If you’re captured by pirates on a tropical island halfway around the world, what do you do? According to Far Cry 3, you get some sick tribal tattoos and start stabbing. Far Cry 3 doesn’t waste much time before dropping you into an island paradise full of dangerous predators and even more dangerous pirates and mercenaries and allows you to go about your business as you see fit.
Want to be a master of stealth and roll around with a bow and a machete? Go for it. Want to trundle in with a flamethrower and a bunch of rocket-propelled grenades? Perhaps you’d like the local wildlife to do your killing for you. Far Cry 3 has so many ways to interact with the environment and your enemies that it’s almost insane. Oh, did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?
The Story and the Islands
Far Cry 3 starts out with an introduction of the main character, Jason Brody, and his friends partying and having fun, all set to the tune of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes. The camera pans back and reveals that this is a video on a phone, and that phone is being held by Vaas, the leader of the gang of pirates that controls this part of the Rook Islands. While Jason manages to escape, his brother Grant is killed, which prompts Jason to throw his lot in with the Rakyat, the indigenous people who rescued him after his escape and also have their own reasons for wanting Vaas dead.
The first half of Far Cry 3, where you deal with Jason’s obsession with killing Vaas, is really strong, helped along greatly by Vaas himself. He’s such a memorable character and the actor behind his voice and motion capture really brings him to life in every scene. Vaas is insane and unpredictable, filling every encounter with him with a great sense of tensity and menace.
Unfortunately Far Cry 3 loses the plot pretty quickly once you move into the second half, swapping Vaas for a fairly pedestrian villain in Hoyt Volker. With a personal motivation gone, the story missions on the Southern Island are fairly ho-hum. While the mechanics are still incredibly fun, the wind goes out of Far Cry 3’s sails pretty quickly. The beginning of the story sets up a lot of interesting plot threads that just seem to be swept under the rug. There’s a sense that not everything is what it seems, and the numerous references to Alice in Wonderland during loading screens gives you the impression that the writers wanted you to think that Jason was being twisted by the island. While there certainly is a lot of that, it’s more on the surface than one would hope, especially with the groundwork laid in the opening.
The islands themselves are quite visually stunning with the expanses of inland jungle and brilliant coastline. Far Cry 3 is a feast for the eyes, especially if you’re running it on a high-end gaming rig. Character models are incredibly well rendered, with every little emotional nuance discernible in their faces. The draw distance of the islands seems to go on forever, and it seamlessly fills in the land as you travel along, whether it’s by hang-glider, boat or car. The Rook Islands are a beautiful playground and it’s easy just to sit on a hilltop and watch the sun set along the water, drinking in the view.
Even though the story of Far Cry 3 falters near the end, the sheer amount of possibilities to cause mayhem in the jungle more than makes up for any missteps in the plot, which brings us to…
While Fry Cry 3 bills itself as a first-person shooter, it actually has some excellent stealth mechanics that are way more fun to use. Sure, you can go around shooting everybody and that’s enjoyable in and of itself, but when a game offers you the chance to be a sneaky back-stabber, why would you pass that up?
Far Cry 3 goes about this by having a couple smart mechanics in the form of being able to hide in any foliage (with clear line-of-sight indicators for the bad guys you’re stalking) and the ability to chuck a rock which will draw guards over to the source of the noise, allowing you to stick your machete in their back. As the game progresses, you gain several takedown abilities that range from chaining kills together to dual aerial assassinations and knife-throwing. Far Cry 3’s stealth is very rewarding and if you mess up a silent approach, you know why. It’s not too punishing and it makes you feel like a bad-ass ninja, which is what being stealthy is all about.
When you’re not sneaking through the brush, Far Cry 3 has a bevy of attractions for you, ranging from sidequests to Outpost capturing and radio tower unlocking. Clearing a radio tower functions a lot like Synchronization in Assassin’s Creed, right down to the sweeping, panoramic view of the surrounding area and the platforming challenge required to get to the top. Outpost liberation is more permanent in Far Cry 3, so once you take a base away from the enemy, friendly Rakyat warriors move in and hold it for you. This is a great step up from Far Cry 2 where enemy strongholds would be repopulated with angry gun-wielding antagonists every time you came back.
Player progression in Far Cry 3 is accomplished in two ways, the tatau and hunting and crafting. The former is gained by accruing enough experience points to advance a level, allowing you to spend a talent point on one of three trees: Heron (long range takedowns and mobility), Spider (stealth takedowns and survival) and Shark (assault takedowns and healing). By the end of the game, if you’re doing a lot of the sidequests and taking over radio towers and outposts, you should have enough exp to earn all the tataus.
Crafting is essential to Far Cry 3, as neglecting to make a new wallet or weapon sling will leave you severely handicapped. The Rook Islands are home to quite a few species of animals ranging from docile herbivores to a few nasty predators. Killing one of these animals and harvesting their skin will let you craft a specific item. Top-tier crafting recipes require a rare animal to be killed and the quest to do this is tied to taking outposts, as liberating one will open up the job board. While taking down a tapir or a goat is no real trial, larger creatures like tigers and bears will prove to be a challenge, especially since the rare animal quests restrict you to using one weapon.
One of the best things about having wildlife running around Rook Island is that they are hostile to not only you, but also the pirates and Rakyat. This means that if a pirate outpost has a tiger in a cage, you can bust it out and let it take out the guards for you. Far Cry 3 offers you so many ways to kill that a mission that might start off a stealthy affair will escalate into a full-out firefight if allies or extra pirates happen to drive by, and often animals run in to mix it up just for good measure.
As the world of Far Cry 3 is so large, there are varying forms of travel to get around in, ranging from the standard stuff like cars and boats to more exotic things like a hang-glider and eventually a wingsuit. There are also zip-lines strewn throughout the island, and eventually you can unlock a skill that will allow you to fire a gun while you use them.
Much like Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 has fire propagation, meaning that once you set something ablaze, the conflagration can carry over to nearby flammable objects. This is used to great effect in one of the earlier mission where you’re tasked with burning down one of Vaas’ pot fields. Set to a thumping Skrillex track, you wade into the middle of the plantation, setting plants and pirates alike on fire. It’s glorious in so many ways that it needs to be experienced for yourself.
Far Cry 3 isn’t so much a game as it is an anecdote generator. Everyone will have a different story to tell about the time they were hunting a pack of wild dogs when they stumbled into a shoot-out between the Rakyat and the pirates only to have the dogs turn loose and take everybody down, or about the time they set fire to an outpost and watched from the hills as the blaze takes down everyone.
Between the gorgeous world, the emergent scenarios and the complete randomness, Far Cry 3 is a fantastic open world game. While the story falls short of the mark, compared to everything else that’s just a tiny blemish against this amazing game.
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