I drank the Far Cry 2 Kool-Aid. That game had such a big buildup and hubbub, but failed on most aspects, delivering a buggy game rife with horrendous design decisions and a completely nonsensical story. Potential wasted. Good sequels iron out issues like that so with Far Cry 3 finally upon us four years later, it’s only natural and expected for most of these problems to vanish. In that sense, Far Cry 3 is one of those good sequels, one that rectifies the glaring issues of its predecessor while simultaneously adding a bunch of brilliant systems to make it not only the best in the franchise, but one that stands up as one the most memorable in the genre.
Instead of the abhorrent, offensively terrible story that invaded Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 immediately begins with one of the strongest starts in recent memory. With M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” casually thumping in the background, we are introduced to our white, trust fund kids in their mid-twenties making the most out of their lives by crashing into a tropical resort deep outside the realm of civilization. The piña coladas and and skydiving become past times of the past as these privileged folks become victims to human trafficking on these foreign islands. While our main character Jason escapes, his journey for his friends’ freedom becomes his main motivation along with revenge against those responsible.
Big or small, Far Cry 3 sticks the landing on almost all of its ambitious goals. Picking the Jersey Shore castoffs for the main group was a brilliant idea because of the contrast it has. A normal person would have to go through a lot to adjust to sudden change in habitat, but picking a group of people who only know steak dinners and BMW cars would make for a bigger gap to leap across to survive, hence a bigger chance for a character arc. This idea translates to Jason Brody, the main character. His name is Jason Brody. Brody. It sets him up as a rich, fist-pumping sissy boy as he whimpers at the sight of his first murder. However, as you progress, you begin to witness his slow detachment from humanity.
This steady detachment gives him an interesting arc that gives you something to think about during your playtime. Going into more detail would ruin any impact, so I’ll stop here, but this story thread is one of the more thought provoking ideas Far Cry 3 exhibits. It is a little odd that the white, urbanized man is the savior of the brown, indigenous people, but such a cliché idea is done about as good as you could ask for.
Protagonists have decent performances in the spotlight, but the villains steal the show. He’s invaded every commercial and ad for this game, taking a life of his own, but Vaas, one of the main antagonists, really lives up to his captivating first impression. Vaas’ sudden attitude switches are captured brilliantly, with his delivery expertly giving credence to the fact that he is a complete lunatic with his act only trying to convince himself otherwise. He’ll mindfuck you in more ways than one and his insane, unpredictable nature makes sure you’ll never know his next move. You’ll begin to look forward to his time on-screen, but grow to appropriately resent him as he snaps and does something only a complete nut would do. He may not receive the best treatment in the end, but his iconic and riveting depiction of a drug-addicted psychopath is one of the main narrative highlights. Even though the two other bad guys give inspiring shows that would shame most other games, Vaas almost overwrites them entirely with his offering.
Playing Far Cry 3 carries similar joys, but reaches them with different methods. In a great attempt to differ itself from brown, linear corridors, The Rook Islands are Jason Brody’s playground. This outcasted place is a lush, green wonderland with the greenery far outnumbering pirates with the clap. The open approach in setting that Far Cry 3 takes is ultimately refreshing, with many activities to take part in to make it your own world.
Side missions may feel a sloppily thrown together (but not bad), but the hunting, gathering, and outpost taking will be the main distractions as you try to focus on the storyline. Like Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed III before it, the wildlife not only adds a sense of atmosphere to the island, but every animal can be hunted and most have useful pelts and assets used for crafting.
Bigger ammo pouches, syringe bags, gun holsters, and more can be added to your repertoire if you find the right animal and hunt it down. Hunting is inherently fun, being the more difficult of the other two games mentioned, and grabbing practical benefits only further incentivizes poaching the local wildlife. The game downright forces you to hunt early on, since you are far too weak in the beginning, but you, granted you pace yourself, can steadily build yourself into a powerful warrior through these upgrades.
The upgrades don’t stop at the pouches. In a system just as connected to the real in-game world through your “tatau,” every kill and completed mission nets your good ol’ fashioned experience. These points can be drained into three differing skill trees, with each focusing on unique playstyles but complimenting each other in the end. Like the crafting system, you slowly but effectively build up strength and talents that eventually result in you feeling like a complete super solider minus the suit. The encampments, which are camps occupied by enemies that can be cleared out for fast travel stations, show this progression off the most. In the beginning, these are relatively difficult to go through, but by the end, you have so many options available to you that it is only left to your skill to execute said plans.
This skill can either be in stealth, loud action, or a healthy mix of the two. Unlike its predecessor, stealth is no longer a tantalizing mirage here in Far Cry 3. Reflecting the open nature of the Rook Islands, sneaking has many options. Considering the many weapons and attachments, alternative approaches, position-sensitive takedowns, and other non-scripted events, it really is up to you how you choose your path of sneaking. This sense of choice and manipulation of the enemies is extremely rewarding especially since the many takedowns are immensely satisfying and useful. As I briefly mentioned in the last paragraph, enemy encampments are hotspots ripe for sleuthing opportunities and are great ways to test your ninja-like dexterity. Each camp has a unique layout and allows for players to really think and decipher the best method of attack. The stealth is open enough to support your chosen method.
But if you get spotted, you don’t have to hide in a cardboard box for ninety seconds to wait for the enemies to cool down; the shooting parts are just as enjoyable. While not as open as the stealth, gunplay in Far Cry 3 can hold its own. The vast arsenal is the true star when guns are involved. Destroying radio tower jammers, which are suspiciously like the sync points in Assassin’s Creed, reveals objects on your map and gives you free access to new weapons in the shop. In just pure quantity, there are plenty of armaments to choose from, each doled out at a steady pace and fitting almost every style of play. The weapon-specific attachments add even more choice, with each weapon having variety scopes, silencers, extended clips, and more. The actual act of shooting is fairly standard and enjoyable but having four weapons available along with the other ways to take out enemies makes Far Cry 3‘s combat feel like it is in your hands, which is an empowering feeling to have.
The one downside to firefights is managing your health. Crafting health (and other) syringes from plants is an intelligent choice, but the implementation could use work. Holding down a face button gives you a dose of health when you’re low on life, but this command can be finicky and slow, leading to deaths that can be pinned on the controls. The second or two it takes to take care of a bullet wound can be an eternity and should be an action that should be immediate. It’s small, but it hampers the action and makes more difficult sections a bit of a drag.
The soundtrack helps accentuate the action, be it stealth or noisy gunplay. Carefully tiptoeing up to an enemy strong warrants a quiet, tension-building piece that perfectly matches hiding in the shrubbery to avoid alerting guards. During shootouts, the soundtracks appropriately takes a faster pace, mixing electronic dubstep-like sounds with more traditional action music. It’s surprisingly awesome for a genre that has incredibly forgettable musical scores.
Original composition plays its part and plays that part well, but there are a few licensed tracks that can’t go without praise. The opening cinematic is already a stylish, interesting scene, but hearing M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” perfectly matches the tone and sets up the rest of the game. I don’t want to spoil the other two moments, but one contains a bunch of weed and Skrillex and the other involves a plane a certain classic track. All are great moments in their own right but were made exponentially better with the selection of the right song. Think of Kanye West’s “Power” in Saints Row: The Third and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about.
Besides being an aural pleasure, Far Cry 3 looks the part too. Character models look shockingly detailed and animate like they were captured on a set (spoiler: they were), which helps portray their already convincing roles. The environment is the real stunner, with green and blue taking priority over any other color. That’s not a complaint since the island pops off the screen because of its gorgeous color palette. Similar to Assassin’s Creed III, the framerate can take a slight hit on consoles (mostly during cutscenes), but not on PC, making it the superior version. However, no matter which version you pick, there is no denying how good it actually looks.
Far Cry 3 feels like a game that had a bunch of money and effort pumped into it, but for every dollar in, a good design choice and fun idea came out. A gigantic, stunning world, a cast of engaging characters, deep stealth, engaging gun combat, and a long checklist all coalesce and result in a first-person shooter that feels much, much better than the sum of its tried-and-true parts. With all the focus on insanity, the only actual insane act is to not experience Far Cry 3.
The definition of insanity:
+Riveting narrative with strong villains, steady character progression, and striking performances all around
+Dazzlingly beautiful game with a great, unique soundtrack
+Plenty of interesting stuff to do
+RPG leveling is addictive and gives a fulfilling sense of progression
+Stealth and loud action are both accounted for and successfully balanced
-Health mechanics are odd and a little slow
-Story might not fulfill on its initially crazy promise
Final Score: 9/10
*This review is just for the campaign. I’ll try the mulitplayer later and add impressions in another post if I get to it.