Review: Far Cry 3 (PlayStation 3)

Come for the beaches, stay for the bloodshed

Set on a tropical island, Far Cry 3 is the latest entry in the widely popular Far Cry series.

Previous entries have explored the idea of a first person shooter title with a dynamic and rich open-world to explore. For better or worse, this franchise has built up a strong following for exactly that.

Far Cry 3 takes all the elements fans may have enjoyed in previous titles, redefining them and adding an extra does of self-proclaimed ‘insanity’ to the mix. The question is, is it any good?

Read on for our thoughts.

The Review

‘Face your insanity’ is the tagline for Far Cry 3, and as I sit here and write that phrase myself I’m inclined to agree that it accurately captures what the game is all about.

Far Cry 3 isn’t kind, nor is the game world it transports you forgiving or pleasant. The tropical island setting, however, is a wondrous and beautiful place to explore though as you trek deeper inland you’ll find a plethora of dark secrets.

I’ll affirm right now that I wasn’t a fan of Far Cry 2. There was a lot about the game I found annoying, both in terms of story and gameplay. Everything felt like a chore when all I wanted to do was explore. Far Cry 3 improves on this in almost every-way.

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The game opens with Jason Brody, the main character, and his friends living it up on a tropical island get-away. Drinking in flashy bars and getting drunk, partying on the beach, sky-diving, swimming in crystal blue oceans – it’s all right out of an American teenager holiday movie. Though the fun and uplifting message Far Cry 3 creates from the get-go is destroyed in an instance.

After a flash you’re taken to the ‘present time’ where Jason is tied up in a cage with his brother, facing down the equally dangerous and insane Vaas – the leader of a group of slave trading pirates. Vaas gives you an earful about insanity and morals, and once you escape the cage the game begins.

Technically speaking Far Cry 3 is top-notch. Voice acting and motion capturing performances- especially Vaas – outperform recent blockbuster titles like Hitman Absolution. Each character has a real sense of realism about them, both in terms of their unique characterisation but their respective level of insanity.

Though Far Cry 3‘s story largely revolves around Jason’s mission to rescue his friends from Vaas’ slave camps, all the while helping the local residents bring an end to a powerful drug-lord and slave trafficker. What captured me most about the narrative was Jason’s slow, yet subtle, transformation from an unconfident American 20 something guy to self-asserted warrior. Over the course of the game I actually felt like I too, as the player, was becoming more sure of what I was capable of.

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Jason’s progress is tracked both by his character when relating to others as well as visually by a wicked-awesome tattoo on his left arm. Far Cry 3 employs light role-playing mechanics in the way of experience points, levels and unlockable skills. Each new level grants you one skill point to spend. Skills are incredibly handy, allowing you to perform running slides, drop-down attacks on enemies and the ability to heal yourself without the need of items.

And really, the idea of progression and updating your items and equipment is vital to your survival in Far Cry 3. From the beginning you’re able to carry only one firearm, a limited number of syringes (which apart from healing you, enhance you in other ways) and the limit of ammo and items you can carry. Where you’ll earn experience to upgrade skills, you’ll need to collect materials to upgrade all of the above.

This is achieved by rooting around and collecting the various types of plants found all over the game’s expansive map and hunting animals and skinning them. In a lot of ways Far Cry 3 reminds me of Assassin’s Creed III in that both games encourages hunting animals, though unlike the latter the former gives a rather good incentive to do so.

Early on I found myself ignoring a lot of story missions, instead exploring the island in search of specific animals I needed to upgrade items like weapon pouch/wallet etc. And herein is Far Cry 3‘s biggest drawcard I feel, the true open feeling to this open-world game.

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While it’s true that by and large the game’s map is devoid of interesting things to interact with and visually might be not as stimulating as say Sleeping Dogs, there’s still plenty to see, do and play around with. Want to go soaring through the skies on a hang-glider? Sure, do it! Want to go shark hunting on a jet-ski? Far Cry 3 has you covered!

There is no lack of ‘fun’ to be had in Far Cry 3. One stand out moment was in a story mission – and I do advise reader discretion here – where you’re given a flamethrower to literally set-fire to fields of weed. During the ensuing firefight (literally) Jason feels the effect of the weed going up in smoke, with the screen seeing rather bizarre and ‘trippy’ effects take place.

Aside from some ‘fooling around’ mechanics available in both the sandbox and the game’s story missions, there’s actually a lot of structured additional things for you to do, such as races, item drop rushes and contract killings. All take advantage of the different game mechanics at play in Far Cry 3 – to different degrees of success.

Though where the gameplay is at its strongest is naturally in Far Cry 3‘s shooting mechanics. First-person shooters are generally a dime a dozen in the industry landscape nowadays, and where I feel Far Cry 3 really pulls itself ahead of the crowd, aside from the open-world approach, is how all movements and actions have a life-like weight to them.

This extends to how Jason runs with his equipped firearm, to running in general and even jumping over or interacting with the environment. Far Cry 3 brings an honest believability to the FPS genre, while bringing to the table some finely tuned shooter mechanics and incredibly addictive gameplay.

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If you enjoy the gameplay so whole heartily, you’ll be able to jump online with Far Cry 3‘s rather robust multiplayer and co-op options. The co-op mode allows both online and split screen options, and is set 6 months prior to the game proper. Normally I’m a bit of a stickler and don’t like to play co-op, preferring to play at my own pace, but this co-op mode is a fantastic way around that, with more unique content to be explored.

Speaking of content, Far Cry 3 features the return of the Map Editor. Here, players will be able to fully create their own multiplayer maps either from blank templates or from randomly generated worlds. Create, save and share with the community for other players to play on and rate. It’s virtually ‘do it yourself’ game design, where you place, shift and change the environment and place objects as you like. While overly complex, budding game designers and hardcore Far Cry fans will get the most out of this mode.

While on the topic of online, I will bring up the issue of Far Cry 3‘s tendency to always want you connected to the internet. During my review playthrough I was constantly booted offline due to the Ubisoft Far Cry 3 service being down. That was fine, I thought, until I went to the pause menu and the game literally broke down. The entire game vanished, bar a few far off objects, and I was forced to reboot my system. This happened a few times, and might be a bug when the game is unable to connect online mid-session.

That aside, the world of Far Cry 3 is visually stunning. While hiding some truly deadly secrets it’s actually a rather beautiful place to visit. On a large scale the game looks ridiculously detailed. The splash of green in the island’s palette, with trees, shrubs, crisp blue skies and clear oceans makes everything attractive to the eye.

At closer inspection textures appear to be rather low-res, however. With the high level of detail in some areas, especially the villages scattered around, I’m not surprised by this. The giant map is one whole area. It isn’t until you get into more closed off environment, each with their own short loading screen, that things get a little more high-res, as it were.

Low resolution textures aren’t an issue, really. Far Cry 3 looks damn beautiful anyway. Though while textures isn’t of concern, the graphical hiccups that do occur may be annoying. Screen-tearing, frame rate drops and some graphical bugs and imperfections do happen. For example, Running through a cave I went to jump over a log, only to instantly find myself transported to a random cliff, no doubt high above where I just was. Instant transmission indeed. In this particular instance it was a godsend since I was running for my life – no ammo – but given any other circumstance it could be rather frustrating.

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Far Cry 3 smashed my expectations, delivering possibly my favourite first-person shooter of 2012. I never enjoyed its predecessor, Far Cry 2, and was ready to write the series off completely. I’m glad I didn’t otherwise I’d had missed the chance to burn fields of weeds with a flamethrower, go four-wheeling with a dune buggy and hunt sharks on a jet-ski.

Like first person-shooters? Like open-worlds? Get Far Cry 3. You’ll love it.

Far Cry 3
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8.5
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