Far Cry 3 Review
This game reviewed on the Xbox 360
Far Cry 3 can best be described as an amalgamation of the first two titles in the Far Cry franchise. Taking the tropical island setting from the first game and mixing it with the free-roaming gunplay and exploration of the second, Far Cry 3 places players in the shoes of Jason Brody and sets them free in this tropical paradise. Jason, along with his two brothers and three other friends, unknowingly skydive onto the pirate-infested Rook Island, where human trafficking and drug use are both rife. After being captured by the insane pirate chief Vaas, Jason has to rescue his friends, help the natives of the island with their quest for liberation, all while surviving encounters with the many jungle predators that also call this island home.
The first thing that you’ll notice about Far Cry 3 is the fact that Rook Island is both huge and beautiful. Whilst the main body of the island is where you’ll spend the majority of the story, there is another slightly smaller island to the south, and plenty of tiny islands dotted around the perimeter. Both islands are largely made up of a mixture of jungle and grassy clearings, with plenty of hills and valleys creating a fairly varied landscape to venture through. There are also a number of towns and villages scattered throughout both islands, as well as various military camps that need to be cleared out. Thankfully, Far Cry 3’s enemy camps stay cleared permanently unlike in Far Cry 2, meaning that travelling back and forth across the islands is a lot less painful than the jungles of the previous game. The only downside to Rook Island’s sprawling mass is that a lot of the textures take some time to pop-in, especially when viewed as part of the sweeping flyovers that are shown when a radio tower is activated.
The radio towers act in a fairly similar way to the viewpoints of the Assassin’s Creed series, revealing parts of the map in the immediate vicinity of the tower as well as highlighting various landmarks that the player may want to explore. However, the radio towers are just a small part of the optional extras included within Far Cry 3, which add a huge amount of life to the game separate from the main narrative. Jason can partake in races and various gambling activities, collect a huge number of items (including relics, memory cards and letters) and hunt the indigenous wildlife, with the reward of a higher carrying capacity for money, ammo and guns. Completing set numbers of certain activities also unlocks signature weapons, which are often super-powered versions of other weapons available from the various stores on the island.
As Far Cry 3 is an FPS at heart, players will be pleased to hear that Jason (eventually) has a sizeable armoury at his fingertips, with a decent amount of customisation options for each gun. There are a number of different categories of guns, including SMGs, Sniper Rifles, LMGs and Launchers, and each category has a number of options, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In terms of customisation, guns can be given different paint jobs, and there are certain attachments that can be added to each weapon. Of course, there are limits depending on the weapon of choice. Scopes, extended magazines, and sound suppressors are all possible add-ons, which means that whether your style is stealth or diving headfirst into trouble, you’ll find a loadout that will suit your approach. Similarly, the variety of vehicles that Jason can travel around in is impressive; with cars, jeeps, quad bikes and dune buggies for ground travel, jet skis and dinghies for the rivers and oceans, and even a hang glider if you want to travel by air. Strangely, some of the vehicles suffer from clipping issues, as plants and leaves frequently pop through the bottoms and sides of vehicles, leaving a number of cars full of foliage until the player drives off.
The story surrounding Jason Brody’s adventures isn’t much to write home about in terms of narrative, but individually some of the missions offer up a good experience. The eclectic cast of characters that you meet along the way, such as the insane Vaas, the constantly high Dr. Earnhardt, and the German/American soldier, Sam Becker, is part of what makes these missions so much fun, and the non-diegetic music that plays in the background also adds an extra layer to the experience, with Skrillex’s “Make It Bun Dem” and Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” particularly inspired choices for the missions they’re attached to (I never thought I’d include Skrillex and Wagner in the same sentence). The in-world music of the car stereos is unfortunately rather forgettable, but the sound design for the game as a whole is well done. For instance, the various animals on the islands sound distinct from one another, and the guns, explosions and car crashes all sound sufficiently crunching.
For the majority of the game, Jason will be traversing the islands by himself either on foot through the jungle, or by vehicle. Whilst the few towns on the map do offer shops from which Jason can buy extra ammo or medical items, you’ll find that a lot of the time, it’s more prudent to create your own supplies using the variety of plants and wildlife available on the island. By mixing certain herbs together, Jason can create syringes that can heal wounds, allow him to breathe longer underwater, detect animals, or other such superhuman feats. Many of the syringes actually give effects that are reminiscent of the first Far Cry and its mutant-inspired superpowers, so for those who’ve been with the series for a while, it’s a nice touch to see the similar graphical flourishes return.
For Jason to upgrade his ammo pouches or wallets, he is required to go on the hunt with a range of animals from tapirs, pigs and goats to tigers, sharks and komodo dragons all giving up their skins to Jason’s cause. Whilst you do need to both track and hunt these animals to secure their hides, there is no emphasis on a perfect kill such as in Assassin’s Creed III, so a close-range blast from a shotgun or a carefully placed C4 charge is just as productive as using a knife. One particular problem with the skinning of said animals, though, is that you seem to be required to stand in one exact spot to skin the animal, and even being just a couple inches off isn’t good enough. Usually this isn’t too much of an issue, but when you’re being attacked by a particularly nasty group of dogs or tigers, you often don’t have the time to shuffle back and forth until the prompt pops up.
Jason’s quest is aided by some RPG-lite mechanics, with experience points serving to increase his skills. Experience is gained from killing enemies (with bonuses for stealth kills or headshots), completing story missions or collecting items (amongst other things), and a single skill point is unlocked each time Jason increases in level. Skills range from the basic (such as extra health) to the useful (such as reloading when sprinting), to the stylish, which includes being able to trigger a slide if you press the crouch button whilst sprinting. Skills are broken down into three categories named after animals, with each category suited to each animal. The Heron is for those with a more graceful disposition, with long range combat being a speciality, while the spider is for those who tend to play a little more sneakily. The Shark, on the other hand, is more for those who like to get their hands dirty. You don’t need to be worried about being constrained to one category, however, as there is plenty of experience to be earned with only a couple of skills suffering from a potential lockout if you don’t perform particular actions frequently enough. These locks are fairly lenient though, so players shouldn’t have too much trouble finding their desired upgrade paths blocked.
Once you get past the opening sequence of Jason escaping from Vaas’ prison camp, you’ll find that Rook Island is largely open for you to do what you want from the get-go. Whilst there are certain skills and weapons that only become available once you progress past a certain point in the story, these serve to make your path easier, not to unlock previously inaccessible areas; the player is free to explore at his leisure if the story isn’t his thing. With the sheer amount of choice of activities available on the island, it is entirely possible to play the game for a number of hours and not even approach the story missions. Far Cry 3 both allows and encourages this approach, with the objective indicator frequently informing the player that they can ‘Go here, do that’ to advance the story, or to ‘explore the island’ if that is what they prefer. Much of Far Cry 3 operates on a similar basis of allowing the player to do what they want, with the vast majority of enemy encampments and even story missions featuring a fairly free-form design, meaning that players can approach and deal with an objective however they see fit.
There are a few instances of the game becoming a corridor-shooter, but often this coincides with a particular narrative section that is crucial to the plot. Far Cry 3 does an admirable job of attempting to prevent the players’ immersion in its world from being broken, with mission objectives often being relayed through the cell-phone that Jason carries, and every single second of the game being shown through Jason’s eyes. Even sequences that would be shown as cutscenes in other games are seen through Jason, from the initial montage being revealed as playing on a phone, to the kidnapping of a fellow traveller being shown via a projector onto the wall of a cave.
Far Cry 3 is a shooter that isn’t really a shooter at all, at least in terms of what a ‘shooter’ usually is. This isn’t a Call of Duty-esque ‘run-through a series of well-disguised hallways’, but rather an open-world game that happens to be viewed from a first-person perspective—with a lot of guns. Even comparisons to Borderlands doesn’t do Far Cry 3 justice, as the free-form gameplay of the latter was never really exhibited in the former, which prefers fetch quests to anything else. Far Cry 3 is perhaps best aligned with the recent Fallout games, but with less talking and statistics and more shooting and forest fires. Although you can get through the game with a mindless approach and guns-blazing, you’ll have much more success if you take the time to plan your approach, using Jason’s camera to tag enemies in a compound, slowly approaching, and taking out as many soldiers as you can with a knife, before waiting for all hell to break loose and hightailing it out of there.
When a quickly improvised plan pays off, it’s a great feeling—but so is having one enemy break free, setting off an alarm, and your position quickly being swarmed by a large group of angry pirates. The best tactics often involve snatch-and-grab raids, killing as many enemies as you can before retreating into the jungle to catch your breath and reassess the situation. Later in the game your arsenal expands to include flamethrowers, RPGs and grenade launchers, and whilst enemy tactics don’t evolve to match your higher-powered weapons, you still won’t find the game to be a cakewalk. The challenge is well-maintained throughout the narrative, with no particular difficulty spikes, just a well-managed difficulty curve.
In a market saturated by generic shooters, Far Cry 3 does more than enough to stand apart from the crowd, with an intriguing (if slightly flat) storyline, a fascinating environment that becomes your personal playground, and an eclectic cast of characters that never fails to entertain. The sheer amount of content on offer within Rook Island is enough to keep dedicated players busy for at least 30 hours, a figure which most shooters can’t even dream of. Whilst Jason Brody and his group of friends may come across as spoiled rich boys, the game quickly becomes the player’s quest as much as Jason’s, thanks to the immersive storytelling techniques and the vastness of choice on offer, in terms of things to do and ways to do them. Personally, Far Cry 3 is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012, and I frankly can’t wait to get back to Rook Island.
Far Cry 3 scores a positively tropical 4.25 out of 5
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