“Lost on an island and kidnapped by a bunch of maniac pirates” – it’s not exactly part of the holiday brochure but becomes reality for Jason Brody in his friends in the new first person shooter by Ubisoft, Far Cry 3. As the title suggests this is the third game in the series, and I’ll call this out right now – I didn’t play the second one, and I only saw a few hours of the first one, but luckily this game stands on its own, and it really does stand tall.
The game kicks off with Jason (you) stuck in a cage with your brother, while a psychotic pirate by the name of Vaas taunting you about your current situation and decadent lifestyle. Some sneaking around, gunshots and a lot of very fast running later, Jason has escaped to the wilderness and is taken in by some of the locals who help him formulate plans to help rescue his friends. What follows is a transition that takes Jason from rich kid lost on holiday to gun totting pirate hunter set on rescue and revenge. The story has got a nice length to it and will keep you going for long enough to not feel like it ran short. But whilst it’s also not the most deeply engaging plot you will see in a game, Far Cry 3 has enough there to keep you engaged and interested enough in what is going on, to keep you wanting to find out what happens next. Things get a little weird and it loses some of this momentum in places, but all in all is a pretty tale.
The way this game plays is absolutely spectacular, and a large reason for this greatness is the giant sandbox you play in that is the island. You are free to roam where you please and pick up various types of missions, explore the wild, and step in and out of the main plot as you feel the urge to. Very quickly you’ll become acquainted with life in the jungle, including not only the pirates, but the wildlife that will at times try to kill you, the plants that you can harvest and craft useful items from, to the range of different landscapes and terrain to explore such as beaches, mountains, caves, lakes, dense jungle and military-style compounds.
Playing through the game you’ll quickly find a nicely rounded set of weapons to use to fight your way through this landscape. Everything from your basic pistols to explosives like rocket launchers and grenades all make the line-up, but I have to say one of the most fun weapons to use was the good old bow and arrow. I can’t really describe the feeling you get when you crawl through the jungle, line up a target in the sight and let and arrow fly to take him out – but I gotta say it just felt great and was so much fun to do! Playing to the stealth style of play works really well in this jungle and becoming the deadly jungle predator will quickly draw you in and give you some extremely satisfying moments. Of course that’s not to say you can’t run in all guns blazing and have a firefight in the jungle either, because this will happen to you anyway at some points and is just as fun to do. There are even some nice mechanics to the environment that will impact you here, such as the jungle being able to catch fire on you, which you can use to your benefit to flush bad guys out with a well-placed Molotov, but can work against you just as quickly!
One of the things that makes this game so incredibly fun to lose yourself in is just how good everything looks. The game runs on the latest version of the Crytek engine and it really does create some fantastic visuals. Detail even runs down to the individual leaves on trees and long blades of grass – as you work your way through the scrub, the level of detail in every aspect of this game is amazing. And while you might think that being stuck on an island would limit the kind of scenery you see, you would be wrong to come to that conclusion. There’s a lot of varied landscapes starting with your jungles, tropical looking areas with the little lakes and what not, through to some nice looking ruins and caves, then there are some nice long sandy beaches with big rock faces and rough terrain, and of course the man-made outposts and camps to work your way through as well. It all fits together to make the island entertaining to explore and is broken up just enough that you never find yourself feeling too lost in a repetitive loop of visuals. One of the best ways to take all of the island in while playing the game is to go and jump on a hang glider and float above the island and have a good look at it- it really is spectacular to see.
The games audio adds a bit to the experience as well. There is plenty of voice acting in the game and some of the characters are very entertaining to talk to – Vaas in particular. The sound effects line up is about what you would expect for a game like this, all the usual shooting and gun related noises, but they have also done a great job of capturing enough of the jungle noises to help back up those visuals and really sell the jungle feel of the game.
The game’s single player campaign has plenty of things to keep you interested when you lose interest in following the main story line, including some great challenges that are located at various places around the island. The great thing with these is that whoever on your friends list has the highest score for a particular challenge will have their name written across the rock that represents where a challenge begins, so you might be exploring the island and suddenly see a giant chunk of red stone with one of your friends gamertags written across it – a particularly nice way to hook leaderboard data back into the game and encourages you to want to one-up your friends. Further to that if you want to actually play the game with others, there’s also co-op missions that you can play through. They play a different storyline with a new set of 4 characters who end up on the island and have their own challenges to face. Personally I did find the co-op stuff a bit more disappointing in comparison to the single player campaign though – there is no open sandbox to explore, so it’s very much an “on rails” experience where you are forced to follow the path they give you. I also found the combat in the co-op to be a bit more unbalanced as well, in that it seems MUCH harder to take enemies down than it was in the single player game, so despite using the same weapons and having the same bad guys we had to alter our style a little to account for this.
In the end, Far Cry 3 is easily one of the most impressive single player FPS experiences I’ve encountered in a while, and even if you have never played one of the other Far Cry games before you would be doing yourself out of an awesome gaming experience by letting this one go by without spending a little bit of time with it. It’s an impressive package overall and delivers a fairly memorable gaming experience.