Replay Value: 9.5
To start, what went through my head playing Far Cry 2: “You know, I like the idea of a GTA shooter, but…this isn’t quite doing it for me.” In contrast, after quite a bit of time with Far Cry 3: “Ah ha. Precisely what I was looking for.” The latest iteration in the acclaimed franchise features a lush environment, a ton of stuff to do, a decent story and totally twisted, intriguing characters, and a sense of freedom that is both heavily intoxicating and addictive. This colorful, dangerous world is partially flawed, yet undeniably stunning.
“Stunning” is an accurate descriptive term, too. Not many open-world adventures look as good as Far Cry 3 and personally, I’m a huge supporter of the vibrant color scheme and meticulous attention paid to most every minor detail. This isn’t about photorealism or drop-dead gorgeous CGI; this is about presenting the player with a huge, sprawling package where the visual presentation is cohesive and complete. This is about exploring a rich, surprisingly lively landscape of beautiful scenery and occasionally shocking brutality. The contrast between that brutality and the apparent serenity of the background is another appreciated element.
With excellent voice performances, a slightly underwhelming yet well implemented soundtrack, and a bevy of fantastic effects, Far Cry 3 surrounds you with quality audio at all times. There’s a small balance issue (which is common with sandbox games, unfortunately) and not all the voice performances are top-notch, but we shouldn’t nitpick. Again, as is the case with the sweeping visual presentation, everything works together to enfold the player in a believable, highly entertaining virtual world. Everything plays off each other; the ambient effects blending with the natural splendor of your environment is just one example.
From the start of this epic, chaotic quest, there’s really only one motto— “It’s up to you.” This tropical paradise – consisting of not just one, but two islands – appears awfully quaint and picturesque on the surface. But a whole lot of nasty and seriously depraved individuals roam this supposedly pristine area, so this battle of survival pits you against humans that only qualify as human in the most technical sense of the term. Animalistic and amoral to the max, the wackos you encounter are appropriately intimidating. Seriously, Vaas is a compelling and extremely effective villain, because he’s unpredictable and unstable…and that’s always frightening.
You play as Jason Brody, who is attempting to rescue his friends from Vaas and his roving band of pirates who deal in the lucrative and hazardous drug trade. For the most part, and as I expected, the storyline quickly takes a backseat to the open-world fun. I mean, as memorable as certain parts of the Grand Theft Auto and inFamous plots have been, there’s no doubt we all played those games – and indeed, any sandbox adventure – with one thing at the forefront of our minds: Explore and do whatever we want. Missions are there to be tackled however we see fit.
That being said, I don’t wish to imply the story is mediocre or poorly constructed. Despite the questionable pacing and the fact that I never really cared much about Jason’s buddies, this is an engaging, interesting story that can grab – and shock – you at frequent intervals. Therefore, you’re never looking at the plot-advancing missions with a frown, feeling almost as if they’re impeding your progress, that they’re in the way of your gallivanting. That’s because the story is worth experiencing and besides, it’s not like the game suddenly gets all linear just because you have to follow a certain story arc. The developers always give you ample opportunity to experiment.
Going back to the intro of the review for a second, I have to reiterate— FC2 just never got me. I never felt absorbed. There was too much driving, the story felt disjointed and the entire adventure just seemed…aimless. Although I understand that open-world games should give one a somewhat aimless sensation – that’s part of the inherent appeal – FC2 was just too erratic and occasionally tedious. Nothing about this sequel feels tedious, except for a few spots that actually qualify as more frustrating than anything else. The control is rock solid, the living, breathing environment continually keeps you on your toes, and you’re always rarin’ to go. “Gimme another mission!"
I just love the combination of stealth and flat-out firefight action that can be found. Sneaking into a patrolled area can be just as much fun as racing in, guns blazing, sh** blowing up all around you. And with a large arsenal coupled with that expansive environment, there is any number of approaches. Got some C4? Time to make things go boom. One of my favorite things to do is to free wild animals in cages, and let them hunt down your foes; it’s like wild kingdom gone berserk and merged with a straightforward shooter. Ah, but even then I may be speaking out of turn because in truth, just how “straightforward” is Far Cry 3?
After all, there’s a whole ton of depth courtesy of great role-playing elements. Collecting materials for various reasons is oddly more fun than anyone would expect, and finding all the radio transmitters to hack is just awesome, partly because it feels exactly like climbing the viewpoints in the Assassin’s Creed games. The first-person platforming in FC3 isn’t as intuitive or realistic as it is in the past few AC iterations, though, and in some ways, scaling those radio towers seems out of place. Still, gotta love the idea and using the zip line (akin to the Leap of Faith in AC) to get down fast is never boring. I would also argue that any game that utilizes experience is at least partially an RPG. And that's right up my alley.
The campaign could take you upwards of 30-40 hours, depending on how heavily invested you are in the quest. Along the way, you will find a few annoying little glitches and not-so-excellent gameplay issues that can detract from the experience, but they’re usually minor. I hate respawning enemies in any game and they’re no less irritating when they pop up in FC3. I also came across a few bugs that nearly caused the game to freeze, and I really did felt taken out of the story later on. However, the campaign is still deep and rewarding, and the co-op and competitive multiplayer add another layer of enticing gloss to this incredibly robust package.
Co-op is definitely the star of the show, as up to four players tackle various objectives. Competitive multiplayer isn’t quite as interesting, as it’s largely predictable with the exception of a few fresh modes. Getting back to the co-op for a minute, you’ll want to play with three other buddies most of the time, because playing with only one ally can prove challenging. I’m not entirely sure why, but it just feels harder that way. I’m not the biggest fan of multiplayer in general, but co-op is capable of grabbing my attention for lengthy periods of time, and this game might actually be best played with friends. Depends on how your friends play, really.
Far Cry 3 is a bombastic collection of free-wheeling fun. There’s a distinct, foreboding darkness to the story, which emphasizes the chaotic wildness of the island, the characters are well drawn, the control rarely wavers (with only a few small drawbacks in the driving and platforming), the technical aspects often shine, and the available depth outstrips most other titles. The plot falters a little and respawning enemies in certain irritating missions can get on one’s nerves, but there’s just so much good here. Co-op is always a blast, the campaign is lengthy and ceaselessly involving, and the promotion of freedom and player choice is amazing.
If you hadn’t already guessed, it’s another winner that needs a spot on your holiday wish list.
The Good: Bright, detailed graphics. Excellent voice performances. Wacky, memorable characters. Beautifully designed, immersive environment. Freedom and experimentation = endless fun. Great depth and longevity. Co-op is massively entertaining.
The Bad: Scaling radio towers is cool, but seems out of place. Story falters about halfway through. Minor technical hitches and glitches.
The Ugly: “I’m still not sure wild animals always act like that…”