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Far Cry 3 Review

5
  • X360
  • PS3
  • PC

Even when Far Cry 3's story eventually falls short of its promising start, you won't have as much fun hunting tigers, crashing hang gliders, and stabbing pirates in any other game.

So much mayhem awaits on this island. You have no idea.

Far Cry 3 takes the ambitious background mechanisms of the last Far Cry game--things like roaming wildlife and dynamic fire--and wraps an immensely fun and rewarding open-world game around them, set in one of the lushest jungle environments ever seen in a game. Far Cry 2 felt as much like an experiment in mashing together a handful of self-propelling simulations as it did a shipping product, but this third one is a real, honest-to-God video game that restrains those dynamics in the spots where they might infringe on the fun you're having roaming around a tropical island, taking over pirate outposts, hunting rare game, and crashing hang gliders into the sides of mountains. If you like shooters and open-world gameplay at all, you will have a lot of fun with all this.

The story mode has one of the strongest starts I can remember in years, as your prep-school party boy Jason and his idly rich friends skydive onto the wrong tropical paradise and get themselves kidnapped by pirates and slave traders. The short introduction is wonderfully effective at both making you resent the privilege of the protagonist and his ilk, and filling you with greater revulsion at their inhuman treatment by the psychopathic pirate leader Vaas. This guy is one of the most genuinely and believably chilling video game villains in ages, leading a cast made up of pretty colorful and well-acted characters who play out the struggle between the pirates and the native Rakyat people for control of Rook Island.

What follows is a lengthy campaign comprising Jason's attempt to ingratiate himself to the Rakyat and other influential figures on the island, in an effort to spring his friends from captivity and get the hell out of there. The succession of story missions presents an uneven mix of great outdoor setups--where the kind of unpredictable mayhem and destruction inherent to open-world games prevails--and a few too many basic corridor crawls, which end up feeling a bit like a slog and are not where this game excels. The best part of Far Cry 3 is when you're running around out there in that enormous open jungle environment, where just about anything can happen. With pirates, mercenaries, native rebels, and both docile and predatory animals all going about their business (and constantly getting in fights with each other), a host of controllable vehicles from ATVs to trucks to hang gliders, an entire arsenal of military-grade weapons hardware at your disposal, and the ability to set practically everything on fire, hilarious and unique events aren't just an occasional delight, they're the norm.

The free-form combat really encourages you to play the way you want.

Far Cry 3 takes some concepts whole cloth from other great open-world games like Assassin's Creed and Red Dead Redemption, but it's easy to look past the direct inspirations since the lifted elements just make this game way more fun. You'll need to climb and fix up a number of disabled radio towers, each of which acts as a unique platforming challenge unto itself, to reveal the surrounding map and side missions. Getting those transmitters back online also adds more guns to your ever-growing arsenal. Hunting and gathering herbs are important early-game activities, since you can craft the resulting items directly into better equipment and power-up items, and it's just fun to stalk your prey in the underbrush--and things get ridiculous quick when it turns out a tiger has been stalking you at the same time. There's even a leveling system and a full three-way skill tree that lets you spec out your character in ways that cater to the way you like to play. You'll probably end up with all the skills unlocked by the very end of the story, because Far Cry 3's prevailing ethos seems to be about making sure you're having fun in the open world as much as possible. All of these elements combine to give you a constant feedback loop of character progression that makes it really rewarding to get out there and do as much of this stuff as possible. Some of the formal side missions are pretty simplistic and don't stay entertaining for long, but there's so much else to do out there that you're not likely to get bored in this game.

Enemy-held checkpoints--one of the weakest points of Far Cry 2, due to their neverending stream of respawning enemies--become maybe the best part of Far Cry 3, since they're now a formal type of side mission. The enemy-tagging mechanic of the original Far Cry, and Crytek's subsequent efforts with the Crysis series, is especially useful here since you can now tag an enemy on the fly just by aiming at him for a second, and once he's tagged, you can see his movements clearly through walls. Each one of the roughly three-dozen outposts on the island thus becomes its own little self-contained combat puzzle, which you can approach from any angle and deal with however you want, whether by picking off enemies from a distance with a silenced sniper rifle, going in with a blaze of gunfire, or sticking the guards in the back with some amazingly fun combo takedown moves, better versions of which you unlock as you level up. There are even two levels of bonus experience if you manage to clear out an entire outpost without alerting anyone. Taking over outposts is one of the most interesting things to do in the game all the way up to the end, and they just get more satisfying the more special attacks you've unlocked.

It's a good thing Far Cry 3 gets so much mileage out of just about every aspect of its gameplay, because by the time the credits rolled I felt extremely let down by the squandered potential of the plot. At the outset, the game goes out of its way to stress what a pampered scaredy cat Jason is, but then never justifies why he's immediately able to skin animals, operate high-level military hardware, and gun down hundreds of soldiers like some kind of special forces survivalist. The game repeatedly relies on that tired old video game cop-out, the dream sequence, to avoid actually having to address major plot points, which usually leaves you asking "What the hell just happened?" But you never find out. And the story has a fundamental problem with momentum. There's a protracted sequence in the middle made up of repeated fetch quests, and the whole thing really starts to run out of steam in the last third or so, after it prematurely wraps up some story threads that should have formed the basis of the entire game right up to the climax. The only reason I care enough about the story's failures is because it's so darn good early in the game, and if it had matched that quality evenly through to the end, we'd probably be talking about this as one of the best games of this entire console generation.

You'd be surprised how often the wildlife does your job for you.

You sure can't accuse the game of lacking for content, though. In addition to the massive open-world story mode that you could spend dozens of hours in, there's a healthy suite of multiplayer modes too. The developers set out to include a full cooperative campaign that's more than a little similar to Left 4 Dead, right down to the four stereotypical characters (such as an Eastern European mobster and a Trainspotting-esque Scottish hoodlum) you can play as. There's a neat story justification for all this, with a lengthy CG cutscene setting the whole campaign up, and the things that happen in the co-op campaign tie into the world the game creates in a reasonably clever way.

The scenarios in the co-op campaign are linear, standard first-person shooter affairs that don't offer the sort of open, varied gameplay that the main campaign is so good at. You're basically moving from one area to the next, fighting off a bunch of enemies, and occasionally completing some objective. There's some amusing variety here and there, though, like a sequence where all four players are positioned up on a ledge and can only use an unlimited supply of grenades to take out a horde of enemies rushing in (and a player ranking afterward awards bonus experience based on how well you did). There's quite an elaborate loadout and class system here that lets you unlock not only new weapons and attachments but basic passive bonuses and even some team area-of-effect buffs like you'd see in an MMO. That leveling system also carries over to a perfunctory competitive multiplayer mode replete with its own leveling system, unlocks, and ability to prestige. It's fine that this mode is in here if you're really looking to wring as much time out of this game as you can, and there's even a pretty easy-to-use map editor in here if you want to make a map where you dig a big hole in the ground and fill it with sharks. But none of this stuff is required for me to recommend Far Cry 3. The game more than justifies its existence with the single-player mode alone.

The player progression makes it really satisfying to keep doing side activities and leveling up.

You'd be remiss when talking about Far Cry 3 not to mention how good this game looks on the PC, with the sort of DirectX 11 features that will stress any hardware currently on the market. I had plenty of those "Wow, games look like this now?" moments while creeping through the brush or sailing over the island on a hang glider. It also scales quite well; I was able to get perfectly acceptable performance out of my nearly three-year-old machine at home on above-average settings, though I was having so much fun with the game that I couldn't resist upgrading my video card just to max it out. The console versions retain a surprising amount of the PC version's fidelity, down to the density of the island's foliage and the shafts of sunlight peeking through tree branches, but they do so at a terrible cost to the frame rate. The game is generally playable, and if you haven't seen the PC version you won't know what you're missing, but with performance well below 30 frames per second that dips down to 20 or worse in the heaviest action, you shouldn't play this game on a console unless you have no other choice. Even a modestly equipped PC will offer a much better experience.

Ultimately, Far Cry 3 left me a little conflicted. It's a smartly designed open-world game with a ton of stuff to do, and the random acts of hilarity that occur out in the jungle will constantly leave you with unique stories you'll be desperate to tell your friends. If the story had made good on the strength of its initial premise, Far Cry 3 would have been shoo-in for best game of the year. As it stands, it's still the most fun I've had in an open world in ages, a game that plays so well and looks so good, I wish every other piece of it reached the same high bar. But you should play it anyway.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
186 Comments
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Edited by derry2010

Yay!

Also, Far Cry looks awesome.

Posted by smitty86

5 Stars? Can't say I saw that coming. Well done Far Cry.

Posted by Mijati

Might have to pick this up once I get a new graphics card at the end of the month, luckily around the time of steam sales so might even be able to pick it up a bit cheaper than full price.

Posted by MasturbatingestBear

There is now officially more games that I want to play than time that I have. This sucks. Gonna have to wait a little bit.

Posted by Elow

Might have to pick this up!

Posted by Lumley

Wow, definitely need to get this! Shame I'll be playing the 360 version though - I don't currently have a PC, only a laptop.

Posted by AMyggen

Yeah, without spoiling anything I can say that the ending for this game is a bit...dissapointing. It's still extremely fun to just fuck around in the world though, and it's the most purely fun game I've played all year.

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

I figured Jeff was doing the review and I had a feeling that the game's story wouldn't hold up at the end oh well.

Posted by MrViral

The review sounds a little more like a 4 star than a 5. Guess the good overshadowed the minor problems Brad had? Still, if I had a Gaming-ready PC, I'd pick this up straightaway.

Online
Posted by BeachThunder

I look forward to picking this up eventually.

Posted by TAFAE

There's a neat story justification for all this, with a lengthy CG cutscene setting the whole campaign up, and the ."

Posted by BaconGames

Great game, great villain, shitty story, got it.

Posted by CaLe

I think this game is good and worthy of 5 stars, but I'm already tired of it and don't wanna load it up again.

Posted by Video_Game_King

To be fair, Brad, can you name any other game where you can hunt tigers, crash hang gliders, and stab pirates?

Posted by Tordah

I'm honestly surprised to see that this game turned out as well as to be worthy 5 stars, but I'm glad it did.

Edited by mrfluke

once the villians are fantastic then im good if the story is middling, as really? who is going to remember jason brody, even with the arc that character will go through

i think even ubisoft knew this at the end, hence why vaas is the coverboy for the game.as character wise this game will be remembered for vaas.

Posted by avantegardener

I was so meh about this all the way up to the quick look, then suddenly it became must have game for christs birthday.

Posted by jozzy

Been playing the game for a couple of days now and I completely agree with the criticisms, and also the end score. In the category "Fun", this game wins game of the year for me. (The Walking Dead wins the category "Engaging")

Posted by CornBREDX

"There's a neat story justification for all this, with a lengthy CG cutscene setting the whole campaign up, and the ."

And the what? AHHH I MUST KNOW! haha jk jk, but seriously your sentence trailed off there.

I enjoyed reading this. Really looking forward to eventually playing this game.

Posted by Titl

This game is the most fun i've had in with a videogame in a long time! pretty much GOTY for me, after The Walking Dead.

Edited by CornBREDX

Woops something weird going on. Sorry for double posting

Posted by civid

man, between Vaas and Clem the Best New Character award this year is going to be fucking INTENSE

Posted by mbr2

Bad menus, gimmicky crafting, unintentionally hilarious story, writing and characters keep trying to be serious, annoying notifications all the time that you can't turn off. 5/5 stars.

Posted by murisan

@mbr2 said:

Bad menus, gimmicky crafting, unintentionally hilarious story, writing and characters keep trying to be serious, annoying notifications all the time that you can't turn off. 5/5 stars.

Opinions. how do they work?

Posted by NTM

@mbr2: The strengths must really outweigh the problems.

Posted by MjHealy

I'm gonna get the 360 version, you can't stop me! Looking to diving in when I get it for Christmas.

Posted by GioVANNI
@mbr2 said:

Bad menus, gimmicky crafting, unintentionally hilarious story, writing and characters keep trying to be serious, annoying notifications all the time that you can't turn off. 5/5 stars.

List only the things you dislike about the game.  5/5
Posted by RecSpec

Sounds like a great open-world  game. Bummed that the story isn't fantastic, but then again, not surprised. 

Posted by Oni

@smokyexe: DUDE. Don't post spoilers like that in the review comments, you ass!

Posted by Dylabaloo

@smokyexe: Thank you for spoilers. Everyone who wants to enjoy the game spoiler free, avoid this comment.

Posted by Brad

@mbr2 said:

Bad menus, gimmicky crafting, unintentionally hilarious story, writing and characters keep trying to be serious, annoying notifications all the time that you can't turn off. 5/5 stars.

Had more fun with it than anything else this year. 5/5 stars.

Feel free to write your own user review.

Posted by bkbroiler

well, fuck.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

If Saint's Row the Third was in a dead heat for GotY with its ending, Far Cry 3 should do at least that well.

Edited by KoolAid

@MrViral said:

The review sounds a little more like a 4 star than a 5. Guess the good overshadowed the minor problems Brad had? Still, if I had a Gaming-ready PC, I'd pick this up straightaway.

I dunno, he said this was almost shoo-in for GOTY and will likely be a heavy contender still. I read it as he was ready to give the game 6 stars if not for his story hangups.

Online
Posted by CommodoreGroovy

I've been playing this game recently. Most of this review is pretty much on the money, but the one thing that this game lacks are good side quests. All of the side quests I've done in the game just feel half-assed; most are just fetch quests that require you to find three objects in the distance, or occasionally, you get more unique side quests, but they still don't reward the player with any decent feeling of a narrative or gameplay accomplishment. It's just like, "oh thanks for finding those for me, here's 500 dollars." It feels like just another way in the game to get money, not a meaningful impact for you or your character in the game world.

Just imagine side quests on the level of say, the elder scrolls series, plus unlocking something unique for one of your weapons each time you complete a side quest -- like a unique skin or attachment. Now that would be pretty great.

Posted by Zeik

@MrViral said:

The review sounds a little more like a 4 star than a 5.

Yeah, that's the impression I got from it too, but maybe it's just me. Squandered story potential is a much bigger deal to me than some.

Online
Posted by blacklab

Some words got accidentally in the 4th to last 'graph.

Posted by mellotronrules

while it is greatly disheartening to hear the game doesn't really deliver on the bro-festival (brostival?) of the opening, it looks like i'll be getting this on steam.

Posted by VisariLoyalist

This game performs so flawlessly on pc. The framerate is around 30 fps maxed out (excluding anti aliasing) on my machine but it still feels smooth to play even if the visuals sometimes get a little choppy and it's gorgeous looking.

Posted by Oni

@smokyexe: Yeah, well, it just isn't cool. Good on you for removing it so quickly though. Just, be tactful, y'know? Start a spoiler topic or something if you want to have that kind of discussion.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Getting my copy later today

Edited by MeatSim

If it's a well made open world sandbox game. Then I can look past a disappointing story.

Posted by Dylabaloo

@smokyexe said:

@Oni: @Dylabaloo: Really? Is that a surprise? What did you expect? An original outcome for a ...? I'm really sorry then.

I really am tho. I deleted the comment.

As Oni mentioned this isn't the place for that kind of discussion, people (like me in this case) usually come to reviews when they are undecided whether they want the game and seeing your comment just took all the surprise out the story. To the point where I'm reconsidering purchasing it; next time use a spoiler tag.

Posted by Little_Socrates

said:

If the story had made good on the strength of its initial premise, Far Cry 3 would have been shoo-in for best game of the year.

The Walking Dead for Giant Bomb's Game of the Year, everybody!

Edited by SpiderJerusalem

"If the story had made good on the strength of its initial premise, Far Cry 3 would have been shoo-in for best game of the year. As it stands, it's still the most fun I've had in an open world in ages, a game that plays so well and looks so good, I wish every other piece of it reached the same high bar. But you should play it anyway."

...Yet you gave the game a perfect score? The story stuff later in the game seemed to bother you quite a lot, at least enough to prevent you from giving the game five stars.

Sometimes I just don't understand you, Brad.

Posted by buft

shockingly good score, I did not expect this a few months back

Posted by wrecks

This game is RADICAL!

Posted by lockload

Brad, the tattoos are what has helped his transformation from average joe to gunslinger this is mentioned pretty much as soon as he wakes up after getting his first tattoo

Posted by Captain_Insano

@SpiderJerusalem said:

"If the story had made good on the strength of its initial premise, Far Cry 3 would have been shoo-in for best game of the year. As it stands, it's still the most fun I've had in an open world in ages, a game that plays so well and looks so good, I wish every other piece of it reached the same high bar. But you should play it anyway."

...Yet you gave the game a perfect score? The story stuff later in the game seemed to bother you quite a lot, at least enough to prevent you from giving the game five stars.

Sometimes I just don't understand you, Brad.

I feel that you (and many others) misunderstand GB's gaming system. 5/5 is not a 'perfect' score. It simply means that you should/must play that game. 4/5 means the game is pretty good and should play, 3/5 it's alright, you might want to play etc.

That's why I like and trust GB's rating system.

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