What Far Cry 2 should have been
I hated Far Cry 2. I mean, I really hated it. It was one of my most hated games of the decade. It had virtually no story, incredibly bad voice acting, lousy shooting mechanics and frustrating "features" like Malaria, near instantaneous enemy respawns and Gun-jamming. The entire game felt like tech-demo demonstrating foliage rendering.
I am happy to say that Far Cry 3 fixes nearly all of these problems. It shines in exactly the places that Far Cry 2 did not.
Unlike Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 has a plot that actually warrants some level of attention by the player. You play as Jason Brody, on vacation with this brothers, friends and girlfriend, to a set of tropical islands that the game implies is near Thailand, but is probably closer to Fiji and Micronesia or Indonesia. After getting drunk and having lots of fun, they skydive over rook island, where they are captured by pirates lead by the violent, dangerous and possibly insane Vaas. As Vaas prepares to ransom and then sell the gang into slavery, Jason and his brother Grant break out of the Pirate's camp, set on freeing their friends and returning to civilization.
The story goes quite a bit deeper than that, with quite a few factions, characters and developments. It is not the greatest story ever told, but it does feature some good writing and excellent voice acting. It is however, more than a little silly, despite its attempts at being dark and serious.
It is still 1000x better than the "plot" of Far Cry 2. There are actual NPCs now. There's plot progression. There's dialogue. There's a feeling of momentum. You actually know what you're doing and why you're doing it.
This is where Far Cry 3 outstrips Far Cry 2 in almost every way. GONE are the horrendous Malaria and Gun-Jamming mechanics of Far Cry 2. GONE is the near instantaneous respawning of enemies if you so much as walk a few metres away from an outpost. GONE are the stupid, idiotic missions where even your allies will shoot at you since you're "undercover". GONE is the ridiculous omniscient guards that can spot you 100 metres away in dense jungle. GONE is the ridiculous diamond-based currency. GONE is the inability to pause the game so that you can look at a map. GONE is the feeling that you are doing the same thing over and over again without any change.
Far Cry 3 has your standard shooting mechanics - iron sights, assault rifles, sniper rifles, etc. But it has additional mechanics. As you gain experience for each kill, you can unlock abilities that frankly make the enemies seem like a joke on the normal difficulty setting. You can take down guards from behind with a knife, but as you progress you can gain a skill that allows you to chain take downs so that you can very quickly eliminate an entire group of enemies nearly instantaneously. You can sneak in bushland, distract guards by throwing rocks, fly on gliders, drop down from ledges onto enemies to kill them instantly and use bows, C4, mines, and all manner of weaponry to kill very quickly and efficiently.
As a result, the game, on Normal, is a bit of a cakewalk. Enemies tend to go down very quickly, and although they can do a lot of damage to you, as long as you collect even a fraction of the plentiful green leaves found virtually everywhere on the island, you'll never be short on health. The game features regenerating health, but it has to be actively regenerated by pressing the Q button.
Far Cry 3 also has a crafting mechanic, whereby you gain new items and equipment by killing and skinning various animals. In many respects, the animals of Far Cry 3 are more dangerous than the human enemies, with Black Panthers and Golden Tigers being able to kill you virtually instantly. Thankfully, these enemies are rare.
Far Cry 3's main plot will last you roughly 10 to 15 hours if you focus on it solely. But Far Cry 3 also has plentiful side missions, unlocked by taking down Pirate Outposts. Some of these missions will involve you hunting an animal or a series of animals with a given weapon. Others will involve assassinating an enemy commander with a knife (and only a knife). Other side missions are small tasks performed around the island to help the native population.
There's also multiplayer, which I haven't tried, and a very powerful map editor.
GRAPHICS and SOUND:
Graphically, Far Cry 3 looks amazing. It looks absolutely stunning if you play on a relatively powerful PC. Grass sways, the sun shines, the water shimmers and the sand gleams. Just look at the screen shots if you don't believe me. Fire and Explosions look better in Far Cry 3 than in Far Cry 2, and that's saying something, given how beautiful Far Cry 2 looked. It's not perfect, however - shadows tend to look a little pixilated and they reuse many assets so that the environs look a little samey. But it's still a technically impressive game to look at.
In terms of sound, the music and sound effects are nothing special. Only the voice acting stands out - the voice actors for Vaas, Hoyt, Willis, Buck and Dennis stand out in particular and all the actors do a great job of communicating to the player how insane the situation is. The voice actors of the main character and his friends however... are less than great.
Far Cry 3 is a great game to play, and far superior to Far Cry 2. It's not perfect, but what's there is very, very good.