Just as the original Far Cry set a new benchmark for our PC brethren, showing the limitations of the hardware at that time, so too has Far Cry 3 emerged to show us that our current generation of console hardware is reaching a point of diminished returns.
Far Cry 3 has you cast in the role of Jason Brody, a Californian sports enthusiast who, along with his brothers and friends, is taking a welcome vacation to the Rook islands to enjoy the best extreme sports the Pacific can hold. The game opens with a video of your holiday to celebrate your brother obtaining his pilots license, partying, drinking, hang-gliding and finally sky diving.
But it is soon revealed that you are embroiled in the darker side of the Rook islands, one full of pirates, wild animals, tribal natives and more drugs than Keith Richards’ night stand, as the video is running on your tablet phone which is being held by one of the primary antagonists of the game, Vaas. The poster boy for Far Cry 3, Vaas is the leader of a group of pirates that have captured you and your friends, to use for ransom.
When Vaas is called away, you are left in the cage with your brother Grant, who has managed to slip his bindings, and from here the game begins proper. Grant utilises his army training to kill the guard and free you, taking you through the basics of movement and stealth to navigate the pirate camp and make good your escape. It is evident from this point, that Grant, not Jason is the brother more suited to surviving this situation as he acts as your guide through this unfamiliar territory. You both manage to evade capture and exit the camp, finding your camera, phone and a map along the way, but just when you believe you are free to search for your friends, fate intervenes. Grant is shot in the throat by Vaas, who it appears had discovered your escape, and as your brother dies, Vaas tells you to run. You have no choice, but to try to escape through the jungle, as the pirates hunt you down. Bullets spray up the earth behind you as you traverse the jungle, falling off ledges, leaping gorges and avoiding animals in your path. Drawing to a dramatic close, you make your first kill of a pirate who captures you, only to be dropped from a rickety bridge into the river below, when a helicopter takes out the structure in front of you.
You awaken, to find Dennis, the man who ultimately rescued you from the river, applying a “Tatua”, tribal markings that reveals your true warrior spirit, and you begin your journey to rescue your friends, aid the tribal Rakyat and remove Vaas’ vile influence on the islands.
Prevalent first and foremost to this game, is the scale upon which the Rook islands are built. At approximately 29 square kilometers, equivalent to the Polynesian Tuvalu islands merged into only two distinct masses, (yes I did Google that), it gives a play area that will, in all likelihood, never be entirely seen should you decide not to investigate the world at large. Filled with small villages, shacks, remnants from its fortification during the second world war, and even some hidden areas from Rook Islands dark history, there are hundreds of things for you to do, and places to explore. Thankfully, the game gives you plenty of reasons to do just that.
Alongside the main quest, there are a plethora of side missions, collectibles and distractions to tempt you into straying from the beaten path. At the outset, you are introduced to a mechanic that will be very familiar to those who have played another of Ubisoft’s IP’s, in the form of Communication Towers. At the request of the local shopkeeper, (who looks unnervingly like Yoko Ono), you can scale these towers to remove the pirates Jammers placed to limit communication between the villages and towns in the game. Doing so, will reward you with a cut scene, where the camera will pan around the outlying area, showing you places of interest and marking your map with the location of hunting grounds, villages and quests. In thanks for opening up their trading with surrounding towns, the shopkeepers will also provide you with weapons available to equip free of charge.
Most of the weapons you unlock can be customised to your liking, whether it is as simple as a fresh paint job or as game changing as optical sights and extended magazines. All of these are purchased through the money you earn through quests, finding chests hidden in the wilderness or even looting the corpses of the pirates you terminate, although why exactly a gun runner would be interested in a dolls head, a Ripped Teddy Bear (who happens to be named Bobo…Any Simpsons fans in the house?), or even a pair of 80′s sunglasses or meth crystals, but nevertheless all of these items contribute to upgrading your arsenal and ensuring your ammo is well furnished.
Far Cry 3 is stocked full of RPG influences, none more so than the crafting and skill tree systems at its core.
Abilities are allocated through a robust skill tree based on the three tribal spirit creatures. the heron focusing on long range takedowns and mobility, the spider for stealth and survival skills, and finally the shark for assualt takedowns and healing. As you progress each tree, you earn a new segment to your Tatua, representing your mastery over nature and your progression to becoming a true Rakyat warrior. Its a bizarre system, but it ties in well with both the story, and the environment in which you find yourself.
Crafting is all based off returning to your hunter/gatherer roots, taking down bigger and stronger animals for their hides and locating and combining the local flora for beneficial effects.
Medicine and stimulants are easily crafted using the items that are found naturally around you, but all fall into one of five categories. Green herbs which are a base for all healing concoctions, Red for combat enhancements, blue for exploration boons, yellow for hunting aids and finally white, which act as catalysts for your more powerful special drugs, which can make you impervious to pain, or even focus your aim to ensure every shot that hits your enemy is a kill shot.
Crafting with the hides and pelts you obtain, form the basis of how you increase your inventory and carrying capacity. This can be as simple as gathering a couple of boar pelts to craft a rudimentary backpack or a larger ammo pouch up to completing “way of the hunter” missions to gain that elusive black panther pelt, or blood komono dragon skin to make the best storage you can get.
Unlike recent titles, which have hunting and skinning as an additional, and downright boring, diversion and source of income at no point did it feel that the game was forcing you to undertake these hunts, but with the crafting system, should you do so, there was some reason other than just a monetary reward for which to take part. Although it increased how much loot, money, ammo, or even allowing you to carry around more syringes full of the cocktails you crafted yourself, it didn’t feel laboured or grind heavy. Overall, the system appeared to be balanced and you could effectively take or leave the upgrades should you wish.
At this point, I couldn’t really go on without talking about the fauna of The Rook Islands. Throughout the world you will enter territory belonging to both herbivores and predators alike, ranging from goats, pigs and the more exotic Tapirs, to wild dogs, dingos and the panthers, Komodos and crocodiles native to the islands. Each of these animals will react to your intrusion with a natural fight or flight mentality, so for hunting stealth is the order of the day. Make no mistake, early in the game, these predators will devastate you should you fail to take them out silently with the large black Asian bears and crocodiles able to take you out in a single powerful blow.
To aid you in this task, you have a very handy feature on your camera, which is a common trope in a lot of games these days, and that is the ability to mark enemies, and perceive their line of vision, allowing you to map and plan your approach with care. This particular mechanic is especially useful when trying to take back the island.
Dotted throughout the two land masses, are bases of operation used primarily by the pirates under Vaas, and also by Mercenaries in the latter stages of the game. These bases are intrinsic to the overall game once captured as not only do you free the area of the enemy influence, but they also unlock new side quests, new stores for trading and most importantly, a new fast travel location. Utilising the marking mechanic allows you to plan your route, as taking out the base quickly or quietly is your best bet. Should you be discovered, or too slow, reinforcements can be summoned, and this can make capture ten times harder. Being stealthy, will allow you to approach and disable the alarms across the compound, or should you be more of a gung-ho type, you could either just ensure no-one lives long enough to reach the alarm, or shoot out the alarm box to prevent its use but you have to be mindful that shooting out one will not disable all alarms in the same way sneaking in and deactivating will do. In some bases you will also find caged predators. One shot to its bamboo cage, and you instantly have a distraction which could, if left to its own devices, capture the base for you. Even with this approach, sometimes the surrounding wildlife will just automatically wander into camp, which happened to me on a couple of occasions and I watched from the bushes giggling as the extremely pissed off Tiger wiped out the camp, then calmly went on his way. At the end of the day, each base you capture can be approached in any way you see fit. If you want to hang-glide into the base while humming the tune to James Bond, before dismounting and taking out all the enemies with a pistol, it is entirely possible.
This Open world freedom sums up one of the key factors that make this game so eminently playable. Much of the side quests and some of the campaign quests are overly restrictive, with warnings popping up to advise of boundary restrictions that counter a lot of the great strides made in the game during the exploratory sections.
That said, freeing outposts is only one of the many activities you can undertake, with hunting missions that will see you track and kill animals with a designated weapon – sometimes even a rare creature as mentioned previously, hit a map point to take part in races in one of the many different vehicles in the game, assassination missions to kill a specific pirate leader using the machete, and even some Rakyat trials which has you compete against your friends in predefined tasks from straight out slaughter to running over the most enemies in a jeep as you possibly can in a set time limit.
As you negotiate this verdant and lush playground you will notice that the graphical flourishes are exceptional, whether it be the blurring as the land zips by under your hang-glider or when you surface from the water, or even the flash of white across the screen when you pop your arm back in its socket, it all culminates in drawing you into this fantastic and clearly well developed world.
At one point, due to reckless driving on my part, I careened through a wooden bridge and into the river it forded. Rather than get out of the car, I sat mesmerized as my characters eyes adjusted to take in the a verdant and lush ecosystem thriving beneath a bridge I had crossed countless times.
Regrettably, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, there are obvious limitations made apparent due to how much has been crammed into this game. With such big ideas come big drawbacks, and unfortunately texture popping and a perceivable slow down in frame is evident due to the hardware struggling to manage this game and all its fineries. Nowhere is it more evident, than in the quick pan sections when you unlock a tower, or when you are traversing the world at break neck speed in your vehicle of choice. Although it does not impair the game play as such, it is distinctly noticeable while playing.
Atmosphere and ambiance are prevalent in this world with even the mundane climbing of radio towers brought to life through stark use of sound and visuals. Hearing the creak and groan of the rusted, broken metal as it shifts under your weight, all the while watching the ground get further and further away beneath the corrugated floor, is an enrapturing experience and the payoff is worth it. It goes some way to prove the depth this world has when, during these climbs, my palms would subconsciously become sweaty as my brain fired off the warning impulses associated with my Acrophobia. Once at the top, the view is stunning and gives you a sense of the scale in this massive world.
The sound and voice work in this game is a master craft in how things should be done. From the screeching of the small engine in the Darrah and Technical Jeep as they struggle to climb a steep slope, the crackle of an AK47 as you fire it on full auto, the cacophony of birds taking to flight as you emerge from the undergrowth, to the outstanding performance from Michael Mando as the psychotic and unpredictable Vaas (The “definition of insanity” speech is chilling when you receive it in its true context). All of these combine to draw you deep into a world, that although delusive in most aspects can be made to seem all that more realistic with the atmosphere the sound team and writers provide. The plot of the game seems to taper off towards the end following a thoroughly engrossing start, with some outcomes eminently predictable before their occurrence, but a lot of these low points are pulled through by the superlative voice acting. The Alice in Wonderland quotes seem to be either a direct correlation between Jason’s journey “down the rabbit hole” and that of Alice’s adventure, or even possibly an indirect link to the often referenced drugs interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece, but regardless Jasons experiences and involvement in the island and its culture begins to tear away at the ties that bind him to his old life back in the US.
Probably my biggest gripe with the single player campaign, is the way in which your progression is handled on screen. The progress indicator and activity guide is displayed in the center of the screen and off to the left, which regularly blocks your field of vision. Add to that the constant pop ups that appear in the center right and your visibility is severely hampered by the on screen displays. This is due, for the main part, to the handbook entries which cover everything from entries on how to drive, how to fly, not to mention the guides on the mundane such as people, places, flora, fauna and collectibles that you pick up as you progress.
There is no option whatsoever to disable either the tips, the notifications, or the updates so, most of the time, to remove you either have to ignore them until they fade away or access the pause menu and view the entries it is notifying you about to remove it from your HUD.
Alongside the main campaign, Ubisoft have included both a Co-op and a Multi-player mode, which both stand out in their own right, for good and bad reasons.
Firstly, the Co-op. In my opinion, I can most associate this mode’s gameplay to that of Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Taking the role of one of four main protagonists, none of whom are actually particularly nice folk or like-able you are thrown together when the boat on which you are traveling is over-run with pirates off the coast of The Rook Islands. It appears that the captain, has made a deal with the pirates to take all of the crew and passengers as hostages in order to ransom them off, while he attempts to skip town with the money you and your colleagues had earned. Once more, the key factor of this campaign is revenge, but this time with a hint of greed as you track him down in an attempt to recoup your stolen cash.
This mode is clearly designed to be played by all four characters at once, as playing through with less than a full compliment can be extremely difficult and there doesn’t appear to be any scaling of the difficulty, or number of enemies dependent on how many players there are. Each character has a brief introduction, Callum, the ex-junkie enforcer Glaswegian thug, (who I instantly took a liking too – I know so many people that sound JUST like him) has been brought in as his father was a friend of the captain, Leonard is a crooked ex-cop trying to make some money to retire by working security on the ship, Mikhael, a Russian hitman who broke his code of ethics in order to protect his family, and Tisha, the soldier dishonorably discharged due to a run in with her General. Each are looking to reclaim their money, so they can begin their new lives.
Each of the six levels are approximately one hour long, allowing you to consume the co-op in bite sized chunks, and for the most part will see you following in the wake of the captain as you try to track him down. With a distinctly linear approach, it is a polar opposite to the open approach taken in the single player, key objectives are assigned throughout the course of the level, with a competitive section included that could involve all four of you competing to ride jetski collecting and depositing explosives to blow up a dam, or seeing who can get the most kills with a sniper rifle. These little competitive sections break up the action nicely. All of your actions in this mode, will ultimately unlock items and weapons for use in both co-op and multi-player, with special bonuses received by decoding usb keys, hard drives or cd’s at the end of each mission. These activities happen in real time and can take a few minutes to a few hours with rewards scaled to the time taken.
One of the few problems encountered in this mode, is the occasional disconnect. Now this in itself would not be so bad, but for some reason the game still tracks the user who has disconnected as being in the game, so once you are booted you have to wait until the next level starts, or alternatively everyone would have to start again to the get the unfortunate player back into the game.
Finally, we have the multiplayer mode, which contains your staple Team Deathmatch and Domination modes, but add the new Firestorm and Transmission modes. The aim of Firestorm is to set fire to the enemy team’s supply nodes at the same time. Transmission mode has you race across the map to destroy propaganda transmitters. Both of these game modes are heavily focused on team cohesion. Sadly, these new game styles are relatively empty and although enjoyable in their own right, the lack of players does detract from what are two outstanding variations.
In addition to this is the ability to design custom maps, which can absorb hours of your time in this veritable playground tweaking the different aspects of each mode, which is undeniably one of the best parts of this creator mode.
Unfortunately,there are several problems with the gameplay in Multiplayer. There is significant, yet infrequent lag and hit detection issues which plague the multiplayer. Since these issues do not occur consistently, there are obviously factors at play, and I can only hope that Ubisoft release patches to resolve these problems once the issue is discovered as the multiplayer during the times this did not occur were greatly enjoyable.
It is clear to me, that once again Far Cry is only able to run in its full glory if you pick it up on the PC, and have a high enough spec machine to do it justice, but even with the hardware limitations on the consoles this is a fantastic game despite the few small niggles and bugs holding back such an amazing experience from being a perfect one. If you are a fan of first person shooters, and have not picked this up as yet, then I would highly recommend this game.
And just in case you may have missed it, check out the insanity with The Far Cry Experience.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Platform: PS3/PC/Xbox360 Release Date: 04/12/2012
Disclosure: Derek “Digi” McRoberts purchased a copy of Far Cry 3 for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.