Review: Far Cry 3 is an insane(ly) fun, violent, open world romp
This year at PAX and at E3, the Far Cry 3 booth urged folks to either shave their hair into a mohawk, to resemble the main villain Vaas, or to get a tribal tattoo, resembling the one that the main protagonist Jason has, in order to score a free copy of the game. In my mind I thought, in no way is a permanent tattoo, or even a month looking like a jackass worth a free copy of Far Cry 3. I am now eating those words. Far Cry 3 might be one of the most fun, open world FPS games that I've ever played, that I would have happily shaved my hair off for (but probably still wouldn't get a tattoo).
It all starts pretty straight forward. You, your brothers and a few friends embark on a vacation to an island paradise. You party, you drink, you go clubbing, and eventually skydive directly into the hands of one of the most sadistic villains I've ever seen. Vaas and his band of pirates (not the Arrrrgh kind) take you and your friends hostage, and start thinking of ways to get your rich parents to pay massive amounts of money for your release. One thing leads to another, your Army brother Grant figures a way to escape, ultimately meets his demise, and with a newfound friend (and some tattoo powers) you vow to save your friends and take revenge on Vaas and his goons.
I really loved the premise of your character, since he wasn't the one with any sort of Army training. Jason is just a spoiled rich kid who at first cringes at the sight of dead bodies and is scared to even hold a weapon. However the island and its enemies force Jason to adapt and become a killing machine rather quick. Sure it's a bit unrealistic, but I was sold on the fact that I wasn't some sort of battle hardened veteran, looking to exact my revenge. Oh, and thank you Ubisoft for not making him a silent protagonist.
Far Cry 2 had an impressive open world, but it ended up being far too empty, and required a lot of travel time to get from one place to another. The devs luckily recognized this and made Far Cry 3 a lot more streamlined when it comes to map traversal, at the cost of some realism. There are various fast travel points that will allow you to hop from one side of the map to the other (granted you unlocked that location) which ultimately makes completing missions and sidequests much more enjoyable. It's a testament to the map design when I'd much rather run from objective to objective, rather than drive in any of the game's vehicles.
The tattoo on your arm is an expanding piece of art that grows as you level Jason up and unlock new skills. It will take some time to get the ones you truly want, meaning you have to beat a bunch of story missions first, but they're all mostly worth it. Some will require you to complete a certain action before they're allowed to be purchased. Take my advice and get a stealth knife takedown as soon as possible, which will allow you to purchase the ability to drag bodies, it's super useful.
What's interesting are the parallels between Ubisoft's other major franchise, Assassin's Creed. Aside from the fact that it's an FPS and involves much more gunplay, a lot of key elements were taken from the AC series, even Assassin's Creed III. To uncover pieces of the map and various quests and activities, you must climb, and restore power to radio towers (but no hay diving here, only awesome zip-lining). Crafting various medicine and upgrades to your bags, ammo pouches, etc. requires you to hunt and skin wild animals. Stealth kills award more XP which makes sneaking around that much more important. There are even vertical stealth takedowns. It's actually amazing how well all these borrowed ideas work in Far Cry 3's framework, and in that way make the game that much better.
There are a ton of things to do outside of your main mission. As I've previously mentioned, there are radio towers scattered around the map which will uncover it and key locations, not to mention unlock free weapons in shops. You can take part in various hunting challenges that task you to take down rare animals which then allow you to craft the best upgrades. Wanted missions task you to take down a specific target unseen, with your knife. Clearing enemy camps will then unlock these locations for fast travel, and allow you to purchase and equip new weaponry. Then there are various Trial of the Karyat challenges that are bite sized missions to get the highest score, and also tracks the high score of your friends. You can also hunt various wildlife for their skins in order to upgrade your equipment or pick a few flowers to mix some powerful healing medicine or other enhancing elixirs. You can also take on various checkpoint races in buggies and speed boats. Did I mention there are a ton of things to do?
You also have the option to take on the pirate population in a separate co-op campaign with three other friends online, or one other friend locally. The game loses its open world factor and instead focuses on a mission by mission progression. There is a story here about four people on a ship, who get double crossed by the captain, and of course, are on a quest for revenge. The game also comes with your standard suite of multiplayer options like deathmatch, but the multiplayer is hardly the reason to buy Far Cry 3, the single player is where it's at.
The game certainly looks great in single player. There are a few graphical glitches and the occasional pop-in, however it does perform much better than your average open world game. The quality of the visuals does seem to dip when playing multiplayer, with more blurry textures. The voice acting is quite superb, with Jason and Vaas being the stars here. It's awesome to see Jason's progression from spoiled rich boy to the island's silent killer and Vaas' cold and calm line delivery with the occasional outburst make him seem like a true psychopath.
Far Cry 3 certainly delivers on many fronts. It's one thing to have a large, open world, but it's another thing entirely to actually want to explore every inch of it, and Far Cry 3 succeeds in this. Ubisoft realized that gameplay and fun has to come before realism, making Far Cry 3 superior to its predecessor. Honestly, I can't remember having this much fun causing chaos in a tropical paradise since Just Cause 2.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]