The last Far Cry promised so much, but never quite delivered. Ambitious as some of Rockstar's best, it missed the mark where the open world masters have succeeded. Numerous glitches and a repetitive gameplay style were its main faults.
With Far Cry 3, you would expect these gaps to be plugged, issues fixed and for that to be the end of it. This is what we imagined the game to be, just a polished version of its predecessor, but a bit more tropical. Boy how we were wrong. Far Cry 3 goes beyond anything the series has managed before and elevates the whole idea of the open world shooter to new heights.
Far Cry 3 is one of the more dark video game releases this year. Don’t let the colourful case artwork or crazed bad guy Vas, whom you have no doubt witnessed in trailers, fool you into thinking Far Cry is stupid or crass.
This is a game that develops its story way beyond standard video game fare. Vas, for example, the lunatic who traps you and your travelling friends on an island at the start of the game, becomes increasingly terrifying as the game goes on.
The story however, and what the game asks of you, adds a sort of duality to the whole thing, as your actions become just as violent as those of Vas. It makes you question what you might do to bring your friends back to safety, or if placed in a situation so extreme that violence might be the only resort.
Supporting the whole journey across Far Cry 3’s vast islands is a strong supporting cast. Your fellow trapped holiday-makers do a good job of convincing you they are worth saving and the native inhabitants add a sense of life to the game environment to make the story much more engaging.
What holds Far Cry 3 back from GTA IV levels of storytelling greatness is more just the nature of how such a large open world FPS works. Populating the game environment with tonnes of characters to interact with and further add colour and depth to the story simply wouldn’t work because it is just so big. There are Skyrim-style hub environments to interact with, but this is a first-person shooter at its core and shooting is what you will be doing most of.
So on the face of it and from previews, Far Cry 3’s story is a simple case of get stuck on a tropical island, break free, save your friends and happily ever after. In reality, this game asks much more. In the 30-hour campaign you will be confronted regularly with difficult situations, as well as being constantly taunted by the cruelty of Vas and his cronies.
Being open world, as Far Cry 3 is, the gameplay goes way beyond what you would get from a standard on-rails shooter. You might not get the scripted moments of Call of Duty, but the random elements of Far Cry 3’s world frequently create things much more exciting. Crucially though, you may only witness them once or twice during the entire game, making for a real sense of variety.
One element of the game for example, sees you overthrowing outposts of Vas’s goons to take back the area for the natives. We had been having a slight altercation with a tiger, which we then brought into the enemies’ base while running away from it. They started shooting and the tiger despatched the lot of them.
Couple moments like this with Far Cry 3’s top-notch gunplay and you have the makings of a really enjoyable shooter. All the silly elements of Far Cry 2 have either been refined or ditched, so no more malaria issues to contend with.
A levelling-up mechanic has been incorporated too, which sees the tattoo on your character’s arm grow as you become more powerful. It is basically impossible not to unlock every upgrade and by the end of the game you should feel like a pretty ruthless hunter.
As for weapons, there is a wide variety to choose from, including customisable sub-machine guns and pistols. You can also purchase guns from villages and have them permanently unlocked.
Vehicles also vary, from hang gliders to jet skis. This is the only point where Far Cry 3 really has an issue. Driving is still clunky simply because of the terrain of the game world. You regularly get snagged on things, drive off cliffs to your doom or smash jet skis into walls. AI also does the same and will often glitch quite badly when driving about in Jeeps or cars.
For the most part, the AI handles your attacks well. Depending on whether you opt for a stealth approach or all guns blazing, they will put up a clever defence. Every so often though, particularly if you are playing co-operative mode online, they will behave in an extremely odd manner. They appear to have been dumbed down slightly for multiplayer and in some cases it is possible to walk straight up to enemies unnoticed and take them out.
Far Cry 3 is incredibly varied in the looks department. Weapons and character models are detailed, lighting is nearly always spot on but textures and draw distance can be all over the place.
This is forgivable on consoles simply because of the power constraints they face and on PC it really isn’t an issue. In fact, on PC, this game looks stunning. It really is the best way to experience it if you have the rig to do so.
Here is a game that we want to see on next-gen consoles. Ubisoft has worked magic with the game’s engine to get it running the way it does on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but it could be so much more.
We didn’t expect that much from Far Cry 3. A lengthy preview had left us thinking it was going to be overshadowed by the likes of Halo and call of Duty. We were most definitely wrong. Give this game some time and it will reward you with an engaging story, gorgeous graphics and gameplay that has been polished and improved upon from previous efforts in every way.