Game: Far Cry 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Far Cry 3 was somewhat of a surprise announcement when Ubisoft unveiled it at E3 2011. After Far Cry 2 left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths, Ubisoft would have to pull something special out of the bag in order to win our hearts back and get us feeling the same things about the Far Cry franchise that we did when the first game came out back in 2004. With Far Cry 3, the developers have placed a lot of their faith on the back of the game’s story, the voice acting and the open world nature of the experience, but is that going to be enough? Can the series return from the malaria-heavy brown-fest that was Far Cry 2, or have they gone too far down the rabbit hole to return in one piece?
STORY: The story in Far Cry 3 takes place on Rook Island, an island that once belonged to the native Rakyat tribe but has since been taken over by Hoyt Volker, Vaas Montenegro and their band of cut-throat pirates. These aren’t the same kind of pirates that you’ll seen on the big screen with Johnny Depp, these are the bloodthirsty kind of pirates that will kidnap anyone they come across just to sell them on to the highest bidder. You play the game as Jason Brody, one of seven friends who have come to Rook Island in order to blow off a little bit of steam and let their hair down. Little did they know that Vaas and his men were watching, waiting for their chance to snatch them, a chance which presented itself while the group were skydiving over the island.
The story sounds like your typical, run-of-the-mill spoilt rich kid becomes big bad-ass in order to save his friends storyline, but all through the game you’ll find more depth than you will have anticipated. You’ll come across characters that may seem to have throwaway lines, but those lines will come back to haunt you later in the game. You’ll find yourself caring about Jason, something which rarely happens in a First Person Shooter, and, more than that, you’ll find yourself scared for him too, scared for what he has to become in order to fulfil his mission, scared that he might not come back from it.
GRAPHICS: Remember when the first Far Cry came out back in 2004? It was a game that people used to use in order to test their PCs. The island that you played through the game in was gorgeous to behold, with spectacular lighting effect, glorious water effects and everything else that went together to make it something truly spectacular. Then they went and threw all that away with the second instalment in the franchise, a game which was so full of browns of all shades it made the game boring to look at.
Far Cry 3 has gone back to the roots of the series and Rook Island is an absolute beauteous achievement in environment creation. There are so many things about the game’s world that go together to make the player think that they’re in a living, breathing world. The animals that you’ll find dotted around the map, the people just going about their everyday lives, and then there are the times that you’ll come across hidden areas of the map that you’ll only find if you go out exploring (something which everyone should be doing), and yet they’re some of the most eye-watering scenes to grace the console market.
There are downsides to the visual presentation too, though. While most of the videos in the game are well made and well presented, the videos that will play every time you unlock a new skill that requires a little bit of instruction are extremely badly pixelated. So much so that I often found it difficult to see what the video was trying to show me. Most people will be able to get by simply using the written instructions that are located to the right of the video but if you’re going to show a video at all, at least make sure people can actually see what’s happening in it.
SOUND: The most obvious thing to talk about when it comes to the sound that’s used throughout Far Cry 3 is the voice acting. If you saw the announcement trailer for Far Cry 3 back at E3 2011, then you will have notices some pretty decent acting when it comes to the game’s main protagonist, Vaas Montenegro. However, this calibre of voice acting doesn’t end there. Almost all of the characters in the game, or at least the ones that are part of quest lines and have more than a couple of lines of dialogue to say, are well cast, well acted and work brilliantly to keep you immersed within the story. Vaas himself is so much crazier than any of the trailers made him look, you’ll notice yourself physically wincing whenever he’s on screen because you honestly won’t know how or when he’s going to snap, and just what he might do when he does. This depth of character is purely down to the voice acting, and it make Vaas Montenegro sound and act as if he’s got the same mental stability as Joe Peschi’s character of Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas. “Funny how” indeed.
The music throughout the game generally fits the tone of whatever is happening too, but it’s worth mentioning for those people that really didn’t care for the use of dubstep all the way through the advertising campaign for Far Cry 3, there’s a reason for that. It’s all through the game too. There is even one section of the game which involves burning a field of plants, where the Skrillex song ‘Make it Bun Dem’ is played on a loop until you finish the mission. If you happen to keep failing the mission for whatever reason, expect to be listening to this particular Skrillex song for a long time.
GAMEPLAY: If you choose to just play the main story missions, they are relatively linear. You’ll play as Jason Brody, a rich kid who’s never even held a gun in his life, who’s suddenly forced to take on an island full of pirates in order to get his friends and brothers back. This part of the game, which constitutes about half of the main missions, just involves Jason going after one friend at a time until he’s got them all safely back at the underground cave that they’re using as a stronghold. That’s where things start to get interesting and the story starts to take a more non-linear and unexpected path.
If you’re not the type of player to just go straight for the main missions as soon as they pop up, and you want to explore the island a little before moving onto the next mission, there’s plenty of things to do and get lost in. A lot of people will notice that a couple of gameplay elements from Ubisoft’s other massive franchise, Assassin’s Creed, have made their way into the Far Cry universe. This is obvious from the first half an hour in the game, as the map of the island that you’ll be using throughout your time with the game isn’t filled in, and in order to fill in sections of the map, you’re going to have to climb Radio Towers and destroy the scrambler that’s located at the top. Essentially these are exactly the same mechanic as the Synchronisation Towers in any of the Assassin’s Creed games. The similarities don’t end there though, taking outposts out of the hands of the enemy and given them back to the Rakyat people feels a lot like taking out the Borgia Towers from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and the Templar Towers from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly adds a heap of content for players to work through, but people that don’t like these gameplay elements in the Assassin’s Creed games aren’t going to find them suddenly more palatable just because they’ve found their way into another franchise.
One of the key aspects to Far Cry 3 is the addition of a crafting mechanic. When you go to the many shops that are located around the island, the only things that you’ll generally be able to buy are weapons, ammo and the occasional consumable (medicine for healing, etc). All of the upgrades to your equipment that you’ll need throughout your adventures, you’ll have to create yourself through the use of the crafting system. Say, for example that you want an upgraded wallet, one that can carry $2,000 instead of $1,000, the crafting system says that you’re going to need two pig hides, and where do you think you might get those from? That’s right, pigs! Whatever you need for any crafting you may want to do, you’re going to have to get your hunting equipment ready (usually a bow and arrow for those silent take-downs that don’t alert every enemy within a three mile radius) and get hunting for that better equipment. This crafting system is just another example of a gameplay mechanic in Far Cry 3 that will make you feel more invested in the world than you ever thought you could have been.
The biggest downside when it comes to the gameplay, was something that I discovered while driving around the game in one of the many vehicles. In Far Cry 2, the map that you had was a physical one, a map that you could literally look at while you were in the game without the need for a pause menu. In Far Cry 3, you bring the map up by pressing the back button. This may not sound like a big deal but when you’re driving around the winding dirt roads of Rook Island, having to pause the game ever couple of hundred yards to make sure you’re still on the right stretch of road because there’s no GPS navigation style route to follow from your current location to the marked point on your map, it gets annoying quite quickly. I was soon wishing I could have Far Cry 2’s physical map back. I even found that I used vehicles less and less because I didn’t want to have to keep pausing the game, something which only can be thought of as a slight negative when you consider the size of the game world, and how using vehicles get you quickly across the terrain.
MULTIPLAYER: The development team have resisted the urge to force multiplayer into the magnificent single player campaign, instead creating an entirely separate section for both co-op and multiplayer. The co-op has its very own story told via an introductory cut-scene, featuring four very different protagonists from varying backgrounds who have found themselves thrown together due to unfortunate circumstances. You can select any mission from the setup menu (so there’s plenty of replayability there), then you and three friends can go off and enjoy the game together. Offline co-op is two player only, but you can take that split-screen co-op into the online arena to join up with another two players. Each player will choose a character and a loadout, and there are even daily challenges across the entirety of the connected experience that give players even more reason to play often.
The map editor that Far Cry 2 players will be familiar with returns, so you can create and share a map, then take to it with others for some pitched battles. But those who thought such an enormous single player and fantastic co-op mode might make for a bare-bones competitive section, guess again. You can take a split-screen experience online into the multiplayer, and there are even more customisation options in terms of load-out and perks. You can literally decide on minutia such as mercy or punishment finishing perks, as well as the more standard gun-attachments that people are used to. Of course, some of the higher-end perks require unlocking through the multitude of tasks you’ll enact during different match-types.
There are also some social hooks which are a really nice touch. From the pause menu you can have a look at your “wall”, which is populated by yours and your friend’s accomplishments from the single player mode. You might do particularly well in one of the missions, so your score will be posted to your wall. From your wall you can share your high scores via Facebook or Twitter. It doesn’t need to be there, but it just gives that feeling that Ubisoft Montreal thought of everything, and executed on it superbly; this is a phenomenal multiplayer package.
LONGEVITY: If you ignore all of the side missions, output liberations, treasure collecting and all of the other things that can cause you to lose track of time while you’re playing Far Cry 3, then the main campaign will last most people a good 12 – 15 hours. Add all those side missions though (and only the hardiest of player will be able to ignore them) and you’ve got yourself a title the will last the vast majority of people a good 30+ hours. Incredible value for money.
You’re getting a completely separate co-op campaign, which can be played online or offline. General multiplayer modes add yet more value, and the fact that there’s fully fledged World Builder built right into the game means that Far Cry 3 is a game that a lot of people will be playing for a long time to come.
VERDICT: There’s no way people will have been expecting Far Cry 3 to be as good as it turned out. Not many First Person Shooter games allow the player to become so invested in the character that they’re playing as, instead hoping that the player will project themselves onto the usually silent protagonist. Far Cry 3 is a resounding success, the sheer amount of things that you can spend your time doing make it a purchase that screams value for money. Add on top of that the story, the voice acting, the multiplayer aspects and all the gameplay elements which make Far Cry 3 a joy to play from start to finish, you’re left with a game that will be in most people’s Game of the Year nominations.
It’s also the best Green Arrow game ever made! Rich boy, lost on an island, equips a bow and arrow in order to fight for survival? At least that’s how I played it. How you play it is entirely up to you, and that’s what makes Far Cry 3 so wonderful.