What is paradise? For Jason Brody and his friends it was a sun kissed island adventure mixed with extreme activities. It was all fun and games until they skydived their way onto a remote paradisaical island. Here things began to turn sour and where Ubisoft Montréal set you on the winding path through the island’s many levels of insanity.
It has to be said that for all the games I’ve had the pleasure – and displeasure – of playing over the last year, Far Cry 3 has to have the most powerful opening section. It’s punchy and adrenaline inducing; it’s a slap to the face after the dreary and dull moments found elsewhere. Ubisoft has wholeheartedly embraced the phrase ‘start as you mean to go on’ and Far Cry 3 rarely lets up on its unrelenting pace.
Understandably its story is incredibly dark. Revolving around rescuing Jason’s kidnapped friends who are being sold into trafficking and killing those responsible, Ubisoft really isn’t scared of going all out with the violence on show. Your encounters with the utterly depraved and unhinged Vass contain some of the most brutal moments you’ll see in a game – at least shown in such a light. Instead of glorifying the violence on show, it’s there to empower you, place you into the shoes of Jason Brody himself. If anything, these set pieces make you uncomfortable while also being absolutely amazing to watch.
What makes Far Cry 3 just so much better than other games out there right now, and arguably many that have come before, are the incredible performances delivered by its wide cast of voice actors. Micheal Mando delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a game – especially one of this size and scope. His role as Vass paints him as a true psychopath. He’s not like the kooky and crazy ‘insane’ you’ll find in other games. Instead he plays a man who genuinely believes he’s entirely sane and it’s the world around him at fault.
It’s not just Mando who breathes life into the world around you. Other characters are acted out every bit as impressively. Hoyt, the other major antagonist, comes across as a madman in a very different light – a more outright approach. He’s methodical and cunning, not chaotic and tribal. A German businessman at heart, it would seem. Citra and David offer you unwavering support but, just like everybody on the island, they seem somewhat untrustworthy. Essentially this is what Far Cry 3 does best: it continually has you questioning everything you see.
More often than not you’ll believe you’ve figured out where the story is going, and then a drug educed psychosis section comes along and makes you question everything you previously thought. Ubisoft Montréal does a great job of keeping you guessing, while never irritating by throwing in needless plot twists. It helps that the character of Jason Brody progresses in a similar way to how Joseph Conrad portrayed Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Mix this with an almost Lord of the Flies crazed lust for power and Jason’s journey into self discovery comes through as the unraveling of Western society’s morals.
Putting the deeper narrative aside, Far Cry 3 manages to do something that so few open world titles can muster: it packs every inch of available space with something to goad you away from the main mission. Be it a radio tower in the distance, and enemy camp to take, hunting animals in the vegetation or the multitude of treasures, relics and lost letters to find, there’s something there that you just can’t resist.
They aren’t pointless distractions either. Both islands feel like they’ve been crafted by hand, every tree placed with purpose, it’s an incredible playground to explore – and rather staggeringly huge. Each radio tower unveils a new section of the island to explore, in a surprisingly similar way to Assassin’s Creed’s synchronize move. Just like scaling a building front in Ubisoft’s other blockbuster title, navigating your way up the 18 broken, creaking steel structures is a puzzle unto itself. Their uniqueness only serves to immerse you further into the world as they really feel like a part of this island’s past. It also helps that they’re immense fun to zip-wire and, later on, wing suit down from once you’re done too.
Taking enemy outposts is also a useful pastime as they serve as fast travel points around the island once taken. You’ll be able to purchase ammo and customise weapons too, as well as sell your loot from felled enemies and the many chests dotted around the islands. The real fun is figuring out how to take these spots that, just like the radio towers, feel hand crafted and individual. Some are carved into the mountainside, others set up shop along the wide beachfront, and some sit encamped within steel walls. Whipping out your camera means you can track enemy positions and with a quick shot to the alarm systems and the unleashing of a caged animal, you can take down a camp without firing more than a few bullets.
If shooting some people doesn’t take your fancy, you can venture into the nearby woods or head down to the beach and do a little bit of hunting. Taking cues from Red Dead Redemption – which was the last game to get animal hunting so right – you can track, kill, and skin a wide variety of animals and then use their pelts to upgrade your equipment. It works far better than the rather pointless hunting found in Assassin’s Creed III as it has a direct impact upon your ability to hold ammo, weapons and cash. It’s really quite hard to resist exploring and taking down tapirs, tigers, sharks and cassowaries. Ubisoft knows this and thanks to rare animal ‘Path of the Hunter’ quests you’ll get ultra rare skins that can be used to max out your packs.
Exploring is also a great way to gain experience – as is shooting various bad guys in the face. Just like with many other games Far Cry 3 has an upgrade system that unlocks innate abilities within Jason. Abilities have corresponding pieces of Tatau art that magically appears on your tribal half sleeve when learnt. Some are far more useful than others, but nothing compares to assassinating an enemy and then using their knife to kill another nearby. It does exactly what Ubisoft Montréal wants it to do: it empowers you.
And here’s what makes Far Cry 3 just so brilliant, it does so much, and it does it all so well. Every single section feels immensely polished. Even the small things like climbing ladders and ledges, as well as vaulting over walls just feels so gratifying. You feel like Jason Brody exists within the world, rather than a floating camera with a gun. Every weapon feels amazing to fire and each car handles differently on the road – especially the quad bike, which feels like toying with death at times. If it’s not guns or cars that take your fancy you can choose to hang glide, wing suit or parachute your way about the place – which again is superb.
It’s hard to think of a game that is a better candidate for Game of the Year than Far Cry 3. Its perfect blend of gun-play and exploration wrapped around a fantastically well-produced story make it a must have title. If Far Cry 2 left you jaded, then Far Cry 3 will pull you in and never let you go. The back of the box, and its advertising, focuses too much on the ‘insane’ action on show, in reality what you’ll find is the subtle insanity where you’re left wondering exactly what will come next.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: The 360 build has occasional tearing, but its soundtrack is utterly fantastic and the voice over cast do an utterly superb job.
Gameplay – 5/5: You won’t find a more enjoyable experience that knits so many gameplay ideas together so well.
Innovation – 4/5: While gameplay isn’t overly innovative, it’s the excellent casting and pacing – along with the supernatural allure its open spaces have upon you – that really blow you away.
Value – 5/5: A lengthy campaign, a huge amount of side quests and plenty to keep you busy, the single-player is more than enough to justify the purchase.
Final Score: 5/5