It can be really difficult to review games you really enjoyed sometimes. You have to try and be fair, try to give the game a balanced review. Look for negatives in an experience that was positive. The idea is to make sure you aren’t looking back and wondering why you gave a game such glowing reviews when in fact it was only mediocre. Whatever the case, that won’t be happening here. No scrounging for negatives here. I’ll tell you right now, go buy this game. You won’t regret it in the slightest. And now I’m going to tell you why.
Far Cry 2 was an interesting game. Full of promise and clever ideas that maybe didn’t work quite the way the developers had hoped. It was a game that gave you just enough to suspend your disbelief and then smacked you across the face with bad game design to wake you back up. Guns that would jam all the time. Getting stuck with a disease which constantly drained your life bar. There’s more, but the game has been locked away in the depths of my memory now. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. What matters is I went into Far Cry 3 warily, and found not a single thing that was truly frustrating. Certainly there are still some clunky game mechanics, but in no way could these not be worked with.
To start with, the series has gone back to its original island jungle motif – no more African savannah. It’s all lush greenery and ocean for miles and miles. The two islands that make up the game map are massive. The first island alone is big enough that it would have satisfied me, and from coast to coast it’s filled with things to do. Right away you’ve got the main quest, which involves finding out what happened to your friends and brother and then rescuing them if possible. Then there is all of the wild life on the island which you can hunt. The islands are occupied by pirates and mercenaries, who are mistreating the local indigenous population. So you can also go about cleaning up the islands, one outpost at a time.
As you progress in the game you gain experience points which will allow you to purchase new Tatau, which are basically magic tattoos. It’s these tattoos which are supposed to make you believe that a young college kid with no combat experience can turn into a one man army that can endure all kinds of situations and come out on top. The story explains that the island natives, the Rakyat, believe that the Tatau can bestow gifts and abilities on those who receive them. I’m not going to judge. Ubisoft needed a way to let you learn new abilities and such, and this gave it to them.
The abilities given to you include many ways to fight in a more stealthy fashion, and the game takes full advantage of this. Almost immediately after starting the game you soon learn how to sneak up behind a opponent and slit their throat. As you progress you’ll learn how to use your first victim’s knife to kill a second opponent, or how to chain your kills together if your enemies are foolish enough to stand too close together. You can throw rocks to distract guards and slip unnoticed into compounds, or you can equip a gun with a silencer and go all secret agent. The best option, though, is to equip a bow and arrow, and start killing your enemies from afar without making a sound. Hide in the bush, get your target sighted and loose an arrow. If you’ve done it right, nobody will know. If you’ve done it wrong, well, that’s half the fun now isn’t it?
The game isn’t all stealth, though some portions of it are clearly designed to benefit from that choice. You can, if you feel adventurous, equip some heavier firepower and announce your presence as it were. That rock you used to distract a guard? You could use it to lead them onto a landmine you just placed. The game does not discriminate. You can purchase modifications for your weapons too. Your MP5’s iron sights not cutting it for you? Purchase a Reflex or Red Dot sight, and then put an extended magazine on it. Buy yourself some body armor too. Maybe some health packs. There, now you’re all set.
But how, you ask, how will you get the money for all of these gadgets. Well let me tell you. You’re going to loot and pillage every single thing you see. And you’re going to have help. Scattered across the two islands are 18 radio towers. You climb these towers to gain first hand knowledge of the surrounding terrain, in the same way you would do so in Assassins Creed. Once you’ve climbed the tower and hacked its signal you will unlock on your own map every single thing worth looking at. This includes enemy compounds, challenges for you to conquer, locations of useful tools like cars that happen to be sitting unattended and what kind of animals tend to make that area home. What these towers also show you is every source of money in the surrounding area, symbolized by a diamond on the map. And as an added bonus every tower you climb will earn you free weapon unlocks in the store. So instead of having to buy that sniper rifle you’ve been eyeing jealously, you might just have it awarded to you for a little bit of climbing.
OK now you’ve got the money, you’re all set to buy every weapon in the game and carry loads and loads of ammunition yes? Well not exactly. Not yet anyway. You see they put all of those animals to good use on the island. If you want to carry a second gun you’ll have to get a holster for it. How are you going to do that since there’s no Army or Navy stores around here? You’ll have to make it yourself, by hunting down whatever animals skin is required, then gutting them and using their skin to craft your item. The gutting is pretty similar to the way Red Dead Redemption handled it. Instead of John Marsden sounding all rough and ready, though, you’ve got protagonist John Brody sounding every bit the sheltered rich kid when he has to do the job. There are a number of animal types on the island, and almost all of them shouldn’t be there. But then this is an island populated by pirates. Pirates who would benefit from exporting exotic animals, so I’ll suspend my disbelief there.
There is also a healthy dose of healthy dosing in this game, if you catch my meaning. You can go around collecting the ingredients to natural remedies. These recipe usually just involve collecting one of the five colored plant types that are scattered all over the place. Take a blue one and two red ones and what have you got? What about a green one, what will that do? And if you mix a yellow and a white? What then? Don’t worry, the game will tell you. You won’t be throwing stuff together hoping for something.
When you liberate an outpost from the pirates, the locals will show up and post missions on a bulletin board. These missions are either hunting missions or assassination missions. The hunting missions usually require that you use a weapon provided, and the mission will fail if you don’t do the job using that weapon. Similarly the assassination missions also need you to finish with a specific weapon, almost always your knife. You don’t have to kill everything in the area with the knife, just the actual target. Thankfully you can see which targets are cannon fodder and which is the main target by pulling out your DSLR and focusing on the enemies long enough to spot who is who. You’ll know the target by the color of his icon.
The story is a little bit rescue and a little bit revenge. Vaas, who is the bad guy most people associate with the game based on the advertising, is an interesting character. Just about every NPC in the game that you talk to is interesting. You want to know more about what’s been happening on the island. You find out that he’s actually one of the Rakyat, and his sister is the one who’s giving you the Tatau. He’s been corrupted, and you’re taking his place in the tribe. That annoys him. Especially since he keeps thinking he’s killed you.
The work done by the voice actors ranges from good to excellent. Vaas is terrific, as is his sister. Another bad guy reminded me very much of Christopher Waltz from Inglorious Basterds. Very chilling. The main problem was the main character. It’s a very large disconnect to be hearing this soft spoken person who is fighting this one person war on the island. I know, I know, Mike Tyson is living proof that a voice doesn’t make a person tough, but still. Either way, he’s not bad at the job. He just didn’t sound right to me.
The sound effects are terrific as well. You can go from running across a grass field to climbing a creaking old radio tower to sailing through the air on a zip line into the heart of a raging firefight all within seconds, and it all sounds amazing. Nothing out of place. And then when you are trying to be silent like a ninja, they won’t know what hit them. Just brilliant work.
The music is interesting too. It’s not exactly my thing but it works. One mission has you destroying a pot farm, and a Skrillex Raggae mix starts blasting. Terrific stuff. But what’s even better is if you think the game needs more silence and less dramatic music, you can go for that too. Just head into the menu and select music off, and even the menu music itself gets shut off. This is useful when prowling through the jungle stalking your prey. You think you’re pretty badass, you’ve got your bow out, arrow ready, little wee turtle in your sights. And then you hear a tiger growling. Behind you. Uncomfortably close. That’s when you’ll know.
The graphics are fantastic. The islands, with their rolling hills and occasional mountain to be climbed, are populated with jungles and plant life, towns and villages. Along the coast line there is wreckage everywhere. Shipwrecks and WW2 era bunkers with AA guns. Boats you can re-purpose to take yourself upriver or around the island. Cars inland which can be driven just about anywhere. If it takes too much damage just whip out your handy dandy repair tool (you did skin those poor little animals and open up all the equipment slots right?) and get to work fixing. And if you forgot it? No worries, another car will be along shortly to be repurposed.
The single player campaign in Far Cry 3 is just a huge playground. And if the game were to contain just that campaign alone it would be worth your attention. But it’s not. The game also contains a co-op campaign much in the vein of Left 4 Dead, just without the zombies. Taking place six months prior to the single player game, you play as one of four characters who was working on a cruise ship until your captain sold you out to pirates and stole all of your money. You and three of your friends get to band together and hunt him down, killing all kinds of people as you go. The characters in co-op are amusing too. One is basically Robert Carlysle from Trainspotting. Another seems to be inspired by Lana from Archer. The dialogue is amusing, and the game makes you want to keep playing.
And as if all of that weren’t enough, you’ve also got a full fledged multiplayer game thrown in as well. And not just any old thing. No, a multiplayer mode with a full map editor. I swear, you could waste hours just messing around with your map, getting it just right. See that hill? Make it smaller. See that airstrip? Put a boat on it. Yes a boat. Don’t question me. Now it’s too early in the day, make it dusk. Now it’s too sunny. Make it rain. No, that’s not enough. Yes, good, monsoon. Perfect. All of that?? I did all of that with my first attempt at a map. It looked terrible, but I only spent 20 minutes poking at the edges. You can test your map in the editor, and the game gives you a handy performance bar to tell you just how much of the PS3’s resources you are taxing. Anyway, the map editor is terrific, but if the gameplay sucked it would be pointless. Thankfully the developers have managed to inject some interesting ideas into the game. They’ve taken the Call of Duty approach. Meaning you level up you acquire new guns, and new upgrades for your guns, etc. What they’ve also done though is give daily challenges. So for example they may want you to kill 20 people in multiplayer with the AK47. Or revive 10 of your teammates. There are a number of different gameplay types too. You have the standard Team Deathmatch with pits two teams against each other. You also have a Domination mode that will feel very familiar to Call of Duty fans. Then there is Firestorm mode, where you must first set fire to two of your oppenents checkpoints, and then fight your enemy AND the fire that you started on your way to a communications dish. Lastly there is Transmission mode, which is where you and your teammates must fight for control of propaganda towers while they are broadcasting. The longer you have control the more likely you’ll win. This last mode reminds me of Killzone 3‘s Propaganda mode, where you did exactly the same thing. And remember that map editor? You can share your maps with the world, and there is a set list that is exclusively for player created maps. Actually there are two of them. One for maps that have been rated, and one for maps that have just been submitted. It’s really quite neat to see what others have come up with, and almost unheard of on a home console. Of course there’s a downside too. Not every map is going to be amazing. Some will be down right terrible. But I’ll take the good with the bad in this case. It’s not like they are charging you for this.
So I have no major issues with the game, but I did mention there were some things that you will have to live with. Here they are. There is no easy way to assign things to a button. You get can get a number of remedies and other serums in your pouch when you really get going. In addition you also have two types of special arrows that can be used along with the basic stabby arrow. All of these things have to be assigned to two spots on your d-pad. There is no way to do this without pausing the game and going into the menus, which are themselves just a little bit cumbersome. And then there is the bloated inventory. You will collect a LOT of stuff in this game. You can then sell it off for more bullets and such. There is a quick sell button for crap you won’t ever use, but for things you can craft with? Good luck. Your sack can hold up to 90 plus items when fully upgraded, and if you want to empty that it will require you going into each and every single item and selecting discard or sell, depending on where you are. That can be annoying. But it also forces you to focus on what you need to kill for upgrades, and in the end you won’t be hunting very much any more anyway, as all of your upgrading will be done.
Control and Gameplay: Great
Appeal Factor: Incredible
FINAL SCORE: CLASSIC GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
There’s a whole lot of awesome going on in this game, with the choice left up to you on how you want to experience it. I want more games like this Ubisoft.