Review: Far Cry 3
An expansive open-world, compelling narrative and engrossing gameplay makes Far Cry 3 an absolute treat to play.
- Worth The Time?It will be hard for you to find one moment that you regret spending on the Rook Islands.
- Things LovedThe Rook Islands are gorgeous and a wonder to explore, fluid gameplay with various options for approach, multiple ways to dispatch enemies, truly stellar set pieces and stand out moments, always something to keep you busy, fantastic crafting system that is both simple yet engrossing, multiple weapons to customise and wreak havoc with, outstanding voice acting and writing, entertaining and engrossing narrative, lengthy campaign.
- Things HatedNarrative is somewhat odd at times, not enough time spent with interesting characters, no quick-save system, tough to recommend replayability, co-op and multiplayer are nowhere near the standard of the single-player campaign, technical and visual oddities.
- RecommendationThe last major release of 2012 shouldn't elude you. This is a spectacular open-world adventure that will reward your purchase with hours upon hours of rich, engrossing gameplay. Don't hesitate.
- Name: Far Cry 3
- Genre: Open- World First-Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Co-Op, Online Multiplayer
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Reviewed On: PC
Far Cry 2 was full of promises. Released back in 2008, it allowed players to explore an expansive African wilderness, promising realistic AI, amazing fire propagation and captivating gun play. While it most certainly delivered on those fronts, the game was somewhat of a disappointment, with a weak narrative and bad design choices pulling the entire package down. Four years on and we have Far Cry 3, which aimed to build on the success of the previous title and fix the pressing issues. As far as sequels go, Far Cry 3 is stellar. Engrossing you in a captivating story set on a gorgeous island, while giving you tons of things to do in various different ways, Far Cry 3 sets a benchmark for future open-world adventure titles.
The theme of insanity has been heavily focused on in the months leading up to Far Cry 3’s release and the narrative certainly takes it into its stride well. You are Jason Brody, a young adult who has come to the Rook Islands with your brothers and friends, looking to spend all your money on alcohol, women and cheap thrills. Sounds like the perfect gateway for the rich, spoiled kid you are, until all hell breaks loose and you’re captured by Vaas, a deadly individual who aims to sell you and your friends into slavery. Vaas is clinically crazy, but you soon find out that he is merely the puppet of an even greater threat, a man named Hoyt, who is the real mastermind behind the Rook Islands’ shady businesses.
It doesn’t take long for the story to kick off, and soon you would have witnessed your brother murdered in front of you, moments after Jason proclaims that he’s never used a gun before. Odd words to hear from a protagonist of a first-person shooter, but it’s exactly this that makes Far Cry 3’s narrative quite special. You follow Jason on a journey that sees him adapt to his surroundings in order to save his friends. While initially the thought of killing repulses Jason, he soon starts enjoying it, making him question whether or not he could ever go back home and face reality. Couple this with some extremely gritty undertones of psychotic behaviour and the dark business of human trafficking, and you’ve got yourself a rather compelling narrative to keep you entertained throughout your stay.
Sadly, the narrative does take a few steps too far while trying to envelope you in the history of the Rook Islands. While they are known for notorious drug and human trafficking, the islands are also home to a group of fighters known as the Rakyat, who soon take you under their wing. This is where Far Cry 3’s narrative takes a bit of a wrong turn, pulling you out of a believable and thrilling plot and smashing it together with all sorts of tribal clichés. On top of this, there are several instances where you’re forced to partake in drug-induced set pieces, but these usually drag on and are rarely full of surprises. The sequences are nicely crafted, however they detract from what is otherwise a firmly grounded narrative that had the potential to stand on its own two feet.
Thankfully the characters you meet on the island are all extremely diverse and memorable, most notably the villains that you encounter, who all seem to have their own brand of insanity. From the trailers alone you can see just how incredible the voice acting is, bringing some truly remarkable characters to life. Vaas is easily on the best antagonists in gaming today, but it’s great that the entire game wasn’t focused just on him. Other notable characters such as Hoyt, Buck and Sam all have their place in Far Cry 3’s narrative, and nearly all main and supporting characters, leave a lasting impression. Even Jason’s predictable bunch of friends have a place within the story, personifying just how this entire experience is changing Jason in comparison. It’s just a shame that most characters have a short time to show you how incredible they are, interacting only when it comes to main story missions.
Main missions in Far Cry 3 may not be numerous, but nearly each and everyone has a standout moment. Aside from progressing the engrossing story further, story missions are where you’ll find some of the best set-pieces in an open-world game to date. Main missions are exhilarating and varied, providing you with some rather interesting objectives such as burning down fields of illegal drugs or tomb hunting for lost treasures. Side missions, on the other hand, are completely the opposite on most occasions. Talking to some random inhabitants on the island allows you to help them with some personal problems they currently have, but hardly any of these are interesting to actually play. Some side missions involve you walking a few meters, overhearing a conversation and then simply walking back. When held up against most of the other activities available on the Rook Islands, there really is no reason to go hunting for those blue exclamation marks.
Thankfully, there is a plethora of other things you can do while not focusing on the main story missions and this is where you’ll probably find most of your time spent. You could choose to attack and liberate outposts, much like outposts in Far Cry 2, adding a new waypoint on the map for you to fast travel to in case you don’t feel like driving. Taking these outposts is often a side mission alone, giving you tons of freedom when it comes to planning your approach. You could find a high perch, mark enemy locations with your camera, sneak in, deactivate alarms and then take out pirates one by one. You could choose to shoot a captured predator free, granting you an ally momentarily as the pirates scramble to deal with a tiger or leopard. You could even simply drive up the front door in a jeep, hop out and detonate it with C4. This type of freedom of gameplay is what makes Far Cry 3 so special, with Ubisoft giving you a multitude of ways to get the job done.
Once an outpost is captured, more interesting side activities become available via a bulletin board at each camp. Most of the time either a “Path of the Hunter” or “Wanted’ mission is unlocked, giving you even more incentive to go further off the tread path. Wanted missions give you the location of a pirate commander and force you to kill him with a knife. Again, many approaches are available for use, and it’s nice to see some diversity when it comes to the placement of the commander and his guards. Some missions force you to swim out to distant island off the shore, making early surveillance harder to obtain. Some commanders are well guarded within old bunkers, forcing you to think about how you’re going to approach him without alerting too many other guards. It makes for an interesting and rewarding distraction, and the abundance of these missions is a welcome treat.
Path of the Hunter missions are even more compelling when you get the chance to undertake them. In fact, hunting in general is an absolute joy in Far Cry 3. The dynamic wildlife is something to marvel at, especially when you stumble upon a hunt or kill right in front of you. The vicious predators on the prowl constantly make you keep your gun at the ready, as a quick attack from one or two leopards could leave you very much dead in a matter of seconds. It’s because of the deadly nature of many animals on the island that hunting is so engrossing, as it isn’t merely hunting and skinning predators. Often it becomes a welcome challenge to take a break from hunting pirates, choosing to turn your attention towards wild dogs or komodo dragons. Skinning your kills opens up various crafting options, with Path of the Hunter quests usually tasking you to take down more rare and stronger animals to finish up specific crafting recipes.
Crafting is yet another way to kill time during your stay, but again the way Ubisoft has implemented it makes it more of a pleasure than a chore. Skinning animals opens up crafting options that allow you to create bigger ammo pouches, slings so that you can carry more weapons, wallets so that you can carry more hard earned cash and more. Each item usually has a few tiers for you to work through, requiring different types and amounts of animal hides in order to be crafted. The only real problem with this simple crafting mechanic is just how quickly you can finish it all if you’re dedicated, which takes away from hunting considering hides don’t really sell for much money. Collecting different flowers allows you to craft various different syringes which will help you heal quicker, make you more resistant to fire and even give you an edge when it comes to hunting. Although there are various different plants scattered around the island, most of them are classified in terms of colour, which makes more sense when you have various different recipes on offer.
It doesn’t stop there either. The two islands you explore during the single-player campaign are both pretty massive, so having an intuitive map handy is a rather useful tool to have. Thing is, Vaas has used nearby towers to scramble the GPS signals around the island, meaning you’re pretty much going in blind unless you take them out. Considering Ubisoft Montreal developed Assassin’s Creed III as well, it’s really easy to draw comparisons between its synchronising mechanic and Far Cry’s radio towers. Better yet, these radio towers are in themselves small first-person platforming puzzles, which is rarely seen in a title like this. In fact, platforming from a first-person perspective can often be a recipe for disaster, but Far Cry 3 pulls it off perfectly making scaling these massive, unstable towers a joy. Reaching the top gives you a nice 360 degree view of points of interest around you, as well as marking additional missions on the map. Instead of a leap of faith down, you’re able to zipline to nearby missions or straight down, although you might find some more “creative” ways of getting down further into the game.
Scaling and activating radio towers also has the added bonus of rewarding you with free weapons, allowing you to expand your arsenal without hurting your wallet. In fact, Far Cry 3 never really encourages you to spend your hard earned money on weapons. Unlock enough towers and soon you’ll have an arsenal at your feet, just begging for your attention. What Far Cry 3 does encourage is customisation. Most of the weapons you unlock come with a series of attachments and paint jobs, allowing you to fully customise your weapon set for nearly any situation. Silencers, extended magazines and sights are prime candidates for most encounters, while a slick yellow and black strip paint job could make you friends with your friendly neighbourhood tiger. Or not. There’s some rather interesting weapon combinations waiting to be explored, but just remember that, when in doubt, an explosive tipped arrow is the quick solution to most problems.
Completing missions and killing enemies reward you with XP, which can be used to extend your “Tatau” and in turn reward you with some new abilities and traits. This mechanic fits in well with the narrative, as you can almost feel Jason getting better at killing as he continues his rescue attempt. Three skill trees allow you to add or enhance abilities that suit your play style, which adds a light RPG feel to gameplay. Far Cry 3 doesn’t encourage you to invest in one tree rather than another, giving enough XP to max Jason out near the end of your playthrough. Some abilities help you survive longer in the jingle, while others ensure that your crafted syringes last longer. While choosing skills carefully near the beginning of the game can have a noticeable effect on the way you play, you’ll soon be throwing points into skills purely because they’re there. This takes away from the importance of levelling up, but it does allow you to keep your play style diverse and entertaining, so it’s a bit of a double edged sword.
The single-player campaign will take some time to get through, especially since there’s just so much to do, but eventually it does end around the 30 or so hour mark, depending on your play style. After that the two islands you’ve come to know and love become rather quiet, with not enough dynamic content to entice a return. Ubisoft seemed to have realised this, including a co-op campaign and competitive multiplayer to keep you playing well after the credits have rolled. Sadly, both of these components do little to keep you engrossed in Far Cry 3’s world. While the co-op campaign gives you more opportunities to take down hordes of pirates, it strips away the freedom you’ll become accustomed to in the single-player. What this translates into is missions that see you move from objective to objective in a very linear fashion, which quickly becomes boring. You’ll also find it rather challenging if you tackle missions without four players, making it even less enticing to try out.
Competitive multiplayer is much better, but with so many other multiplayer offerings out there it’s hard to recommend. The gunplay and maps are well designed and interesting, it’s just that Ubisoft take no real risks when it comes to this competitive component. Game modes feel stale and there’s nothing really different enough for it to stand out. With so many other shooters offering innovative and more populated multiplayer servers, it’s really a bit of a hit and miss for Far Cry 3 in this department. Thankfully neither the co-op or multiplayer affect the quality of the single-player campaign, which is often the case when developers try to squeeze one in. The simple yet powerful map editor is back as well, allowing players to create some rather interesting battlegrounds for you to sample. It’s just a shame the gameplay doesn’t live up to the same expectations.
Visually, Far Cry 3 is absolutely beautiful, but not without issues. Several visual glitches plague the game, even after the day-one patch, and PC users with SLI/ CrossFire setups might have a slight issues getting their games to run efficiently (although a recent driver release and patch seems to have fixed this). The console versions of the game are still gorgeous to look at, but suffer with franmrate issues when the action gets a bit much. If you have a powerful PC, then you’re in for a treat, because Far Cry 3 on PC is miles ahead of the console versions, proving once again that the next-generation of consoles is becoming somewhat of a requirement now. Regardless, Far Cry 3 is utterly breath-taking and quite an achievement for such a massive open-world. Jungles feel dense, the ocean glitters in the sunlight and plumes of smoke from enemy camps litter the skies in the distance. The colour pallet on show truly brings this game to life, with the perfect balance of realism and stylisation achieved by the artists. Gliding, driving or jet skiing around the Rook Islands is an absolute joy, and gives you more than enough opportunities to observe the beauty around you. The soundtrack is equally as spectacular, mixing mellow jungles sounds with some exhilarating electro beats when the action picks up.
Despite some minor flaws, Far Cry 3 still stands out as one of the best titles 2012 has to offer. It’s really easy to overlook the short comings of the Co-Op and Multiplayer when you have a Single-Player experience that is this well crafted and executed. The narrative may stumble a bit here and there, but thankfully the superb performances by voice actors bring the various different characters to life, ingraining them in your memory for months to come. With gameplay that rewards and encourages experimentation, to the expansive and gorgeous island for you to explore, Far Cry 3 is a stellar open-world adventure that will not only keep your entertained, but ensure that you’re grinning throughout. Go learn the definition of insanity, Vaas is waiting.