animals for their one-of-a-kind hides to craft the top-tier wallets, pouches, rucksacks, etc.
The gameplay and the world Far Cry 3 takes place in are the selling points, and make up for the few shortcomings. Completing the story missions is required to access additional skills before they can be unlocked with earned points, and while there’s a certain level of intrigue surrounding the campaign, and very unique set pieces to go with the extreme characters, the experience is somewhat hampered by the lack of control the player will often feel. For a game about choice and freedom, the linear missions take much of what makes the rest of the game special away.
A key theme to the game is Brody’s transformation from an ordinary guy to a man who becomes a confident killing machine, and that level of insanity he much reach himself to do what must be done in order to save his friends. That’s touched upon in a few heavy-handed moments of dialogue, but mostly abandoned for the fun of hang-gliding and stabbing pirates and privateers in the back. Some of other the story bits take the form of dream/hallucination sequences and aren’t always successful in helping the narrative, explained through the use of drugs and to a certain level, Brody losing his mind.
Some of these moments end with inexplicable results, and again, too often take away control from the player. To its credit, the art direction is magnificent, every mission is substantially different and players will never feel bored or that they’re not progressing. By design, Far Cry 3 offers players new experiences as they progress and halfway through the game, there’s a shift which opens up a new set of weapons and potential play styles.
The multiplayer components are comprehensive and enjoyable enough, with neat level set pieces and a few features not included in the main story, but miss the mark in delivering that same type of open-world experience from the campaign. It instead draws from elements from other popular shooter franchises, mixing them within the style of Far Cry 3. The co-op missions are a rewarding challenge, but playing with a full team of four players is recommended to make it worthwhile. Here as well, the open-world design is lost in exchange for all-out firefights.
Although it is very polished, Far Cry 3 is still susceptible to some of the common issues open-world games. There are missing shadows, and the occasional floating or disappearing objects and the music at times is consistently blaring while trying to stealthily takedown outposts full of pirates. I turned the game music off about halfway through.
Despite a few odd omissions like the ability to go prone, holster a weapon or drag a dropped body, Far Cry 3 is a near-perfect example of what shooters are capable of on the current-gen platforms. There are a solid 30 hours of single-player fun in this game that redefine the franchise and raise the bar of what players should expect from shooters and open-world games. The co-op and competitive multiplayer modes, let alone the map editor, are added bonuses for what’s easily one of the best games of the year.
Far Cry 3 releases December 4, 2012 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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