Debuting on current generation consoles in late 2012, Far Cry 3 was a mega-hit with both fans and critics. Billed as “Skyrim with guns” the game sold out at almost every retailer. Was it worth the praise? Read on to find out…
There are very few vacation destinations in the world that I wouldn’t travel. The Caribbean? Yes, please! South Africa? Sure! A “walkabout” in Australia? Sign me up, John Locke! I will say, however, that Jason Brody (the protagonist in Far Cry 3) and his posse chose very, VERY poorly. Not only is this supposed island paradise infested with very deadly creatures (including but not limited to poisonous snakes, bears, sharks, tigers, crocodiles and even komodo dragons!) that will attack you on sight, but also a band of mercenary pirates. Oh yeah, don’t forget the fact that this vacation destination is home to a maniacal drug kingpin and his homicidal lackey. Yeah, their travel agent needs to be sued.
Jason Brody’s story starts with a video clip of him, his brothers and friends celebrating Riley (the youngest of the three brothers) getting his pilot’s license. While in the air, Jason and his friends try out some skydiving and partying hard on an island paradise. Things turn sour quickly as he and his entire entourage are taken captive by the sadistic pirate leader, Vaas Montenegro. Vaas is no ordinary thug; he is just as brutal and nasty as any villain I’ve ever seen in any video game. Michael Mando, the actor lending his talents to Vaas, is absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of this sociopath and it makes the whole game. Vaas reveals to Jason, and his brother Grant who are at Vaas’ compound, that he plans on extorting money from everyone’s parents and then selling them into slavery anyway. After barely escaping with his life, Jason and Grant sneak out of Vaas’ camp only to have a bullet, courtesy of Vaas, blow the back of Grant’s head off. In a panic, Jason flees the camp and ends up unconscious and bleeding to death. He awakens in a hut by a local named Dennis. Dennis will be your guide through the first part of the game and instigates your spiritual, warriors journey of the Rakyat.
After completing a handful of missions for the Rakyat, including rescuing a couple of your friends with the help of a local (mostly stoned) doctor named Earnhardt , you are invited to visit the spiritual leader of the Rakyat: Citra. Citra sends you on several missions designed to further release the warrior inside of you so that you can take on Vaas and rescue the remainder of your friends. After being tormented several times by the lunatic Vaas, including him shooting you in the chest at point blank range, you finally track Vaas down at his compound. Vaas is actually expecting you, however, and sets his own headquarters on fire to lure you into a situation where he stabs you in the chest (with a ritualistic knife that Citra sent you to get). In your throws of near death, you defeat Vaas in a dream sequence and stab him in real life.
Once you come through and you get your senses back, it’s time to get your friends off of the island. Right before you take off in a CIA helicopter, Jason changes his mind and stays behind to liberate the Rakyat and the free people of the Rook Islands from the insidious clutches of the drug czar and slave trader, Hoyt Volker. Hoyt is his own brand of crazy and very paranoid so Willis, your CIA contact on the island, hooks you up with Sam Becker. Becker is a German mercenary who has been working undercover in Hoyt’s operation and is Jason’s best chance to get in close with Hoyt…who you find out has your brother Riley (who you thought had been killed earlier). Through various actions, you and Becker get close enough to Hoyt to be invited to a private poker game at Hoyt’s HQ. Everything is going great…until Hoyt stabs Becker in the throat and knocks you around a bit. After a brief but difficult battle, you and Riley take off in a helicopter heading for safer grounds.
When you get back to Dr. Earnhardt’s mansion, you find that it’s on fire and Earnhardt dying in a pool of his own blood. Before finally keeling over, Earnhardt tells you that Citra was in fact behind this tragedy and she and her warriors took your friends back to her temple. When you get there and confront Citra, you find that she has become absolutely enamored with Jason, seeing him as the reincarnation of the Rakyat’s mythical warrior ancestor. After Jason walks through a hallucination, the player must then choose whether to execute his friends and remain with Citra or save them and leave the island. If the player chooses to join Citra, Jason executes his friends and has sex with Citra, however Citra stabs him, saying that their child will lead the tribe, and that he dies as the warrior he has become. If the player chooses to save Jason’s friends, Citra attempts to convince Jason to stay by claiming his friends will move on, and that he should stay in the jungle and become king. Dennis arrives claiming that Citra saved him and the other followers and attempts to kill Jason for betraying her, but she moves in front of him and is stabbed, mortally wounded. Citra begs Jason not to leave as Jason sadly apologizes to her, and she dies. Soon, Jason and his friends leave the island by boat. He narrates that he cannot come back from what he has done, as he believes he is a monster and feels the anger inside him, but he also believes that there is still something inside him that is better than that.
Even though the story kept me coming back for more (especially Vaas’ epic performance), the real hook to this game was it’s varied gameplay and the locale itself. Each island (the North being held by Vaas and his ragtag band of pirates and the South which is ran by Hoyt and his mercenary crew) is cut into sections that has a radio tower and at least two pirate/mercenary outposts. Getting to the top of the radio tower will grant you a full version of the map revealing loot chests, secrets and other points of interest. Clearing the outposts will turn the map from red to green; this indicates that the free people of the Rook Islands have retaken that portion of the map and you will never run into more enemies in that section. Gone are the endlessly spawning waves of enemies from Far Cry 2…Hallelujah! Of course there are the standard thugs that every game like this has (easy guys with machine guns, armored guys with shotguns, snipers, etc) but Far Cry 3 keeps it fun and challenging to beat them in a variety of ways. Sneak up and assassinate each one after distracting them by throwing a rock; go in guns blazing after setting a few C4 traps; or my favorite, releasing a caged tiger/bear/etc and watching it tear through the villains before charging in to finish the job. Pretty awesome.
There are also several forms of transportation to use in game. Drive around in a banged up jalopy or a fancy new 4 wheeler; take to the skies in a hang glider or an air suit.; zip through the waters in a jet ski or an armored boat with a mounted .50 gun…the choices are yours and it adds depth to an already robust game. The leveling systems that Ubisoft uses in the game are also top-notch. Leveling up Jason’s skills not only will deal out extra damage, be fire resistant or harvest more leaves from plants (for health/hunting syringes…FC3’s “alchemy” system) but will also show up on Jason as a Rakyat tattoo; the more tatted up you are, the more respect that you get from the locals which can open up some side missions. You can also level up your equipment by hunting and skinning certain animals. If you need more space in your rucksack, you’ll need to hunt, kill and skin three of a certain type of animal…which can be a treacherous chore on it’s own! Technically you can complete the entire game without going out of your way to do any of these things, but Ubisoft masterfully weaves this into the game so you don’t even notice that much. Plus, it’s crazy fun to trick an undying bear into a landmine trap!
Here’s a clip from Vaas’ famous “insanity” speech. Keep in mind: THIS CLIP IS RATED “M” for mature. It is well worth the watch, though.
There are a few minor hiccups in this game, however. I loved, loved, LOVED Vaas and every interaction I had with him so much that when he wasn’t in the game I was a little disappointed; however, the fight with him was both mundane, confusing and unsatisfying (not to mention too soon; it was only halfway through the game!). Actually, there were three “boss” battles scattered throughout the game and all of them were very disappointing. Also, this game suffers from some problems that other open-world games tend to do: draw distance and pop-ins happen infrequently, but are noticeable when they do occur. Also, the enemy AI needed some tweaks…they fall for anything. These problems were miniscule in the long run of the game, however, and didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all.
Overall, Ubisoft crafted a masterpiece of a game. The story, blended in with some truly epic moments (the helicopter ride towards the end of the game was some of the most fun I ever had in gaming) and some tense battles, was fantastic. The voice acting, lead by Michael Mando, was top notch and should set a bar for more games in the future not to mention a terrific score/soundtrack. My favorite scene (without Vaas) was when Jason is tasked with torching a field of marijuana with a newfound flamethrower. His reactions, mixed with the awesome music, made me laugh out loud. The added gameplay variety is the cherry on top and added so much enjoyment to my overall experience…except for the poker tables; those guys cheat! In the end, Far Cry 3 would have absolutely been nominated for game of the year in several awards, but coming out as late as it did took it out of the running. If you have a few dozens hours (up to maybe 100…without playing any mutiplayer) to kill I highly recommend checking it out.