Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: November 29, 2012
I stealthily make my way through the brush, scanning the tree line across the road for any sign of enemies. I see none. Hurriedly, I make my way across the road, only to be stopped dead in my tracks by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. I hear a low, strong voice yell, “There he is! Kill him!” And so it begins. The three occupants of the vehicle throw themselves from their seats, scatter for some cover in the brush all the while firing bullets in my direction. It’s getting dark… the sun is going down. Through clever use of cover I manage to kill two of the men trying to take my life, but the noise attracts the attention of more pirates at the outpost up the road. A sniper turns his laser to searching for me as several more pirates come running down the dirt road from the outpost. Suddenly, I see the faint glow of what looks like a burning cloth. It’s hurled through the air and breaks open in the brush behind me. An inferno roars up. I fire off a few more shots in the direction of the enemy, killing one. I turn to jump through the fire and make my escape when I hear the heart-stopping hiss of a Komodo lizard. A moment passes, and then four of them come scurrying through the flames in a ravenous fit of rage, hoping to get a taste of my fleshy bits. I turn and run toward the unoccupied jeep in the middle of the road. It’s on fire from being hit by a hail of bullets. As I run past I throw C4 in the driver’s seat. The lizards give chase, as they run past the jeep I blow the C4. Mission accomplished. Molotov cocktails continue to rain hellfire down upon me. Just as I’m repositioning myself for a better angle to dispatch the rest of the pirates, I hear screams… shrill, disgusting screams. Jaguars. Jaguars, stalking in the dead of night, sprang forth from the shadows, killing my enemies, splashing their blood across the jungle floor. Quietly, I slink away, flames at my back, moon in the sky.
- A few truly devilish, memorable characters
- A large, living, breathing island, supported by an open-world, random element
- The crafting system
- The story walks on some, at times, dangerous and laughably contrived grounds
- The least interesting and most annoying protagonist of 2012
That is just a small taste of the random element in Far Cry 3, and it is something that makes the game very special. Because of it, you feel the uneasy and uncomfortable nature of the island. You understand that it is a dangerous place. You get that at any moment you may have to defend yourself against any number of foes. It’s a brilliant piece of game design and it makes for one hell of an incredibly immersive experience. Every movement you make through the jungle must be carefully considered, every unintended noise is a possible death knell. There’s no shortage of reviewers sharing some of the more memorable random moments from their playthrough, as I just did. This stuff happens, and you just want to tell everyone you can about it.
Far Cry 3’s single player story is the best fun I’ve had this year by myself. And there are some damn good reasons for this. Accompanying the feelings of uneasiness and dread that you feel when wandering around your South Pacific paradise, are feelings of awe and discovery. Many times throughout the single player story I found myself stopping at vistas, taking in the majestic beauty that surrounded me. The random element and open-world approach that is found at the core of Far Cry 3’s design creates a living, breathing world around you. Unlike Skyrim, Far Cry 3 doesn’t rely on the story to drive immersion. Instead, the story is part of an immersive world, making it far more compelling than it would otherwise be.
Anchoring the single player story mechanically is a crafting system. Throughout the course of the story you will skin animals that inhabit the island to craft new wallets that let you carry more money, new weapon holsters that allow you to carry more weapons, and so on. You’ll scavenge for different kinds of plants to mix various drug concoctions that do anything from replenish lost health to extend the amount of time you can stay underwater before having to come back up for air. The development team took time to make sure that when you are gathering items to craft with, you as a player don’t feel like you are doing busy work. A better wallet and a better weapon holster really do make a difference in how you play the game, and the drug syringes you craft can often be the difference between life and death in an encounter with any one of the island’s deadly foes, human or animal.
There is a focus on radio towers and outposts in the single player story as well. Climbing to the top of a radio tower—an undertaking that is a lot more dangerous than it may sound—and activating the signal reveals a quadrant on the map. Trust me people, you are going to want to see the map. The game gets really tough and confusing if you delve into an unexplored area of the map. Revealing the map will show the location of animals, the prevalence of vegetation, the topography of the surrounding area, roads, and a few other useful points of interest. Outposts are enemy occupied strongholds located throughout the island, usually two in every quadrant of the map. If you choose to liberate these outposts, you and your friendly warriors, the Rakyat, will move in and occupy the outpost, giving you access to the outpost’s vehicles. Each outpost you control serves as a sort of mini over-world, where you can refill ammunition, buy new weapons, and take on several side quests. You also gain the ability to fast-travel between outposts you control, and while this isn’t necessarily helpful toward the beginning of the game, it becomes a very useful feature later on when you have to crisscross long distances on the island. Here again, the development team has made sure that these features matter. They aren’t superfluous in the slightest. But, the really weird thing is that I wasn’t even doing them because of the advantages they provided me in the game. I was doing them because they were great fun to do. There is some sort of addictive quality to them.
Now we come to the story itself. A lot has been written post-launch about the story of Far Cry 3. A lot of talk has taken place, too. Truth be told, I’m glad, because if there was one game this year that broke my heart it was Far Cry 3. No game this year fell so flat on the promise of potential in its story as Far Cry 3 did. Disappointed, saddened, underwhelming, all of these words are too kind. And, it’s not even that the story is, arguably, bad that has me so offended. No, it’s the squandering of absolutely superb story assets, the disregard for the truly brilliant parts, the glossing over of extremely compelling content. All of those things are there, just in small doses… in these private moments that, it seems, the game is trying to have by itself, as if it were trying to run away, as fast as possible, from the elements that don’t live up to their true potential. It would be like buying a Ferrari 458 to drive your kid to school every morning and nothing else.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some superb characters in this game. It just so happens that most of them are disgusting, vile human beings. All of the game’s villains are fully realized. Vaas in particular is memorable. Far Cry 3’s villains are so expertly brought to life, that it makes me a bit uncomfortable to think of the writers and the process they went through to be able to accurately and viscerally represent the ugly, brutal, rough, and truly horrific side of our humanity. This is not a game for the squeamish. But, the compelling nature of the game’s villains exists alongside the subpar nature of its overall story and protagonist, Jason Brody. After a strong Act One, Act Two and Act Three of Far Cry 3’s story falter. To avoid spoilers, I won’t mention specifics, but I will say that the plot becomes confused. Toward the beginning of the game, the story has you believing that you are headed in one direction, but then it starts growing a different branch and struggles to get you to turn your attention to what it wants you to see, mostly because what it wants you to see isn’t half as compelling as what you are presented with during the first half of the game.
Couple that with some of the most arrogant and underserving protagonists in recent memory, and one can see why Far Cry 3’s story is such a struggle to quantify. The game wanders dangerously close to a “White Savior” complex, and it never quite recovers from the faux pas is makes in this regard. A bunch of rich white kids go on vacation and get kidnapped and held for ransom by pirates. I’m supposed to feel sorry for Oliver, the always-stoned skateboarding best friend of the main protagonist? I’m supposed to identify with the protagonists that have everything? I’m supposed to be able to relate to characters that have enough money to go on a drinking binge from South East Asia to the South Pacific? Sorry Ubisoft, but these are the people that usually make my blood curdle. They don’t care about the plight of the people native to the island, they don’t care about righting any of the wrongs that Vaas and his emporium of baddies have committed and continue to commit on the island, and because of this, Jason Brody and his friends come off as foreign, as anomalies in a place they know nothing about and care nothing for. Which is fine, that’s a perfectly normal reaction to have when you’ve been kidnapped and held for ransom. I’d just want to go home too. But, up against the meta-narrative of what is happening on the island, Jason and his friends come off as privileged, underserving rich white kids that don’t know shit about real life.
There is also this under-explored, yet somehow over-represented, theme of growth for Jason. Time and time again throughout the story he references “his path” in conversations with other characters, often saying, “This is something I have to do.” But I don’t buy that any of this is in any way about Jason Brody’s personal growth, about finding some quintessential human element of who he is and cracking that wide open. That’s what the story wants you to believe is at play here, but it just isn’t. Jason Brody arrives on the island, is captured, escapes, and then is immediately taken under the arm of the Rakyat, a band of warriors native to the island. It doesn’t take long for the “White Savior” complex to establish itself in this relationship either. No sooner has Jason Brody killed his first pirate than those native to the island start heralding him as the “The One” Rakyat warrior, the one that would come and save their poor, despondent, native souls from the evil that has befallen Rook Island. Instead of addressing their portents sincerely, Jason continues to rampage throughout the island, killing pirates and spouting off corny one-liners in chase sequences from time to time. He makes references to this supposed personal journey and becoming a Rakyat warrior many times when he is away from the action and in more intimate settings; but, you never get the sense that during the action, when he’s out in the field, so to speak, he has any of this in mind. In fact, there are plenty of instances throughout the story where he makes it clear that the only interest he has is in finding his friends and beating a hasty retreat from the island. So, is he pretending to care? No, the story isn’t that subtle or that competent. It’s just poor story execution. There are too many contradicting elements at play and none of them are resolved, at the micro or the macro level. In the end, Jason Brody and his friends are the same privileged, well-off, not-a-care-in-the-world white kids you used to see on MTV’s Laguna Beach. It makes me sad to say, but it’s a feeling I couldn’t shake.
I know. How presumptuous of me. How dare I focus on something as superfluous to an interactive medium as writing and story! I’m a terrible human being. But, here’s the deal: I am too invested in the creative processes at work in Far Cry 3 to not care about where it falls flat outside of the context of it being interactive entertainment. There is some fantastic writing, there are some truly compelling characters brought to life by some extremely talented voice actors. It seems like a self-inflicted slap in the face, then, that so much of what is great about Far Cry 3’s creative elements do battle with poorly executed, and convoluted themes and motifs. The oversimplified representation of complex creative ideas and notions is a shame, a damn shame.
Luckily, such considerations don’t have to be made for Far Cry 3’s other gameplay modes. You’ll find a cooperative story mode and a multiplayer mode. The coop mode is significantly more linear than the single player story. You’ll team up with up to three other friends as you play through a storyline separate from the main story. The structure is as such that you play through missions, inter-spliced with cinematics and in-game conversations. There’s nothing wrong with the coop mode, it just simply doesn’t do anything particularly notable. It’s a good bit of mindless fun to have with friends once you’ve finished flying solo. The multiplayer leaves something to be desired. It’s decidedly bare-bones and comes off as more of an afterthought than it does a fully functioning, well-thought out game mode. It is clear that Far Cry 3 is not meant to be a multiplayer game when looking at the extremely polished single player story versus the lackluster multiplayer elements.
Even with its story problems, Far Cry 3 is still the best single player fun I’ve had in 2012. As a game, it does almost everything perfectly. Here is a beautifully crafted experience, a living, breathing world that you actually feel you inhabit. It’s some of the most intense, immersive gameplay you’ll experience for quite some time, and everyone should afford themselves the opportunity to play it.
|Final Score||“Best Single Player of 2012”||9.0|
You definitely get the sense that the developers were pushing the current-gen console technology to its limits. I had the chance to check out Far Cry 3 on PC, and if you have a rig that can run it, that is definitely the way to go. On consoles, there is texture pop-in, frame rates that drop below 10 fps at times, and some truly weird draw distances. That being said, it is restricted only by the technology it is running on. The developers did what they could with what they had and Far Cry 3 still manages to be captivating in its beauty.
Everything about playing Far Cry 3 is pure, unadulterated, pleasure. It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s very well-designed and I feel very fortunate for having had the opportunity to experience such a well-crafted game at the end of 2012.
It’s not bad value at all. If you’re a completionist you should get well over 25 hours of gameplay here, maybe even closer to 30. But, the coop and online multiplayer modes detract from the value. I would have paid $60 for the single player experience alone. Instead I paid $60 for a brilliant single player story and mediocre multiplayer modes. More is not always better. In the case of the multiplayer modes I was left feeling more like, “I paid $60 for this because…?” instead of, “Alright! Bonus modes!”
Sound matters in Far Cry 3. Noise matters. I tried playing with the volume down one night and I was eaten alive by animals and caught unawares by pirates more times than I care to admit. When sound is that important is has to be good, and boy, is it ever good. Everything from footsteps, to the sound of dirt scrapping against the bottom of your shoes is viscerally represented audio candy. Great voice acting and a dark, grinding, soundtrack—courtesy of Brian Tyler—round out a really fantastic audio experience.
Review by Jon Hamlin
Jon Hamlin is a freelance game journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He plays too much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and enjoys a good glass of wine. Occasionally, he can be found commanding his legion of doom on Xbox Live as GeniusPantsPhD. Follow him on Twitter @WordsmithJon, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All Articles by Jon.