Beauty is a killer.
The Far Cry series and me have history. In my days as a PC gamer of sorts you would often find me tactically moving through the gorgeous tropical islands that developer at the time Crytek had designed and beautifully rendered. I would often snipe from afar and then spend the next 5-10 minutes relocating to pick off another flat-topped mercenary that looked like he could’ve been one of Major Chip Hazard’s commandos. Far Cry 1 was one of the first first person shooters that really made me appreciate just how diverse the genre can be.
I then came to Far Cry 2, a game that was Far Cry only in name. It had far less emphasis on story and character though the original Far Cry wasn’t the benchmark of stellar storytelling. Developed internally by Ubisoft this time around, it gave us a huge open world in central that was beautiful in it’s own way but ultimately lacked character through bleakness, bland characters and an empty world. It brought back the freedom to approach missions however you wanted with it’s nice addition with the buddy system but it just didn’t feel like I was playing the Far Cry I knew and loved.
Far Cry 3 brings me back to the tropical setting of Far Cry with the beautiful vistas spoilt by human exploitation, death and guns-for-hire but with the open expanse of land and diverse mission approach of Far Cry 2. This time you don’t play as an ex-marine superhuman or a Mauritian Mercenary or a former member of the Irish Republican Army, no, you are average Joe University student Jason Brody on holiday with his popular, good looking friends and beautiful girlfriend, an aspiring actress set for the big time. Sun, sea, friends. His life is perfect. Perfect right up until the moment where the group is taken by murderous pirates looking to make a profit on the rich Californian kids by selling them into slavery.
The plot to Far Cry 3 is fairly simplistic with the obvious motive of revenge lingering a lot of the time but what really makes this game is it’s characters and that’s rare for a first person shooter. Jason Brody starts out as what one would call a wuss, but then again, how many of us have been kidnapped by pirates and kept in a death-camp of sorts? Throughout Far Cry 3’s 12-15 hour campaign we see a dramatic evolution in Jason’s character. However, Jason’s evolution isn’t the best display of character. I’m referring to the relationship between Jason and his girlfriend Liza. By the time her and Jason are reunited, he’s already getting good at killing. As Jason kills more and more people, he begins to enjoy it and drift from Liza. By the time Jason makes a crucial decision affecting everyone in the game, I felt a strong sense of sorrow for Liza and the rest of Jason’s friends after they see their friend turned into a self aware, self admiring killing machine. I wanted to comfort Liza and tell her that I (as Jason) wasn’t going anywhere. It if wasn’t part of the narrative, that’s exactly what I would have done.
Simply put, there isn’t a single bad performance in Far Cry 3. Each character has their own sense of insanity from the island, Jason’s friends give off such a realistic sense of fear. We then get to Vaas, the character that made such an impression in the E3 2011 demo. The performance behind Vaas is so chillingly perfect. The madness the character reeks of is charming in a way. I found myself smiling every time he was on screen because he was just so brilliantly written which is why I was so surprised at how underused he felt. With all the advertising and being the front of the box you’d think that he’d be more of a prolific villain but instead that fell to Hoyt Volker, the slaver who runs the island. Hoyt is also brilliant, very surprisingly so but I felt as if we saw most of Vaas from the E3 demo’s and promo’s. Even though Vaas is by far my favourite villain of 2012 just looking at those eyes of madness makes me want more of him in the game.
Gameplay for Far Cry 3 has been refined particularly in the shooting, the core of the game. Far Cry 2’s enemies felt like bullet sponges with South African accents. With Far Cry 3, an enemy can be put down with a well controlled burst with a sub-machine gun faster than you can say “surprise”. Something that impressed many was the inclusion of a takedown system that we saw with Far Cry 3’s reveal. The takedown system here is very well done with multiple takedowns being easy in nature and impressive visually. Stabbing an enemy from behind and using his pistol or knife to kill his friends never looked so good. The air takedowns featured are simple to use with players merely required to jump over an enemy for Jason to reign down a knife into his neck. They give Dishonored a run for it’s money in that department eliminating the preciseness of performing such an attack. Stealth melee attacks are something that was always missing from the Far Cry franchise. It’s quite baffling that neither Crytek nor Ubisoft thought of it sooner. The Far Cry 2 melee attacks from behind don’t count as every enemy within a mile would be alerted as soon as you sliced him.
Combat in itself is quite challenging even on the easiest setting which is something old school Far Cry fans will warm to. Going in guns blazing is a sure fire way to get yourself killed here. Whilst it’s possible, a stealthy approach is favourable. The open expanse of Rook island allows the player so much more freedom that the past games combining the open end of Far Cry 2’s map with the verticality of Far Cry. Players can also mark enemies to keep tabs on their positions allowing them to relocate to a better vantage point. A favoured tactic of mine is positioning myself high atop a cliff and eliminating enemy snipers with my own silenced sniper rifle to then move in and dispose of the remaining enemies with stealth kills and the use of my bow and arrow for those unapproachable without detection.
One thing that really bugged me were the boss fights you’ll encounter in the game. Whilst I have no problem with them being quick time events since they’re scripted narratives, they take place in an almost trancelike dreamland environment. When you come out of it, you’ll look around the room to see that Jason has magically killed 15 guys. Ubisoft could have literally and just as easy shown that in a quick time event. It left a nagging though in my head that just said “that was stupid”.
Once you get past the insanity, the murder and violence, Rook island is a beauty and a pleasure to explore. There are caves to discover, treasure to loot, old WW2 Japanese military emplacements to discover and deep Canote’s to dive into. All the while there is the wildlife to content with on Rook island. Sharks patrol the seas, Crocodiles lurk in the rivers, Tigers stalk the fields, Buffalos graze on the grass and Komodo Dragons do whatever it is they do. You are rarely alone in Far Cry 3. Be it a pirate or mercenary to fight, they’ll always be some animal for you to kill admire or in many cases, kill before it kills you. Swimming in the ocean brought back my childhood fear of sharks in the open water as I was constantly watching out for Sharks when I was swimming in the sea in Far Cry 3. Rook island is teeming with life and most of it is looking to extinguish yours. Beauty is a killer.
Far Cry 3 also has a multiplayer option if you somehow get bored of the single player. Whilst it’s not bad by any means, it’s nothing new. There’s still fun to be had and there’s likely an audience for it but it mainly consists of the same type of match modes we see in many games. Far Cry 3’s multiplayer is the typical Call of Duty wannabe with killcams, a create-a-class, perks and the works. As previously stated, it does nothing new but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun. And so would you. The maps are big in the multiplayer, perhaps too big in some cases. Matchmaking often puts players into games that have grossly uneven teams or just simply not enough people for a map the size of a small Battlefield map. Far Cry 3 also comes with a map editor that relatively easy to use and allows you create your own maps to very specific details with players being able to map the geography of maps as opposed to simply putting a tree here and a watch tower there.
Co-op is the dullest aspect of Far Cry 3. It’s not terrible but it’s just simply not that good. You’re given four characters that serve their own selfish needs that run through a section of a level killing everything in sight. It’s also very linear which leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you take into account just how big Far Cry 3 is. You’re given a foul mouthed Scottish yob that is just the definition of irritating, English/Scottish joke rivalry aside, a corrupt cop/Victor Sullivan wannabe, an ex-solider badass and an Eastern European assassin that just by chance isn’t called Niko Bellic. All are cliches and all made want to get the co-op over and done with. Co-op simply revolves around killing enemies in one area to advance to the next to repeat the killing. It won’t break your experience with Far Cry or even bring it down that much, you’ll just be better off sticking to the multiplayer if you want go online.
If the world ends this year then Far Cry 3 is a great game to go out with. The beautiful expanse of Rook island coupled with the intriguing exploration and predatory combat make Far Cry 3 worth your time. Far Cry 3 continues to show the world that first person shooters can be diverse and that they don’t have to be linear corridor shooters.
Vaas once asked me if I knew the definition of insanity. It’s doing the same thing again and again expecting things to change. Far Cry 3 has broken the cycle and for the large part has delivered a type of shooter we only see a couple of times in a gaming generation. An uninspired multiplayer and an unimpressive co-op stand in the way of Far Cry 3’s true greatness but that doesn’t excuse you from having this game in your collection.
- Incredibly strong characters.
- A beautiful island to explore.
- Intimate gameplay.
- Boss fights that break the narrative and confuse players.
- A generic yet fun multiplayer offering.