Deep within the island belts of the south pacific, the intoxicating, beautiful Rook island plays home to a host of exotic animals, a subsistence group of locals and the financial dabbling’s of mentally unstable, modern day pirates. I bid you welcome to Far Cry 3, the latest in Ubisoft’s exotic FPS franchise.
A story of survival and the testing of moral and psychological fibre, the player takes the reigns of Jason Brody, an entitled and, upon first impressions, thoroughly unlikable Californian.
We find Jason on vacation, traveling around the pacific, sampling all that the East has to offer with a group of, similarly entitled and equally unlikable, close friends.
These include his younger brother, Riley, his older brother, who has recently completed a tour of duty in whichever sand dune America has decided looks “terroristy”, who will henceforth be named Mr Hoo-hah Semper Fi, Mr Hoo-hah Semper Fi’s girlfriend, Jason’s girlfriend and two friends, one of which is basically an older and wealthier version of Tweak from South Park and the other [SPOILER ALERT] Mr Bumlove.
All of which remain oblivious to the nightmare that is soon to befall them.
The opening scene plays out as a montage of their experiences, ending with a skydiving scene wherein it is revealed to be played through Jason’s cellphone as it is pulled away by one of the game’s leading antagonists’, Vaas, a deranged pirate leader who has managed to capture the group.
A strikingly poignant introduction to the game, illusions of security and island bliss are stripped instantly as you are left stuck, caged with Mr Hoo-hah Semper Fi, awaiting ransom money to be paid from daddy dearest.
A temporary predicament as I am sure you have guessed. Mr Hoo-hah Semper Fi manages to wriggle loose of his bonds after Vaas’s nefarious monologue, and proceeds to kill the prison guard by knocking his head against a bamboo stick. I did not make this up. This concludes with a deeply annoying and “pride of America” filled quip, “That’s what they teach you in the army”. As if in an act of universal justice, he is promptly killed by Vaas, leaving you to be hunted through the jungle by pirates.
After tumbling into a river during his pursuit, Jason awakes in the home of Dennis Rodgers, a Kenyan visitor to the island, who has a strange habit of tattooing you during naps. Dennis promises Jason the ability to defeat Vaas through the power of his mystical Ju Ju tattoos and the joining of the Rakyat, a local warrior clan who has been resisting the pirate intrusion.
It is here that we begin Jason’s journey. Tasked with, not only surviving in a wild jungle landscape, but also with the rescue of his friends, Jason will need to learn to kill and kill in abundance.
The game itself attempts to take on a mature tone with heavy emphasis being placed on the fragility of the mind. A concept hard to pull off without seeming unparalleled in pretence, FCIII manages to get away with it. This is due, in no small part to the immensely, if not eerily, well-constructed NPCs and plot.
Both allies and enemies delicately maintain the balance between believability and “totally bat-shit loolooness”. This concept is emphasized further with Jason’s change from paragon of civil obedience to jungle murder enthusiast as the game progresses.
During his time on the island, Jason is expected to liberate pirate-controlled outposts, run delivery missions and thin out the local endangered species list. These side quests offer multiple rewards such as the unlocking of fast travel points, weapon upgrades and making areas of the map free from patrolling pirates.
In fact, one of the more interesting game elements is the players’ dependency on the surrounding flora and fauna. Animals must be hunted and skinned in order for ammo and weapon slots to be unlocked while plants are needed for the crafting of “way groovy” enhancement drugs and medicine. These can include simple “restore health” syringes up to combat and hunting enhancements.
Killing and various other acts, such as mission completion, earn Jason experience points to be spent on various upgrades to ensure the most professional levels of jungle genocide. This means, of course, that Ubisoft have opted for a RPG element to FCIII. While not a wholly terrible idea its execution fails unequivocally.
The inventory/codex screens are incredibly unpleasant to navigate and tend to feel cluttered. Also, the “loot” section has opted for the old Resident Evil reasoning in that a crumpled cigarette packet takes up the same room as a sizable hunk of bear skin. There is word on the online grapevine that Ubisoft plans to address these issues at a later date but that won’t win it any points here.
Fortunately these issues are quickly overshadowed by the sheer joy of the game’s combat. Whether choosing to go stealthy or the more traditional “I will skull fuck your corpse with my heavy machine gun”, FCIII seems to have its bases covered. The immense jungle means that players are given the opportunity to suss out an optimal plan of attack.
It also seems that, for once, there is a FPS that makes cover workable in a fire fight. Moving against a wall pushes the players’ weapon up against it, as is expected, while pressing “attack” or “aim” allows the player to shoot blindly or aimed from behind cover.
Stealth though, is for me where the game shines. Learning from the faults of its predecessors, FC3 has one of the more rewarding stealth combat systems out there today. Whether silently taking down enemies, one by one, machete and silenced weapon in hand, or potting confused patrols off from a distance with high powered rifles, the game feels smooth and controllable. Carving up the jungle has never been this satisfying.
The physics engine is also remarkable. Falling, crashing etc. look and “feel” real. Ramming an enemy vehicle with your own send Jason thrusting forward against the dashboard with an almost cringe worthy effect on the player. Fall damage can be a little extreme in that a slight tumble off a low-lying cliff seems to result in an injury, worthy of a prescription akin to Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, but the act itself looks genuine.
It would seem that Far Cry 3 is, by and large, a game of learned mistakes. Its predecessor, Far Cry II, a game in where players were tasked with the mass culling of South African soldiers of fortune and the destabilization of an impoverished African nation, enjoyed a mixed reception. While its open world map and overall gameplay was praiseworthy, the virtual non-existence of story line and emotionally dead NPCs were a deal breaker for many.
Far Cry 3 has addressed these issues and then some. NPC’s are incredibly vivid and the main quest is thoroughly captivating while the enjoyable aspects of open world murder and a gloriously massive map have all been kept.
While I find that certain issues keep the game from its usual gem-encrusted, super reception, the fantastic gameplay and uncomfortably realistic character progression of Jason on an even more uncomfortably gripping task, round off what I would consider to be one of the better shooter titles of 2012 and certainly the best game of the Far Cry series.