Giant Bomb Review

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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.

186 Comments
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Posted by Solh0und

The story is probably the only thing holding me back from saying "Hey guys, this game is great!"

Posted by coaxmetal

I am clad that he gave this a 5. Not because I have played it and think it deserves a 5, though im sure it does and I am looking forward to playing it after reading this and hearing about it -- I loved the emergent nature of the world in FC2 and it sounds like they nailed that part, but because he had mentioned on the bombcast that he might knock it for the story being disappointing. Now, I think stories in games are generally garbage, and would be fine with that, except that brad also reviewed Diablo 3 this year, and that, while also a fun game, had probably the worst story and writing in any game I can think of/

Anyway, brad didn't do that, and didn't set up a double standard, and wrote a good review for a game I am looking forward to playing.

Posted by Halabec

DO NOT BUY THIS GAME based on this review. I'm so disappointed. I bought this game based on Brad's excitement and I have never been so frustrated at dying at artificial limitations. Drop 10 feet? Die. Try and raid a base? Sorry, you only get 20 bullets when you start, can't kill more than half of a base, and you die. Try to find a boar hide to expand your ammo limit? If you can find a boar after the beginning, good luck killing one without attracting 10 guys and a tiger or a komodo dragon or 5. And you don't have the ammo to survive it. Of course, you could try running, but you can't outrun shit and, god forbid you hit a ledge, because, see complaint 1.

Biggest waste of $50 ever. Such a big regret of mine.

Posted by Halabec

@MAST said:

The internet seriously makes me hate humanity in every way. No matter what website I am on... The world really is 3/4th's stupid.

The things I mentioned are things that should be mentioned in this review. Without exception. If they don't bother you, go ahead and buy it. Looks like you should be doing some hating on yourself, too.

Posted by Spongetwan

I stayed up all night playing FARCRY3 and I have to say it is a blast!! Soooo good! Love unlocking stuff

Posted by Spongetwan

@Halabec: You have to play smart. Get a silencer for your gun or get a bow and arrow. As far as the raids go disable the alarm before you do anything so that they cant call in reinforcements. The game just makes you think alittle.

Posted by Regular_Kirk

After listening to Brad and the gang sound so deflated and disappointed with this game on the Bombcast I couldn't help but chuckle at the perfect score it ultimately received. Don't get me wrong, I understand that part of their disappointment was based on the fact that an otherwise great/fun game is weighed down by the bad writing and that the game is just THAT much fun to play that it outweighs the negatives, but still you would think those negatives would ding the score a little by one star.

That said I don't really give a crap about scores. It's the content of the review that's most important. Still five out five makes me chuckle.

Posted by gamefreak9

@MAST: Criticism improves quality, if you can't understand how things work please shut up. If you heard the guys talking about it, it sounds much more like a 4 star game. If you pair this with adverts in the background it could very well suggest that ad money has influenced their decision.

Posted by bunnymud

As for the GotY...the ending of Farcry 3 has to be pretty bad to beat out The Walking Dead's camera\

Posted by Nawls

@Regular_Kirk: From the site FAQ regarding the criteria of a 5 star rating: "While we don't believe any game is perfect, we recommend this game without reservation."

Brad's review and his discussion on the podcast reflects that sentiment. I pretty much felt the same way about Far Cry 2, but instead of poor writing it was something along the lines "the parts don't fit together as well as they should." Otherwise, Far Cry 2 provided me with some of my favorite moments in a videogame, ever, all without heavy scripting. From the various discussions surrounding Far Cry 3, it sounds like they've streamlined that "great moment" device and that completely obliterates reservations concerning the narrative.

Posted by jawsvvvvv

Love this game....bought it only because of your quick look. I thought I was going to pee my pants when the guy with the glasses jumped 20 feet in the air!!! Classic...

Posted by Pastajensen

Did not quite like the consolepart regarding frame rate.. but I must have it.. The review convinced me.

Posted by CBRodela

Oh man! I think I might have to upgrade the gaming PC so I can play this. Hopefully Santa is nice to me!

Posted by fleshribbon

So, I keep reading/hearing from the GB crew about how "if you have a gaming PC, that's the version to get" but I never know what sort of performance to expect on my ~2-3 year old Core2 Quad Q8300 system with 6GB RAM and an NVIDIA GTX460. SWTOR and GW2 run at about 40FPS @ 1920x1080. Yeah, it may look sharper but the framerate could end up being worse than on consoles.

Posted by Cold_Wolven

Great review Brad, it really goes to show that game can still be fantastic without an in depth story line.

Posted by Darkstorn

I've been having a ton of fun with the game on PC. I'm only about halfway through, but when I get tired of fetch quests there are always more side missions to partake in and (best of all) more outposts to conquer.

I'm having trouble dealing with dogs in outposts, though - they always seem to alert the pirates and screw me out of the 1500xp.

Posted by NTM

@Halabec said:

DO NOT BUY THIS GAME based on this review. I'm so disappointed. I bought this game based on Brad's excitement and I have never been so frustrated at dying at artificial limitations. Drop 10 feet? Die. Try and raid a base? Sorry, you only get 20 bullets when you start, can't kill more than half of a base, and you die. Try to find a boar hide to expand your ammo limit? If you can find a boar after the beginning, good luck killing one without attracting 10 guys and a tiger or a komodo dragon or 5. And you don't have the ammo to survive it. Of course, you could try running, but you can't outrun shit and, god forbid you hit a ledge, because, see complaint 1.

Biggest waste of $50 ever. Such a big regret of mine.

I would have felt this way if I had only played the first hour, the game gets significantly better as you unlock new things, and you get better at it as you play it as well because of learning all the things the game offers. You say this as if you haven't played enough of it.

Posted by NTM

@Pastajensen: When you play it at first, you'll be like "Holy hell, this frame-rate is shit!" and be disappointed for a while, maybe even a little frustrated, but then later on, for some reason, it's either the frame-rate that gets a little better, or you'll simply stop minding it.

Posted by N2NOther

I'm playing on 360 and haven't had a single frame rate issue at all. I heard Brad mention this on the bombcast the day I picked up the game and was worried. So far I ha s unlocked and equipped every bag/holster/wallet/ammo pouch so I've been playing a while SMS not a single issue. I say this so that anyone who is on the fence or has trepidation about getting it for the 360, don't worry. It plays great.

Posted by Pastajensen

@NTM: Iactually bougth a little later after commenting and I must say I find the frame rate to be ok. I can't say I have experinced any lag on the PS3 (atlesat I did not notice any after the introduction).

So after a few days of playing I find it challenging and fun (To take out a camp w/o alerting anyone is cool). Looking forward to give it a fwe more round when I get back home from work.

Edited by kramni

I think the developers made a mistake: it's not skinning but gulting.

* Spoiler Alert*

Played out the game: The first animal Jason 'skinned ' you heard his scardely line he's saying, so to let you know Jason is a real wuss in the beginning. That's why he is also afraid of climbing that first Watch tower. But when you progress through the main story, you will see that the further Jason is progressing in Citra's temple, the meaner and bloodier he becomes. So i disagree with the review here. You definitely see Jason having more fun killing. Heck, when his friends wants to leave the Island, Jason is upset and wants to kill some more ;)

The progress of some important characters i find boring. Killing them should have been made more difficult, more intense. It's just: meh..Also the ending should be killing Vaas, not Hoyt. Another thing: i heard there are signature weapons. That's a good thing :) Maybe play the game again and start doing things in another way gets you other signature wapons? Who knows? I really like this game dispite some minor ' flaws' (pop-up text thats screams you must do the main mission is soooo irritating and the 'you are leaving the mission zone, get back' in an open world....)

I really hope there will be FC4, instant buy!

ps: sorry for my language, not native speaking.

Edited by kramni

About Jason Brody, who suddenly transforms into a killer that can handle guns with almost no recoil: in the beginning of the game you get weapons with less accuracy then those wepons you can get later in the game. I think this is also a way of saying that Brody isn't all that good with weapons when he starts the game. ;) At least it's an arguable thing.

Posted by iainfarrell

I literally cannot wait to get this into my eye holes through my PC :)

Posted by tamriilin

Hahaha Brad's 5-star splash is the best.

Posted by honkyjesus

I found Sleeping Dogs a little more fresh, but this damn game is outstanding.

Posted by Tangalicious

@CommodoreGroovy:

I know what you mean. The Chinese temple/artifact quest line with Buck seemed incredibly forced as a main quest. (Which arguably works for FC3's living-a-fantasy story). It could have have easily been a great side quest or even better, broken up into a few side quests while you unravel the hidden story.

Edited by HellBound

Just got to Hoyt's island. This game is fucking awesome.

I am sad of the impending let down though, however Jason's spiral into being a cold blood killer is great. Even though there are not a lot of moments to showcase this, I can just feel it myself as each set gets bigger and bigger, get more upgrades, and then face whatever is in front of me with just a smile of what chaos I can create.

Stabbing a guy then throwing a knife and killing a guy from a bit away is still one of the best things ever.

The only problem I have had is the limitations of upgrades when you first start. I like to do side quests first to try and get as much money and experience as possible, but in order to "unlock" the next upgrade I was forced to play the story. Not a big deal as the story missions are fun, but I guess it makes sense in the terms of progression.

Posted by theTimeStreamer

i love this game. i havent played any of the previous games but my god. it's insane how good it is.

Posted by RenegadeSaint

Just finished this game and I absolutely agree with this review. My personal 2012 GOTY and one of my favorites of this entire generation. Just a really fantastic experience.

Posted by AbsoluteGaming01

Why does every review say they're rich, preppy kids? Preppy kids live in the Northeast, yet Jason his friends live in Santa Monica. Also, the only ones that are close to rich are Keith and Oliver. Get your facts straight.

Posted by blueinferno

Just finished playing this. Hated the story, and the missions later on in the game were incredibly frustrating. I was constantly being overwhelmed by enemy fire and was hardly given a chance to recover and retaliate. The takedowns are a lot of fun to pull off but there were too many forced stealth sections in the game, even when stealth wasn't mandatory it was still encouraged. Anyway, the best part of this game is the freedom you're given, something I'll finally be able to experience more of after that miserable campaign.

Posted by SoulHarvester45

Apparently, I'm one of the few people who enjoyed the story from beginning to end, and understood everything that was happening. It's a great game either way, but did people really not understand the story all that well?