"…the most satisfying survival, stealth and action mash up experience this generation."
Let’s get this out of the way, Far Cry 3 is the biggest and best game of the year, no question. A huge open world superbly crafted and full of missions to do and sights to see. Great characters, intense combat all topped off with the most intuitive shooter controls available making for the most satisfying survival, stealth and action mash up experience this generation.
Far Cry 3 isn’t afraid to be its own thing, with a mystical side to the tropical islands and is filled with characters that make the trip through the African jungles and ancient ruins all the more interesting and enjoyable. Pirate leader Vaas obviously takes the spotlight being genuinely scary with every hint of joy and pride of his work he shows with brilliantly delivered dialogue and amazing facial animation. Other characters of the cast also shine thanks to the acting and animation, giving you a range of characters all warped by the islands and the culture surrounding them. The set-up for the game with high-flying rich kids having the time of their lives, living it up, skydiving, drinking and well, being rich kids, only to be plunged into the dark world of slave trafficking and general piracy is delivered with such focus and pitch perfect direction that the effect is multiplied when Vaas is introduced to the player. As already mentioned, the game does get a bit mystical with tribal tattoos acting as your skill tree giving the main character, Jason Brody, power as he gains experience through the carrying out of missions for the locals and other characters. Other methods of storytelling include trips, which act as back story devices as well as ways to mix up the usual shooting action with slower set pieces that focus on storytelling and even have some platforming thrown into the mix. There are a few missed notes with the inevitable confrontation with Vaas that ends up feeling a bit anti-climatic with a good chunk of the game still to go once that loose thread is tied.
Luckily the gameplay is a great mix that won’t ever get boring. It sure says something when an FPS can mix things up quite like this and not slip up that often with only a few hit detection issues to note of. Shooting is a satisfying mix of fast paced traversal and loud guns with plenty of punch behind them. Of course you could always choose to stealth your way through many of the games map, but at any point during that you can instantly turn the game on its head and catch enemies by surprise. In most games at this point, you can never escape the x-ray vision of enemies, but in Far Cry 3, you can slip away into the forest or behind a building and them commence to sneak up on unaware enemies. It makes the fire fights all that more intense and gives an opportunity for experimentation. Besides the main combat mechanics is the open world that opens up at a steady pace allowing for optimum exploration without leaving nothing else left to discover. Activating radio towers to uncover the map is the main method of getting a good idea of what to explore with the map being huge, it’s a nice way of slowly unveiling the lush and beautiful island to the player. Mistakes made in Far Cry 2 have obviously been addressed here with those dreadful checkpoints and bus stops completely scrapped in favour of strongholds and fast travel, both working in unison with each other. As you liberate strongholds, you gain more fast travel points making it easier to travel around the huge map without ever feeling like you are being cheated out of an opportunity to explore the surrounding area. The rusting guns mechanic and the constant need to run back to the home hub area and get medicine are also missing in action, which isn’t a bad thing at all, instead the survival aspects of the game have been completely reworked with crafting and hunting mechanics taking their place that also work hand in hand with each other. Limited loot space and the ability to hold only one weapon at the start means you will have hunt the materials to craft new wallets and holsters to hold whatever you find or buy out in the open world. Animals are now no longer just car bumper fodder and will attack and flee depending on the situation, even attacking each other and nearby enemies. This makes it more of a challenge to gain that sharkskin you need to craft that new wallet to store the extra money from pawning off all the loot you find.
In fact everything works together to create an open world experience that sets itself up as one of the most enjoyable open world games I have ever played and any frustrations this type of game has given me in the past seemingly absent from Far Cry 3. Cars still have the great physics they had in the previous games with weaving and bobbing affecting your view and handling of the car and damage being dealt when you go a bit too hard on the accelerator into a wall. Traversal has been given a boost meaning sneaking around a group of enemies is even more satisfying and stalking them from bushes waiting for the moment to strike gets really tense and is unlike any other shooter out there other than the original game in the series. Stealth sometimes becomes something of a crutch you can lean on with a helpful marking system, which allows you to see enemies through walls seemingly forever, and the AI isn’t exactly the smartest. Still, there’s enough motivation to experiment and try out all manner of approaches to gameplay.
"…everything works together…"
Outside of the main story arc missions are hunting challenges, bounties and other missions to help out the local rebels, all are tied to those strongholds you have to liberate and means you can instantly warp to them and pick off a few missions without having to trek from one side of the map to the other. It’s something Ubisoft’s other big open world game could’ve taken a few pointers from.
Ubisoft have done a fantastic job of constructing the huge island map with dense forests and beachside bases mixing with ruined temples and monuments all wrapped up with a fantastic sense of scale. This is thanks to the great visual design with bright and lush colours leaking out of the screen, forestry creating long shadows and the sun beaming down into the opening of caverns. As with most big multi-platform games this late in the console generation, the PC version is the version to go for if you want the best view of the island. Frame rate issues blight the console versions to a constantly low frame rate, especially in the later parts of the game, but it’s expected at this point and doesn’t take too much away from the sprawling vistas. Close attention has been paid to the sound design as well with close mic work helping to further communicate the main characters panic of the extreme situations, muttering to himself as he delves deeper and deeper into the political struggles and mystical tribe that inhabits the island. The music featured is a mix of dubstep and tribal chanting, and give it a chance and it works really well at heightening the tension of gunfights and the wonderment of discovering new landmarks. The music can creep in while you are sneaking through the long grass and make the hunt all that much more powerful.
"…one of the finest titles of 2012, if not the finest.”
Far Cry 3 is one of the most enjoyable games I have had the joy to sit down with for long periods of time and explore, blow up and sneak through in a long while. It mixes many different styles of games flawlessly and not one part of the game feels foreign to the mash up of shooter, stealth and survival styles. A must have and one of the finest titles of 2012, if not the finest.
- Huge open world with lots of interesting things to do.
- Never a chore to explore and discover.
- Memorable characters with great voice acting and animation.
- Great shooting and traversal mechanics are tight and responsive.
- Brilliant mix of stealth, shooter and survival gameplay.
- Looks amazing with sprawling vistas complimented by a bright colour palette.
- Great attention to detail with sound design.
- Frame rate on console versions isn’t great.
- AI makes stealth an easy option.