Posted on December 9, 2012 AT 04:15pm
The common theme throughout the Far Cry 3 marketing campaign has been insanity. After playing the game for only ten minutes, I found that insanity is exactly what this game is all about. You’re immediately thrown into a situation that seems impossible to escape, and every person you meet (I use the term ‘person’ loosely here) seems at least moderately insane. The island you’re trapped on has deadly surprises around every corner, and the constant threat of danger is enough to drive you insane. Maybe more video games should embrace insanity like this, because it makes Far Cry 3 stand out among the many releases of late 2012.
Far Cry 3 is a single player game. Yes, there is a co-op campaign and competitive multiplayer, but for the most part, they are dull and uninteresting compared to Jason Brody’s adventure. The co-op levels are mostly linear, and the story follows four mercenaries who are looking to take revenge on a ship captain that betrayed them. The multiplayer maps are slightly more intriguing, but it’s no different than any other multiplayer shooter. If you’re planning on buying Far Cry 3, then buy it for the single player campaign. If that doesn’t interest you, then don’t bother.
The main storyline centers on Jason Brody and his rich friends. They are on vacation at Rook Island when they’re captured by Vaas and his pirate gang. All of Jason’s subsequent actions are based on his desire to save his friends and take revenge on Vaas. Far Cry 3 differentiates itself from other shooters by portraying Jason, the character you play as, as a young kid who has absolutely no experience shooting guns or shoving machetes through people. I thought this was refreshing, but Ubisoft failed to go anywhere with this premise. Within fifteen minutes of playing the game, I’m traipsing through outposts like a badass, stabbing and shooting my way to victory. The game makes a point to focus on Jason’s transformation, but the transition is so jarring that it doesn’t make any sense. This is one of the very few things I can find fault with in Far Cry 3.
Of all the insanity in this game, Vaas embodies it more than any other character. The trailers that Ubisoft showed us prior to the game’s release depicted him as an unstable asshole, but once you play the game, you’ll find there’s much more to him than that. This is generally true for all of the people you’ll encounter on Rook Island. Every character has depth, and it’s obvious that a lot of effort went into the writing and voice acting.
Since this is a first-person shooter, you’d hope that there is a nice variety of weapons to suit your unique play style. This is absolutely true. The same wide variety of weapons from Far Cry 2 return, with some added features. Many of the weapons also have attachments that you can purchase, so you can get a nicer scope or buy an extended magazine. The shooting mechanics of the game feel solid, and I especially enjoyed the ability to hold your breath while sniping. Also, flamethrowers are a wonderful weapon to include in a game whose engine supports the burning of foliage and buildings. There is nothing more satisfying than trapping pirates inside a burning house.
The actual gameplay consists of a string of story missions and a host of side quests. All of these involve shooting pirates and komodo dragons. Well, you only shoot komodo dragons if you happen to come across one in the wild. This tends to happen while you’re plotting how to take over a pirate outpost. Then all of a sudden this dragon is ripping your leg off, you’re firing weapons madly into the ground and air, and the pirates know you’re there. Yes, this is the best part of the game.
The side quests involve climbing radio towers, taking over pirate outposts, and photographing dead pirates (among other random things). The radio towers serve the same purpose as vantage points do in the Assassin’s Creed series by revealing the map. As an added bonus, you also unlock more weapons as you find radio towers. The pirate outposts are similar to the outposts you’d come across in Far Cry 2, but the difference is that once you kill all the pirates, the outpost is yours forever. Magical enemies don’t just reappear when you leave for five minutes (something that drove me mad in Far Cry 2). This provides the sense of accomplishment and progress that makes me want to keep playing Far Cry 3. It consistently rewards you for going to all those little icons on the map and doing the associated activity, and this is its biggest advantage over its predecessor. Besides the missions and extra quests, there are also plenty of collectibles to find. I felt a bit less motivated to find them, but they do unlock certain rewards if you collect enough of them. At this point they’re just filler material to flesh out the already fleshed out world, and they aren’t really necessary, but they don’t hurt anything by existing.
As an open world game, Far Cry 3 needs a big map to explore, and it delivers. Rook Island is quite large and is filled with plenty to do, but in order to get to the activities, you need a method of travel. There are fast travel points all across the map (at outposts or towns), so another reason to run around shooting pirates is to unlock outposts to fast travel to. The typical off road vehicles and shitty, beat-up cars are there as well, but the highlight of my travels was the hang glider. Yes, in Far Cry 2, they were difficult to fly and you ended up dead most times, but here, they’re a thing of beauty. Soaring majestically above the island, looking down at all the insignificant pirates and komodo dragons, you begin to wish that the draw distance on consoles could be bumped up. Even with this limitation, it’s still so much fun to quickly soar to your next destination.
The actual map you look at, however, is rather disappointing. I loved the paper map that you could pull out in Far Cry 2, so I miss that feature in Far Cry 3. It’s just a standard map accessed in the pause menu. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but it does break immersion to enter the menu to navigate. You do get a mini-map on screen at all times, so it’s tough to get lost. Besides the mini-map, there’s also a weapon indicator to show how much ammo you have left, and there are always pop-up messages about new information you’ve discovered or the current mission you’re on. These are very annoying and unnecessary, but Ubisoft claims there will be a patch that allows you to turn these off. I look forward to this very much.
There are several new features that Far Cry 3 is adding that are changes for the better. A crafting system allows you to make new holsters and pouches to hold all your goodies you’ve collected off of dead pirates, and the skill trees add some exciting new moves and abilities to your arsenal. The skills acquired later in the game turn Jason Brody from a pirate murderer to a BADASS pirate murderer. I wish more games let you sneak up behind an unsuspecting enemy, stab them in the throat, and then take their knife and fling it into another enemy’s throat. That’s not even the best of the skills! I’ll let you discover the other ones!
Summary: Far Cry 3 keeps many of the things we loved about Far Cry 2, like how fire can spread and how you heal yourself in first person by ripping bullets out of your arm. But it also adds a sense of progression and a storyline that you’ll actually find interesting. It suffers a bit on the aging consoles, especially when you’re hang gliding, but chances are you won’t notice that when you’re having a blast lighting everything in sight on fire. Just don’t get this game for the multiplayer. It isn’t necessarily bad, but the single player campaign outshines it in every way possible.
- THE GOOD: Brilliant storyline with memorable characters. You won’t forget Vaas anytime soon.
- THE BAD: Multiplayer feels tacked on, and isn’t nearly as fun as the single player campaign.
- THE UGLY: Draw distance on the consoles is noticeable (and disappointing) when flying the hang glider.
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