“Vacation time is OVER!“
Far Cry 2 was a unique game in that it offered you a whole lot of things to do, but no real reason to do any of them. It was an empty game set to an empty African plain, and it had a long and poorly paced story that didn’t do much other than tell an isolated tale of revenge. Upon a cursory inspection of Far Cry 3, you might be inclined to think that it’s the same thing all over, just set in a jungle. Luckily though, it is far more than that.
Far Cry 3 feels like someone decided to retake the original idea of Far Cry 2, except this time it turned out good. The story is still one of revenge, and while not particularly original, through self-examination and some truly great characters and writing, it manages to pull off an immersive and deep story that draws you in. Add that to a fantastically entertaining game, a huge open world environment, and some pretty solid online multiplayer, and you’ve got the best entry to the Far Cry series to date.
Story: Far Cry 3 starts off with a bang. It’s got a whirlwind cinematic that introduces you to the characters before dumping you in a pirate camp where the psychopath Vaas plays mind games with you, before having you fleeing for your life through the forest and falling off a bridge into a raging river. That’s in about five minutes. I literally restarted my game and played the whole thing over twice.
The story is very surface level and first, and never gets excessively complicated, but what it does in its simplicity, it does to perfection. Seeing Jason go from scared kid to blood-thirsty killer near the start of the game can be jarring, but in the moments when he starts to find and talk to his friends, when the comment on how murder crazy he has become, and when he acknowledges that “killing… feels like winning”, you come to see how deeply he is being affected by this. It makes him seem much more human, and that much more scary when he kills five guys with a flamethrower. It’s an examination of what videogame academics like to call ludonarrative dissonance, the difference between how you play the game and who the game tells you you’re playing, and when it does, it gets deep.
The story is also helped along by a cast of friendly lunatics. Rook Island is filled with certifiables, and it’s fun to learn each of their kinds of crazy, from Vaas off the cuff rage insanity, to Huntley’s 1960’s red paranoia, to Buck’s perfectly friendly knife-edge tension craziness. The motion capture acting used in to render them in game is fantastic, and the performances from some of the actors, especially Michael Mando as Vaas, are award worthy
As you get further into the story and start getting your friends back, the story becomes more about revenge, and Jason starts to cross the line into his own form on insanity. Seeing him play out this heart of darkness trip will make you shiver, and it’s just part of what makes the story in Far Cry 3 really great. This is one of the better stories told this year, and while it may seem simple at first, it is anything but, especially when you start getting into the side conversations and flashbacks.
Graphics/Presentation: This is sort of a mixed bag of nuts, so I’ll just lay it out: Far Cry 3 on the consoles ranges from nothing special to kind of ugly. Far Cry 3 on PC is not only jaw dropping, but it might be one of the best looking games of all time. On the consoles, Far Cry 3 has bland textures, a plastic sheen, strange lighting and shadows, and a poor framerate. In my time with the game, it generally ran in the high twenties to thirty frames per second, but it wasn’t uncommon for it to drop to twenty, seeming heavy and chuggy.
The facial animations manage to hold over pretty well on the consoles, and seeing Vaas talk to you is still intimidating, and watching Liza feel worried for you still looks emotionally convincing. There can be some slowdown in the cinema scenes, but it’s understandable given how much data there must be for those performances.
On the PC, however, it’s a different ball game. Far Cry 3 is mindblowing. Standing in the middle of the jungle, you’ll see a ridiculous amount of foliage density. Ever tree has thousands of leaves of it, every inch of ground has grass coming out of it, every step you take has you wading through underbrush at sixty frames per second. The game seems like it would break weaker systems. And that’s on Very High settings. This game goes to Ultra.
The lighting is gorgeous, and seeing the dappled light pour through the trees as I drove under it made me want to visit a jungle (good thing being eaten by a crocodile after crashing my car into a river while not paying attention to the road turned me off that idea). The lighting makes the foliage look alive, and the shadows are solid and everywhere.
The character animations are sharp, crisp, and deliver limitless amounts of emotion. You can see Vaas’s lip peel back just a little whenever he talks to you. You can see Liza squint a little when she knows you’re lying. There wasn’t a point during my playthrough on the PC when I wasn’t constantly astounded by just how good the game looked. It must have been my own form of insanity.
Gameplay/Controls: As good as the story for Far Cry 3 is, it’s only a part of the game. In between story missions, you will be given large chunks of time to explore Rook Island, kill pirates, slaughter the animals, find relics, cruise in hang gliders, climb radio towers, race, play poker, and just goof around. The only game I can really think of that has as much to do in its open world as this one does is Skyrim (though things in this game aren’t quite as varied).
The gun play in Far Cry 3 works well, but it’s not ground breaking. It’s feels a bit light and flighty like most non-military FPS games do, but it still works. You can’t really take cover too well in the game without it feeling like hiding, so you end up strafing a lot while firing back, or just closing in with a shotgun. It’s a strange kind of shooting that I haven’t felt since Far Cry 2.
There are plenty of non-gun weapons to use that are far more fun. The two best weapons in the game are the bow and arrow and your machete. The bow takes real skill to wield effectively, and feels that much more rewarding when you peg a guy from 80 meters, killing him instantly and silently. You can change the arrow tips to explode or set people on fire; both are sadistic and amusing to use. But for a more personable experience, you can close the distance and use takedown with your machete. The animations are brutal and fantastic, and as you upgrade your Tatau, the supernatural tattoo that controls your skill set, you can use takedown kills in a whole range of fun ways, like jumping on baddies from a hang glider as you zoom overhead and stabling them in the neck, then drawing their knife and flicking it into the heart of another attacker.
peaking of the Tatau, it a pretty cool way to represent your game progress. As you upgrade the three different skill trees, Spider, Heron, and Shark, your tattoo will come to represent it, which you can see whenever you look at Jason’s arm. It also changes at major parts of the story, so you can get a feel for how far into the game you are by how far down your arm the tattoo has moved. It’s a neat representation of progress, and the Tatau looks awesome, but it’s a bit sad that most people will end up getting nearly all of the skills in the tree by the time they finish the game, giving everyone largely the same looking tattoo.
Far Cry 3 is also host to an endless amount of side diversions. Your map starts off empty until you climb a radio tower and, uh, synchronize your map (Oh, hey there, Ubisoft Montreal). You can then see what is in the area, including pirate bases to take over. To take over a base, just go there are start killing. When everyone is dead, you unlock the base to fast travel to, along with a shop, and a few side missions. The side quests are largely pointless, aside from experience, but the Path of the Hunter quests, which have you killing animals with specific weapons (like, eliminate rabid dogs with an RPG), and eventually killing rare animals to craft better inventory items.
Crafting is also a big part of Far Cry 3. You can make better pouches for pretty much every part of your inventory, and it’s fun to think about wearing everything made from the bodies of animals you killed, though you can’t really see what you’re wearing. You can also craft syringes to heal yourself and alter your abilities, like increasing health or letting you breath under water. Some syringes are better than others, but it’s cool that they’re all there to let you play how you want to. One thing I would say though, is that it’s a shame using the medical syringes prevent you from seeing the awesome first aid animations like pulling a bullet out of your bone, or wrapping up a severe burn. Playing the game on Normal or Difficult, you’ll die before the animation is over, so you’re stuck just watching the medical syringe animation.
There feels like endless amounts of things to do in Far Cry 3, and part of the greatness of the game is finding all of those things out by yourself, so I won’t go into everything here, but seriously, there is a lot to do on Rook Island.
Sound: Far Cry 3 runs the gamut on sounds. Sometimes the game sounds very good. Running through the forest as the brush snaps against you sounds lifelike (inasmuch as I’ve ever run through an island jungle), as does going up against a roaring tiger. On the other hand, sometimes the sounds are laughably bad, like the voice acting from most of the non-story NPCs. I don’t know who they got to do these, but they sound like bad impressions of Australian accents that have been put through a voice transmogrifier meant to make them sound South African, then knocked up by a New Zealander before being shot and left to die in a Hawaiian backyard. Seriously, what the hell happened with those accents?
When it comes to the main characters, however, ever person not named Gianpaolo Venuta puts in a fantastic performance. Michael Mando as Vaas will probably get all kinds of award buzz at the nascent video game awards next year, but Natalie Brown should be standing there right alongside him for her work as Daisy. Mylene Dinh-Robic’s Liza, Faye Kingslee’s Citra, Stephen Bogaert’s Sam; they’ve all done fantastic voice work for this game. The only person that really fails to keep up is Gianpaolo Venuta, which is a huge shame, because he voices Jason Brody, the main character.
When things are quiet and he’s playing the introspect, he does particularly well, and when he’s starting the threaten people later on in the game, he also does some great work, but whenever he has to yell, which is often, he sounds underwhelming and weak, and it everyone can out shout him. It makes him less intimidating, and also annoying. He shouts even when he doesn’t need to as well, like when I was sneaking quietly into a pirate prison camp. “LIZA, I’M COMING!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, and I’m sure the pirates would have laughed their asses off if they weren’t so intent on suddenly trying to kill me. It really takes something out of the game.
Replay: Far Cry 3 is one of those games that will always have something new for you to do. The story took me about fifteen hours to beat, and then I spent another fifteen conquering the map and getting the important collectibles. Doing everything would have taken me another thirty hours. You can collect memory cards, lost letters, and relics, all of which unlock new weapons, and of which there are over 150 to find. Then you have the side quests, the radio towers, the Wanted Dead missions, the Paths of the Hunter… there’s a lot to do. And that’s before you go online.
Online, there is both co-op and deathmatch. The co-op is fun but pretty short. With six hoard mode type missions, you could probably get through it in a handful of hours, but it’s still fun to play with some friends over again. The deathmatch isn’t anything special, but it works and it’s there. It plays pretty much like Call of Duty in the jungle, but a bit slower and with less game modes.
One awesome thing that I want to shout out to is that when you beat the match, you get a small cinema scene where the top three players on the winning team cajole the top player on the losing team. As the number one player on the winning team, you can show mercy or punish the other player, and it’s an awesome little treat at the end of each match, and really makes you want to play to be number one.
Xbox 360 Footage Shown Below.
Overall, Far Cry 3 is a great game, with a deep story about insanity that will make you feel insane yourself. It’s got a ton of content that will last you a long time, and the performances from most of the actors are great. On the PC, it’s one of the best looking games ever released, but on the consoles, it underperforms quite a bit, so knock off a few points there and then go complain in the comments.
Written By: D.R. Maddock