Really good - but falls shy of greatness
(Spoilers are present in this review - not that you should play this game for story)
Far Cry has always been a series whose entries have had grand ideas but have fallen short of what they could deliver on. The original had these huge, gorgeous, wide-open areas with many different ways in and around things, but it was a very difficult game and the latter half was horribly unbalanced. The second was full of ideas about fighting a civil war, finding the antagonist, dealing with malaria, and roaming around a huge open world, but there was too much driving between objectives and you would often come across outposts full of enemies who would immediately open fire on you.
The third entry is no different. It fixes many of the issues that people had with Far Cry 1 and 2 but introduces a handful of oddities of its own that keep it just shy of five stars. You start the game as a college rich kid named Jason Brody who has nothing to do with his life but spend money and vacation with friends. No, I didn’t think of them as douchebags or worthless as many others did – I don’t see where that comes from, considering that we just see a few people having fun and one middle finger. Still, they skydive onto the wrong island and get capture by a gang of pirates led by a terrifying fellow by the name of Vaas. Easily the biggest problem with this game is the story – it doesn’t go where it should. It has occasional moments of brilliance but most of the time it either meanders around or just doesn’t do what would make it good. Vaas, the guy on the front cover, is a fantastic character. There are hints of a deeper, more interesting backstory and some fantastic character arcs possible with the rivalry between him and Jason but, alas, this man disappears about halfway through the game. He only shows up about four or five times in the game, each time stealing the spotlight for about five minutes but never for long enough. His exit from the game is uneventful and leaves far too many questions unanswered. He is soon replaced with a villain by the name of Hoyt, who is comically generic and uninteresting. His personality is uninteresting and he’s not scary at all because by the time you’re introduced to him, you’ve mowed down more people than you can shake a stick at. You – as well as Jason – have this feeling that you could take on any army and kill any man, and that makes Hoyt significantly less scary.
Villains aren’t the only thing that makes a story. The rest of the plot, though, is comparable to the progression of Vaas – there are hints of something that could have been much greater but there is no payoff. Interesting characters soon drop off the map for the most part and by the end of the game you’re left with only a silly German guy giving you orders for a few hours and then you go kill the villain and the game ends. It peaks way, way too early and never gives the payoff it should. Speaking of endings, the game suddenly gives you a “moral choice” at the end of the game, and the one that allows you to stay on the island is horrible. For one, it involves a very awkward sex scene, followed by Citra stabbing you because… I dunno. She wants you to die “as a warrior”, but getting caught with your pants down is not “dying as a warrior”. It’s very silly and doesn’t solve anything at all.
But that’s enough about the story. It has many more problems that will become apparent as you play through the game. And the actual playing part of this game is where it shines. There’s a fair amount of choice in how you want to approach a situation. Stealth works pretty well here, especially since your knife is potentially the most powerful weapon in the game if you’re good. The best moments, for me, were when I would hunt down guys with my knife, one by one, until there were no more. Even if they found out that someone was killing all of their buddies, they couldn’t find me. This doesn’t mean that guns are useless – in fact, they’re entirely necessary – but I found that alerting an entire camp to my location with loud gunfire wasn’t the best way to approach any situation. As soon as the enemy knows where you are, they become far more formidable. They will try to burn you, flank you, flush you out with grenades, and do anything they can to make you move out of your comfort zone. This is a game where you’ve got tons of health and four guns but four men that know where you are can mean death if you aren’t smart.
Most of the game’s action and freedom in approach comes from outposts, which is where a lot of the action described above happens. You must take out these outposts to clear areas of pirates or, later in the game, Hoyt’s privateers. Jason’s fellow Rakyat warriors then come in and occupy it, and you can fast travel to it, buy weapons and ammo, and pick up sidequests there. The sidequests themselves are sometimes interesting, but I was hardly invested in that aspect of the game enough to do all of them. The more mundane types of quests, like racing, finding a certain animal to hunt, or assassinating a certain pirate, are all good and quick ways to earn money, and for a few minutes they’re good, but I never found much reason to do them either. Another task of Jason’s is to activate all of the radio towers around the island, each of which is its own little puzzle to get to the top of. Activating these makes a certain gun at any store available for free so you probably won’t spend much money on buying weapons in this game.
Speaking of money, you need it a lot early in the game to buy attachments for your guns, but once you’ve got everything set up the way you want it, currency is only necessary for buying ammo. And, generally, you’ll have enough to buy ammo. For that matter, most of the game’s upgrades stop being necessary after a little while. I started the game off by hunting, getting radio towers, and taking outposts, and by the halfway point, I felt like I had all of the upgrades I wanted. There were some other things I could get but I just didn’t care about them. The hunting was over for me at that point and I would imagine that it will be the same for most players, making the latter half of the game nothing more than a matter of taking outposts, radio towers, and story missions. It gets repetitive by the end, and there’s not much to keep someone going except the sheer fun of the gameplay. And it never stops being fun, it just stops feeling like you’re progressing anywhere at a certain point.
Far Cry 3 is a pretty good game if you’re looking for a good single player shooter. You could definitely do much, much worse than this, but there are some disappointing aspects of the game that may nag some people in the back of their minds.