Game of the Year 2012.
Oh Far Cry, we've come a long way. What started off as a promising pc franchise is 2004 has since turned into a console affair. While early iterations such as Far Cry: Instincts and Far Cry: Instincts - Predator tried to take the story down a more sci-fi route, and 2008's lukewarm Far Cry 2 brought more of an open world aspect to the franchise, nothing could have prepared me for how good Far Cry 3 actually is.
In many ways, Far Cry 3 is this year's Saints Row: The Third. That's the best comparison I can give at this point. The game takes a troubled franchise that's trying to get on the right page, and blows past the right page to the perfect page in a matter of a few hours. I wasn't a big fan of Far Cry 2's African setting, and I'm glad to see Far Cry 3 bring things back to the islands. One of my favorite parts of this franchise has always been the tropical setting. Literally every decent gameplay mechanic introduced half heartily in the previous game is fully improved here. Remember the wonderful ability of buying weapons with diamonds in the previous game? Here things are just worth straight up cash, making it more simplified then ever. Also, the game has 18 cell towers to climb. You unjam these towers, and virtually all the weapons in the game become free. So instead of wasting money on new weapons every time, which was a huge problem in Far Cry 2, you only are spending a one time fee on any upgrades for those weapons. Ammunition is the only thing you will have to pay for every time. Remember the annoyances of finding a car only to drive it for about two minutes before it was shot down and needed repair? That's gone too. Car's take a lot more damage, and don't feel nearly as awful as they did in 2.
Perhaps the biggest improvement over everything offered in this franchise is the story of Far Cry 3, which is the best of any game I've played this year (minus Halo 4). You are Jason Brody. You and your rich buddies are enjoying a wonderful vacation on the sunny islands (it is never explained where these islands are) until you realize that you are being held captive by pirates. These pirates are nothing more then human traffickers, lead by this year's best antagonist hands down, Vaas. Big props to whoever voices this guy, as every line of dialogue is pure gold. Between the ten hour campaign (probably took me longer as I was doing side missions) I found some great sandbox things. Far Cry 3 is all about exploration, and the environment offered in this game could be the most memorable open world experience I've had since either of the Elder Scrolls games this generation.
There's enough offered in the open world exploration here that you and anyone you know playing this game will have different tales to tell about your experiences. For example, I enjoyed stalking bases by sniping open an animal cage and watching whatever vicious animal that was caged up devour the guards around the area. There are plenty of side missions and collectibles to collect too, thus pushing you into exploration even more. The island is your sandbox, do what you will with it.
Far Cry 3 offers an extensive skill tree, which offer neat perks that will take you further. My favorite had me comboing takedowns one after another. These little perks only add to the fantastic experience offered in this game.
In fact my only gripes with Far Cry 3 are three minor story related ones. One mission has you completely in stealth, and it just doesn't work in this game. Why my ability to kill anyone was removed, even when I had upgrades that allowed me to hide bodies, I'll never understand. Finally, one mission completely has you dependent on an A.I. controlled ally. This mission was extremely frustrating, as my ally died probably a dozen times before I was done with the mission. It wasn't anything I was doing wrong, but it was a problem with the a.i. Finally, early on in the game some of the enemy sound clips have a completely low bitrate sound to them. While this seems to iron itself out later in the game, it did take me out of the experience quite a bit.
Far Cry 3 also offers up an extensive cooperative mode, taking place six months before the events of the main story. However at the time of this writing I haven't been able to complete a single level of it, as it is mostly a glitchy mess. Finally the game offers up competitive multiplayer, but once again this is also kind of a failure.
Honestly I had more fun with Far Cry 3's story campaign then any other game I've played this year. It's a story that could easily trump even the best Call of Duty campaigns. You owe yourself a favor to play Far Cry 3. Game of the year, 2012.