Ubisoft’s recently released addition to the Far Cry series came out a few weeks ago, and I’ve taken a long hiatus from productivity to sit down with their open world shooter, Far Cry 3.
The Far Cry series has long been known for its surreal open worlds and innovative mechanics. Always set in exotic, foreign locations, the series takes pride in the variety of possibilities the player has in how they choose to tackle mission progression, gunplay, and exploration.
In this iteration you play as Jason, a rich American Frat-Boy who has been kidnapped by Vaas, the insane leader of a group of pirates that’ve taken control of Rook Island, the game’s setting. You’ll spend the first forty minutes of Far Cry 3 playing through a lengthy introduction, but it might just be the best tutorial ever made for a video game.
The tutorial takes you through a very linear area of the island, wherein you sneak around pirate sentries, learning basic mechanics as you go. Stealth is a major part of the Far Cry series, a well timed bow shot beats a rocket launcher and an assault rifle any day of the week, and the game rewards you for being a silent killer with hefty bonuses to experience and the satisfaction of killing your enemies from the shadows.
The game isn’t all stealth though, almost immediately after leaving the pirate encampment you are spotted and chased by Vaas and his soldiers. The sequence that follows can only be described as a nightmare sprint through the jungle, with AK bullets whizzing off of trees and attack dogs nipping at your legs. You soon find out that your character, Jason, isn’t exactly used to the world of violent confrontation. At one point in the tutorial you are forced to stab an attacker in the throat with a knife, and you can sense immediately the disgust and fear that Jason feels when preforming the action. It goes a long way to introduce the concept that Far Cry isn’t your run of the mill shooter, and you aren’t Rambo with an M-60, as far as the characters and story is concerned.
The tutorial shines in the brilliant way it both teaches and rewards the player at the same time. There is no better feeling in a video game than to both learn the mechanics of a game and be a complete badass at the same time. The story is also well laid out in the intro of the game, with developments already happening from the get go.
As long as were talking about story it’s probably best to get this out of the way: there’s not much to see here. The entire plot is a long collection of fetch objectives with intervening plot twists, but it never truly picks up in the way you might expect from a game with as much character as Far Cry 3. That’s not exactly a bad thing either, for where it lacks in story it makes up in just that: it’s characters. Every personality in the game is compelling, from the insane villain Vaas to the reluctant protagonist with family issues and every side character you’ll meet along the way. The true strength of Far Cry is not how the game presents its story, but how it presents its characters, world, and atmosphere.
The island’s open world is amazingly great. It’s easily ten times as large as the African Savannah presented in Far Cry 2, and feels much more occupied and filled than previous Far Cry worlds. Every nook and cranny of the island deserves exploring, and the endless cave passages and underground ruins are enough to keep an astute explorer busy for hours. The game seems to go out of its way to make the world interesting for the player. Whenever I found myself getting bored with Far Cry I would soon be presented with a problem that needed solving, such as an allied car that’s broken down on the road, or a situation that needs surviving, such as being attacked by the multitude of wildlife in the world. This gave the world a much appreciated vitality and longevity, as if I wasn’t bound to find my own entertainment, if I waited long enough entertainment would come find me. (And probably tear out my jugular with its teeth.)
The wildlife of Far Cry 3 is far from a backdrop for gameplay. This time around, everything from inventory bags to combat tonics need to be crafted from the skinned remains of animals or collected from plants. Even though it might seem a little far fetched that a sharkskin wallet can hold more money than, say, a regular old leather wallet, it’s a great excuse to unload a clip of ammunition into a shark, it’s really the only chance you’ll ever get to murder sea animals without getting banned for life from the aquariums of the world.
There are several gripes that can be held against what might’ve otherwise been a near-perfect game. The first and foremost is the multiplayer. Cooperative gameplay is available, but it takes place on an entirely different set of Islands, and the experience doesn’t live up to its single player comparison. There are interesting leaderboards to participate in if you’re into that sort of thing, but the game truly suffers from the lack of an all-inclusive, cooperative option in the single player world. There’s nothing better than playing an awesome open world game with friends, and I feel as if Ubisoft could have tried a little harder to make the multiplayer worthwhile in Far Cry 3.
Another gripe is the inventory system. If you play this game on PC the inventory will be especially bad, as it’s an obvious console port. Otherwise the inventory’s difficult to navigate, and selling items is a special kind of nightmare when your bags are filled with tropical herbs and you can only them one at a time. I repeat…you…can….only…sell…leaves…one…at…a…fucking…time. This might not seem like a big deal, until you’ve played the game that is. You’ll fill up your inventory with herbs and berries much faster than loot and skins, and the lack of accessibility in disposing of said items is infuriating, to the point where I don’t even bother collecting plants anymore.
It should also be noted that if you have a decent PC, that’s what you should be playing this on. This game deserves to be seen on maximum settings, and although it still looks gorgeous on consoles, PC’s get the best version this time through.
In the end Far Cry 3 is a must have for fans of the open world or shooter genres. The gunplay is great, the world is one of the best we’ve seen in years, and the game as a whole, even if you were to discount multiplayer entirely, is well worth the purchase price.
Far Cry 3 is available for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC today.