Far Cry 3

far cry box
9.5 Overall Score
Graphics: 9/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Multiplayer: 10/10

I feel like I should start my review of Far Cry 3 with a massive caveat: I really loved the “mutant dishes justice” angle in Far Cry, but I didn’t much care for Far Cry 2. It was goofy, often repetitive, and finding the stupid diamonds hidden throughout the Serengeti was tedious at best. So it was especially shocking when I became so smitten with Far Cry 3. It’s beautiful, engaging, and includes a bunch of elements I’ve never experienced in a FPS before.

Like its predecessor, Far Cry 3 doesn’t “give” anything to you…everything (short of your original “tatau”) must be earned. Want to carry an additional gun? You need to  hunt and skin a deer to make an extra holster. Wanna go balls-out with all four weapon slots? You’d better swim out and kill yourself some sharks.

You can also free caged animals to maul their evil pirate captors!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Far Cry 3 is the story of Jason and his companions: a bunch of trust-fund teens (or slightly older) who have a vacation go totally awry. Amidst the sprawling vistas of Rook Island, they skydive, snorkel, drink and party…and then they get kidnapped, held for ransom and tortured. Brutally.

If you take nothing away from this review, please note: this game is NOT for your kid. Hell, I’d even hold off until they’re 17-18. It’s full of gratuitous violence, graphic depictions of sex, drug use, incidences of rape, strangulation, torture…basically, every single element that parents are concerned about their kids playing. As Jason, you transform from a snotty, self-entitled rich kid to a tattooed, drug slamming killer. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, and it’s presented in a horrifyingly cautionary way.

You’ll respect Citra for her for her mind…not her constant use of sex as a motivator.

No kidding: Far Cry 3 has managed to distill nearly every single one of my “gaming phobias” into a single, jaw-clenching experience. Ever since Duke Nukem 3D (or Tomb Raider), I’ve had an innate fear of going in the water in videogames. I hate the pulse-pounding timer that counts down the seconds until you drown, I hate having to dive into darkness to retrieve a stupid coin/block/key…and more than anything, I hate when there’s something in the water to avoid or fight. Hell, I saw Jaws at five years old, and after being traumatized for 120+ minutes, I went home and tried to sleep IN A WATERBED. True story.

Sharks are all assholes. The sharks in Far Cry 3 are no exception.

Since then I’ve had an innate fear of sharks, squids, leeches…pretty much anything in the water that isn’t passive. Far Cry 3 features bull sharks, great white sharks, moray eels and saltwater crocodiles. My first encounter with a crocodile in Far Cry 3 was it killing me as I approached a lagoon. My shark encounter was likewise fast and jarring when I crashed my hang glider into the ocean. I have always said that Dead Space 2 ruined my ability to be startled/genuinely unnerved while playing a game. Congratulations, Far Cry 3…you now claim that honor. When I wasn’t being swiftly attacked by sea creatures, I was (literally) sweating through perilous radio tower ascents, in an attempt to unlock new weapons and new areas of the map. Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself in blue marbled areas where the only locations you can view are the radio towers and the enemy outposts. If you want to see the actual map, you’ll need to climb the tower and “liberate” it from Vaas. Of course, it’s not as easy as climbing a couple ladders: the towers are all in an incredible state of disrepair, so you’ll have to shimmy out on rebar lines, make gazelle-like leaps to ledges and try not to fall to your death. Of course, if you have a problem with heights, you’ll find another angle to the climb. As you slowly make your way up, you’ll hear the metal supports creak and moan under the pressure, and oftentimes when you reach the top, the ledge will sway in the breeze, warning you that you could fall to your death at any time.

Hey cool! You found a tower! Now climb to the top without falling to your death.

But it’s the sounds (or total lack thereof) that makes you shudder. On top of the radio towers, all you hear is the wind whipping around you, and the uncertain creaking of the girders. When you get attacked by a crocodile or shark, there’s no warning…then BAM! As you’re fighting for your life, the music kicks in full blast and pushes your startle response to 11. Unfortunately, when the music works it really works…but the majority of the time, it doesn’t; it serves to overshadow the meticulous natural effects that the team at Ubisoft Montreal put into the game. Give the game an hour with the background music on…then toggle it off in the settings menu. You’ll suddenly notice scads of animal sounds, vehicles (both far off and nearby) and the ambient chatter of your enemies. Sure, their appearance might get boring after awhile (I’m pretty sure each major area only has 10-15 different models), but their dialogue seldom does. You’ll overhear them complaining about their significant others, the area at large and events that transpire. There’s definitely an overlap in spoken NPC dialogue, but it’s not enough to get annoying…unless you’re replaying the same level multiple times.

Where’s Martin Sheen when you need him?

Luckily, the game’s designed to take you a max of three(ish) times to familiarize yourself with each area, since enemies and ambient wildlife tend to keep to their scripted areas. That being said, if you happen to be a victim of autosaving (which will likely happen at LEAST twice), expect to run around and/or instantly react upon respawning. One such time, the game autosaved as I was diving out of the flaming car I was driving, down a steep incline.Upon respawn, the car was above me, and I couldn’t land without it exploding to pieces on top of me. Eventually, I had to vault forward, quickly activate the wingsuit and mash the parachute button seconds before I slammed face-first into the ground. It took me TEN tries just to survive. Not fun. Another annoying thing is the frequent clutter of the HUD…and it’s need to constantly tell you things. Did you know that you can craft X to help with Y action? You need to go to this area now. X is waiting for you at Y destination. X wants to talk with you. You can now craft X upgrade. It’s like having a backseat driver constantly commenting on what you’re not doing right. And if you’re unlucky enough to have a larger weapon during these sequences (such as the launcher or LMG), it essentially cuts your available screen by 60%. The biggest turn off for me, though, is that Far Cry 3 tries too damn hard. Almost every single time Jason says something, it comes out sounding douchey and rote…not unlike the masses of enemies you’ll mow down. It’s a stark contrast, since almost all of the NPC’s are each idiosyncratic and unique. Sure, they’re basically textbook story characters: the mad scientist professor that uses his own product, the girlfriend who wants you to grow up, the overly rapey rapist(s), the seemingly coked-up big boss, the native princess sexpot and the “look at me, I’m so crazy” antagonist. And all of Jason’s friends? Total douchebags. Seriously. Not only does it show them all at the beginning of the game looking like they fell out of a Hollister catalog, but even after going through their ordeals, still manage to come off like pretentious extras from The Hills.

I don’t want to save them. I want them to die. Painfully.

Is the idea to show Jason’s transformation from douchebag-juicehead (or “juicebag”) into a clever killer? Maybe. But despite the epic tone of the game (and it IS epic), Jason continually comes across as a fake; a wannabe local tourist on an island rife with social upheaval. He’s like the timeshare ‘tards that frequent Hawaii and call themselves locals “because we’ve had this timeshare over five years!” Though Jason does fight for the greater good (IE the disenfranchised natives), he never comes across as humble. He’s still the Zack Braff-ian douche, only with better gear, new tats and a new repertoire of killing moves. Far Cry 3  also shoehorns Fight Club-like moments into Jason’s drug-induced trips (of which you’ll take several), and it all but grabs you by the face and says “HAVE YOU FIGURED IT OUT YET, STUPID!?” Hell, the continual Alice in Wonderland quotes at the beginning of every new chapter make you believe that the plot  is something it isn’t. But playing the campaign to completion doesn’t answer any of the questions at all. It’s as if they tried to replicate Twin Peaks on an island in the Asian-Pacific, with a cast culled directly from MTV.

If the desired effect was to continually move the football as you were about to kick it, well then, it succeeds. Like its predecessor, Far Cry 3 keeps making you realize that the world you’re interacting with is (for the most part) wholly indifferent to you. Sure, your continued aid of the oppressed natives yield lots of warm n’ fuzzy feelings, but the environment itself is as brutal (if not more) than your enemies.

Holy stereotypes, Batman! Can you guess what sort of fellow he is?

As I mentioned before, the entirety of the game (single player, co-op and multiplayer) takes place in the Rook Island chain, and damn is it expansive. During the first half of the game, you’re exploring the northernmost island but you never truly have a scope of just how big it is. Once you pan around the map, you’ll see literal miles of real estate to explore, putting the experience well into Skyrim territory. Even on the 7+ year old Xbox hardware, the island is rendered beautifully. Sure, there’s the standard glut of pop-ups and goofy textures, but they’re rather minimal. To mitigate excessive load times and pops,  I strongly recommend installing the game to your HD. Once you do that, you’ll find it easy to get lost in the lush landscape of the Rook Islands. I’d often find myself going on “in-game nature hikes” to explore the vistas and lagoons of the game. It’s really that pretty. Except for the sharks, alligators, Komodo dragons and eels.

This doesn’t do it much justice. The map is HUUUUUUGE!

If exploring and/or replaying the campaign isn’t your bag, Far Cry 3 comes chock full of multiplayer content. There’s a semi-expansive “Left 4 Dead”-style co-op that has you playing in new areas with fancy new storylines to play through. Sure, the characters are all dyed in the wool stereotypes, but they’re fun to play. There’s Mikhail, the (ex?) Russian hitman; Callum, the cooking chav; Leonard, the fat, disgraced ex-cop; and Tisha, the hard-ass, sassy ex-soldier. Granted, the storyline isn’t much better, and pretty much boils down to “go kill the pirates/corrupt people and bring back X items”, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. It’s no “hour long jaunt” either–the co-op arc is an additional SIX hours of gameplay. SIX HOURS! It’s a nice departure from the in-your-face nature of the single player campaign, plus you can do it via couch split-screen or with 1-3 other people online. If (and that’s a huuuuuuuge IF) you can ever find people willing to play the co-op campaign online. You’re better off recruiting a friend who has it, or playing the campaign offline on your couch.

Tisha, Callum, Mikhail and Lenoard. And pirates. LOTS of pirates.

There’s the semi-standard suite of team deathmatch, deathmatch and domination, there’s also two other FC3-centric modes: Transmission and Firestorm. Transmission has you vying for control of the two radio transmitters on each level, similar to domination. Firestorm, however, manages to distill all of the “stock” modes into one tense objective. Each team has two flammable barrels that they must defend, while attempting to set the opponent’s barrels ablaze. Once that happens, the surrounding areas catch fire, and the team that set the fire must maintain control of the radio tower for extraction. The losing team gets doused in gasoline from the air. FIRE!

In addition to the standard “reach X level to unlock Y weapon/skill/attachment, you’ll be rewarded with encrypted data at the end of the match, in the form of a CD, memory stick, drive, etc. You set these items to decrypt (anywhere from 1 to 30 minutes), and discover your surprise. It’s like a KinderEgg…if KinderEggs came with sweet weapon bonuses and bonus XP.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the level creator. It’s an easy-to-use interface that will let you craft your ideal (or semi-ideal) situation on the island. It’s equivalent to when you would set up G.I. Joes or Army Men up on the living room floor and enact massive battles. It can be ridiculous amounts of fun, especially when you go out of your way to create ludicrous situations. Think of it like the Sims, only with guns, explosives and murderous animals!

The sign says ‘ABSOLUTELY NO HORSEPLAY AROUND THE POOL!’ Sheesh!

 

Also, a quick note on the vehicles: they all handle as you’d expect them to…all except for the cars. Driving often obscures 30% (or more!) of your screen, and you’ll inadvertently drive off a cliff at LEAST ten times. Instead of giving a nice “over the steering column and down the hood” (or even a solid first- or third-person view), so it looks essentially like you’re sitting three feet back and one foot down from the steering column. It makes driving a chore. In fact, whenever possible, stick to quads, boats or jetskis. Or just master the hang glider…they’re sprinkled EVERYWHERE on the island.

Hope you’re a big fan of driving into trees and fences. You’ll be doing that. A lot.

Overall, Far Cry 3 is a stellar example of what an open-ended FPS adventure should be, with 30+ hours of single-player campaign goodness.

If you’re left unsatisfied with the lackluster ending, you’ll find six additional hours of pirate-killing delight in the co-op campaign. The multiplayer, while not wholly groundbreaking, is completely competent and fun to play. However, the lack of initial maps and modes might get tiring quick. Luckily, there’s a fairly deep map creation system, a suite of single-player challenges and a whole lot of island to explore. Minor annoyances aside, it’s still one of the best “bang for your buck” titles this year, and you’d do well adding it to your collection.

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Mick
Author: Mick View all posts by

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