November 29, 2012
“You know what the definition of insanity is?” asks Vaas, one of Far Cry 3’s lead antagonists. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting shit to change.”
Well, perhaps it is, my crazy friend, but I'll tell you what else is insane: Far Cry 3.
Insanity is making your main character and his friends almost entirely unsympathetic. Insanity is attempting to channel Konrad’s Heart of Darkness in what is basically a trashy romp. Insanity is a proliferation of QTEs that have you doing everything from crawling through a pile of dead bodies to doing the ‘Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box’ dance in a nightclub.
Insanity is a boss fight against a giant, skyscraper tall figment of your imagination. Insanity is dedicating a massive chunk of the main campaign to what is essentially a Tomb Raider-esque action-adventure game.
Insanity is mushing all of this into an open-world title and coming up with one of the most outrageously enjoyable experiences you’re likely to play all year. Far Cry 3 is brilliant.
You are Jason Brody, a douchebag American tourist who, along with his friends is kidnapped during a boozy tropical island holiday gone wrong. After escaping captivity and finding an ally in some friendly locals, Jason must rescue his friends and get the hell off the island.
Jason and his pals are an annoying bunch. Arrogantly overprivileged, they’re such a distasteful shower of idiots that you’d be forgiven for thinking they could derail the whole experience. In fact, very early on they threaten to do just that just through the sheer power of being massive dudebro divs.
However, once out onto the island and left to your own devices, that worry starts to melt away.
Far Cry 3’s beautifully realised locale, Rook Island, is a brilliantly entertaining sandbox, allowing you to go out and get stuck into any number self-created adventures. It’s not just enough to have a large, open expanse, Far Cry 3 understands that you need the tools and the objectives too.
Scattered around the island are enemy-filled outposts, not entirely dissimilar to those found in Far Cry 2. But while that game allowed outpost guards to respawn after a limited amount of time (meaning that you had to fight the same fight repeatedly), Far Cry 3 turns its predecessor’s greatest weakness into one of its biggest strengths.
In Far Cry 3 the outposts are essentially levels, designed in such a way as to encourage different approaches. You can either go in all guns blazing, sneak your way around stealthily slitting throats, find a vantage point and snipe the enemies one by one, or any combination therein.
Each outpost has a number of alarms, which if activated by enemies can alert reinforcements. You can either shoot an alarm from distance to disable it, sneak in and manually tamper with an alarm to disable the entire network, or just ignore the damn things and blast every fool that comes near you.
Each and every approach is satisfying.
If you choose to go toe-to-toe with enemies, engaging in open combat, it’s rewarding because the shooting is so much fun, with a large range of powerful upgradable equipment to choose from. There’s none of the degrading weapons found in Far Cry 2, thankfully.
Meanwhile the stealth, while pretty simple, is brilliantly implemented. Scout the outpost from afar with your camera and you can tag each of the enemies, allowing you to see them through walls and undergrowth. From there it’s about staying out of view, ensuring that you never cross an enemy’s line of vision.
Then sneaking up behind them and shoving a machete through their spine, obviously.
In order to cause a distraction and pull an enemy away from their post, you can throw a rock to catch their attention. That’s the most simple way, but there are other, more interesting approaches too.
In many of the outposts are caged animals, usually tigers or bears. If you can successfully open the animal’s cage then they’ll run rampant throughout the outpost, usually taking out one or two enemies before they die, but causing a massive commotion in the process.
So with this set of tools, your approach is entirely defined by your choices. And thanks to upgradeable takedown options, these only grow in number as the game progresses.
In one outpost attack I took out the alarms, before methodically making my way around the camp, stealthily slitting the throat of my enemies. When there was only one guard left, I sniped a tiger cage and it roared out of its prison and munched happily at the face of its captor. Victory!
Once you’ve successfully killed everyone in the outpost, your allies will storm in and it becomes a respawning point and fast travel location.
Unfortunately, after winning the outpost, as I looted the bodies of my fallen foes, the tiger caught me by surprise, pounced on me and gored me to death. Guh.
Animals are not to be messed with in Far Cry 3. There’s a constant threat of danger, from bears, tigers, wildebeests, sharks, crocodiles and beyond. There’s even these weird-looking ostrich things that can cause you considerable bother if you upset them.
These animals roam around, hunt and behave exactly as you would expect. While exploring the island you’ll often be greeted by the sounds of gunfire as roaming pirates get into scrapes with dingos, boars and the like. You can even herd some creatures into a direct conflict with enemies, so you don’t have to bother killing them yourself.
Most profoundly, however, these animals are prey. Kill them and you can take their pelts in order to craft upgrades for your backpack, ammo satchels and wallet. More than just a nice optional extra these upgrades are essential. You simply won’t be able to carry enough loot, ammo, weapons or money without spending a considerable amount of time hunting.
And for the top-tier upgrades, or those that simply like ramming a knife into endangered species, there are also optional Path of the Hunter missions.
It’s in this way that you charge around the island, jump in a car, drive it over a cliff, clamber out to find yourself in the middle of herd of deer, chase them over the map for their pelts, before stumbling on an enemy outpost, winning it for your allies and rolling on to your next adventure.
The maps are so packed with activities that you could happily do this for hours on end, rolling from one encounter to the next. It is without doubt one of the most engaging sandboxes you could hope to encounter.
All of which doesn’t touch upon the main campaign of the game. Focusing on more controlled environments, scripted events and more linear gameplay, these missions get off to a worryingly poor start, detracting from the joy of your open-world romps.
They are by far the weakest sections of the game.
But then everything starts to come together. With the arrival of a deranged, yet utterly charming and laugh out loud funny antipodean antagonist, you are ushered through a fabulous set of missions that are strongly reminiscent of Tomb Raider.
You’ll fight your way through ancient dungeons, activate mystic runes, do some very light puzzle-solving and engage in set-pieces that can confidently stand alongside anything offered by more limited experiences.
From there on in the game is pure balls-to-the-wall insanity, which only the weakly characterised relationships between some of the game’s main characters undermines. The way Far Cry 3 jumps from open to confined, emergent to scripted is massively, massively impressive.
And at the very climax of the game? A decision that will make your jaw hit the floor. Far Cry 3’s campaign is far better than we ever could have expected.
Meanwhile, the trophies steer you through every element of the game while also encouraging some fun stuff like diving more than 50 metres, killing someone with a vehicle repair tool and... well, there’s some other bits and bobs but they include spoilers. It’s a decent list, a nice mix of the practical and the creative.
From a multiplayer standpoint, there’s a plethora of options to keep you occupied, although it’s unlikely they’ll keep your attention for too long.
There’s 10 maps and a handful of the standard modes, with some slight variations – Firestorm being one of the more standout – but the depth of the customisation is truly impressive. Should you want to, there’s plenty to do - tweaking loadouts, adding mods to your guns, fiddling about with the decoder for extra unlocks and bonus XP, working toward daily and weekly challenges, and flicking through stats.
Far Cry 3 is as close to the classic modern day shooter formula as the series has ever come – including “team supports” which are more assists and less game changing than in certain franchises – but its slow pace might deter newbies.
It’s a shame as the map editor is astoundingly good, allowing you to drop everything from waterfalls to sharks and ashtrays into impressively large areas. It’s right up there with Halo’s Forge in terms of options, beyond it even. It’s easier to use too, a triumph of useability.
The best multiplayer addition is the co-op, which comes as a real surprise.
There’s six chapters in total, in which you take control of one of four ragtag tearaways six months prior to the events of the single-player campaign. After their ship, the MS Astrid, is overrun by pirates and with their captain seemingly in on the assault, the foursome head to Rook Island to seek revenge and to get their hands on the cash.
It’s objective-based, with you defending outposts, attacking villages, blowing up bridges and more. The inclusion of mid-mission competitive challenges breaks the action up and adds some variety to proceedings – whether you’re racing buddies on quads to collect bombs around an encampment or sniping targets for points, it’s an aspect that adds something more to the on-screen action. In all, it’s a rather enjoyable mode and one that rewards you with XP galore.
Slap all of this together and it makes for a absolutely top-notch package that thoroughly deserves pride of place in your game collection. With an engaging open-world, a properly bonkers and fantastically entertaining main campaign, a solid multiplayer suite and a stellar map editor, Far Cry 3 is one of the best games of the year. It deserves to be played.
Far Cry 3’s voice acting is superb, with brilliant performances from Vaas and Buck. The dynamic soundtrack has its moments too and there’s a great tune that accompanies a drug field mission.
The game’s island setting is beautiful, encompassing gorgeous waterfalls, mountains and plains, plus and an ocean and streams busting with life. It’s a pretty game.
With a sandbox environment stuffed with engaging activities and emergent gameplay opportunities, Far Cry 3 is an enjoyable romp. And those linear campaign levels? Some are far better than they have any right to be.
The fantastic main campaign would be enough to sell the game on its own, but with a competent multiplayer suite, a great co-op mode and the best console map editor in history, Far Cry 3 is bursting with quality content.
The trophy list steers you through all of the island's activities and offers a nice little reward for pursuing equipment upgrades. There’s also a few creative trophies in there too, which has you engaging with the game in novel ways.
Brilliant. The last big release of the year, Far Cry 3 may well top them all. Almost unfalteringly entertaining, it’s a game that will have you coming back for more long after the credits have rolled, in order to seek out every nook, cranny and secret of the game’s tropical island. Chuck in a decent multiplayer suite, a fun co-op mode and staggeringly impressive map editor and you’ve got a winner. A must buy.