The Far Cry franchise has always been a bit odd. Beginning with an adventure through a tropical resort that soon dived into the far reaches of science-fiction, with super-human abilities and mutants, the sequel attempted to put a leash of things by sticking to mercenaries and freelance killing. Arriving in a sea of new first-person shooter (FPS) experiences, Far Cry 3 forgets all of this and chooses to once again move in a brand new direction; following a path where ‘odd’ would be the least of your worries.
Telling the tale of one Jason Brody, Far Cry 3 sees the player taking a holiday on a peaceful tropical island. Engaging in all the kinds of activities that young wealthy twenty-something Americans like to, Brody quickly finds his vacation taking a turn for the worse when he meets Vaas. It was a bold decision to design a marketing campaign around the antagonist, but which has paid dividends as, to be frank, our hero Brody is a rather dull character. A nobody wishing he was a somebody; a pompous rich kid with a ‘the world owes me’ attitude. He’s the kind of guy you’d spend hours watching in a pseudo reality television show, hating every minute of it yet somehow unable to pull yourself away. Vaas however, is far more interesting. A clearly deranged psychopath that borders on the ‘so insane it almost seems logical’ side of life, Vaas is intent on hunting you down. But that’s not your only problem on this island, not by a long shot.
Far Cry 3 is about more than just rescuing your friends and brother, though that may be Brody’s mission. Upon escaping Vaas’ camp the player finds themselves rescued by Dominic, a native locking horns with the pirates form domination of the island. Dominic introduces you to his people, tells you the ways of the island, teaches you how to craft items using natural resources and how to call upon the abilities hidden deep within you, and yet something doesn’t seem quite right. Dominic clearly has his own goals; keen to convince Brody that they must work together to takedown Vaas and yet unwilling to provide anything more than a point on the right direction.
A clear sign that videogames as a medium are maturing, Far Cry 3 handles many different subject matters throughout its lengthy campaign, and does so with a clearly compassionate and informed point of view. From its weighted sense of violence to drug abuse and terrorism, Far Cry 3’s depiction of events during set pieces is remarkable, managing to ensure entertainment without resorting to immature titillation. Those who question the capability of videogames to connect with players on an emotional level should look towards Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead for their answer, but equally so those who feel the interactive nature of the medium means that some subjects cannot – or should not – be broached should spend a few hours in the shoes of Jason Brody as he journeys from middle class rich kid to island warrior.
The distribution and types of challenges have clearly taken inspiration from the original Just Cause videogame, with base infiltrations in particularly providing the feeling of being a one man army. The story lead missions will regularly see you move between all-out warfare and stealth gameplay, clearly designed to encourage players to use all of the options at their disposal; both weaponry and the abilities earned through spending skill points. Additional objectives such as hunting to craft new items and social activities marked by in-game posters and other notices (which will invite you to compete against friends) often act as welcome changes of pace, and the exploration that leads to the ascending of Radio Towers works almost identically to viewpoint synchronisation featured in the Assassin’s Creed videogames, though a leap of faith is out of the question.
Despite its seemingly limited assortment of firearms and explosive weaponry, Far Cry 3 is a videogame designed for improvisation in combat. The enemy intelligence is smart enough to know when you are in the area and won’t ‘forget’ any time soon, but they can often have difficultly tracking you down. As such, it’s easy to throw them off your scent, confuse them and make them think that you don’t have your sights lined-up on the back of their head, or that you’re not approaching with a knife in order to get that XP bonus.
XP adds up to skill points which cane be spent in one of three veins. Most definitely adding the ‘odd’ to Far Cry 3’s repertoire, these skills are somehow connected to your tattoo as far as the story goes, but in play actually make a significant difference to the way your action sequences pan out. One player might find themselves able to sneak silently and hide guards out of sight, while another can withstand a hail of bullets while taking out enemies with a dead-eye aim for headshots.
In addition to the extensive single-player campaign Far Cry 3 also feature a co-operative mode for up to four players. Playable in two-player split-screen or four-player online (though sadly not a combination of the two) Far Cry 3’s co-operative mode tells the tale of four disgraced fighters simply trying to earn themselves a living, when the captain of their merchant ship sells them out, leaving them for the pirates to massacre. Little does he know that those four undesirables are far more capable than a horde of the poorly trained pirates, and so it’s now a case of cold, hard vengeance as you and your comrades seek out your former captain and claim what’s rightfully yours. Skilfully designed to accommodate four human players, the co-operative mode stands apart from the single-player campaign entirely and is a more linear construction, design to move players from one action sequence to another, offering explosive carnage at every turn. It’s most certainly a welcome change of pace from the careful exploration and stealthy antics of the single-player campaign, proving FPS videogames can be all things to all people.
The final piece of Far Cry 3’s puzzle is the multiplayer, and yet again Ubisoft has ensured that this is a gameplay mode of the highest calibre. There are significant issues with the matchmaking both here and in the online co-operative mode, but aside from this there really is little to offered that will disappoint. Far Cry 3 features a Map Editor that allows players to create and share their own battle arenas, and while this has been a staple of the Far Cry experience since the very first outing it’s never been on quite the same scale. In fact, very few titles have ever dared to offer as comprehensive a package as Far Cry 3. It comes as little surprise then that the sharing options are limited, with Ubisoft’s servers seemingly very strict as to what they will allow to be uploaded (though sharing directly with friends is much easier). Uploaded maps will be graded, and perhaps even added to the playlist rotation.
The playlists themselves follow the now traditional design of random modes, king of the hull, team deathmatch, capture the flag and gold rush modes, as well as playing specifically on user created maps. Aside from the issues that can be had connecting to a lobby to begin with, the online experience is relatively trouble-free, maintaining good connection speeds throughout Electronic Theatre’s time with the multiplayer component as well as a balanced variety of weapons, vehicles and (in the case of the pre-constructed maps) locations.
The visual quality of Far Cry 3 is wonderful, with both characters and locations offering a top line design quality throughout. The animals and vehicles don’t offer quite the same level of visual clout, poorly animated and bland respectively, but regardless Ubisoft has created a world which many will attempt to imitate. Indeed, Far Cry 3 has clearly taken much inspiration from the successful Dead Island, and in turn the development team behind the upcoming Dead Island: Riptide would be foolish not to extend Ubisoft the same courtesy. The voice acting is also fantastic, aiding to build the believable world, and the soundtrack flits between moments of relatable brilliance and atmosphere establishing background effects.
2012 has offered many fantastic, groundbreaking experiences that pull the FPS genre in all kinds of different directions, and yet Far Cry 3 remains unique. This is a unquestionably modern experience, making use of the current-generation hardware in ways that so very few videogames have managed, creating a believable world in which the player has total freedom to role-play their character as they see fit. Far Cry 3 has a strict ruleset just like any videogame, but it has no rules as to how you choose to employ them, and for that alone it’s worthy of note. The fact that it provides such a unique twist on the open world design, the FPS combat and the extensive variety of additional gameplay modes is all just dressing for an incredible, refreshing FPS experience.