I have always had a strange relationship with shooters. I love them, but I get the feeling they hate me. The last first person shooter (FPS) I played and actually enjoyed was Painkiller made by People Can Fly. A superb, adrenaline pumping shoot em up filled with interesting baddies, incredibly satisfying weapons and varied levels. Then the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield started coming on the scene and my enthusiasm slowly died. I started to miss the open areas, interesting visuals and entertaining game play that used to be a staple of the genre. So I went into Far Cry 3 expecting a dull corridor-fest full of boring gray and brown colors. What I found was an absolutely beautiful open world game full of hazards, danger and possibly the most entertaining mechanics I have ever witnessed in an FPS.
The story centers around Jason Brody, an insufferable American teenager on holiday with his equally insufferable friends, when they are captured by the superb secondary antagonist Vaas who plans to sell them back to their families for immense profit. Jason and his brother Grant attempt to escape from the camp and just about make it to the borders before Grant is shot and killed by Vaas. Revelling in his kill Vaas orders Jason to run so that he can essentially hunt him for sport. Jason is rescued by a man named Dennis who introduces him to the Rakyat tribe, natives of the island who are slowly falling under Vaas’ oppression. An interesting idea that could also serve as a public service announcement.
Starting with the good stuff, the world is absolutely beautiful. Acres of lush green jungle are there for you to explore, at your own risk of course. Animals lurk around every corner and not all of them will be peaceful Pigs or Tapir. Sooner or later you’ll bound straight into a hedge where a Tiger was sleeping. The atmosphere is amazing, creating a living breathing island for you to explore. So you’ll understand why I’m a little upset that it closes the world off when you’re in a story mission. You stay in the jungle, but venturing too far away will result in a massive sign flashing up saying “Too far out of mission zone! Failure in 5…4…3…”. It’s an immersion breaking moment which would have thrown me straight out of a lesser game.
Luckily, the story missions are largely optional and, in fact, you’d be forgiven for ignoring them completely. As soon as you are given freedom there is so much to see and do, I ended up clocking over ten hours before even considering the next mission. There are over thirty outposts for you to retake from Vaas’ pirates, each one with its own layout and opponent make up. Before you can even think about doing that, you have to retake radio towers from the enemy, again all with their own layouts, that act as interesting little 3D platforming aids. Once you’re ready to take the outpost back, you need to decide on your strategy. Do you sneak around planting traps and bombs before picking off the survivors with your sniper rifle? Or do you just sit in the trees taking out enemies when their friends aren’t looking? Or you could just simply smash down the front door and hold your trigger down until everyone in front of you is a red mist.
It’s a rare game that focuses on scouting before attacking. While it’s true you can just burst straight in, if you didn’t see the heavy on your blind side, you’re going to end up with a lump of lead where your face is supposed to be. Far Cry 3 rewards you for being stealthy. Not having any alarms set off grants you more XP and you get an even bigger boost for not being seen at all. Pretty much any gun can have a silencer attached to it as well, so you get to decide whether you want to be right in the enemy’s face when you kill them, or hiding a mile away with a sniper rifle. There’s even a bow that’s incredibly satisfying to use as well as being completely silent.
If, however, you find yourself in the middle of a fire fight, because you couldn’t be bothered with the stealth or screwed the stealth up, you will find that a competent, if not spectacular shooter awaits you. The best thing about the shooting is the dynamic cover system that I’ve never seen before and works superbly. For the most part Far Cry 3 trusts you to hide behind something solid without needing a button to fasten your back to the wall. Once you’ve found cover all you need to do is aim with your iron-sights and Jason will lean around or over cover. It really is that simple and it works spectacularly. It makes peering around corners while in stealthy mode easier and shooting while in Call of Duty mode much safer, keeping the flow and immersion of the game.
I mentioned that you could be forgiven for ignoring the story, so now I will explain why. It’s true there are some outstanding characters, with Vaas being the face of Far Cry 3 during the hype and with good reason. His personality is equally tragic and volatile. But you may notice that I described him as the secondary antagonist. Vaas is introduced immediately, you start to love and fear him in equal measure, then halfway through the game they introduce the main villain, his boss. Not only is he nowhere near as interesting as Vaas himself, but he is completely undermined by him. We had already spent hours plotting our revenge on Vaas, being scared of him, running from him then suddenly we’re supposed to be fearing someone else even more? A lot of games have started doing this for a reason completely beyond me. The second annoyance is the fact that there are no boss fights. All main villains are killed by a brief quick time event. It’s incredibly anti-climatic, especially when the fight has been hyped since the very beginning of the game. It makes all deaths feel disappointing and lack any form of satisfaction or closure.
There is still some merit to playing through the story missions I suppose, but I found myself blazing through them as quickly as possible to open up the world again. It’s not good when the player is desperately flying through the story to have more fun with the filler. It means that, in the end, all you’re doing is messing around on a large island with no sense of structure or reason.
But that is enough for me and enough for the rest of Far Cry 3’s fans. As I mentioned, taking down the outposts is brilliant fun, even more so when coupled with the unpredictable nature of the jungle. You can spend ten minutes planning the perfect attack, sizing up options, laying traps, disabling alarms, only to have a bloody great tiger walk into the outpost and kill all the enemies for you. Or you can be just about ready to attack and be jumped by a leopard from behind, forcing you to use your loudest weapons and tipping off every enemy in the camp. The outstanding visuals make driving around the island absolutely joyous and the hunting aspect adds yet another layer of danger as you desperately try to skin a shark for your weapon holster before his friend is done eating your legs.
Far Cry 3 is polished, exquisitely presented and tremendous fun. Oddly, its price has been dropping steadily since its release, so you don’t have an excuse not to own this game any more. Any fans of the genre will have great fun with it and anyone looking to try out shooters for the first time will be whisked away by its charm.
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