I’m going to cut straight to the chase and evaluate Far Cry 3. It is a decent shooter that has a lot of things to do set on an abnormally large island to explore. The graphics and sound are solid, the combat is fun but could be tighter, and the story struggles to find direction.
Far Cry 3 is a very good game that is worth a look by anybody who regularly plays first person shooters. But just like how I wouldn’t recommend a Star Ocean to a non-JRPG player, I can’t in good consciousness recommend Far Cry 3 to a non-FPS player. The beginning of the story has a solid hook. You play the role of Jason Brody (kind of the ultimate dude-bro name), a thrill-seeking 20-something-year-old on vacation with hisfriends and brothers enjoying things that may be normal for somebody shotgunning Monster Energy with a double jaeger-bomb. But when a skydiving jump goes off course, you awaken in the cage of a mostly psychotic drug pirate named Vaas. Play on for a few hours, realize the native population has you pegged as some sort of messiah to change the tide of war, play for a few more hours, find a delusional doctor who really enjoys mushrooms, play a few more hours and now the CIA is involved. Did I mention there’s a magical tattoo?
Yeah. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But the thing is, it is trying so hard to be a legitimate piece of narrative. The game wants you to identify with Jason, a kid with a rifle thrust in his hands trying to find and rescue his friends and avenge the tragic death of his older brother. I’ve played a Far Cry 3 a lot longer than I thought a first person shooter should be before picking up steam and I have yet to find my motivation. Sure, I like the idea of rescuing my friends, that’s a nice carrot to dangle in front of me. But I feel as connected to my friends as I feel connected to Jason. As far as I’m concerned, Jason is a pair of tattoo’d arms, injecting hypos while aimlessly wandering around a jungle because the crazy guy that saved his life (and inked him while unconscious) said that this was the only way. The only glimpse the game gives you of your friends is in a fast-forwarded montage viewed on a cellphone while Vaas has you captured in the first minute of the game. The scene itself is pretty intense, but I wouldn’t recognize my friends at all if they weren’t generic white people on an island populated by tropical islanders.
As difficult as it is to buy into Far Cry 3’s story, the bigger problem is that the Rook Islands are just too huge to deal with. In order to get from mission to mission, Jason needs to travel some fairly significant distance. But in order to accurately see the map, Jason needs to activate the GPS towers. But once the map is visible, the entire area remains hostile, so pirate strongholds need to be overtaken. When that is finally taken care of, you still have to travel a ways to get to the next mission. It is an absolutely tedious cycle. The game attempts to mask this tedium with simple fetch quests, vehicle and weapon challenges, and assassination and hunting missions, but all this does is highlight how one dimensional the game is when you’re not exploring the areas that had a little thought put into their design. In fact, Far Cry 3’s tedium is reminiscent of another Ubisoft game that suffers from issues with its scope.
This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the open world nature of Far Cry 3, far from it. I think that the tension felt when you hear a predator in the jungle near you is palpable. Sure the legions of pirates patrolling the island can be annoying, but the creatures of Rook are more deadly than a sniper with a rocket launcher. I’ve been mauled by the following animals: alligators, sharks, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), panthers, cobras, boar, buffalo, dogs, cassowary and my personal favorite, komodo dragon. They are sneaky, they take a lot of bullets, and they are always hungry.
When I think about Far Cry 3’s open nature when compared to other epic open-world games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, is that while you can certainly explore to no end in all three titles, Far Cry 3 is the only one that doesn’t give solid distractions. Fallout and The Elder Scrolls both have fantastically well designed side missions to accomplish and thoroughly fleshed out areas to explore. Far Cry 3 has jungle between towns, jungle between GPS towers and pirate strongholds and occasionally has a little cave or tomb that can be explored. There is rarely anything interesting to do when you’re between missions that is worth the extra time.
But what about the crafting system in Far Cry 3? Sure, there are important items to craft to expand your inventory and allow Jason to carry more items. But in actuality, once you kill enough of a certain animal, the requirements are never needed again and Jason never has to look twice at a deer running through the forest. Even money is fairly easy to come by, especially since weapons become free once you liberate enough GPS towers.
I know I’m being a bit harsh with this, but hey, there are games that do what Far Cry 3 is attempting to do, and they do it better. Call of Duty is a tighter shooter. Fallout is more fun to explore. Wave Race 64 has better jet skiing.
I will say however, that Far Cry 3 manages to squeeze out fun moments when it remembers that it is not any of these titles. Vaas is one of the most enjoyable villains I’ve encountered with recent memory and I get excited whenever he has new dialogue. Hunting is much more challenging in Far Cry 3 than in either Assassin’s Creed 3 or Tomb Raider, add in the challenge of rare hunts that pit you against extra powerful creatures with minimal armaments, and this is a mode that can definitely be expanded upon. Far Cry 3 has possibly the best use of fire weapons in any action shooter: entire grassy fields become engulfed in flame with one molotov, a man who is on fire can run at you and transfer the fire to you before he dies, and a particular flamethrower mission is decidedly campy thanks to a dubstep infused reggae remix.
Even the added multiplayer mode is able to maintain a consistent level of enjoyment compared to the uneven delivery of the story. Multiplayer draws heavily from Left 4 Dead with a four players armed with a pair of weapons whilst completing objective based instances, except that instead of endless zombies, it is endless pirates. All in all, a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
I hope that the developers remember that gaming is ultimately about having fun. Far Cry 3 is filled with moments that are enjoyable and memorable. The trick is finding a way to string it all together so that it is one concise package.
Besides, if the trailer for their next DLC is any indication, finding the fun in Far Cry shouldn’t be difficult at all.
7/10 It’s kind of like sex panther cologne from Anchorman, “60% of the time, it works every time.”