A vast portion of a tropical island is open to exploration in the most recent Far Cry installment and our new hero is forced to come face to face with what it means to be truly insane. Far Cry 3 puts you in charge of a protagonist tasked with difficult, life-changing decisions that most of us would never think could happen to us. The previous story placed us in sub-Saharan Africa where the player’s character suffered through malaria and battled injustice in the form of the drug and weapons cartels. Each of the protagonists was extremely capable and often out matched his enemies with as much wit as he or she did brute strength and knowledge. Abandoning the multiple protagonist choices Ubisoft has put us in control of Jason Brody a young & preppy American from a life of privilege whose world is about to change forever.
Jason was vacationing on the bare edge of accepted norms with his brother Grant and a handful of other young adults, they were doing things like sky-diving, surfing, climbing, drinking and generally enjoying the island lifestyle. The group is intercepted by a gang of island pirates after they land off-target on a skydiving jump. Each member of the group lands on different parts of the island but they are all in pretty deep trouble once the jump goes bad. Far Cry 3 puts you in the thick of things right away and in a few short minutes you’ve got a gun to your head and you’re friend’s lives in your hands.
Grant & Jason are captured together by Vaas, the leader of the local arm of a violent gun & drug cartel. Vaas plans to use the "rich white boys" as bargaining chips for a boatload of cash from anyone who’ll pay for their freedom. In their first few moments of captivity Grant convinces Jason that they have to escape and fight to free their friends or soon they all may be dead. A few moments later Grant is dead, shot to death, after teaching you a few quick but important lessons about how to move around in the world of Far Cry. Apparently one of the lessons he forgot to follow himself was how to avoid being shot in the neck’s breathing tube.
Having killed Grant outright Vaas thinks to give Jason a sporting chance and with that comes a 5 second head-start. Things have now gone from bad to worse as what was going to be a somewhat harmless ransoming has turned into a deadly game of cat & mouse. Now you're the doubtful & unprepared mouse while Vaas is the well-trained, native, psychopath bent on seeing Jason dead in a shallow grave.
After a short run and a dip in an ocean inlet Jason is saved by Dennis and taken to the safety of the local village. It seems the locals are at odds with Vaas' group and they are eager to help anyone who would oppose the violent cartel, that means you. Citra the tribal leader of the village fancies Jason and gives him a Tattoo welcoming him to the tribe. Since Jason managed to escape Vaas’ clutches Citra believes there’s something more to him than meets the eye. Dennis tells you that by unscrambling the radio towers around the island that you'll gain a clearer indication of where key resources are on the island, you’ll also be helping the village survive. If you're going to rescue the rest of your friends, alive, you'll have to do so smartly with the help of the residents who've grown to hate Vaas' gang. That's the impetus for Far Cry 3, save your friends with the help of the locals - maybe in the end make a better life for the entire island by waging war on a violent and psychopathic cartel. Easy right?
The most impressive feature of Far Cry 3 is the lush and beautiful environment that Jason soon finds himself traversing. Like the previous Far Cry the developers at Ubisoft have strived to create a world with not just one biome but the complete set one would encounter in an environment this large. Since the game covers an island that is many miles in diameter you’ll find the use of a car important or you can literally spend an hour or so crossing high mountains and low river valleys. Each area is created with loving care from Dr. Earnhardt’s cliffside house to the river outlets that feed into shark infested reefs. You'll cross the line between dense jungle and bright beaches without even noticing the transition, if you do notice it will be because the result is natural and seamless.
The characters you encounter including Vaas, Dr. Earnhardt, Dennis, and Citra are all rendered with amazing detail. The animation and acting also strengthen the graphical achievements by adding lifelike reactions, mannerisms and even palpable emotion. As with most modern games professional motion capture artists paired with traditional voice acting talent mix to create the final characters we grow to love. Each of these is given a high importance in Far Cry 3 as the movements and voices of each character give new life to their detailed forms.
You’ll deal with friendship, loss and betrayal in this story and as you encounter each it is the faces of the characters in the game that will guide you most accurately. You can literally see the sadness in Dr. Earnhardt’s eyes and smile while Dennis’ face typically strikes you as friendly with a tinge of suspicion.
Many of the features in Far Cry 3 meld together so that segmenting them for analyzation is difficult. If I liked a character like Vaas or Dr Earnhardt I can’t say they were “just” rendered well because it’s a combination of the music, voice acting, graphics, story and motion capture that really sway my opinion. This effect is more evident in Far Cry 3 than in any other game I’ve played this year.
GameplayFar Cry 3 is a functionally advanced version of the tried and true Far Cry gameplay mechanic. The world is filled with objectives but these pale in comparison to the missions you will end up completing. Some of the first missions encountered give you the freedom to approach it anyway you choose. Do you want to snipe enemies from afar? Do you fancy exploding some barrels next to key targets before you're spotted? Is tactically placing C4 your forte? Far Cry 3 caters to all of these gameplay styles and because of this it is an amazingly fun game to get addicted to. There’s plenty of weapons to collect and given the layout of the map objectives the game represents an achievement hunter and completionists dream combination.
I was hoping that the repetitiveness of climbing a tower, fighting through a checkpoint or hunting for mission objectives & loot would be offset by the new gameplay mechanics but as it stands they help little. Weaving repeated objectives into the story missions would have made things more seamless and realistic, as it stands the quests of Far Cry 3 are very segmented. You can easily breeze through the game by avoiding the side missions and tackling the main story quests and few of the weapons that are unlocked are really vital. If you’re surgical with the pistol your can be just as effective as someone who's wielding only a rifle.
As the game progresses and you’re forced to kill/skin animals for weapon holsters, wallets and loot sacks you’ll increase your characters ability to carry just about everything. When you start the game you feel like a dude wearing a bathing suit with a single pocket for your keys...which you’ve somehow lost. By the time you finish the game you should feel like a mini Rambo with straps, weapons, pouches and backpacks all tied to your person.
Another welcome addition to this Far Cry is the skill advancements and the method by which you can track their progression. As you progress you will choose perks that better outfit your character in one of three skill sets for each level reached. Let’s say you want to heal faster or more efficiently or have more steady aim, those features are part of the progression trees. For each skill unlocked your character will receive a new tattoo on his arm along a tribal banding. This makes your choices for Jason reflect on his arm in a way that is different for each path you pick for him.
There are a few things that bothered me as I played my first time through. The frequency of identical enemy vehicles on the road in certain areas was very odd. If I was hunting near a road invariably a jeep full of pirates would spot me and sure enough I’d be required to kill them so I could return to skinning the Cassowary I just killed. In the time it took me to turn around and locate my quarry another jeep would roll up filled to the brim with pirates. I kid you not by the time I had finished skinning two Komodo Dragons that attacked me I had four jeeps parked around me and 12 dead pirates to loot as well.
Small problems aside the biggest issues I had with the game were the busy & useless UI and the pathing bugs of the AI. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how the weapon purchasing and resupply system worked all due to a muted yellow “Y” icon 10 pixels high at the bottom right corner of the screen. As for pathing, enemies would try to run around corners for cover and would get stuck, If you payed attention you could easily outsmart various groupings of enemies by placing small buildings in between you and them. Ubisoft has been quoted on Kotaku as saying the game is quickly being worked on to remove annoying UI popups and obscurations. The final UI of the game will be much more clean which will eventually highlight the wonderful graphics of the game.
You’re probably most interested in Far Cry 3’s story and for good reason. As a game you can beat Far Cry 3 much faster than say, Skyrim, but you’ll likely experience far more WTF moments in Ubisoft's new title. This short story is filled with trippy sequences and vibrant characters who poke and prod at what we’ve come to accept as normal. Vaas as an antagonist represents a welcomed psychosis that adds the same level of dynamism to this game that The Joker brings to the Batman Arkham Asylum series.
The ending of Far Cry 3 is immensely rewarding but it is likely to shock you as the protagonist will go through many changes over the course of the game. It’s actually kind of hard to accept that my character changed this quickly over such a short period of actual gameplay. Yes the game wraps up quickly but as an episode in the world of Far Cry it is essentially complete offering an inside look into the complex choices Jason must make as he fights for family, friends and love over a few short weeks. The psychosis of Vaas and the island people riddles the story the very end of the game. No one will argue that Vaas is the bad guy, he’s even the focus of the cover art, but after the credits roll you’ll find yourself questioning who’s really the “bad guy”.
The voice acting is very strong. Jason is played by Gianpaolo Venuta and his performance is valuable but as a protagonist with little/no facetime we don’t become as attached to him as we might other characters. Vaas (Michael Mando) is a predictable unpredictable character. Let me rephrase that. Michael Mando plays Vaas expertly and provides enough tension and insanity to keep the player fearing each encounter you’ll eventually have with him.
Environmental effects such as water, foliage, animals, and even weather are just as good as any other top of the line game but with Far Cry 3 Ubisoft has paid special attention to each as your character wages an atypical war on his foes. You’ll become familiar with the sound of the Komodo Dragon before a pack of two or three of them pounce on you. If you’ve got an above-par sound system you’ll be able to locate enemies and game by sound alone and this adds an additional level of realism to the game.
Far Cry 3 is a solid shooter that replaces the swords & spells of games like Skyrim in favor of assault rifles and hand grenades. Much like Skyrim the game features an open world that allows the player to explore at their leisure while completing the main storyline. The protagonist Jason Brody will fight his way through some extremely difficult choices as he battles to save his friends from certain death. At the end of the game players will have unwrapped the enigma that is Vaas and his enemies the tribal warriors of the Rakyat.
Ubisoft has created a fine game that has strong characters in a deadly drama set on a colorful island backdrop. You may find some of the gameplay elements buggy or repetitive but the sheer beauty of the environment coupled with fantastic voice acting will be more than enough to smooth those bumps over while Ubisoft claims to be patching them in the near future. More so than its predecessors Far Cry 3 pulls you into a deep character driven plot web that will leave you reeling. If you see it through, your adventure in this tiny island paradise could stick with you for a long while.