They Got It So Right
Far Cry has been a series that always seemed like a series that is prepared to be excellent but odd decisions and ideas ruined the concept. The original was silly. The sequel was a chore to play due to the constant respawning of enemies at checkpoints and an overly complex story. I've seen the brilliance of the idea in all of the releases, but always felt let down --- especially with 2 --- when the execution was horribly flawed.
Far Cry 3 was the best game of 2012. Nothing is really comparable. It is nearly perfect in almost all ways except for storyline --- but the plot is not usually a major issue and, for me, is not one here, either. The visuals, even on the 360, are gorgeous. Framerate does dip noticeably (we are hitting the tech limits of the 7 year old console), but it performs well. Enemy AI is clever and the environment is chaotic enough that the animals are just as likely to kill your foes as they are to kill you. The game has a central plot and path, but there are numerous ways to attack the game and spend hours doing side quests that don't feel like busy work. That the final boss is so underwhelming (the enemy that the marketing campaign is centered upon is brilliant --- the main boss, far less so) is a bit of a sad mark against the game. And your rebel alliance gets decidedly weird as the game goes on (with some fairly odd nudity thrown in for good measure).
The side missions, though, are far from wastes of time. In fact, they are highly useful. Hunting allows you to get rare skins to craft the highest rank things you can create yourself. The weaponry feels solid. There isn't a "weak" weapon in the bunch.
In the story, you and your douche-y friends are kidnapped by pirates on a lovely buy deserted island. Your brother is murdered in front of you and, somehow, you go from scared kid to obscenely talented killer in the span of moments. It is near immediate with the turning on of your kick-ass abilities. Your ability to escape the slave camp gets you in with the resistance and the story goes from there. There are twists and a disturbing ending, but the story works and, aside from a few quibbles, is a fun romp.
But the AI is the story of the game. Finally replacing F.E.A.R as the game where the AI really does make a huge difference, Far Cry 3 has some clever enemies trying to kill you. One of your main chores are to liberate assorted pirate encampments and you have numerous ways to approach these missions. If you don't do it carefully, reinforcements will be called in en masse to slaughter you and that is not good for anybody. My favorite trick was to destroy the alarms with rockets from afar, but you can also snipe enemies, unleash captive animals, or take your chances and kill any guard who is near the alarm and continuously kill any who approach it. You also need to activate radio towers and the first person travelling mechanics are likely what Mirror's Edge was aiming for in terms of precision and control. First person platforming is never a good idea, but I doubt it can be executed better than this.
There is no reason to not play this. You owe it to yourself to play it. I know, the PC version is better, but the 360 version is playable and a great time. You will have tons of stuff to do and will want to spend the hours needed to do it. A phenomenal title.