Far Cry 2 got a bit of a negative backlash from players. Respawning guard posts, constant driving attacks, characters without any personality, and an environment that never felt alive sullied what should have been a great open-world FPS. Now Ubisoft are trying again by addressing all these faults and sending the series home to a tropical island. In that vein, during this review we’ll also be checking out how Far Cry 3 plays in its equally natural home: the PC. Far Cry 3
puts you in the shoes of Jason Brody, a spoilt thrill-seeker thrown headlong into hell in paradise. After a narrow escape from the clutches of the demented Vaas and his army of pirates Jason is rescued by a group of rebels called the Rakyat. In return for Jason’s help liberating the Rook Islands from the pirates they promise to help him find his brother, his girlfriend, and his other kidnapped friends. However, the rabbit hole goes far deeper than Jason will ever suspect (yes, there are Alice In Wonderland parallels and quotes too).
|Welcome to Far Cry
What follows is an adventure similar in many respects to Far Cry 2
but vastly improved in almost every way. It’s an open-world FPS with Skyrim
-esque RPG elements, plenty of side-missions and an exciting series of story missions. The Rook Islands are a little smaller than Bethesda’s epic but are still massive, and walking from one corner to another would take hours. Luckily there are cars and Fast Travel points, although these have to be unlocked by clearing Outposts. The hated guard posts from FC2 have now been turned into a major (and enjoyable) gameplay element, as clearing them also unlocks new missions, shops, and safe areas. To uncover areas of the map you have to climb radio towers (in a manner similar to Assassin’s Creed
right down to the swirling camera at the end), and there are also side-quests, mini-games (racing, poker, knife-throwing), challenges (with online leaderboards), and hunting to fill your time between the game’s main missions.
I’ll focus on hunting now if I may since it’s a major part of the game. Far Cry 3
has a full ecosystem with various animals roaming the islands, and if you want to get anywhere you have to go out and hunt them. That is, if you want to upgrade how many weapons, syringes and how much ammo and loot you can carry. You start the game only being able to carry one weapon, get a second through the hunting tutorial, then to have three you have to track down, kill, and skin several appropriate rarer animals (general areas for them are marked on the map), and for the final fourth weapon holster you’ll need to go on a ‘Path of the Hunter’ quest to hunt a particular elusive or powerful animal.
Hunting is kind of fun and just tracking down animals can be a challenge, which is always good. It’s also something you can keep on doing, regardless of whether you’ve got all the upgrades or not. Oh, and you take on sharks by punching them in the face, which never gets old. Many players will want to get a lot of hunting done right at the start and get it over with, as all the capacity upgrades will make your life easier - although that’s only in terms of carrying stuff. Gun upgrades are simply bought, and Skill upgrades are earned through XP.
The two most important states in Far Cry 3
are gunplay and stealth, and either of which can be used to overcome any enemy encampment. The Far Cry
series has always had both, but I’m very pleased to say that this time both work just perfectly. I loved Dishonored
but I preferred it as a stealth game, and if I screwed up my sneaking I often reloaded and tried again – that never happened with Far Cry 3
. I’d try and overcome every enemy silently without alerting anyone, but if I messed up I’d enjoy fighting off the pirates equally as much. Enemy AI works pretty well, alternating between relaxed, alarmed and combative believably and offering a real challenge in every scenario. The guns are meaty, the flamethrower awesome, and this year’s “weapon of the moment” the Bow is my killing machine of choice.
There is, very roughly, 30+ hours of game here, and it’s amazing how necessary the “side” stuff is. If you want to get across the island quickly you’ll need Fast Travel points, which you can only get by retaking Outposts. To retake Outposts you’ll probably need a few capacity upgrades, so you’ll have to go hunting and subsequently crafting. To know where the animals are though you’ll need the map, so you’ll have to climb Radio Towers (the only things marked on the map before you activate them). It’s cool how Ubisoft have been able to link all these optional encounters into the main game without just using the simple rewards of XP and cash, although these are there as well. The ‘Trials of the Rakyat’ challenges having online leaderboards is a neat touch too, especially as the current leader gets displayed on a big ceremonial stone in-game. I’m the current leader of most incidentally, which will probably change rapidly once the game actually gets released.
It’s unlikely you’ll only want to do just the story, but that alone will still probably clock you 15-20 hours. This is a big game and it’s fun for the vast majority of play time, so I feel utterly wretched saying I wish there was more to do. The sad fact is, the bigger the world the more there has to be to fill it up. Far Cry 3
has a lot, but the two things there should be more of are proper side missions and a reason not to Fast Travel all the time. There are only a handful of side missions and they never last very long, although at least there are Outposts, Path of the Hunter missions, pirate hunts (kill a specific guy), races etc to keep things interesting between story stuff.
|Insert action movie hero quote here, e.g. “you’re fired”, “hot enough for you” etc...
Worse though, as you conquer Outposts the threat level in the surrounding area completely disappears. Early drives around the island have you encountering road blocks or firefights between rebels and pirates, but these get rarer as you go on. There aren’t enough random encounters to make journeys interesting, and there’s no sense of constant threat like you might get in Skyrim
or even Far Cry 2
. This is more an area to improve on than a negative, but you will Fast Travel between locations more often than you’ll drive. There’s a lot of loot and various relics to discover scattered around the island, but the rewards for all of these are so pathetic it’s hardly worth bothering.
Another area to improve on to keep up with the best open-world games is in interactions with people. Main characters only interact with you in cutscenes, and although occasionally you’ll get a chat by pressing Use on them most of the time they’ll stare right through you and won’t even react when you’re gurgling in the corner undergoing a drug experience. Villages are entirely comprised by dolls who ignore you completely, aside from the nice lady who runs the gun shop. This is a real shame.
Nevertheless though, the main story and the characters are all interesting and the Rakyat’s plight is one you want to fight for. The highlight is of course Vaas, the insane pirate who stole the show at E3 and is like a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Captain Jack Sparrow. I loved every moment he was shown and extra kudos to the guy who motion-captured him complete with bizarre quirky ticks. He even livens up the worst mission in the game, the Uncharted
ripping-off burning building Ubisoft ill-advisedly showed off a few months ago, your escape from which is followed by a terrible on-rails shooting section accompanied by your whiny girlfriend Liza. Luckily she’s not in it that much and one of the game’s themes is Jason’s move away from his loser friends and into the heart of madness. The story, complete with a few twists and drug-addled “is this real?” moments, certainly pulled me in and kept me pushing onwards to see how f***ed-up things could possibly get.
I’m going to talk about the PC version now. I was only running it on Medium settings with a few Highs and it looked gorgeous, but there was a bit of pop-up as sadly the one thing that isn’t in the otherwise-comprehensive graphics settings is Draw Distance. Everything else the committed PC gamer wants though is featured, even an FOV slider and map editor. The controls are generally fine despite some resistance to changing weapons occasionally, with even number keys 1-4 corresponding to weapons properly (hooray), but the big D-pad the game keeps popping up to indicate your inventory isn’t really helpful, as is making the Left and Down buttons on that D-pad correspond to keys 7 and 8 under the title “Craft Items” – without telling you which is which. I’ve wasted many a syringe pressing those buttons.
Generally though the PC version of Far Cry 3
holds up well and the abundance of long-range shooting and quick accurate reactions favours the mouse over gamepad in my opinion. However there are a range of technical quirks that I suppose are endemic to open world games, and while I don’t know how many of these are PC-only I’ll still mention them for patching posterity. The worst affected is the Save system. Far Cry 2
was better on PC because it allowed you to save anywhere. Far Cry 3
does kind of, just with no quicksaving, not on missions, and it has an annoying habit of either restarting missions or dumping you miles away if you quit the game, whether you saved or not. There are occasional crashes, a number of bugs, and Jason has the annoying habit of getting stuck on objects two inches high. Hopefully all this will get patched out, but I somehow suspect the saving problem won’t. Fortunately Ubisoft seem to have almost entirely backed down from their DRM, with the game only requiring a one-time activation on their Uplay system. You have to run the game through Uplay afterwards, but you don't have to be online and you can still use things like the Steam overlay. It's some DRM, but it seems to work easily and smoothly - which is all we really want isn't it?
|What? Oh I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of all the awesome
The one thing I haven’t mentioned so far is the multiplayer, and that’s because I haven’t played it yet as the game’s not out until next week. There are Left 4 Dead
-style four player Co-op missions with a narrative separate from the single-player, and I like the way you can still use stealth in these. There are objectives which require more than one player, various perks (such as the team-boosting Battle Cry) and your own choice of loadouts. There are six chapters and while I can’t tell how long each are I’m looking forward to giving them a try. A general range of versus multiplayer modes round up the package, including Team Deathmatch and Domination alongside ten maps to play them on. There’s a map editor remember though, so hopefully there should be plenty of new content coming out from the community. There’s plenty I haven’t had space to talk about, like the drug experiences or the Indiana Jones temple moments, but if you have any questions just leave a comment below and I’ll endeavour to answer – as this is a particular game where I’m sure you’ll have plenty. Suffice to say Far Cry 3 is definitely the game its predecessor should’ve been, a constantly enjoyable open-world FPS that cleverly weaves in “optional” objectives with a compelling main narrative. Huge open area battles make way for smaller linear missions that are no less fun, with stealth and shooting equally strong. Despite a few technical quirks (seriously Ubisoft, patch the save system), a slight shortage of non-cutscene NPC interactions and the occasional lack of constant threat Far Cry 3 is a triumph that stands out from every other shooter released this year. It’ll frustrate sometimes, but hey, you can punch a shark in the face. In the face! Platform Played:
FAR CRY 3 VERDICT
There’s plenty I haven’t had space to talk about, like the drug experiences or the Indiana Jones temple moments, but if you have any questions just leave a comment below and I’ll endeavour to answer – as this is a particular game where I’m sure you’ll have plenty. Suffice to say Far Cry 3 is definitely the game its predecessor should’ve been, a constantly enjoyable open-world FPS that cleverly weaves in “optional” objectives with a compelling main narrative. Huge open area battles make way for smaller linear missions that are no less fun, with stealth and shooting equally strong. Despite a few technical quirks (seriously Ubisoft, patch the save system), a slight shortage of non-cutscene NPC interactions and the occasional lack of constant threat Far Cry 3 is a triumph that stands out from every other shooter released this year. It’ll frustrate sometimes, but hey, you can punch a shark in the face. In the face!
TOP GAME MOMENT
Hunting boars I was spotted by a gang of pirates. Armed with only a bow I snuck around and tried to pick them off Rambo-style, but as they closed in they were ambushed from the back by a tiger that mauled them to death. Hilarious.