Far Cry 3 screenshot
Far Cry 3 screenshot

Far Cry 3's campaign begins with a quote from Lewis Carrol's Alice In Wonderland bleeding onto the screen, dark blobs morphing into letters like ink spots forming a Rorschach on a handkerchief. As a curtain raiser to the story the subtext here is effective, if hardly subtle: this way madness lies.

But the reason behind this lunacy, and you'll excuse me here for dipping into German philosophers, is summed up perfectly by Nietzsche. "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you."

In Far Cry 3 you fight the monstrous, lost and unhinged inhabitants of a tropical island, and Nietzsche's famous quote applies as much to the mental state of the game's protagonist as it does to every FPS fan's attraction to a form of entertainment in which producing a mountainous pile of corpses is essential to engagement, just as long as it doesn't get in the way of anyone enjoying themselves.

Expressed this way, the player's attraction to Far Cry 3 - or any other shooter for that matter - seems a little sociopathic, and it's to Ubisoft's credit that it explores this appeal without becoming pious or heavy-handed. Far Cry 3 simply tosses the player some guns, sets them loose in an open-world environment and allows them to get on with the business of killing things. Yet during all this free-form chaos the plot tightens on both protagonist and player like a noose.

In a way, it's a trap. Far Cry 3 isn't too different from a tonne of other video games where players are faced with repetitive kill-or-be-killed hurdles to progression, but it does more to chip away at the polite pact that exists between gamers and violent games than any other title released since Rockstar's snuff-film horror show Manhunt. The fact that it even manages to do this while remaining fun throughout is something of a massive coup for the genre.

The player's gateway into all of this is a clean-cut American tourist named Jason Brody, who we see in an opening montage having a wonderful time with his friends and family members before the hiss of his captor reveals the full horror of his predicament. Jason and his mates are in the clutches of a band of pirates who are led by one Vaas Montenegro, a leering psychopath, who plans to ransom them off for a big payday.

Far Cry 3 screenshot

I'm not going deep into spoiler territory to reveal that Jason escapes from Vaas and his gang and takes to the island jungle for refuge, but the less players know about the details of the plot going into Far Cry 3 the better. Suffice to say that Jason (and by extension, the player) quickly finds his daily activities changing from a desperate fight for survival into an organised counter-strike against Vaas and the other forces ranged against him.

By employing the well-worn structure of open-world games, Jason turns to the island's downtrodden inhabitants for help. This is a game about a giant map, one where war resources masquerade as mini-quests and activities. There are radar towers players can climb in mini-platform games to fill in the map and unlock weapons from local arms dealers. There are enemy bases ripe for attack, obtaining dole out fast-travel stations and bulletin board challenges in the process. Between gunshots local flora and fauna can be gathered, animal pelts crafted into holsters and bandoliers, and plants brewed into narcotic cocktails that supply Jason with abilities such as repelling wildlife, sprinting faster and holding his breath underwater for longer. And, if you want to let off some steam, there are motorised time trials or wave-based survival challenges to open up Jason's skill trees.

The skill trees are divided along three categories and are represented in the game as tattoos that appear on Jason's left forearm. Every time the player fills up their XP bar through the usual means (killing, exploring, scrounging, crafting and collecting) they're given a point to assign to any number of skills such as aerial melee kills, less weapon kickback, faster movement and bigger loot collection. So the more the player engages with their environment the more Jason begins to resemble a walking slaughterhouse.

'Looming large over the proceedings is Vaas Montenegro, arguably the best villain to emerge in the gaming medium in recent memory.'

Once again, this is hardly groundbreaking stuff mechanically speaking, but it dovetails terrifically with the game's narrative. The closest bedfellow the game has in terms of its story is Yager's homage to Heart Of Darkness, Spec Ops: The Line. But whereas 2K's excursion to Dubai presented violence as a soul-destroying activity, Far Cry 3 opines that it's a necessary tool for survival in the harshest of environments.

As the game progresses, Jason starts to relish in his status as the ascendant alpha male, but he also becomes more and more unhinged. His seemingly natural aptitude for death dealing garners him respect, fear and even sexual interest from a couple of the island's inhabitants, but his mental state starts to veer into borderline hysteria - helped in no small part by the large number of natural intoxicants he partakes in. The developers are careful not to condone his behaviour, but they don't condemn it either. Instead, Ubisoft presents him as a product of his environment and leaves it up to the player to decide what they think of him.

Looming large over the proceedings is Vaas Montenegro, arguably the best villain to emerge in the gaming medium in recent memory. With his unblinking, serpent-like eyes and silken, reedy voice, Vaas comes on like the illegitimate offspring of Iago and Charles Taylor. Flamboyant, intelligent and completely insane, Montenegro is as brutal as he is unpredictable. This is a bloke who allows a captive to flee for sport while screaming threats after them in one moment and casually shoots a helpless victim in the face in another. He's the perfect foil for Jason, and by extension the player, acting simultaneously as their nemesis and their increasingly disturbing reflection.

This is a game where its component mechanics are functional and entertaining, but all serve as a chorus to accompany the melody of the game's massive, engaging world, characters and context. With such a strong single-player mode in place, then, it almost feels like nitpicking to highlight the aspects that hold Far Cry 3 back. But there are some stealth missions in the story mode where being spotted is an automatic fail - and this feels both annoying and archaic, and while minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things are certainly wholly aggravating at the time. Driving can also be a bit fiddly.

Far Cry 3 screenshot

Then, of course, there must be multiplayer. It almost feels like chore to talk about Far Cry 3's online modes, although they're competent enough. In co-op players take on the role of one of four ne'er-do-wells and fight their way through a plot that's engaging if hardly memorable. This is a mode best tackled with friends as the developers don't penalise too hard those players who act selfishly - in fact, to a degree, competition is encouraged. Sure, there are in-mission objectives where teamwork is required, but this isn’t in the league of say, Left 4 Dead, where a desperate struggle for survival creates a sense of camaraderie between strangers. Still, the customisable load-outs and ability to buff comrades on the fly keep things interesting.

'Far Cry 3 shines in its campaign, which is more layered and compelling than any game proffering a power trip through escapist ultraviolence has any right to be.'

The adversarial multiplayer also has a couple of nice ideas. Firestorm is decent deviation from the usual TDM and Dominations match types; in it players have to set the starting point of the opposite team on fire. They then have to fight for control of a communications link they can use to dump gasoline on the opposing team, which, if they lose, will call in a plane that douses their enemies' zone with water and the mode resets. Players can also buff teammates in online fragfests using a Battle Cry, which can provide speed-boosts, health augments or increased accuracy (read: reduced kickback) on their weapons. So the online modes are decent enough, but it's also doubtful that they'll rob the Halo and CoD lobbies of any significant numbers.

Far Cry 3 shines in its campaign, which is more layered and compelling than any game proffering a power trip through escapist ultraviolence has any right to be. You could dismiss it all as offensive macho garbage, sure, but you could also read it as a unblinking look at the primal appeal of becoming capable at dishing out violence and how the confidence this confers can both attract and repel others. It's the sort of impact that could only be made by a video game, as in this medium neither responsibility for one's actions nor risk to one's well-being are realistic concerns. It's like disconnecting one's mind from reality; nothing is real, everything is permitted and madness is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card.

Version Tested: Xbox 360

This review is based on spending 17 hours in the campaign (14 with a review debug build and 3 with a retail copy) and 4 hours in the multiplayer. The debug build was played over two days at a review event in London hosted by Ubisoft.

9 / 10

  • Superb story and characters
  • A detailed open world
  • Tons of enjoyable content
  • Occasional fiddly missions

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User Comments

FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

I'm at the gameplay stage where I can now chain takedowns together which makes short work of most things, so I pushed on with the main mission for a bit, then discovered I couldn't pull myself away from it because it was so gripping. (I've just completed Vaas' Island, you'll know it when you get to it).

I'm also loving outpost takeovers - in the sense that you can take 30 minutes to learn what's there, how they patrol, plan out who you're going to take down, how you're going to despatch them, and in what order so you gain the most xp and don't set off the alarms; but if you're in a hurry you can do exactly the same just by pulling the trigger and aiming carefully for 30 seconds, just you get less xp at the end and a world of hurt in the form of reinforcements if you're not as accurate as you'd hoped.

Two of my favourite outposts so far are the one with zero humans guarding it (that was a real puzzler, I was scanning for ages with the camera just to make sure but found enough of what was actually guarding it to figure it was deliberate), and the one where I arrived at the same time as a Sumatran Tiger, who then proceeded to takeover the entire outpost single-pawed whilst I watched from nearby cover. Pretty sure that wasn't deliberate, just one of those flukey things that happen in open-world games.

I've no real beef with the review content per se, I'd have just scored it a little higher personally :)
Posted 22:29 on 03 December 2012
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Numbers again. I'm surprised no-one has brought up the 'oh, it's review scores' argument yet!

But this time I feel that Clockpunk's arguments are not score-related so much as content related. However, I think the answer to "as to why the steps back from Farcry 2/1 were not mentioned alongside the steps forward." is that they were not seen by the reviewer(s) as steps back.

I've played nowhere near enough to get a complete picture of the game, but I am really enjoying it where I found Farcry 2 to be a tad annoying at times, particularly with all the travelling and the AI. I like the fast travel system, but I also enjoy the fact that it's not really needed because the actual driving is far more exciting when there are pirates around every bend and even on the water in boats.
Posted 14:00 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk@ munkee

@munkee - looking it up, it does indeed appear to have been a console addition. I wasn't aware that Farcry: Instincts added such a significant gameplay mechanic, but... it does seem to be the case (which is a little surprising)!

http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/7319/F...-Traps-System/

Has a precursor preview of the trap system. SImple, but effective (and fun).
Posted 13:55 on 03 December 2012
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Reads like a 9, plays like a 9.
Posted 13:53 on 03 December 2012
munkee's Avatar

munkee

Unrelated to the Farcry debate, can we stop using members first names, please? It's happening more often around here and its not cool.

1: it makes it more difficult for new members to be able to link real names with usernames.

2: If people wanted to be called by their actual name, then they wouldn't be posting under an alias.

3: Quite often it appears as if people are using real names in an almost patronising, or belittling manner.

Back on topic:

Clockpunk, you're referring to snares and traps from the first game. Was this a console thing? I don't remember it on the PC version at all.
Posted 13:50 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

TU to both you chaps for enabling interersting discourse - I hope I justified why I personally feel let down (thus far) by the title. Just felt it important to make note of where I felt the game to unfortunately fall short, and the spots I would have liked to see expanded upon. There's still a lot to enjoy, don't get me wrong, but expectations should always be tempered - perhaps I expect too much of an immersive experience from games... but I think you hit the nail square on the head with the Hitman comparison.

I know Martin is really enjoying the game, and am hoping he might weight in to this discussion... as to why the steps back from Farcry 2/1 were not mentioned alongside the steps forward.

I do miss Neon's reviews - aside from the LA Noire-debacle, I always found his tastes to mirror my own, and used that as a good guage of whether I would like a title.
Posted 12:33 on 03 December 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Clockpunk

Ahh Ok that sounds a bit more fair James, it doesn't look my cup of tea anyway and I'm waiting for it to be 20 quid personally.
Sounds similar to Hitman's problem then where you expect stealth to be a big part of the game.

I think Far Cry 2 has really put me off the franchise but I plan giving Far Cry 2 another go soon b4 I play this one.

Cheers for your thoughts even though I disagree with you a bit (and I'm sure you are the same with my tastes :P ) I do like reading your views on things on here fella.

Maybe going back to it in the future might be a better choice.

I hated Deus Ex:HR when it first came out as that has big negative's and still think that wasn't a 9 for example plus I had expectations like you.
But it ended up growing on me after picking it up again that I could just ignore, well accept some of the faults I had with it.
It's still not a 9 though to me! :P
Posted 12:28 on 03 December 2012
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612@ Clockpunk

"None of which were raised as critical points at all."

That's my point, those elements you raise are only critical to your tastes/hopes/expectations. I'm not interested in the game myself but I don't see anything you've stated improving the game for me. That's not to downplay your suggestions, they are just not important to me and jamming guns would (and did in FC 2) irritate me.

You are clearly a little disappointed that you aren't enjoying the game as much as the reviews led you to believe you would but it happens to us all, your own opinon is the only one you can ever 100% trust.
Posted 12:20 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

@rb - oh, I can appreciate that, old chap :p - hence why I prefaced it by pointing out that such changes would, in my opinion, have made it an experience worthy of all the cover quote-worthy praises sung throughout many of the reviews - including this one, which had the most influence upon my decision to purchase the title - at full price - day one. Every opinion is subjective, and you are right, that it is perhaps my disappointment that is exacerbated the overall experience to be a little worse than it actually is, but that is something that cannot be helped, alas.

I had cancelled my preorder months ago, but on the back of this review felt another game purchase was most certainly justified. That is what reviews are for, and unfortunately I think it fell short in that it doesn't address any of the shallow experiences involved.

@dav2612 - absolutely, but see above - qualified by stressing that those are gameplay elements I *hoped* would be included/could have been included, which would justify all the praise seen in reviews. None of which were raised as critical points at all. Especially as this game is a direct successor to Farcry 2, but cut so many of the aspects which made that game what it was. Why did the review not mention all of those things that were cut. to 'streamline' the experience?

@pblive - I do hope the gameplay becomes more involved as we progress, but I unfortunately doubt it... :-/

As I said in my initial post above, I do like the game - but am still very disappointed in that it could have been so much more. The myriad of reviews available wax lyrical about how open and engaging an experience the title is - but compared to MGS3, it all seems so superficial. Perhaps it could be qualified as being good stealth mechanics for an open world first-person shooter - as opposed to a closed-area third person game - but as someone who appreciates carefully integrated stealth mechanics, if we cover that aspect, I don't think there should be a distinction of expectations. The lack of camouflage (except as decoration for weapons) is the point which really sticks out to me as a missed opportunity, especially when the 'stealth' doesn't seem to be as carefully integrated as it should be in a game of this type.

Its my fault for falling for all the praise heaped out in reviews, that much can be admitted - but the fact remains that I do not think the title worthy of a score of 9, nor does it justify a full price tag.
Posted 12:10 on 03 December 2012
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612@ Clockpunk

Your substantial gameplay elements are another man's nitpicks.
Posted 11:55 on 03 December 2012
pblive's Avatar

pblive

My 2 hours or so with Farcry 3 so far have left me agreeing with the review. Great game that builds on the ideas in Farcry 2 and improves from there on.
Posted 11:53 on 03 December 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Clockpunk

It was more about you hating a game when I felt it was your subjective view on the game.

Like for example LA Noire which is fair enough you don't like it, but saying it's an "absolute abomination" is just really over the top to me.
Then with TDU2 I remember you telling me how almost faultless it was on Xbox Live I think fella but when I got round to playing it I remember the game being all over the place with a huge patch released to fix it after I sold it.

This is why I ask that this might be a case where you just don't like the game?

::Apoligies if I comes accross attacking, never meant to be that worded if it is :)
Posted 11:50 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

I have ALWAYS been clear on my thoughts on LA Noire, Richard - I (like many non-review staff gamers) think it was an absolute abomination of a 'game', and the biggest example of media hype running counter to the actual experience. Hence the comparison in my critical thoughts above - an issue that has oft been brought up for discussion on these forums - albeit perhaps mostly when you were not frequenting here...

True, that is an opinion, just as my thoughts above are - if you do not agree, please counter them as they pertain to this title under discussion. External series preferences should have no bearing - in fact, my love of TDU2, despite the bugginess, should show how forgiving I can be when the overall experience is greater than the sum of the parts.
Posted 11:42 on 03 December 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Clockpunk

You lost me when you said LA Noire let you down and wasn't worthy of a 9 sorry James, and I remember you going on about how brilliant Test Drive Unlimited 2 was and never mentioned to me about the bugs it was full up with.

Do you think this might be a case where you just don't like the game.
Posted 11:39 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

"This is a game where its component mechanics are functional and entertaining, but all serve as a chorus to accompany the melody of the game's massive, engaging world, characters and context. With such a strong single-player mode in place, then, it almost feels like nitpicking to highlight the aspects that hold Far Cry 3 back"

Quoted directly from the review. I don't think the points I raise above are nitpicks, but rather substantial gameplay elements that impede what could have been a fantastic experience, rather than just a good one (IMHO). That extract is entirely hype-inducing, which I am not proud to admit I fell for.
Posted 11:37 on 03 December 2012

Game Stats

Far Cry 3
9
Out of 10
Far Cry 3
  • Superb story and characters
  • A detailed open world
  • Tons of enjoyable content
  • Occasional fiddly missions
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 30/11/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 352 46
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