GAME NAME: Far Cry 3
PLATFORM(S): PC, XBox 360, PS3 (tested)
GENRE(S): First Person Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): 12/4/2012
The Far Cry series has always been a storied one for me. The first game sent us to a Dr. Moreau-style island that was lush, beautiful, deadly, and thoroughly stupid in the second half of the game. Far Cry 2 brought us to a civil war-torn African nation in a substantially immersive way, but in a way that didn’t want to be treated as a video game – more a thought experiment in masochism. Far Cry 3 blends the two, mashing the mysticism of the first game with the immersiveness of the second and creating an open-world shooter that is really quite good.
Jason Brody and his douchebag collar-popping SoCal buddies are on vacation, when a skydive in the wrong area drops the crew into the hands of slavers. You, as Jason, get to rescue your friends from the hands of Vaas Montenegro, a drug-addicted psychopath with a penchant for monologues. The story evolves into a “what evil breeds in the hearts of men” tale, another begrudging look into the human condition that we’ve seen earlier this year (and done much better). Coupling with the goofy, semi-mystical storyline is the rogue’s gallery of characters driving the plot. You’ve got your douchey friends, which after an admittedly great intro video are basically interchangeable prop idiots that you probably won’t like anyway. Your character, Jason, starts out as a mewly fool, but evolves into a killing machine in the course of… about 20 minutes. “I’ve never shot anyone,” he bemoans literally minutes after murdering a guy by stabbing him in the throat with a KBAR. There’s Dennis, the slummin’ it hipster. Citra, the Polynesian goddess. Buck, who is really an interesting guy and also a rapist. And Vaas.
Vaas is at once terrifying and completely ridiculous. The voice actor for him nailed the “screaming sociopath” vibe perfectly, and the mo-cap stuff for him is absolutely intense. It really has to be seen, it’s some of the best stuff I’ve seen in a game… well, ever. Even the eyes, notoriously difficult to get right (remember Polar Express?), are amazing. But to be this forcefully, intensely crazy requires setpieces set up. And while these are done well, we never really get to experience what seems to be just beyond the horizon of such a well-played character. His actions and words are relegated to cutscenes, where we hear him wax on various subjects before he disappears and we’re in a new action sequence. It’s really too bad, since in 2012’s other amazing open-world shooter Borderlands 2, the fictional technology of the ECHO Device lets villain Handsome Jack chime in whenever he feels like it. Jack goes from snide and condescending to angry to flat-out pissed and desperate, and we get to hear that throughout the game. If only there was something like that in FC3, where you got to listen to Vaas shouting, it would really elevate his character.
So the story progresses to you rescuing your friends, but the Rook Island chain is the real draw here – and let it be known that this is open-world done right. There’s plenty to do, but not an overwhelming amount of busywork to be done to get everything going. “Here’s a gun,” Far Cry 3 tells you. “Make your mark.” Crafting is spot-on too; other franchises take hint – if I want to craft something cool, don’t make me run through 5 quests and 25 minutes of babysitting a caravan to get a new gun. Kill animals and then craft. The goals to make new stuff are attainable with a reasonable amount of effort. Not too much hoop-jumping to dissuade a player, but enough to make it feel like that extra ammo pouch is an accomplishment. It’s as well-balanced a system as I’ve seen in quite a while.
It’s very evident that Red Storm, the developers who make the Tom Clancy series of games, worked on Far Cry 3. The shooting is about as good as it can get. Each gun feels as it should, from the 1911’s legitimate stopping power to the excessive force of a pump-action shotgun – which is nice in itself, that a game got shotguns right. The only gun oddity is shooting into the water, which in real life basically stops the bullet’s kinetic force. In Far Cry 3, the bullet slows slightly, but not too much. A minor gripe, to be sure – but how else are you going to kill all those damn bull sharks?
OH RIGHT BULL SHARKS. Wildlife, marginalized in Far Cry 2, play a big role in 3. Predators chase prey animals, and you can chase them down and reap all the rewards (lots of skins!). At various pirate encampments, serious predators are often kept in cages, which can be broken to unleash a very angry animal on some unsuspecting slavers. It’s an interesting, fun dynamic that helps as often as it hinders, but it’s always a fun, random addition to chaotic battles. For example, at one outpost there was a caged cassowary, which is essencially a carnivorous emu. I took a long-range sniper shot at its cage, breaking it open and letting the bird do some damage. At random, a rabid dog got into the fray too, helping me take the outpost handily. But another time, I took a shot at a cage containing the island’s top predator, a black bear… who immediately ran away, leaving me to deal with 15 angry pirates. Fun stuff all around.
Remember the first time you played Far Cry? A massive draw distance and ludicrously-detailed environments blew minds and video cards. Far Cry 2 showed off the savannah magnificently as well, and the fire… oh, the fire in Far Cry 2. FC3 keeps the tradition alive, with brilliantly lush jungles and gorgeous fire effects. Although there is the occasional frame-rate hitch when the action really gets churning, it never resulted in a death or was severely detrimental to gameplay. As mentioned before, the character models are amazing as well, the stand-out being Vaas. But everyone else is distinct and well-animated. This is a great-looking game.
The sound fares well also, which is a great step up from Far Cry 2 – which suffered from some serious dialogue issues. In FC2, it was nearly impossible to understand anyone without having subtitles on. Everyone spoke incredibly fast, and mission descriptions were completely unintelligible. No longer in FC3, though. Everyone speaks at a natural, easy to understand clip. The guns all sound great (including shotguns!) as well. The only real gripe with the sound is the music volume, which is pretty high. This is not controllable by a slider, either – it’s just an on/off toggle. Now, I like my jungle dubstep as much as the next 20something bro, but I really don’t need it super-loud when I’m trying to hunt a goat.
Far Cry 3 is an outstanding entry into the field of shooters, open-world games, and adventures. Although the story gets a little goofy at times and the people you’re supposed to be helping are a bunch of douchebags, the free-wheeling open world parts, easy-to-handle crafting, and great shooting mechanics make up for Jason Brody and his tribal tattoos. If you like shooters, you’ll like this game.