I’ll come out and say that I have been blown away by Far Cry 3 from what I have played so far, I thought that it had a lot of potential from when I played it at the Eurogamer Expo, but that was limited to the open world and was only a relatively short experience. Playing Far Cry 3 in all its glory shows you what a brilliant game it really is. Note that this is only a Verdict based on the singleplayer side of things, there are co-operative and other multiplayer gubbins, but I haven’t touched them yet. Hit the jump for my thoughts.
I honestly can’t put my finger on the single best part of this game, both the open world environment which has been a series staple and the characters are brilliant. Rook Island has so much to do without even touching the story, while the characters you come across such as Vaas, Dr Earnhardt and the very unsettling Buck are crafted and acted so, so well that it is hard at times to resist the lure of the story just so you can have more dealings with them. Then again, some of the mission arcs you encounter in the story are journeys which take you beyond just eliminating the bad guys. But then when you open your map and see so many different things to do, you find yourself putting the story aside for a few hours just so you kick some arse, hunt some deer and find that various collectible items.
This is a decidedly mature game dealing with issues as varying as drugs, madness, revenge, grief, tribal history, wars, human trafficking and piracy. Drugs play a very large part in the game, everything from collectable memory cards detailing Rook Island’s nefarious history with drug dealers to a magical mushroom induced trip in an early mission to some of Dr Earnhardt’s magic red pills starting flashbacks to a time before your world turns to shit on the island.
Early game spoilers follow:
As you start the game you are presented with a sequence of photos and videos of various adventures you (Jason Brody) and your friends have had around Rook Island, only for the mad man Vaas to appear with a camera in hand showing you the footage. You are trapped in a cage with Grant, your brother. After Vaas leaves you are able to escape your cage and you start to sneak through the camp to get away. Along the way you recover your posessions: a mobile phone, a tablet, map of the island and your camera. A nice touch which lends some logic to how you are able to press a button and view a map and keep track of your inventory and skills.
You nearly escape the camp unnoticed, but unfortunately Vaas shoots your brother in the neck. This leads to you frantically holding the wound to try and stop the bleeding, only for Grant to pass away. From here you are on your own trying to escape from the mad man’s men. As you flee you encounter a mercenary and a quick-time event of button mashing appears as you kill your first man. Jason swears under his breath at the realisation of what he has done, similar comments are constant reminders of the turmoil Jason is going through during the game. Soon enough you are crossing a wooden bridge over a gorge, only for a chopper to blow the bridge away sending you falling to the river below. It is a very intense opening sequence of events introducing the main antagonist in Vaas and setting up the overarching goal of the game: find your other friends who Vaas has taken and get your revenge for the murder of your brother.
You wake up to see a man you will learn is called Dennis taking care of you, and here you notice a tattoo on your arm for the first time. Dennis tells you that the tattoo is a symbol of power worn by the Rakyat, the native people of Rook Island. It is through the tattoo that you learn various skills which are split into three categories headed by different signs. The Heron has skills focusing on long range takedowns and mobility, the Shark with assault takedowns and healing while the Spider has skills for stealthy takedowns and survival.
You earn XP for a wide range of things: kills, capturing outposts, completing missions and finding collectibles. Once you have earned enough XP to fill the progress bar you can invest you skill point into learning any available skills from any category. For some skills you must unlock the proceeding one in the chain, while a large bulk of skills only become available after meeting Citra, the leader of the Rikyat.
The first mission Dennis gives you is to activate a local radio tower, these towers are dotted around the island and your map is only revealed once you have activated one for that area. While each radio tower is falling apart in some way, they are all slightly different, one is nearly completely overgrown with foliage while another creaks so much with every step you take, I thought it was actually going to collapse. Don’t think though that each area of the map uncovered by a radio tower is entirely different from the next, there is a natural geographical flow to the island and each section revealed from a tower can have several different types of landscape to explore with beaches, jungles and barren mountains waiting for you.
Once you have activated your first tower you are free to explore the world or get down to the business of finding your friends. Rook Island itself is well worth exploring, there are collectables such as the memory cards which I mentioned earlier along with letters left by Japanese soldiers from World War Two and relics of the island’s ancient past. Alongside these there are numerous animals to hunt, some are placid enough such as pigs, while other beasts like the Komodo Dragon will actively attack you.
Each animal can be skinned, usually with Jason muttering about how gross it is, and these skins are in turn used to craft new items. It is a part of the game that you would be foolish to ignore as you can craft extra weapon holsters (you start only being able to carry one gun), larger wallets which let you store more than just $1000 and larger syringe packs.
Syringes are another part of the RPG-esque influence that you see in Far Cry 3. In addition to hunting animals to craft new equipment, you can harvest plants to allow you to make new drugs. At the most basic these drugs are simple health packs re-filling your health bars (if you don’t have any packs, Jason can perform manual healing which takes longer and features some lovely bullet extraction and mending of broken fingers) to a drug which allows you to see animals from a distance because of their scent to more exotic ones which allow you to breathe under water for longer.
These RPG elements are perfectly suited to the open world of Far Cry 3 and work wonders in adding extra layers to the game without going over board and turning it into something like Skyrim. Not everyone will enjoy the animal hunting, but it worked well in Red Dead Redemption and works just as well here.
Rook Island is also home to numerous bandit outposts which you must clear if you want an easier time exploring the island. Outposts are scattered across the land and automatically appear on your map and you can approach them however you see fit, though if you go in all guns blazing and let an alarm get tripped, a wave of reinforcements will arrive within about 30 seconds. To avoid such hassle a stealthy approach works best, taking out guards with silent takedowns, deactivating alarms or even getting lucky with some wild animals launching their own attack. If you manage to capture an outpost without getting spotted you will receive a nice XP bonus on top of what you normally get.
To further increase the peace of the island, you can take part in Wanted Dead missions where you must kill a pirate commander in the way of the Rakyat, with a knife or takedown. Capturing outposts and completing these missions put the Rakyat in control of larger parts of the island, this means you will come across less bad guys on the roads, and Rakyat troops will let you commandeer their vehicles.
Trials of the Rakyat can also be found dotted around the island, these are mini-games with online leaderboards, you get put into a situation with a weapon or vehicle and must kill as many enemies as you can in a short time frame. My favourite was a hit and run trial where you find yourself in a jeep having to knock down as many bandits as possible while in another the only weapon on hands was a grenade. These are great little tests of your combat skills.
Of course, if you ever feel like the island doesn’t have enough to offer, you can get back to the story and it really is delivery of the voice artists and animations that lend so much depth to the key characters. Vaas is clearly insane, Dennis wants to help you out, Dr. Earnhardt is a drugged up hippie with a sad family past, Willis is a man with ulterior motives while I was blown away by Buck Hughes, an Aussie who sends you on one of my favourite quest lines.
I won’t go into too much detail, as it really is well worth the wait, and part of me wishes he had a greater role to play in the story as I think he could match Vaas for intrigue. The quest line from Buck obviously involves fighting, but it also has some awesome set piece moments, and quite a bit of mythical exploration.
For me, Far Cry 3 has everything, a magnificent open world, a story which drives you forward with immense characters and a freedom of approaches to levels (not all levels mind) which is a joy to behold. I have enjoyed my time with this more than I did with Dishonored, and we all know how much I loved that one. Far Cry is an example of the FPS done right, and it doesn’t have any of those stupid checkpoints which so blighted its predecessor. I’ll have more stories from Rook Island soon.
Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed – 360
Review cope supplied by Ubisoft PR. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy.