Developed by: Ubisoft Montreal
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC
Released in November 2012, four years of its predecessor, Far Cry 3 is considered by many to be the definitive Far Cry title, marrying the tropical island landscape of the first game with the free-roaming sandbox exploration of the second. Set on the Rook Islands, the story focuses on Jason Brody – an innocuous teenager who is forced to transform into a mighty warrior to rescue his kidnapped friends from pirates. As players advance through the adventure, they unlock new skills that are represented as tattoos on his body – signifying his transformation into one of the island’s indigenous Rakyat tribesmen. While his sudden turn from tourist to terminator is somewhat difficult to swallow at first, the introduction of mysticism helps make the transition somewhat more believable within the boundaries of the story.
Keeping Jason’s friends captive is the menacing pirate leader Vaas Montenegro, who is voiced by and modelled on the actor Michael Mando. Mando is extremely charming and his performance as Vaas catapulted the character into the videogame villain hall of fame despite how brief his screen-time actually is. Unlike the previous two games, the story of Far Cry 3 is extremely compelling and most of that is down to the strong characterisation of its protagonist and antagonists – something that felt lacking in the earlier titles. Secondary antagonists such as Buck and Hoyt also chew up the virtual scenery to earn the player’s ire at various times through the storyline – although rather frustratingly all three of the ‘boss battles’ are reduced to simple “quick-time event” button bashing. While it allows for a more cinematic ending to each character, it feels slightly disconnected from the main action of the game.
Taking inspiration from Lost and Apocalypse Now, the Rook Islands is a vivid and extremely detailed landscape, populated by a variety of flora, fauna and wildlife. Players can hunt down animals to acquire skins that help craft items to increase ammo capacity, or harvest flowers and herbs to make potions that provide temporary status boosts. The game also features unique ‘legendary’ creatures which the player must hunt using specific weaponry to earn one-of-a-kind skins that can be used to craft the final version of each upgradeable item.
Borrowing elements from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, the island also features a number of radio towers that the player must climb in order to activate ‘fast travel’ points and earn new items to purchase in the shops. Each radio tower is in extreme disrepair and involves jumping and climbing up broken pieces of scaffolding like a 2D platformer, but in the first-person viewpoint. Each unlocked radio tower reveals area of the map including side-missions, collectables and enemy outposts. This gives the player a sense of progression and much-needed ability to zip from area to area without a lengthy vehicle ride.
Another element borrowed from Assassin’s Creed is the use of stealth to infiltrate enemy outposts. Getting stealth to work in a first-person perspective is a difficult task, and Far Cry 3 is no exception, but it was extremely fun to snipe enemies from a distance and gradually take out the camps without setting off alarms and attracting reinforcements. One tactic I particularly enjoyed was shooting animal cages and letting loose a leopard to do my dirty work for me, whilst I mopped up any leftover survivors. The ability to switch gameplay styles was good, and I found myself often switching between kill-crazy rampages on enemies to a more measured, stealthy approach.
With about forty hours’ worth of gameplay, Far Cry 3 has plenty to occupy players and that extends to the side-missions and collectables for achievement hunters. The initial 2012 release featured co-op missions and competitive multiplayer, but I was playing the recent remastered edition for next-generation consoles (Far Cry 3 Classic Edition) that removed all online functionality to present the core story mode as a solo experience. Graphically, the remastered game looks amazing and the colours are extremely vivid with bright blue seas and gorgeous grassy mountains. Loading times are thankfully relatively brief, and only really occur when fast-travelling from one area to another, or when loading up a new story mission. There were moments where the controls felt a little clumsy, but overall the game held up well despite being over ten years old.
Far Cry 3 is an intriguing title, as it is responsible for cementing the template that future Far Cry games would go on to use – even down to crafting dynamic villains that players “love to hate” – there’s a reason why the subsequent games would go on to feature the bad guys so prominently on the covers. The story is definitely more captivating than its predecessors, although it struggles to adopt a consistent tone with some awkward story beats – most of which relating to Buck and his treatment of Keith. The gameplay is a vast improvement on Far Cry 2 with a sense of progression and mastery coming from skill upgrades and unlocking fast-travel points. The inclusion of stealth as an option is welcome, although it remains a difficult concept to get right in a first-person shooter. Key elements such as the hunting/crafting system and the island exploration hit the right spot, but the main missions never take full advantage of the open-world environment – concentrating most of its action into linear set-pieces and locations.
More renowned for its iconic antagonist than the quality of its actual storyline, Far Cry 3 displays all the ingredients of a strong franchise but lacks that five-star feel. With hindsight, it is clear to see that despite its rough edges, it was instrumental in helping to establish the Far Cry series as one of Ubisoft’s most popular flagship titles.
Score – ★★★★
Far Cry 3 is available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & PC on Amazon UK. For next-gen consoles, the remastered Far Cry 3: Classic Edition is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC on Amazon UK.