Far Cry 3 – Review (360, PS3, PC)

written by Alex ‘Alaric’ Lemcovich on 28.11.12 far-cry-3-monkey-business

It says something about games writers’ states of mind when they come up with characters like the ones you’ll meet in Far Cry 3.

Straight away Ubisoft sets the tone to dark and nasty with a sun- and alcohol-drenched vacation that goes disturbingly wrong, and tosses you into an island paradise to carve your way back into the light. Who you are at the beginning is going to differ greatly from what emerges on the other side. It’s a compelling story, probably one of the best examples of how a developer can use FPS gameplay to their advantage, and it switches between gritty visuals and furious psychedelic set pieces that will leave players both immersed and disorientated.

After the cursory introduction/tutorial segments you’re able to do virtually whatever you want and go wherever you please, but to label Far Cry 3 an open-world game is a mistake.

Your character has plenty of dialogue and a personality slowly sprouting from the yuppie fuckwit who just a few days ago had never shot or stabbed anyone to death, he’s not merely an empty shell to be filled by your heroic or devilish ideals. Character skill development isn’t as free as you would think, either, but segmented and spaced evenly throughout the story missions. The side missions, while numerous, are passing glances at facets of Ubisoft’s paradise that have you race, hunt, or kill to specification, and their consistency borders on the monotonous if you play too many at once.

Certainly there are side quests dotted around the map, the odd adulterer to sort out or ancient tablets to find, in an effort to make you care about the strangely dull and listless natives who populate Rook Island, but here – and only here – Ubisoft drops the ball. Facial animations are bland and choppy, character models lack almost any degree of credible life. It’s hard to imagine how you could have such disparity between scenes with major characters and scenes where you’re just chatting with the locals, because the former are just so vividly presented. Perhaps if the side missions had more of that depth of flavour and player immersion you’d care about the native populace, but as it stands shits are not given. You’ll conjure up more sympathy for the buffalo and pigs wandering around.

To think of Far Cry 3 as a specimen of the sandbox genre will be more helpful when trying to picture whether or not it’s your kind of game. Ubisoft are well versed in how to construct a decent sandbox adventure and a lot of what worked for the Assassin’s Creed franchise appears to have been poured into Far Cry 3.

The map is a big square of nothingness to begin with. By removing the scramblers from radio towers smalls areas of challenges, missions, and points of interest, are revealed to you. There are three factions on Rook Island and only one of those is friendly; the others have encampments placed across the island which you’ll need to clear of enemies in order to take control. Once you have control over an encampment, it becomes a ‘fast travel’ checkpoint, and the removal of enemies from that area makes things a lot more bearable in terms of aggressive traffic.

Outside of the simple mechanics Far Cry 3 pitches headfirst into a variety of gameplay scenarios, from quiet subterfuge and stealth killing to 80’s action movie chases and all-out carnage, and these last two things are presented to the player with relish and a twist of delectably dark humour. To say too much would be to spoil, but we challenge you not to smile when you hear the accompanying soundtrack on your first mission with a flamethrower.

Then there’s the hunting – and that’s a clever little addition to the melting pot. The local wildlife provides more than alchemy ingredients in Far Cry 3. In fact if you don’t hunt down at least a few creatures great and small you can forget about little things like, say, increasing your carrying capacity or being able to equip more than one gun. No man is nature’s master, though, and this is especially true when you go after the more predatory animals. You end up being more wary of komodo dragons and leopards than you are of your fellow humans, and this is the wisest policy.

To emphasise the point, you may be about to infiltrate a random encampment and slaughter yourself some mercenaries when a tiger shows up and butchers the lot of them in a matter of seconds. The AI-controlled enemy who spots the beast even has the presence of mind to shout, “TIGER!” before he’s mauled to death, which is rather impressive.

Local plants can be picked and made into potent syringes that enhance your senses, heal you, and generally make life easier for a time.

Far Cry 3 also sports a simple but welcome skill system for you to get your level-building fingers on. While far from complex, it does ensure that the gameplay evolves over time to let you employ dirtier and ever more effective techniques in order to keep up with difficult enemies, and this encourages you to try new things every once in a while.

You’ve got all the filling that was present in Far Cry 2, plus extras, and what’s most gratifying is that Far Cry 3 retains the authenticity of its predecessor’s vehicles. Each one feels unique to drive and sometimes it’s great to take a quad bike or jet-ski to your next objective without going anywhere near the fast travel option. There’s a distinct ruggedness to travelling on and off road in wild lands that never comes across through a Call of Duty title, yet here Far Cry 3 is managing to pull it off almost effortlessly.

As far as guns go, Ubisoft has laid on a veritable arsenal for gamers that could make a warlord blush and cross his legs awkwardly. No need to go into details, just know that your trigger finger will be more than happy with the offerings.

There’s a great deal more to compliment Far Cry 3 on. The environments are a rich bounty of greenery, crystal clear streams, deserted beaches, and sunburnt shanties that are as beautiful as they are filled to brimming with stuff that could kill you. Character models (the ones that matter to the story anyway) ooze with grubby human subtlety. It’s a fifteen to twenty hour journey that succeeds in compelling you to explore the dark animal heart of human nature, albeit through shooting, stabbing, and blowing up your fellow man.

A few errors occur on presentation.

The frame rate can get rough under the pressure of maintaining high visual quality and this is particularly cumbersome when you’re travelling on a vehicle at speed. Random banter between foes consists of a few lines repeated ad nauseam and you’ll feel for all the poor bastards who “should’ve used a rubber” before you gut them and silence their complaints for good. Your ‘allies’ are worse still, offering little more than to act as straw men who stand around looking mean with AK47s and tattoos, and there are some dodgy accents going on that’ll leave you feeling perplexed.

The only one flaw you might dislike intensely is the games reliance on surreal sequences for boss fights. It’s not too clear what’s going on sometimes and, while this might work in the odd cutscene, to have so many acid trips laced throughout the narrative detracts from the impact of the story’s bad guys.

But these are all small details; Far Cry 3 is worth purchasing on day one, it will leave you wanting more after the adventure is finished, and you’ll remember the characters years from now.

At the time of writing there were too few players to try out Far Cry 3’s multiplayer. A review on its multiplayer components will be forthcoming.

Far Cry 3 is available from our retail partners www.thatgameshop.com

4-5 stars
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