Disappointment is a feeling that most gamers experience in their gaming career quite regularly, be that through over-commitment from developers, PR moguls or their own imagination. We are disappointed when that hope you had of being lost in a game for weeks on end turns out to be a broken mess or a boring chore. Or it just doesn’t meet your lofty expectations regardless of what your favourite games website, your best friend or your cat says.
Far Cry 2 was one of these games, it did everything right on paper but when it came down to it Far Cry 2 did not quite click, it will forever be one of those games with so much promise - a great concept, great ideas and a very pretty game engine but all of that did not quite deliver, leaving most people with another unfinished game on their shelf.
So what is the opposite of disappointment for your average Far Cry fan? Far Cry 3 that’s what! Smoothing over almost every crack which covered the ambitious canvas that was its predecessor, Far Cry 3 is one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have this year. Utilising a truly brilliant single player experience, mixed with a solid multiplayer suite and a superb co-op campaign as metaphorical polyfilla to restore the brilliance of the Far Cry franchise back to its former glory.
You play the part of Jason Brody, a College Frat Boy type who is out visiting the South Pacific with his friends and brothers for a post-graduation holiday. They are having a whale of time - partying, water skiing and skydiving among other things when they fall into the hands of Vaas, the insane modern day pirate lieutenant in charge of the forces which plague Rook Island. Vaas plans to ransom these well-to-do college grads back to their wealthy families in the good ol’ US of A. Jason with the aid of his brother then escapes the clutches of this madman through a brilliant opening then you're off into the wilds to track down your friends and rid Rook Island of its pirate plight.
Like its older brother Far Cry 3 is an open world FPS affair following the structured approach of free roaming exploration and missions gathered at certain points on the map. You have to take down pirate camps to free the island from their clutches, tackle the story missions and meet the kooky Rook Island residents. The real style that underpins Far Cry 3 is the additional ways in which you can utilise the island itself. For instance, you have to hunt to gather animal pelts and these pelts then allow you to craft upgrades to your armoury letting you carry extra ammo clips, more grenades or a bigger quiver for your arrows. The animal encounters can be random and allow you to go off and hunt to increase your preparedness for your next big firefight. You can also take on special hunting missions to take down some bigger or rarer game and in turn unlock rarer items. This turns the usual grind of upgrading into more of an entertaining challenge as some of the higher end beasts will have you running in fear as they tear you a new one.
For the vegetarians among us you can also harvest the local flora to craft syringes to give you a boost in the health department, or even more useful traits such as increased hunting sense so that you can detect game easily for a limited time when you are looking to grab that much needed dingo pelt. The presentation of these upgrades is rather refreshing as they show you ghostly outlines of your prey in the distance or through foliage rather than a cursor point or some other jarring graphical waypoint. Jason can also increase his abilities through levelling up, by hunting, taking down pirates and capturing bases. From these upgrades you get increases in health, the ability to breath longer under water and stealth kill type takedowns which help break up your game play empowering you later in the game to become the ultimate predator.
The game progresses at a nice pace giving you plenty of island to explore, the map is rather extensive and doesn’t give itself up too quickly unless you want to get yourself killed in a hurry. The territory and foliage mechanic in Far Cry 3 is more refined and negates a particular bugbear which reared its ugly head In Far Cry 2. That being your human enemies and their instant knack of knowing where you were regardless of how far away or hidden you had placed yourself, along with constant respawing irrespective of how many times you had eliminated their particular outpost with extreme prejudice are gone. The pirates’ territory is lost through the assault of pirate outposts and the removal of their inhabitants, thus relegating the pirate presence from the local area, and in turn giving you a breather should you want to pass through again unhindered. More effective implementation of the foliage has been used so when you are sat in a huge shrub a mile away with your sniper rifle trained on the nearest goon you can’t be seen (until you fire that very loud shot that is). This refinement makes gameplay so much more enjoyable as you can stalk both the human and animal prey on the island to a satisfying take-down or rewarding pelt.
The gunplay is very satisfying with all guns feeling very different and with very different uses - for instance assault rifles and pistols are more useful in fire-fights with other humans, but not so useful when you have a tiger making a beeline for your jugular. Shotguns are good in close quarters and very useful if you have a couple of wild boars chomping at your legs. It’s all about balance and using the correct tool for the job, a particular joy is the sniper rifle when used on an unsuspecting group of pirates and they don’t know what hit them.
Backing the gameplay is the story which is great but is overshadowed by Vaas, (performed by Michael Mando) his ramblings and superbly acted cutscenes are great to watch and have you looking forward to the next time you can see this psycho in action. Combined with the other more eccentric cast members on Rook Island the story is much more interesting, honed and straight to the point compared to its predecessor throughout, as you have one goal - to get your friends back and put an end to the pirate menace.
To back up the superb single player which has a hefty time frame of roughly fifteen to twenty plus hours depending on how much of a completionist you are there are two superb multiplayer aspects to Far Cry 3. The co-op campaign is a great addition to explore and offers a worthwhile distraction during or after the campaign. Following a prequel style set up you play one of four ex-military members, disgraced russian spec ops or even a washed up Glaswegian who have ended up working on a cruise ship, which is sold out by the ship’s captain to the pirate horde. You then take it to them over four missions in a more linear campaign to exact revenge on the captain. The missions take the form of a Left 4 Dead type four player assault on pirate bases and objectives, teamwork is essential to your survival and taking the pirates down. The tweaks to the gameplay like regenerating health and special abilities are also more suitable for the more intense co-op campaign.
On top of this is the Multiplayer which has your usual match-ups of death match, capture the flag and an added map editor which after a limited time playing could yield some interesting maps. The problem we have with the multiplayer is that while very playable it is by no means needed with such a brilliant single and co-op experience in one package. Ubisoft have to be commended for all they have achieved fitting all this game on one disc, it’s a true marvel and shows the level of talent we are dealing with.
On the 360 Far Cry 3 shows the system’s age as it struggles to cope with the imagination of the Ubisoft team. The visuals are by no means ugly but compared to some more refined graphical engines available today Far Cry 3 is lacking in some respects. Jaggies are quite prevalent on all the foliage and some of the pirate bases seem a little copied and pasted. These are very minor issues and nit-picking on our part for what is a cracking experience when you are stalking your prey.
What can we say, Far Cry 3 is an amazing game and shows what a developer can do when given time to look at their past product and truly tries to rectify the not so brilliant aspects. The game itself is measured, taut and innovative - turning the mundane aspects of its own genre into pure fun. According to Vaas, insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Thankfully Ubisoft have listened to their public and changed their approach, yielding one outstanding result.