Far Cry 3 Offers Unique Shooter Experience
The Far Cry series has always been an interesting one in the game industry, known as much as a technical showcase for over-the-top beauty as anything else. The Far Cry games have also been known for some deep gameplay flaws that keep it from being thought of in the same light as say, Assassin’s Creed or Halo. Far Cry 3 follows these same patterns, but the technical impressiveness is much greater and the flaws thankfully far less than before. As such, Far Cry 3 offers a unique gaming experience that really can’t be found anywhere else. It’s also a lot of fun.
For Far Cry 3, we leave Africa and head back to the Pacific, in this case a place called Rook Island. Unlike previous games where the main character is a mercenary, here we play the lazy twenty-something rich kid Jason Brody. He’s a wimp, and the kind of aimless jerk we love to hate, the type of kid who posts photos of himself and his idiot friends on Instagram jumping off yachts or out of airplanes and drinking Champagne just to prove that somehow he’s better than you. When he and his rich friends are captured by modern day pirates, my first thought was ‘oh well.’ But since I was playing Brody, I figured I better step it up.
Brody escapes and is found by friendly island natives of the Rakyat tribe, many of whom look surprisingly sexy and more than a touch Anglo-American. Anyway, they teach him the way of the warrior. Whenever you earn enough experience to gain a level, your progress is noted by the growth of your magical tribal tattoo. Brody sets out on a quest of revenge and rescue, trying to save his friends before the pirates, you know, do something totally awful to them. Okay, enough about the plot. There is only really one shining moment in the entire plot of the game and that is the pirate boss Vaas, who GiN Columnist Todd Hargosh rightly just named Badass of the Year. Whenever he is on screen he’s a perfect villain, well acted and animated. Unfortunately, he plays a mostly minor role in the game overall.
Okay, so the plot is kind of the bad part of Far Cry 3. What about the good? Well, there is plenty to go around. Let’s start with the graphics. They are amazing. In fact, they are better-looking than any game I’ve experienced in the past couple years, and yes, that includes Skyrim. Running on a Tiki model gaming PC from Falcon Northwest with all the settings set to Ultra makes the game look silly good. There are moments like when you are standing at the top of one of Rook’s many cliffs, overlooking the sea. You can see sharks circling off in the distance through the clear blue water as the sun gradually sets in the cinnamon sky. Birds swoop off in the distance. The grass sways in the wind. And you just KNOW you have to jump. When you do, you find that the underwater world is just as beautiful as you splash into its azure travel-guide hues, scattering a school of fish that dart inside a nearby shipwreck from World War II. Breathtaking is good word to describe it all.
Day and night cycles almost make the same spots of the island seem like different places. A cool inlet that you might have fun swimming though and riding four wheelers around during the day might take on a sinister tone when the sun sets and the moon begins to reflect gently against the dark waters. Rain storms aren’t anything to mess with out there either. With Direct X 11 allowing for realistic pooling of water and the thunder booming all around, it can look and feel beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
I also tested the game out on a more modest gaming system, which could only handle putting some of the settings up to High, and none to Ultra. The game still looked really good, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have the hardware to drive all the extra foliage. In many ways, it makes the game easier to play without all the leaves sticking in your face. But if you have the gear, by all means, crank this baby up and prepare to be amazed.
Probably more impressive than the graphics is the fact that Far Cry 3 is a completely open world. The island itself is huge and you can climb its mountains, crawl through its many caves, discover hidden temples deep in the jungle, swim its rivers and navigate its valleys to your heart’s content. A huge variety of vehicles help you accomplish this task from Japanese patrol boats left over from the war to jeeps to dune buggies. Heck, even zip lines can help you traverse the terrain quickly if you’re careful.
The island is also ALIVE. I put that in capital letters for a reason. Not only are pirates and natives fighting for territory, but everywhere inside and around Rook Island is teeming with wildlife from dingo dogs to Komodo dragons to tigers to great white sharks. The animals all act naturally, going about their own business all around you. You might see a leopard rush out of the brush and take down a water buffalo or an alligator suddenly surface and put a deer into a death roll (or you if you’re not careful). And trust me when I say that the wildlife is often more deadly than your human opponents. I kept a trusty 12-guage shotgun on me at all times, not so much to deal with pirates, but to stop any charging tigers cold, if I was lucky enough to see or hear them coming in at the last second.
Animals don’t have any loyalty to one side or the other. They are just as likely to attack you, the Rakyat tribe, each other or your enemies. I once saw a group of Komodo dragons destroy an entire pirate outpost, though it helped that the wildly-firing pirates set off a huge conflagration by spraying into a set of stacked gasoline drums, which in turn blew up all of the vehicles they were refueling a few moments before. Anything can happen in Far Cry 3, and often times does. Enjoy the chaos of a truly open and very deadly world.
Like with other games in the series, Far Cry 3 has a lot of weapons to choose from. You have to either save up enough money collected from loot stashes or bodies to buy them, or if you help out the Rakyat enough, they will make several of them available for free as you progress in the game. Each of the guns and weapons has different capabilities, and unlike Far Cry 2, don’t disintegrate in your hand with repeated use. In fact, I kept my silenced M700 sniper rifle, which I named Vera and painted with a garish tiger-stripe pattern, with me pretty much the entire game. For others with different tastes there are shotguns, pistols, light machine guns and even a bow and arrow which can be equipped with exploding or flaming arrows Rambo-style. Most weapons have attachments like scopes or suppressors, various sites and extended magazines and even custom paint jobs which can be applied.
And they all sound different too. Some of those gunshots, like the un-muzzled crack of a Dragunov SVD or the blast from a .44 magnum might just hurt your ears if you’re wearing headphones that are turned up too high. The first time I fired a shotgun I jumped out of my chair because it was such a loud contrast to the peaceful jungle noises that had been luring me to sleep.
When you aren’t running around just exploring, you are helping the Rakyat by attacking outposts manned by pirates and getting clues about your missing friends. These assaults can be real tactical challenges. You get a lot more XP if you can eliminate everyone at a base without any alarms being raised. This normally involves carefully crawling into position hidden by jungle foliage, or resting high above an encampment on a rocky overhang, and darkness helps a lot too. You have a camera that can be used to mark enemies and watch their patrol routes. Then it’s normally a matter of taking out the snipers first, followed by the patrols in such a way that they never figure out anything is wrong, either creeping into the place with a knife or using long-range fire from a silenced rifle.
Of course the crap will hit the fan sometime. Heck, a tiger might attack you in the middle of your assault. If the alarm is raised, reinforcements will arrive within about thirty seconds. When that happens, I like to switch to my RPG and blow the hell out of their vehicles before they can dismount. It’s not stealthy, but pretty darn fun. There are thousands of ways to take down the different outposts, so whatever your play style, go for it. That might mean planting mines around key base positions, ramming down the gates with an exploding truck, freeing captive animals to let them kill the bad guys, or simply going in guns blazing. I prefer the more stealthy approaches, but like everything in Far Cry 3, it’s really up to you.
Once you capture an outpost, it’s available for both fast travel and to buy guns and ammo from in the future. So you will want to capture them as you progress along with radio towers (which expands the map) to keep your lines of support close.
There are also hunting missions and bounties that can be found, plus lots of side quests that normally involve settling family disputes or something like that for the islanders. And there are challenges with each weapon and even a crafting component where you need to skin certain animals to upgrade your inventory capacity, as well as basic alchemy to create healing and buffing drugs. Hell, you can even play poker for money if you want, and the engine for that isn’t too bad.
The bottom line is that when you start playing Far Cry 3, the hours will roll by. There’s a multiplayer component as well, and if you are looking for some very realistic combat, then it’s a good choice. But I never really got to that very much because I found myself playing for over 80 hours inside the main game. It’s hard to say how much gameplay is inside Far Cry 3. In that respect, it is kind of like Skyrim. There are fewer side quests for sure, but just exploring the world is a rewarding treat most of the time. You won’t walk or ride for more than five minutes without something fun and exciting happening. And that kind of open-world adventure doesn’t come along very often.
Could Far Cry 3 be a game of the year candidate? I think so. Regardless of that, it offers unique gameplay that no other shooter in the past year can claim. If you’re looking for something vastly different than the same old Middle Eastern warzone, a place where the wildlife is just as deadly as your enemies, then book a trip to Rook Island. It’s a vacation I guarantee you’ll never forget.