Game Review: Far Cry 3
Release: December 4, 2012
Genre: Action adventure first-person shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Players: 1, 2–4 co-op, 2–8 competitive
ESRB Rating: M
Dishonored is an interesting game to bring up when talking about Far Cry 3 because there are similarities, but the differences kind of highlight how contrasting two experiences can be despite being viewed through the same aperture. When I talk to people about Dishonored, we always talk about how we did things. Did you go into this vent or did you go into this room or did you go down any other number of seemingly endless paths to infinite possibilities? Far Cry 3, on the other hand, always resulted in conversations about the things that happened to us.
Far Cry 3 is a sequel to Far Cry 2 only in the sense that uses a similar structure and a sequel to the original Far Cry in that it’s on a tropical island. The beauty of the Far Cry series is that it can be handled much like how the Alien movie franchise was/is handled; a new director and a new direction with each entry. Far Cry was more or less a straightforward action title that eventually devolved into supernatural shenanigans. Far Cry 2 was an incredibly ambitious and divisive title that featured environmental systems propagation, weapons and health management, and an insanely oddball and unique NPC death-driven storyline.
Far Cry 3 has taken most of what made the second game good (open world, first-person body repair, mission structure), took out the parts that weren’t so hot (malaria, weapons degradation, rampant and frustrating enemy respawning), and added some good ol’ dumb fun. The atmosphere and cohesive vision is what sold Far Cry 2 to most defenders (apologists?), but this third entry into the series is just all about doing fun things, having crazy stuff happen, and reveling in the resulting madness.
The story actually has a great deal to do with what’s to like about Far Cry 3. The game opens with an incredible montage (and stupidly well-suited song choice) that makes you hate—just hate—the protagonist Jason Brody and his crew. They are a group of twenty-something rich kids with more money than ambition vacationing on a little-known island that you can only get to via birthright or ludicrous amounts of money, but they soon turn into a group of twenty-something hostages when it all pulls back to reveal a psychotic island warlord playing all these images back for you on your phone. This walking bucket of crazy is named Vaas and boy howdy is he a great villain. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more believable bad guy in recent years. He’s unhinged, unpredictable, and, above all, dangerous. Even if you don’t play the rest of the game, at least play the opening sequence where you escape Vaas’ camp. And then maybe a little bit more so you meet Dennis. And maybe you should climb the first radio tower. In fact, maybe you should just play the game.
Just that opening bit can show you all that makes Far Cry 3 really work. You’re introduced to how the stealth system works, which is to say amazingly. It is altogether different from how fellow first-person action title Dishonored works, but it feels just as good sneaking around since you can easily tag enemies to track their locations and your current visibility is always discretely displayed to you. And then once you upgrade your skills to include multiple takedowns and air takedowns and the ability to crouch-run and reload as you run and so on, you’ll feel like a freaking god. Most games would consistently drop newer and stronger enemies on you to match your progression, but that’s not what Far Cry 3 is about. You earned these powers and these weapons, so now you get to use them.
The way you earn these goodies are pretty straightforward but also help nudge you into exploring both the game world and how you play the game. Skills are earned with skill points, which you earn from earning experience points. You get bonus experience points from playing adeptly with headshots and takedowns or with stealth (for clearing an enemy outposts and securing a section of the island, you either get 1500 XP for being undetected, 550 XP for not having any alarms triggered, or 500 XP for just killing everyone). And then you can craft health syringes, different types of arrows, bigger weapons holsters, etc. by collecting herbs and skinning animals ranging from deer to Komodo dragons to sharks. Yeah, I said sharks.
And this is beside the fact that the simple act of moving about Far Cry 3 feels amazing. Jason Brody is fast and capable. His normal walking speed is fairly quick, but when you sprint (infinitely, I might add), you seriously haul ass. It doesn’t make you feel bad for not driving places, though throwing around those squirrely cars is fun in its own right. The vehicles in this game slide and skid to the point where you look like you’re out of control but you never feel out of control. And from the tight shooting to the emergent insanity that crops up everywhere (I once accidentally ran through an outpost while fleeing from a tiger only to happen upon a bear at the other entrance, leading to both of them killing everyone in the camp while I got in a jeep to run them over as the fire died down from the exploding Molotov guys), Far Cry 3 is just a spectacular game.
It may seem like I’m going on a bit with how much I like Far Cry 3, but that’s because I genuinely think it’s a great game. Hell, it’s probably in my top five of the year, but that’s not to say it’s not without its faults. The story may start strong but lands well within the realm of disappointing by the end, not to mention the story justifications for turning Jason Brody into an animal-skinning, dude-stabbing, bomb-crafting badass after clearly showcasing him as a scared, pampered pansy is pretty much nonexistent. And few times did I find myself saying, “yeah, good point, Jason.” Instead, I more often was yelling, “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!” Though I will say when cool things happen like with the burning thing and the flying thing and other awesome things that I don’t want to spoil, both Jason and I can agree that fuck yeah Far Cry 3 is awesome.
The peripheral stuff of the game of crafting gear, climbing those rickety, swaying, daunting radio towers, clearing outposts, and so on also clearly outshine the main story missions, which is a damn shame. Up to a point, you can’t continue doing all the fun stuff without going through a few more missions that stick you in tight corridors that totally eliminate the open-world fun that, if anything, justifies the creation of this game. I mean, they’re not all bad—not by a long shot—but a good handful of them do seem to only serve as speed bumps on the road to Funville, USA. A Bethesda-style save system might have alleviated this, but who knows.
But believe me when I say that Far Cry 3 is the most fun I’ve had all year—and possibly in the past few years—in simply playing a game. It’s never not fun taking a leaping dive off a waterfall and into the lake below and it’s never not terrifying hearing a tiger rumble behind you as you’re scoping out an outpost. There are some totally legitimate complaints I’ve heard about and experienced with the game, but when the vinegar of your manipulating the world mixes with the baking soda of the incredible number of open-world systems mixes together, you get a science fair volcano of ridiculous jubilation. I can’t recommend that you play Far Cry 3 hard enough.
+ The drive to craft gear and unlock new skills compels you to fully explore how you play the game
+ Shooting, running, driving, swimming, sneaking, and basically every other thing you do feels fantastic
+ Vaas is a terrifying and believable villain that drives a great first half of the story
– The story ends…less than ideally
– Main story missions occasionally take you out of the working open-world formula established in the side quests
Final Score: 9 out of 10