Far Cry 3 Review: The Definition of Insanity
Far Cry is a series that I have never been interested in. It seemed like a more pedestrian version of Crysis, and I have never been interested in Crysis either, so Far Cry was certainly far from my attention. I had seen some of Far Cry 2 but beyond the whole fire mechanic that game had there was nothing about it that interested me in any way. Far Cry 3 came onto my radar thanks to its E3 2012 showing, but all I really expected from this game was a middling shooter with an interesting looking bad guy to kill. Ubisoft Montreal developed a game in Far Cry 3 that easily exceeded my modest expectations, but actually managed to solidify a place as one of the most sheer fun games I have played in some time, and a big surprise for me personally.
The story of Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with any previous game in the series, standing as a completely self-contained story. It begins with the protagonist, Jason Brody, and a group of his rich and spoiled friends jumping onto a tropical island during their holiday your of East Asia. Once this group of scum lands things take a bad turn for them as they are captured by slaver pirates led by a maniacal villain named Vaas. This pirate lord is a chilling and believable antagonist and really helps to drive forward events in this game. Vaas imprisons the group of friends and intends to ransom them for cash, but Jason and his older brother Grant manage to escape their cage and into the jungle of the island. Jason quickly finds himself alone and is forced to embark upon a mission to rescue his still trapped friends and escape from the beautiful hell that is the Rook Islands.
This simple premise begins a tale that is presented in such a powerful and evocative way that I could not help but fall in love with the story of Far Cry 3. Jason starts out as being unable to bring himself to kill another person but by the end of the game he has developed a taste for it. The cast of characters are also a big part of what got me hooked into the story that Far Cry 3 tells. It was fun to see the horrible group of spoiled assholes suffer at the hands of some truly fantastic villains. Vaas is a genuinely intimidating, entertaining and charismatic antagonist who brings real energy into every scene he is involved with thanks to the powerful voice acting and motion capture that has been put into his character. Another villain named Buck is the epitome of filth, but he is another fantastic villain for the player to face. Rescuing your friends also brings the player into contact with the native people of the Islands, and these are led by two other good characters, Dennis and Citra, who both manage to be captivating characters for several reasons. Magic is also woven into the game as part of its story, and this combined with the raw setting makes a truly brilliant mix. Far Cry 3 also takes the strongest point of its predecessor by having some incredible looking fire and explosions, adding a lot of impressive effects to the title.
Far Cry 3 has an absolutely stunning first two-thirds, and the game sets up story beats for what would have made it one of the best stories in gaming that I have ever experienced. However, it does not make good on these foundations and flounders in its final third by introducing another villain who is a lot less interesting than those who came before and by not following through on the ground it prepares in the earlier sections of the game. There are two endings but neither are all that great, but overall Far Cry 3 has some great characters and a story that is fantastic for the much of its duration. It also plays with the idea of an undependable viewpoint, and this only adds to the fantastic narrative direction that Far Cry 3 took with incredible presentation.
From a sheer graphics perspective Far Cry 3 is absolutely gorgeous. Incredibly thick and detailed jungles resplendent with foliage feel alive in a way that only the likes of Red Dead Redemption and The Elder Scrolls have achieved in the past for me. The Rook Islands are so immersive thanks to the entire eco system that Ubisoft designed for this game, as well as the sheer scale of the location. Rivers flow, there are multiple islands to travel between by swimming, sailing or gliding, and there are numerous types of animals who will interact with you, each other and npc's throughout the game. This is a game that will utterly immerse you in the location and bring its tropical archipelago to life in a natural and believable way.
It also does not hurt that the game is beautiful in a technical way as well as its artistic design. The texture quality is extremely high, along with stunning lighting during both the day and night, and is at its best when you are among the trees and are witness to beams of light shining between the branches. The character models are also outstanding, with some of the best faces on characters that allow true emotive acting in a way that is as good as LA Noire without all the fuss around the technology. The game has a crisp look about it that was somewhat similar to Battlefield 3, though far more impressive looking than that games offerings. The level of detail in the environments is extraordinary, and character animations are also fantastic, with excellent use of motion blur during your navigation of the islands. There is also an incredible level of attention given to crafting the dungeon-esque areas of the game. There is an entire subterranean complex filled with Chinese statues and navitist wall carvings, and it is the inclusion of things like this that make it a magical game from a visual perspective. Honestly, Far Cry 3 is a glimpse at that I hope the next gen games are going to be like, and is certainly one of the most attractive, colourful and beautiful games I have ever played.
Far Cry also has an exceptional soundtrack at times thanks to the score by Brian Tyler. It mixes plenty of dubstep with beautiful and enchanting ambiance pieces to create an unusual and stylish score. There are some truly lovely themes that reminded me of pieces from Deus Ex Human Revolution at times, and overall it is an incredible example of music in games. Also, there is a mission where Skrilles' "bun dem" is used to incredible effect. Voice acting is also stellar, with Vaas, Citra, Dennis, Sam, Hoyte and all the main characters giving truly powerful performances. Citra in particular is accented brilliantly and it just captures perfectly what I think Ubisoft were going for with this setting. Unfortunately the minor characters voices drown out thanks to a poor audio system that makes it seem like they are in a voice booth or something else odd like that. This is disappointing considering how fantastic the voicing for the main cast truly is.
Far Cry 3 is largely a sandbox game, and is at its best when allowing the player to take advantage of the incredible world it contains by free roaming around its lush environs. The shooting mechanics themselves are nice, tight and responsive and the weapons that you can acquire are varied and allow the player multiple legitimate strategic approaches to different situations. From sniper rifles to assault weapons, flame throwers to a bow, Far Cry 3 has your combat needs covered. The game uses a mission structure and this often has the player going to confined indoor areas throughout its duration, but there is also plenty of action in the open world, and this is where Far Cry 3 is golden. You can approach situations from a stealth perspective or dive in guns blazing, and thanks to the open world nature of the title there is always a chance of random insanity, like a bear charging in and killing half an enemy camp.
Speaking of enemy camps, the much maligned check points of Far Cry 2 are probably one of the best parts of this sequel, with enemies no longer respawning and the player being tasked with eliminating the enemy presence here in exchange for a fast travel point, and trust me, you will need fast travel points. Ubisoft Montreal borrowed from Assassin's Creed by including 18 radio towers in Far Cry 3. The player can climb these and effectively synchronise with them, revealing the map surrounding them and allowing the player far greater knowledge of the area. Its a great mechanic that encourages exploration and adds to the scale of the experience.
Besides the shooting and exploration Far Cry 3 also has cars with which to get around, boats, jet skis, hand gliders and wing suits. The singleplayer campaign took me around 12 hours to complete, meaning it has plenty of meat with a lot of side quest content to keep players going. Ubisoft also included competitive multiplayer, which is of mixed quality, as well as a decent co-op suite, which allows up to 4 players to engage in almost Left 4 Dead style missions that will test their abilities. None of this is up to the standards of the singleplayer, and lacks the true free roaming, but it certainly doesn't hurt to include them and adds longevity and value to the overall package on offer here.
As an open world experience, Far Cry 3 has its fair share of jank. Things do not always work as intended, and I encountered numerous counts of madness while I played it, but this kind of contributed to the charm of the experience, and I certainly came across nothing that was a major issue in terms of gameplay glitches. Unfortunately, the graphics of Far Cry 3 push the old 360 to the absolute limits of its capabilities, resulting in shader issues, draw distance pop-in, and poor frame rate at certain points of high action. None of this is beyond the realm of acceptable for me, and did not detract from my enjoyment of this game, but definitely play Far Cry 3 on a PC if you have the option over the console versions.
The AI also has a few questionable moments, but largely its great, as enemies hunt you down after hearing you fire a weapon and actively search for you when you hide. The game uses a skill unlock system which allows the player to effectively "level up" as they progress trough the story, becoming more powerful and capable. There are 3 distinct branches of this, and the inclusion of these rpg elements make the game all the more rewarding for players to advance in as this is what gives you more options in a tangible gameplay sense.
My biggest design gripe with Far Cry 3 is the inclusion of Uplay, which necessitates a log in to the servers when you turn the game on. I had some ridiculous load times for this process, initially taking over 3 minutes to log in and be playable. This is ridiculous and unnecessary, and I wish that Ubisoft would cease this nonsense and get its act together regarding integration of its social networks. Beyond these gripes I feel that Far Cry 3 is a masterfully designed game that makes great use of all its elements to create a wonderful experience.
Far Cry 3 comes so damn close to being one of the greatest games of this generation, and despite squandering its wonderful story potential in its final third it is still one of the most insane and fun games of 2012. It is a fantastic shooter experience, and matches Bethesda and Rockstar in terms of crafting a whole free-roaming sandbox experience while managing to retain tight and excellent shooting mechanics. Its level of detail is shocking and the polish and strength of presentation is amazing, with the hallucination sequences being stunningly done. This is the game that I wish Turok had been at its 2008 reboot, and while that beloved series of my childhood is defunct at present I feel that Far Cry 3 has filled that void for me by giving me a new shooter with incredible animal life and enemies. This is a stunning achievement, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in shooters or open world games.
- Incredible visuals and soundtrack
- Ecology and animals that bring the game to life
- Stealth and action mix seamlessly
- Stylish presentation and enchanting story with strong characters
- Some technical issues
- Squanders its story potential towards the end
- Uplay integration is done badly
- Sharks vs Crocodiles
- 9/10 - Amazing