Reviewed on PC.
Following on from my last review, I’m going to do another Ubisoft game. This time I’ll be looking at Far Cry 3, which received rave reviews on release, but also hinted at the kind of copy and paste design that they would be mocked for in the following years.
In Far Cry 3, you play as Jason Brody, an obnoxious twenty-something who starts the game on holiday with his friends. Things turn nasty very quickly as the group is captured by pirates who intend to sell them into slavery. It’s a really great setup, that quickly introduces the group, the island and pirate leader Vaas. Brody soon escapes and tries to save his friends, allying himself with the island’s resistance fighters. The majority of the game has a sort of 80s ludicrous action film feel, where you run around the jungle swapping between an LMG and an rocket launcher, taking out pirates by diving on them with knife drawn. The problem is the tone will sometimes awkwardly shift into either trying to be moving, having Brody occasionally reflect on how much of a monster he is becoming, or getting dark and gritty to earn that 18 rating. In one level you are handed a flamethrower and told to burn down a weed farm while a Skrillex track plays, which is fantastic, but it’s jarring to also include post rock music, scenes of torture and psychological degradation. It also references Alice in Wonderland, which is a completely original thing to do in a story with themes of madness.
The only character of note is Vaas, portrayed by Michael Mando, who gives a memorably unhinged performance. Unfortunately, he is massively underutilised and absent for large portions of the game. Apparently Vaas was only created after Mando’s audition and it’s kind of evident, since his appearances sometimes seem a bit forced. It’s weird that the villain featured in most of the promotional material could be removed and there wouldn’t be much impact on the narrative.
The gameplay is first person shooting with some stealth elements. The shooting leans towards a classic style, letting you carry up to four weapons and having you use healing items, as opposed to the two gun and regenerating health approach used in games like Call Of Duty. There is a good range of guns available, that all feel and sound phenomenal, many of which can be modified to your liking with attachments and paint jobs. Stealth is pretty straightforward, crouch and the enemy is unlikely to ever see or hear you. While undetected, you can silently eliminate enemies with a number of takedowns, such as dragging an enemy into the water before knifing them. Stealth is often the preferred approach, since going loud will usually prompt the game to throw swarms of hostiles at you. The story missions usually have you mow through a few waves of pirates to reach the next objective, with some turret sections and escort quests thrown in for originality. The real fun of the game is liberating outposts by clearing out the enemies in the area any way you like, free of the restrictions in story missions. There are plenty to get through, with a range of layouts and difficulties, and you can reset them at the end so you can go liberate them again as an overpowered deity.
Far Cry 3 boasts a huge open world, but it is mostly empty. There are some cool ruins to look around, but if you’re like me, an open world just means having to beeline towards the next objective for five minutes. The worst instance was having to journey half a kilometre to reach someone I had been talking to in person three seconds ago. It doesn’t help that driving is awful, and half my memory of both Far Cry 3 and 4 is tumbling down a hill because I missed a turn. The map is buried under a host of side quests that are mostly the same few missions repeated in a billion different locations. There are a few more ‘unique’ side missions, where someone will talk at you for a few minutes, then you run up a hill, do something mundane (for example fire your gun near someone to scare them), then return to the quest giver for your reward. Exciting. Also, if you really want to justify your AAA purchase, you can postpone your pirate fighting adventure to play poker in first person.
Visually, it’s a very good looking game. The islands are covered in the famous ‘Cry’ games foliage and the water effects are stunning. As well as the scenic jungles and beaches, the game contains some psychedelic hallucination sequences, full of bizarre effects that provide fitting eye candy. The character models are also great, with impressive animations that are complimented with facial and bodily motion capture.
In keeping with the jungle theme of the game, the PC version of Far Cry 3 is full of bugs. There was one cutscene early on that seemed like the game wanted to provide me with content for this paragraph; Brody’s friend Dennis pretended to hold a rifle, while to his side an AK47 waved about in mid-air, as a resistance soldier in the background flickered in and out of existence. This scene also featured an issue where weird grey rectangles would appear in characters’ hair textures that persisted throughout my playthrough. I also regularly experienced frame rate drops on the ‘optimal’ preset, despite surpassing the recommended specs, and even when I turned the settings down to medium there were minor hiccups.
Also you have to have Uplay to play it.
Overall, my experience with Far Cry 3 was mixed. I don’t see it as the masterpiece other people have called it, as has an inconsistent story, open world tedium, copy and paste quests and a bunch of technical issues. Despite these problems, the stealth and shooting are satisfying enough to earn a mild recommendation, since it’s really fun when it’s not trying to be profound.