Ubisoft has had a strange marketing campaign for Far Cry 3. It was all about drugs, sex and violence. Yet, this game thrives when these things are downplayed for its elaborate expansive exploration elements that can be overwhelming in scope at times. Being the lone warrior on a giant island and trying to survive works best when it’s just one person against the elements. Unfortunately, this story of excess will sometimes have to come in the way and not for the better. Far Cry 3 is a much better game than what its storyline would like to present.
Here are some moving pictures, but please don't believe that the game is actually like this.
After a short introduction of a series of unlikable characters, the game drops the tropical bombshell on players. The hero, Richie Rich, is dropped into a gigantic wilderness under the guidance of a local tribe that fights against the antagonist side of detestable villains. Before detailing the true grandeur of this gigantic island, filled with shanty towns, verdant open fields and shrouded forests that hide ancient temples and paradisiac coves, there is the terrible storyline to follow. Over the top behavior, gratuitous drug references and completely inconsistent characters fail to even create a dent of likability beyond their momentary flash of bright lights and swearing. In particular, an entire segment with a deviant called Buck is spent with nothing else but erratic dialogues for a strange and unsatisfying payoff. Yet the biggest dud is the dual crime lord pitch that ultimately leads to a dull and unexplored ending with sizable flaws. Let’s forget this exists and dive into the thick of the jungle instead.
When this guy shows his face, the fun is pretty much over for a few hours.
The huge islands of Far Cry 3 are open to the player to discover at their leisure and they hold a ton of unscripted activity within. Exploration is a joy, amidst sun soaked hilltops that reveal a troop of wild animals frolicking below or some pirates experiencing car trouble, both ripe for the picking. Shrubs and plants everywhere help players sneak around undetected and double up as scary hiding places for predators, which can make for surprising encounters. More than once, these wild animals will show up out of nowhere and start ruining whatever plan was set in effect prior to their arrival. Pirates may hold an outpost, only to have a bear wander in and attack the encampment, which can be used to sneak in and pick off the vulnerable enemies. Adversely, players might be busy sneaking into a cave, only to have a huge bird kick them in the face and reveal their location. There may not be the most stunning textures and animations around cladding the island, but given the sheer magnitude of this unpredictable environment, the visuals do more than their job to pass off an adventurous vibe. Puppet-like characters, jagged vines and blocky cement dwellings are a small price to pay for a virtually boundless playing ground.
Sound doesn’t always capture the same ambience, though in the jungle spirit it is still pleasant. When slithering through forests, the minimal sounds do much more than the jarring music during action sequences or the populist dubstep influences shoehorned into the feature whenever possible. The omnipresent pirates seem only to have 5 highly repetitive lines. Why anyone would let several voice actors say the same handful of lines is anyone’s guess.
Tagging people is handy, though explosives aren't exactly the proper tools for it.
Enough whining; it’s time to get to the core of the game: The open-world shooter extravaganza that is Far Cry 3. Armed with nothing but a gun and a knife, players take over the rebel island one step of a time. The first-person shooter offers plenty of opportunities within a vast world filled with side activity. For instance, the map is broadened by climbing radio towers and deactivating them, while travel locations are captured through occupied outposts. Then there are supply drops that offer racing objectives, side quests have things such as killing notorious characters or hunting rare game and there are even some side challenges, each with a set objective, which grant leaderboard bragging rights. Most of these will additionally drop some loot or cash to advance the character through a crafting system to make enhancing or healing syringes, craft a multitude of pouches to store more ammo, weapons and so on. This system also aids to give purpose to hunting animals in the game, which offer an alternate playing option, when the dreadful pirates become too much. A map stocked with icons for all quest markers and animal locations helps to organize every need, whether it is a different mission or the need for some crocodile leather for a trendy new rocket bag.
Then, there’s the tattoo enhancement, called Tatau in the game to keep it tribal. With experience racked up from feats, players can unlock a few heightened skills, such as faster sneaking, more elaborate takedowns that finish off enemies with a thrust of the blade or better aim. Most of the enhancements aren’t necessary beyond the basics, but it’s not a bad implementation either. It’s there to unlock or not.
A last strong suit for the game is its usually tenacious artificial intelligence (AI), which learns to outflank any position, overwhelms players with perfect aim and detects noise in order to perform searches, which don’t immediately home in to a certain location. To overcome this, players can use distractions or create diversions in order to pass through gaps in lines of sight.
You will hate fire, but at least it works as intended. (Tip: Use Molotovs over grenades in tight corners)
However, it isn’t always as easy as it seems to outsmart guards. In fact, in any story-related instance it will usually be a matter of luck to overcome obstacles. The biggest and most frustrating issue that Far Cry 3 has is its immense grandeur working against itself whenever it confines its gameplay elements. Whenever the game strips away the freedom available; that’s the time the game completely breaks down. Even just having a building in the vicinity is enough for the AI to start stuttering and acting out. During scripted action sequences, this can become an endless task of trying to wait for the AI to sync with what the game wants, which is exacerbated by the game’s frequent loading and saving issues that wildly changes parameters. More than once, the game’s only save option reloaded the game in an unwinnable position, amidst the threat. It’s already not great when the game breaks and forces players to reload, but when it then crumbles upon restart any immersion quickly makes place for hair-pulling irritation. Since there is also just one save option, it means that some sections of 15 minutes or more might end up passing the screen a lot of times. Saves are not allowed during missions. The technical failures of Far Cry 3 are maddening.
The cooperative section of the game also strips away this sense of freedom, by offering mostly corridor levels for a few friends to quickly run though. There is an occasional side mission, but other than that, the co-op is the lightest version of the game available. A more traditional multiplayer element offers a more robust experience with plenty of smaller and larger maps and a map editor for extra replay value. While there are some connection issues and the few game modes are bland and played out, the multiplayer is more than serviceable for some additional value, certainly given a quick progression in the leveling mechanisms within. There are also decoders that yield extra loot, but those require some mandatory downtime. It’s best to take and leave whatever is appealing or not in this game.
Don’t play Far Cry 3 expecting a great story or a traditional shooter experience. This game is meant to be seen as an enthralling adventure amongst the trees and jungles of some tropical paradise, waiting for one brave hero to save it from its woes. Whenever the game tries to coerce players elsewhere, it falls flat on its face. It’s best enjoyed in spades in the free environment it offers and then sparsely consumed through its extras. Then, even non-shooter fans will enjoy what this horn of plenty has to offer.