“Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?”
It’s extremely rare for the antagonist to be the focal point of a release; usually we’re subjected to a burley hero stacked to the high heavens with guns, grenades and a morally questionable attitude to killing. Ubisoft has decided for a slightly different approach with Far Cry 3 though. We still have the trigger-happy American, heck, you play as him, but it’s Vaas, the psychotic leader of a group of pirates working for a slave trafficking ring, that is under the spotlight. Captured by this sociopath, you play as captured vacation-goer Jason Brady along with his group of friends on the tropical representation of hell, Rook Island. Quite how you went from sky-diving euphoria to nightmarish imprisonment is skipped over, but the game kicks off with a bang.
You’re introduced to Vaas and his sadistic persona from the first minute, setting a dark and maniacal tone for the island as you and brother Grant attempt to escape. Vaas’ violent and capricious nature is thrust to the foreground as it’s made abundantly clear why he was the focus of the game’s pre-release talk. Few villains are actually as spine-chilling as he is; his performance, characteristics and choices are fantastic and propel him to antagonist stardom alongside a select few. It’s therefore a bit of a shame that his appearances are somewhat limited in the grand scheme of things and, at times, even plays second fiddle to the man who pulls his strings.
The tropical island that is Far Cry 3’s locale is expansive yet traversable, diverse yet consistent, breathtaking yet brutal. It’s an environment lavished with colour that expands across the horizon line which, when combined with the gorgeous visuals, makes it one of the more striking shooters for years. There’s some noticeable pop-in at times but it doesn’t hinder the marvelous vistas too much.
Traversing this huge environment is neither difficult nor a chore. Want to get to the next objective with little fuss? Just fast travel to one of many allowed locations. Perhaps you’d like a quick but scenic route to a nearish locale? Grab one of the many varieties of cars, trucks and quadbikes to enjoy some notably impressive driving physics – that, at high speeds, feel akin to some great rally titles. Maybe you’ve got a bit of time and fancy gazing down at the island from above? Then the hang glider’s the one for you; or, if all else fails, there’s plenty of zip lines about as well.
For an open world game, the focus of the plot is surprisingly well-managed. If you wish to play through it as a more linear shooter then that option is there for you – with the main story coming in at around ten hours – but there’s a wealth of distractions to engage in. One thing that is clear as the oceans that surround the island are the similarities between Far Cry 3 and this year’s similarly numbered Assassin’s Creed title, another game from developers Ubisoft. There’s radio towers to scale – introducing a small platforming/puzzle elements, rival territories to liberate, times races, skill challenges, animal hunting and even a bit of crafting – which will see you combine collected plants into a variety healing and boosting syringes or the animal hide you’ve skinned into bags and pouches to carry more items.
A triple-branched skill tree, categorised into three animal-themed categories: Heron, Shark, and Spider, allows the upgrading of your health, survival skills, weapon proficiency, takedown variations and more. This accompanies a semi-superfluous experience system that hovers around the outskirts of gameplay, awarding XP for kills – with increased values for headshots, advanced or stealthy takedowns, etc – which in turn unlocks additional skill points to be redeemed. The in-game representation of these skills as tattoos are a woven nicely into the plot though and give them a greater grounding within the world.
“Vaas is the star of the show without doubt but there’s so much to Far Cry 3 that makes it one of the most refreshing and impressive shooters of the year. “
Your enemies – whether that be pirates, militia or ferocious animal – are one part aggressive one part cerebrally challenged. They wander on their pre-determined patrols, deviating if you distract them with a thrown rock or other noise, but if they spot you they’ll all converge on your location like a pack of dogs who have spotted a tennis ball. Get out of view for even the briefest of moments and they’ll be searching for you like the tennis ball they think you’ve thrown. There’s little actual method to their seeking other than looking around a little bit and as a result it can make staying stealthy very much worth your while – especially with the ability to mark enemies with your camera to assist with picking off an entire patrol one at a time.
At times though, this feels like a misstep as Far Cry 3 is at it’s very best when you’re burning through rounds faster than the tropical grass sets alight. Ammo volume can be an issue early on but craft a larger ammo bag and you’re set; not to mention the rate at which you’re artillery options increase can make for some truly thrilling combat. Kickback is powerful, aiming is delicately fair, and with enemies usually taking just a few shots to arrive to an early grave, rampaging through an outpost with an assault rifle and an RPG is utterly brilliant. A fine balance between responsiveness and a weighty feel gives Far Cry 3 a truly superb gunplay. There’s also no feeling quite like burning down a plantation and its pirate guards with a flamethrower whilst to the beat of some reggae dubstep.
Outside of the terrific and expansive single player campaign though lies an impressive duo: co-op and multiplayer. The former, set six months prior to Brody’s adventure and thus it’s own storyline, features four playable characters – each with their own messed up history. Having been sold out by their ship’s Captain to the island’s pirates they’re hell-bent on revenge and, although it’s nowhere near as feature-rich as the solo portion it’s just as enjoyable. Connectivity was never an issue and the ability to do two-player local split screen is most welcome as well.
As for competitive multiplayer, there’s Team Deathmatch, Domination and Transmission – which both focus on capture points, plus Firestorm – a multi-objective time-based mode. XP is dished out not just for kills, but for assisting team mates, providing support and completing objects so as to focus more strongly on team work than many other shooters. You’ll need to revive your friends whilst they watch a brilliant kill-cam, boost your allies with battle cries and assist your allies.
A comprehensive levelling system – that spans both modes – offers what you’d expect within a modern-day shooter, yet manages to apply everything to the situation at hand. Map design is a little underwhelming though and whilst co-op and multiplayer certainly are a solid pairing, they’re the side-dressing to the delicious main course.
Aside from some missed potential and a couple of forgivable bugs, Far Cry 3 is an expert shooter. It combines the linearity of an engaging and interesting story with the expansive freedom of an open world adventure game. The soundtrack is near-on perfect, voice acting equally so, it also looks terrific and plays fantastically. The diversity and quality of the characters helps graft a believable world in which to play within; Citra, Dennis, Liza, and especially Vaas, help to immerse you into the persona of Jason Brody and give meaning to the actions you execute as him.
Ubisoft have created a shooter that excels in the often underperforming areas of shooters whilst delivering on the foundation aspects as well. Vaas is the star of the show without doubt but there’s so much to Far Cry 3 that makes it one of the most refreshing and impressive shooters of the year.