As protagonists go, it’s easy to dislike Jason Brody. Arrogant, aimless, and a touch too sarcastic for his own good, he’s the perfect poster child for the ills of American entitlement. But as much as I found myself wanting to pimp-slap the kid back to reality, the first few hours of Ubisoft Montreal’s Far Cry 3 made it readily apparent that I’d need to get in line. The game quickly makes a habit of leveling a maelstrom of malicious circumstances at, around, or inside Brody in a ways that genuinely change him—and my perception along with it.
It may not seem like much, but it’s this subtle shift from apprehension to understanding that defines Far Cry 3. This stems largely from the amazing story, penned by Ubi’s own Jeffrey Yohalem (of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood fame). Whether it’s the ultraviolent antagonist Vaas, the drugged-up Dr. Earnhardt, or an insane collection of folks I won’t spoil for you here, the cast of Far Cry 3 is superbly represented through peerless voice acting and a plot that shrugs off the age-old convention of fighting for ideals—instead placing you squarely in the middle of a struggle for your friends, family, and your very soul.
Considering the industry’s current obsession with terrorists, aliens, and zombies, it was a ballsy move to focus on something so simple, but Far Cry 3’s dark trip into the vacation from hell hits the nail on the head, delivering on some of the most impactful moments in gaming history with all the gall and grace of a feature film.
All the more impressive is the fact that this narrative takes place in the middle of one of the most compelling open-world titles I’ve ever played. Early looks prompted me to dub the game “Skyrim with guns,” but that doesn’t even begin to cover it. The campaign is deep, varied, and skillfully scripted, with all the big-budget thrills of Call of Duty alongside the platforming and off-map mystery of Uncharted, and the game’s “distraction” content is much more than a simple attempt at padding. Whether it’s hunting, taking on story quests, or liberating the island, you’ll find more opportunities for emergent gameplay than you can shake a ceremonial knife at, including back-room poker games, off-road races, cliff diving, stealth missions, intense tactical combat, treasure hunts, navigation puzzles, and much more.
The best part? You can experience it all as you see fit. Ubisoft’s design team went to unparalleled lengths to smartly integrate the side missions into progression and plot in ways that make you genuinely embrace the role of a off-land-inhabitant-turned-savior, even if the grind can get a bit muddled as a result of the open-ended structure.
And that’s just the main show. There’s also a four player co-op campaign that serves as part of the backstory that, while not quite as robust as the single-player game, still manages to deliver an experience I’d play over a number of standalone experiences I’ve endured this year.
Ubi also included a competitive multiplayer option, though I will say that I was a bit puzzled by the need here, as Far Cry 3 will be hard-pressed to weasel away users from Halo or Black Ops II. Multiplayer developer Ubisoft Massive did, however, manage to provide a novel spin on the whole “teamwork” dynamic of things, even if the progression system and number of modes aren’t quite up to snuff.
Ultimately, that stuff is an opening act for the big show, and there’s little doubt that the campaign’s the headliner here. In the same sense that the jungles of the Rook Islands get their hooks into Brody, the game’s blend of shooting, driving, sneaking, crafting, and platforming will take hold of you as a player, making it easy to forget that you’re on the other end of a controller. In that sense, Far Cry 3 manages more than a shift on your view of its wisecracking protagonist. It’s the sort of game that makes the genre’s best look absolutely ordinary—which, in a story this beset by twists, turns, and turmoil, may just be the biggest mindf*** of them all.
SUMMARY: A story that puts you on the edge of your seat from the second it starts. The deep, skillfully scripted campaign is something every gamer should experience.
- THE GOOD: The best blend of story and open-world action I’ve ever played.
- THE BAD: Less multiplayer, more awesome ending, please!
- THE UGLY: The thought of playing “pin the tail on the donkey” ever again…
Far Cry 3 is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS3.