In the months leading up to Far Cry 3’s release many were worried. After multiple release date slips and longer in development than planned, many were worried that it was doomed to the realms of development hell. Fortunately, it seems the worry was unnecessary as Far Cry 3 has arrived before 2012’s end and is nothing short of a masterpiece. It turns out some things are worth the wait.
Far Cry is a franchise that has always been bold. Sequels have little or no connection and each succeeds in keeping the same theme but changing the settings and feel to some extent. Despite this boldness, the previous titles in this beloved IP have not been free of problems. In 2004, Far Cry made its PC debut and was undeniably a leap forward technically. However it unfortunately had its share of bugs and lacked a coherent story telling.
After a string of re-releases and spin-offs, 2008 saw the release of Far Cry 2 across all major platforms. Another amazing technical achievement; this sequel improved on the originals formula in many ways but still had some issues. Most of these were with the non-user friendly in game systems (such as the fast travel) or the large open areas between missions and tasks. These were also coupled with a story that got a little lost in the vast amounts of wilderness.
Far Cry 3 is by far the series’ most refined entry to date and more than improves on all the flaws we have seen in this franchise to date. More impressively, it does this without sacrificing what made the previous titles great, allowing it to cater to fans and newcomers alike.
Right from the start, it is clear that Far Cry 3 is telling a more involved and deeper story than its predecessors. You take control of Jason Brody, a young thrill seeker whom, along with his two brothers and other friends, has come to a beautiful set of islands located somewhere in the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, the group of travellers soon find trouble in the shape of the pirate infested Rook Island after a wayward parachute jump lands them in the wrong place.
From the game’s very opening two things are apparent: The first is that the voice acting and general character development is by far the best in the series so far and by no short measure. The second is that these characters are not here to just make up the numbers; they are here as elements of a finely crafted (if occasionally a little disconnected) story which will keep you playing to find out what happens.
Separately from the main missions, there is also plenty to keep you occupied here. The amount of side missions, optional objectives and events to do is astounding and each is designed with just enough variation to make sure you never get bored. Despite being possibly the largest Far Cry to date, it balances everything just enough to make it never feel like a chore.
It is also worth noting that many of the franchises’ systems have been overhauled and are much better for it. A new notice board side quest system, new crafting/looting systems and (thankfully) a much better fast travel and map all come together to make an optimized experience that never feels too intricate, but has depth nonetheless.
Another amazing addition is the expansion of the animals across all areas of the island and the parts they play in your adventure. This time round there are predators as well as herbivores that make Rook Island their home and neither you nor the enemy are invulnerable to attack. Several times I have been creeping up on an unsuspecting enemy only for a wild Bear to come bounding out of the Jungle and kill them first.
You are also required to hunt and skin certain animals in order to craft better equipment as well as for certain side missions. This offers a refreshing change of pace and makes you play the game a different way. The addition of dangerous animals is something that Ubisoft have wanted to include for some time, but has never come to fruition until now. It seems that it was worth waiting for as the sheer variety and scope surrounding this whole element of the game could not be better balanced.
This level of design and balancing is further illustrated by the fact that there is no one right way to tackle the challenges of Far Cry 3. Whether you run and gun or go for the stealth approach, both are catered for as well as everything in-between. This is compounded further by a versatile and well balanced upgrade system that allows you to choose how your Jason Brody develops.
This said, the game can be challenging in places. Don’t expect to win every fight or kill every predator you come across immediately. Far Cry 3 can also be about the calculated approach to problems and the payoff for being patient. Although many will enjoy this, it may serve to frustrate those who don’t like taking their time. This is easily combated however by turning down the difficulty which can be done at any time and although I personally wouldn’t advise it, it will give you more pick-up-and-play value.
Another element that excels here is how the game looks. Far Cry as a franchise has always looked amazing and Far Cry 3 is no exception. The terrain is varied and vibrant, the lighting is brilliant both in the day and at night, and the models are of a high standard for both humans and animals alike. Surprisingly, there is also very little pop-up for such a large game area. Even when gliding to your next destination from a cliff top it is never particularly noticeable and will far from ruin your experience. Put simply, this game looks incredible.
On top of all the single player content, there is also an online mode and a co-op campaign on offer here. Neither are the games strong point but both are more than serviceable. The online mode is your standard fare and will do to fill the time between the inevitable onslaughts of DLC.
The co-op campaign takes place some six months before the events of the main game and supports two to four players. At roughly six hours in length, you don’t get the same sense of scope or story telling here, but nevertheless it more than warrants a play through.
Despite being a fan of the franchise, I am still surprised by just how good Far Cry 3 is. It looks the part, has great varied game play, an interesting story and hours of fun for your hard earned cash. If you are looking for another game to add to the Christmas list you can’t go wrong with Far Cry 3. After the wait and worry, Ubisoft have produced an undoubted contender for game of the year.