A Far Cry
Like most people, I found Far Cry 2 to be a bit of a let down. Before the game's release I was incredibly hyped for what promised to be an amazing open world adventure with a story that was supposed to be comparable to Joseph Conrad's Hearts of Darkness. Unfortunately, what I got was an open world that didn't feel organic and a story that completely missed the mark of what I would call interesting or well written. Far Cry 2 had some cool ideas but ultimately felt like it was lacking something, let's call it heart. Because of my previous disappointment with Far Cry 2 I decided to ignore the hype that Ubisoft has been piling on for the series' latest entry Far Cry 3. I found the game's insanity laden marketing angle to be more annoying than effective, and the brief demo of Far Cry 3's multiplayer I received at PAX East last April left me feeling rather underwhelmed. That said, when it came time to load Far Cry 3 into my disc tray I had very few expectations but was still willing to see whether the series had or hadn't changed for the better. Having now played the entire single player campaign and explored a fair amount of Rook Island, I have to say that Far Cry 3 is the best game I've played all year.
Far Cry 3 takes place in a vast open world spanning two main islands located in what I assume is the South Pacific. The expansive jungles of the North and the rolling hills of the South are a great setting for Ubisoft's trip down the rabbit hole. The world is populated by native islanders, a band of indigenous warriors known as the Rakyat, mercenaries, pirates, and an amazingly diverse set of flora and fauna. All these elements together along with the gorgeous visuals provided by Ubisoft'sDunia Engine 2 give the world an organic feel that makes Rook Island a beautifully serene, yet extremely dangerous place. It's not just humans with guns you need to watch out for, there are several predators like, komodo dragons, leopards, sharks, and packs of wild dogs that would be more than happy to have you for a snack. If you'd rather be the hunter than the hunted you can take it upon yourself to go and hunt down some of the island's abundant wildlife. I would recommend doing so because hunting and skinning animals is actually the basis for the game's crafting system. Throughout the course of the game you will need to hunt animals and forage for plants in order to upgrade things like ammo and loot capacities or the amount of weapons you can carry. Specifically the various forms of plant life are used to craft syringes which in addition to healing your wounds, will also grant you special abilities depending on the crafting recipe used. The crafting system is a great mechanic that will prove useful time and time again during your quest for revenge. It was a surprise along with the game's skill system in what I expected was a pure shooter experience. Both systems added a great amount of depth to what would have been a fun although less full featured experience without them.
Be One With the Jungle and Your Grenade Launcher
Far Cry 3 features an excellent balance of stealth based gameplay and all out fire fights. Like Far Cry 2 there are various ways to deal with enemies. If you're clearing out an outpost you can run right in guns blazing or sneak in and silently kill all of the guards. Heck, sometimes you can even use animals as a distraction while you take what you need or flank the enemies to catch them unaware. Speaking of getting the drop on enemies, if you catch one unaware you can perform a takedown. Takedowns are stealth attacks where you stab an enemy in the back killing him instantly and silently. As your character progresses you can unlock more violent and useful takedowns via the skill tree. My favorite was the “Knife Takedown” which has you stab an enemy, pull out his knife, and throw it at another nearby foe, all without making a sound. The stealth mechanic makes a lot of sense whether or not the situation calls for it. Sometimes it's just better off to approach an objective silently and once things get hot switch to louder more effective means of dispatch your enemies. This balance between the loud and the quiet provides a very complimentary experience which really made me feel like the choice was up to me.
Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole
As I mentioned in my introductory paragraph I was hugely disappointed in Far Cry 2's story. My biggest complaint was that during my time with that game I just didn't feel any sort of connection to the other characters. Maybe it was the silent protagonist? Maybe it was that nobody had anything interesting to say or a reason for their actions? Far Cry 3 on the other hand, has the furthest thing from a disappointing story. Jason Brody, Far Cry 3's protagonist, is a likeable guy who finds himself in a very bad situation. Well, actually he's kind of in the worst situation imaginable. He's being held captive by a lunatic, his friends are missing and assumed dead, and what's worse is that he knows nothing about the island or how to fight the people who are doing this to him and his friends. Over the course of the game Jason seeks revenge on those who harmed him and his friends and befriends some locals to help him along the way. What follows is an action packed adventure full of mysteries, explosions, and strange surreal drug induced hallucinations that had me enthralled from beginning to end. While there's a million side-quests and activities to distract you from your main goal, trust me once you step through the looking glass you'll keep tumbling down until you reach the story's amazing climax. Far Cry 3's story has obvious influences like Alice and Wonderland but also less obvious ones like Letters From Iwo Jima and ABC's Lost. Rook Island is a place with several stories to tell and you'll want to spend hours unraveling all of the island's secrets. The story is well written and the dialogue is funny at times, but still manages to be thoughtful and emotional when necessary. The story hitting the right notes at the right time is definitely helped along by great voice performances from Stephen Bogaert (Sam), Faye Kingslee (Citra), Robert Crooks (Jason) and of course MichealMando (Vaas). The voice actors do such a great job of conveying the emotions of their videogame counterparts that I am fairly certain that MichealMando actually has a few screws loose. Despite being a most detestable villain, I really liked every one of the scenes that featured the deadly and downright daffy Vaas.
Things Just Keep Getting Better
The last half of 2012 has been filled with surprises for me. First, Spec Ops: The Line shows me what kind of drama can be achieved in videogames. Next, Sleeping Dogs knocks the Grand Theft Auto monkey right off my back and out of the park. Then, Resident Evil 6 shows me how a game can incorporate multiple story lines into a cohesive arc. Now, Far Cry 3 provides me with the most engaging experience I’ve had all year. Even after finishing the story, I absolutely can't wait to go back and explore every nook and cranny of Rook Island. There are relics to find, game to hunt, history to uncover, and jungles and caverns to explore. Far Cry 3 is an amazing amount of fun, the guns feel great, the visuals are stunning, the world is alive and just begs to be explored. Unfortunately, due to time restrictions I was not able to review any of Far Cry 3's co-op or multiplayer components, but since the single player is so jam packed with awesome, anything that those modes provide is just icing on an absolutely delicious cake of a game.