Ever since its exciting reveal at E3 of this year, Far Cry 3 has been one the most anticipated games of the year. The sequel to a game that came with mixed reception from both critics and fans, Far Cry 2 was a drastic shift from the game that came before it. Between the first game and second game there were a sudden change of developers and completely different direction was taken where it became an open world sandbox first person shooter instead of a beautiful yet linear one. Far Cry 3 is a continuation with this open world game type with another attempt to fine tune this formula into the must play experience. Was the experiment a universal success this time around or does Far Cry still need another shake up before its ready for primetime?
Far Cry 3 feels like a take two for Far Cry 2 using the same basic idea of being placed on a giant island filled with outposts to capture and story missions to follow through on. There are improvements on a grand scale making for a much better experience than Far Cry 2. Gone are the mass micromanagement troubles of constantly repairing your guns or fighting off malaria that will made your character sick and weak unless you took pills that you had to contend with before. In the last game the outposts were used to provide different places for you to save your game throughout the map once captured but this time around once you capture an outpost you can use it as a fast travel location to instantly teleport across the map at anytime you want. A giant flaw in Far Cry 2 was the long tedious driving between different areas of the island where you were harassed by constant barrages of enemy soldier coming after you so the fast travel improves things immensely. The game will let you save anytime you want outside a mission and provides constant autosave saves within one. A new addition to the series come as radio towers that you climb and disable all across the map. The nearby part of the map is rather blank before you disable a disable a tower and makes navigating through that area difficult. Climbing the towers can be fun and it becomes ever more challenging the deeper you find them on the island. It’s a fun side quest to try to reach every tower you can and disabling them and one I took great joy in. As an added bonus once you disable a radio tower more guns become available within shops for you to acquire.
Far Cry 3 includes an immense upgrade system for your character. First you can craft different items from healing syringes to bigger ammo bags and holders for more guns in your inventory at once. You can craft syringes by collecting plants found throughout the island and killing animals for their skin to make items such as wallets for more money and bags for materials. There’s a certain sense of logic to be had with creating your upgrades from things you collect and hunt in the jungle, its a really good system though my only complaint would be I wished the map was a little more specific on the locations of individual animals rather than just giving a general area to look for them, and further more they only show the icons of the animals on the map without a legend so a lot of the time I’m left guessing where to find IE two boar skins I need to craft my ammo holster. As you progress throughout the game you gain XP that can be used towards upgrading your character’s health, increase your arsenal of stealthy knife attacks and making yourself more useful underwater to name a few. There are plethora of different abilities to unlock though by the time you complete the story you should have most of them.
Much of the focus has been put on the stealth options of the games where some missions require you to be stealthy while others it’s left up to you whether you go guns blazing or not. At the beginning of the game I found I more often than not decided to just brute force my way through missions when given the choice however as I started to earn my upgrades and had many more ways of killing my enemies off quietly and efficiently. With the addition of a couple of upgrade nothing is more satisfying than taking out an entire outpost of enemies while knifing every one of them and dragging the bodies somewhere nobody would find it and moving along. To aid in your quest for stealth the game gives you binoculars so you can zoom in and tag enemies that then become visible to you no matter where they are on the map, Typically I’d tag everyone on the base and methodically make my through it keeping track of nearby people to not get caught and have an alarm pulled on me. This diversity in gameplay is a great attraction in Far Cry 3 and something to be commended for.
The story mode is a lengthy one as it took about 12 hours to go through, keeping in mind I did stop to capture every radio tower and a few outpost when I didn’t have a good nearby fast travel point for a mission. The story feels much more focused than the one in Far Cry 2 where your character Jason Brody and a couple of your friends go celebrate your brothers newly earned pilot’s license on some unnamed tropical island much in the same way you’d see in the start of some horror movie with everyone being carefree and rich. Suffice to say things take a turn for the worst when you are captured by pirates and being ransomed off to your rich parents for your freedom. You escape and then start plotting to rescue your all your friends and your brother all while being aided by a strange local tribes that has bestowed upon you powers that are concentrated on a tattoo given to you. From there you are treated to a rich story, a diverse assortment of different story missions (another difference between Far Cry 2 and 3) that kept me hooked from beginning to end. There is also a great assortment of side missions that didn’t seem to be the same diversity as the story critical missions but gives more to do if you want a break from the story.
Much like just about every other first person shooter coming out this fall there is a multiplayer mode to accompany the diverse single player. The co-op mode allows for up to three of your friends to team up with you online (or one friend locally) and take on a separate side story that takes places 6 months before the start of the single player campaign. The co-op feels tacked on and nowhere near the same quality of the single player where it boils down to being a linear run and gun shooter where you must clear an area out and then move on to the next one. The co-op is what I’d consider the exact opposite of the single player and not having everything that made it so great. A good example is the use of stealth in the co-op has been reduced to nearly nothing and I quickly grew very bored of this entire mode because of it. That disappointment aside there are also a few competitive multiplayer modes also include Transmission, Domination, Firestorm and Team Deathmatch. All these modes except for the last involve capturing and controlling different points inside a map and variations upon that theme and are as competently done as any other recent first person shooter that came out this year. However there is nothing to make Far Cry 2 stand out from the pack for multiplayer besides the mechanic of having to mash down on the gamepad to stay alive while waiting for a teammate to heal you after you’re killed and the addition of “Battle Cries” you can you use to give different bonuses to your nearby teammates and yourself. There is your standard assortment of online leveling and earning perks as you go along. One welcome addition is the inclusion of daily and weekly challenges for you to try to go after as you’re playing online. The game also includes an extensive map editor just like the last game to add to the original 11 multiplayer maps. The map editor is even more powerful than Far Cry 2’s, the inventive player will be able to create maps for themselves to share with the world with the best maps being voted up and perhaps becoming a popular online and ranked either silver or gold. New maps will be rated bronze and we’ll have to wait and see how well this rating system works in practice. You can also create your own single player maps that you can play locally see what kind of insane scenarios you can come up with a bit like Gary’s Mod on the PC.
The graphics in Far Cry 3 are beautiful however they come at a price. On the one hand you have a beautifully done jungle to explore with almost no load times filled with lush plants and stunning animals. On the other hand the frame rate is far from perfect where you’ll experience some noticeable low framerate most of the time you’re playing on the Xbox. This doesn’t make the game unplayable or anything like that but it’s a noticeable hiccup the detracts upon an otherwise beautiful game. The voice acting and music like most AAA games with a gigantic budget were excellently crafted, with a talented cast of voice actors and crew of talented musicians crafting a great experience for you to be in the mood of killing pirates and privateers and getting back your captured friends. The voice actors all provide an excellent delivery and the choice to give the main character a voice instead of the nameless characters from Far Cry 2 gives you a reason to care about the story and to become enthralled in this world. The jungles of Far Cry 3 are filled with lush jungle sounds and make for some great immersion when you’re deep into trees or near beautiful waterfalls. Outside of the low framerate, the presentation is top notch.
Far Cry 3 is a great step forward from Far Cry 2 creating a truly unique game that is worth experiencing. In my review of RAGE last year I commented that it had taken on many innovative gameplay mechanics however failing to flesh out any single one of them. Far Cry 3 achieves where RAGE failed; to be truly innovative and well fleshed out game and becoming one the best games of this year.