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.

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User Comments

dav2612's Avatar

dav2612@ Clockpunk

Is it not just a case of reviewers enjoying the game more than you rather than them hyping it up?
Posted 11:27 on 03 December 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Ok, I've had the game for a couple of days, so here are my current thoughts on it: in a nutshell, rather disappointing. I do feel as though the media p/reviews have really hyped the experience up to be grander than it really is. Another case of L.A.Noire. :( This is nowhere near worthy of a score of 9 - at the moment, I'm thinking more it is more of a 7.

Let me be clear, there is a lot to like. The setting and characters are fantastic, and the enemy detection AI is superb - they will struggle to find you/fire upon where they think you might logically be. That I can respect. And there is so much to do in the world.

And that is part of the problem - its a jack of all trades, master of none. The following is a list of improvements, two of which I have previously mentioned in another thread, but further reflection brought several more instances of missed opportunity to make a truly fantastic game:

- Environmental trap - a la Farcry 1 - let the player set snares, cage traps, spiked branches ready to disembowel snooping guards. Let me use the world as a native would.

- Weapon selection - With so many stats underlying the armaments, there really could have been a much larger choice than the paltry selection made available. This is something which may hopefully be remedied through DLC, with an additional weapon already available through the UPlay service...

- Camouflage - For a game that espouses/requires stealth, the mechanics are very shonky. 'Oh. just crouch in some foliage, and you'll be fine'. No, that is not what I want - especially after Metal Gear Solid 3 got it so right. The terrain just screams for camouflage to play a role in facilitating stealth - dense jungles, grassy plains, sandy coves, concrete bukers, rusting ships... could have added greater purpose to hunting powerful creatures (such as the big cats).

- Basic survival - again, the hunting mechanic is already in place, why not make it more meaningful than just going for the skins? It is a harsh environment, make food/drink necessary components, requiring careful placement of fire - lest the smoke/smell of cooked food attract attention, or fire spreading wildly - and adding value to the money in purchasing rations (cashdoesn't seem to play a hugely important role, once you start unlocking cellular towers)

- Cut the number of collectibles drastically and remove them from the map (unless you pay through the nose to have them so revealed), but make each, more worthwhile (as in unlock special skills) and hide them better - make exploration hard work. The diamond cache detetcion system in FC2 was well done, the way it is done in this game, appearing on the minimap when you get close, is just far too simplistic.

- The mini-map - let me turn it off, and bring back Farcry 2's innovative map.

- Rusty scavenged weapons prone to jamming - another Farcry 2 mechanic that was either loved or hated - the option of having it should perhaps have been included for those of us who fell in the former.

I only hope that one may be able to use the psychotropic mushrooms to produce potent area of effect arrows at a later stage, or that shall be another point to add to the list.

So all in all, a decent game, but I do feel foolish for having been lured onto the hype train. it could have been so much more - something conveniently neglected by every review I have seen, but this is a sentiment I am seeing spread amongst non-media gamers.
Posted 11:18 on 03 December 2012
traford's Avatar

traford

i was really disapointed with far cry 2 , but they seem to have got this one spot on , day one purches for me .
Posted 15:28 on 25 November 2012
tvr77's Avatar

tvr77

This sounds quite impressive. I was sure i would be giving this a miss as i didn't like Far Cry 2 at all, i could see it was a decent enough game but i just couldn't get into it, seemed like a lot of work with all the running about and not enough stuff happening.
Posted 14:06 on 22 November 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido

I'll pick this up when I get paid. So no day one launch, but gives me time to polish off Hitman, and Black Ops II.
Posted 12:42 on 22 November 2012
Witenoyze's Avatar

Witenoyze@ Clockpunk

No worries! Sorry I didn't weigh in earlier. Hope my answers help! This really is one of the best games I've played all year. Truly.
Posted 11:08 on 22 November 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Ah, speak of the devil (I presume) :p Thank you for those details!

Now to try and find £35... time for some intense sofa change searching, methinks...
Posted 10:19 on 22 November 2012
Witenoyze's Avatar

Witenoyze@ Clockpunk

Yes.
statues, data chips and relics. Also cases filled with stuff to flog for guns and ammo.
Posted 10:16 on 22 November 2012
Witenoyze's Avatar

Witenoyze@ Neon-Soldier32

- Pining for more.
- Longer than 17 hours
- Nope
- You can pretty much drive to most locations on the map, although on the map menu they're not filled in unless you go to the nearest radar tower and hack it.
- Not really - the 17 hours here was me caning the game. I did about half the radar towers, five or six enemy bases and a couple of side quests. You become a more efficient killing machine and are able to move around better if you do the side missions, but most of them aren't mandatory.
- Some missions are corridors, but others have an open-ended structure. Never felt like i was boxed in - apart from the stealth sections.
- Big part. You need them to craft equipment and unlock weapons and equipment slots. They're also able to eat you.
- That would be spoiling things for you.

Hope that all helps!
Posted 10:15 on 22 November 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

No word from the author...? Perhaps one of the VG chaps could weigh in (if they have had the chance to play), it would be appreciated...?
Posted 10:13 on 22 November 2012
Ghost_Dog's Avatar

Ghost_Dog

I lost interest in Far Cry 2 fairly quickly, but this sounds rather ace.

With all the recent 'big' releases disappointing on one level or another, it's good to see one of the more under-hyped games getting great write-ups across the board. Sounds like the game Assassin's Creed III and Hitman: Absolution should have been.
Posted 09:49 on 22 November 2012
MrGloomy's Avatar

MrGloomy

I really didn't gel with Far Cry 2 (a Marmite game for many), but I did enjoy FC1. I've also got a soft spot for the multiplayer map editor stuff too. I remember making some nifty maps back in FC1.

My compulsive nature wants me to get this on release, but really I shouldn't. I've got far too many games to contend with and I should just try and complete them before moving onto another quality offering.

Let's see, games I need to 'get through'...
Halo 4
COD:Black Ops 2
Borderlands 2 DLC (and get to lvl50)
Darksiders 2 (plus DLC)
Binary Domain
Kingdoms of Amular
Skyrim DLC
...........
Posted 09:45 on 22 November 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

I had this game pegged as a 'pick up when cheap' release, wasn't expecting it to get this sort of praise. Jumped up to the top of my must play list!
Posted 08:16 on 22 November 2012
p0rtalthinker's Avatar

p0rtalthinker

I'm super excited to pick this up. I loved Far Cry, and Far Cry 2 was quite good (minus a few annoyances).
Posted 20:04 on 21 November 2012
altaranga's Avatar

altaranga

A well penned review. I'd give it a fitting 9/10.
Posted 18:32 on 21 November 2012

Game Stats

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: 305 8
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