Far Cry 3 Review
Far Cry has long been a divisive series, the original and the sequel, for oddly different reasons. The first game was a linear, mission driven shooter with sci-fi elements, while the sequel was an open-world game about a guns dealer in Africa, with heavy reality-based elements. The first person shooting and name on the box were the only thing that the games shared. Strangely enough, Far Cry 3 wedges itself in the middle of these two games, providing elements from both, that should inspire joy and ire in equal shares. However, coming in on a neutral platform (as I’m sure many of your are), you will find a truly immersible breathtaking, and enthralling experience for the first half of the game, then watch as Ubisoft gets swallowed up in its own massive ambitions.
Far Cry 3
(PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Released: November 30th, 2012
The characters that populate Far Cry 3 are deep and real. Even the main character works in a way that is very rare for first person games to pull off. It is brave to have a first person character be such a big part of the story, as normally they simply tag along for the ride, acting as a camera on wheels with guns. But Jason Brody knows fear, loss, and discovery. Often times I felt like I was joining him on this adventure, rather than taking it myself.
Brody is not the only well done character. The main villain, Vaas, is a wicked and vile murderer with a mind for violence. His sociopath tendencies scream of a schoolyard bully, pushed over the edge by a childhood trauma. It is this fine tuning of his character that makes him feel real and all the more terrifying. He drives the opening sequence of the game forward, sending you on a run for your life that sets a breathless pace for the game. It is not until you find some safety that you will have time to take in the impressive visuals and the deliciously beautiful world that is the island of Far Cry 3.
Our main character, Jason, and his friends are celebrating his brother getting his pilot’s license. For the occasion, they have flown to a remote island to drink in all the daredevil thrills, partying, and sunbathing it has to offer. It’s all fun and games until Vaas and his gang of militarized henchman show up. Sure these main characters seem like typical douches and would look at home hanging out with the cast from “Jersey Shore”, but these same flaws are what make them feel real and at the very least understandable. This all stems from the solid writing, which starts to falter by the end of the game. For the most part you will be invested in what Ubisoft is trying to do, tell a good story.
The biggest problem Ubisoft has in Far Cry 3, is the same problem it has faced with the entire series, which is establishing what Far Cry should be. At times it felt like I was playing something more akin to the original, weaving through deep levels, juggling guns, and wandering through supernatural sequences. Suddenly I am grounded in reality, forced to hunt for my equipment and medicine, dealing with trigger-happy pirates. Far Cry 3 has trouble committing one way or the other and instead just ends up contradicting itself.
Also, on a side note, developers need to stop with trippy stress/drug/magic/anything induced sequences. Yeah, I am talking to you as well, Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, Uncharted 3, Max Payne, etc. It is becoming stale. Knock it off.
Far Cry 3 is a visually huge game. There’s probably 60+ hours of game-play, even if you skimp on finding all of the collectibles. This normally would seem like a plus to players who are looking to sink themselves into a couple-months-long investment. The problem here is that the game starts to become stale about a third of the way through. Normally deep RPGs change up their locations, enemies, or plot points to keep players engaged in their world, but every inch of Far Cry 3, beautiful as it is, just looks like a jungle/desert island. Sure, some places have jungle cats and others have dingoes, but when you walk from one end of the island to the other (even switch between the two) and it still feels relatively the same.
Far Cry 3’s duplicity continues into its gameplay, where it does not seem to know how hardcore it should be. There are a myriad of missions with various difficulties and doing them is more-or-less a necessity. Radio towers need to be scaled or else you are going around the island blind and outposts need to be conquered or you are dodging enemy battalions. It appears that completing these missions reward you for leveling up your Jason Brody, but that illusion is quickly dismissed as the main story campaign ensures you will level up more than enough. This eventually leaves you with a bunch of extra skill points you are unable to use, wondering if these missions only existed to give you busy work.
These bloated side missions are fun, but like much of the game, they grow old and stale after you tackle the first ten of them. There’s no chance encounters to surprise you. You may stumble on one or two guards fixing a jeep or get jumped by a tiger, but after a while even these events seem tedious. The game is in desperate need of something unexpected after the first ten hours.
The gameplay is plenty fun and addictive. The guns feel good, the action is smooth and I experienced almost no glitches or frame rate drops. The best part of the gameplay is how the tools given to you turn you into the hunter the game is trying to portray. You will feel in control of the combat as the tricks and tips employed by the game work to set your opponents up for the kill. Distractions will open guards to stealthy attacks, separating an enemy from his crew can lead to a silent and undiscovered death, flanking, scouting, and other tactics that are taught to you work really well. The game empowers you to feel like the warrior it wants you to become.
This carries over to the hunting which, like most of the game, is not required but feels very mandatory at the same time. If you want any medicine, equipment level ups, and money you better get used to hunting. The animals of Far Cry 3’s mysterious island are even more viscous and (thankfully) diverse than its human inhabitants. Different animals require different weapons and tactics. Eventually your advantage will be stripped away to nothing more than a bow and medical enhancements to really give you a challenge. The fun of hunting and its importance in the game is a risky move on Ubisoft’s part, but it pays off well as the hunting can be a welcomed change of pace to the rest of the game.
There are other diversions in Far Cry 3, much of it in line with what one would expect from standard open world games. There’s timed challenges, gambling, and weapon challenges. Some of the mini-games are tracked as part of an online leader-board and reported through the worthless Ubisoft U-Play system (developers can knock this nonsense off as well). While these are little more than in game distractions, they are well made and fun in their own right.
At the end of the day, Far Cry 3 has its share of drawbacks, some of them are to be expected from a game of this ambition and size. However, the scope of the game and countless hours of game-play are only a highlight when every hour is as fun as you would hope. In Far Cry 3, even if you tried to rush through the game and contain it to a 20 hours experience, you would still be left disappointed. As it is not only the “superfluous” things that get old, but the story itself..
Where Far Cry 3 really succeeds is in its blend of story and open world. Neither feels stronger than the other and both are relative successes. The writing is solid, voice acting is strong, the graphics are truly gorgeous. While the side missions and general tasks of the game become stale after a while, the core game-play is continuously strong and makes you feel like a true bad-ass island warrior. Far Cry 3’s formula really does work and Ubisoft is onto something with this series. Now let’s see if they stick with it.