The Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don’t understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.
Surprising no one, Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they’re mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.
Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year along with Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, the BioShock trilogy, all games I’ll eventually get around to playing someday. I bought it expecting that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here. Turns out I was right, but with some caveats.
Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.
When I started Far Cry 3, I was welcomed to a video montage of a bunch of dudes partying out on some island, having fun and being idiots, all set the tune to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” It’s like something out of a horror movie. Then it cuts away to our hero Jason being captured with his brother Grant, who eventually escape, but not without the villain Vaas deciding to kill Grant and leave poor Jason fighting for his life.
Afterwards, you’re found by a guy named Dennis, who’s part of this jungle tribe called the Rakyat and then you go through the steps of trying to save everyone and get out of the island alive. Eventually it leads to a revenge plot, where Jason eventually wants to kill Vaas and his boss Hoyt while helping the Rakyat tribe along the way. Vaas is probably the best character in the game, as he’s a sign of the general psychotic nature of the hostile people on the island, and it works. Sadly, something happens to him mid-game and he’s pretty much gone, which is a damn shame because Hoyt isn’t nearly as interesting.
Very few games ever tackle having a protagonist who isn’t already a military mercenary do all the killing. In the first few minutes of the game, you have a fight with a knife-wielding guard who you plunge the knife into, which Jason panics, realizing he just killed a man for the first time in his life. Jason also gets hesitant over doing things like killing people and skinning animals in the beginning, which at least makes him somewhat human.
Alas, this doesn’t last, because once you get further into the game, Jason starts becoming just as bad as the people he’s fighting against. I won’t spoil exact details, but Jason decides to put his trust in working with the Rakyat and the mercenaries on the island instead of the friends he has to save. There’s only a handful of times where Jason eventually realizes the consequences for his actions, but for the most part he just becomes a stone-cold killer in an attempt to save 1-2 people at most, and it’s kind of disappointing.
While Far Cry 3 does share a few elements from 2, such as the free-roaming world, outposts, and fire propagation, a lot of the other things that made that game more complicated have been removed and considerably streamlined, making it more fun to play. In a sense, Ubisoft decided to go for something a bit more user-friendly, and it works.
In addition to killing dudes for XP, Far Cry 3 added stuff like skinning animals and cutting plants to make materials. I wonder if the designers were influenced by Red Dead Redemption, because that’s what I immediately thought of while doing most of this, complete with the protagonist acknowledging that skinning animals is disgusting but he does it anyway. There’s also plants around the world, but they actually have a use, for making syringes that go from normal healing abilities to hunting abilities like seeking where animals area, to literal god mode. There’s so much stuff to hunt and craft that in a sense it bogs down the gameplay from being a straightforward free-roaming action game.
By the time I got to the other island, I had pretty much crafted everything and didn’t need to find any more animals save for the last few Path of the Hunter missions I had to do, which were for pretty crappy rewards. Much like other Ubisoft games, it loves its collect-a-thon garbage, complete with items and info that gives lore to the island, but when there’s about 120 of them, I just lose interest. I remember trying to find all 400 agility orbs in Crackdown, it’s Just Not Worth It to give me all these dumb collectables to try to get. Thankfully if you’re an achievement nut you don’t need to find everything, even the dinky collectable relics only require you to get half of them.
Tech-wise, this game screams “console port.” The radial menu is clearly meant for a 360 game pad, and instead of having multiple keys for the different purposes, you have to hold the use key (E) to do everything. With having one key have multiple purposes, it does lead to many unintentional deaths. Like the one time while trying to go to a radio tower to open up more of the map, Jason decided to hop over the top of the radio tower and crater to his death, rather than grabbing the zipline above him.
It doesn’t help this game also throws quick-time events at many opportunities, switching you between mashing E, Spacebar or Control while occasionally hitting the mouse buttons to do things. There’s also the map bound on a key that’s hard to reach in normal play (M instead of the unused TAB), among other questionable key binds for a PC game. I know the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 make beaucoup bucks for publishers like Ubisoft, but at least make your PC port not feel like you slapped on mouse and keyboard controls to a game built on the 360.
Far Cry 3 is also buggy at times. When doing Path of the Hunter missions, there are times where I swapped my flamethrower with the bow that the mission required, but when I opened the radial menu to check what syringes I had equipped, it switched back to the flamethrower I previously tossed, causing the bow to disappear. I had to restart the mission to get the bow back.
Another time, a mission-required weapon somehow appeared in my arsenal while I was trying to clear out an outpost, or while doing a story mission. At one point I lost my upgraded assault rifle for a bow that I used in a side mission. While I know this was made during the infamous “year of the bow,” that’s not a weapon I enjoy using in games like these.
As for multiplayer, I only dabbled in co-op with some friends. I liked the more team-focused action, but didn’t like how it was disconnected from the main story. I wouldn’t mind Ubisoft making a standalone Far Cry co-op game with the unique characters they made for this. I am a sucker for co-operative games like Borderlands 2, Killing Floor and Payday 2. For a game like this, multiplayer seems like the last thing this series needs these days, especially since the level creation concept that fueled the previous Far Cry games is gone here.
Other than that, Far Cry 3 is an alright first-person open world action game set in a jungle where you stop evil men doing bad things while saving your friends. I paid $7.50 for this during the Steam sale, and it’s a fairly competent action game. Better than Far Cry 2 by a long shot, but hardly the best game out there. It does make me mildly interested in Far Cry 4, though I don’t expect it to be a cultural revelation and more of the same.
One more thing, and this is a problem not just with Far Cry 3, but with many other games over the past few years: Shorten your freakin’ credit sequences already! FC3‘s clocks in at over 25 minutes, and it’s ridiculous to have such long credits. Can’t we take a few pointers from movies and make them short and sweet, please?