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Far Cry 3 Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Far Cry 3 Review (X360)
Ubisoft
2008's Far Cry 2 was a bit too ambitious for its own good. By trying to be as immersive and realistic as possible, it shifted the difficulty and gameplay balance in a way that many players didn't find to be all that fun. The world and mechanics were awesome, it was just a pain to actually play. Developer Ubisoft Montreal took the criticisms seriously, thankfully, and now four years later it has released a polished, playable, massive, and incredibly fun Far Cry 3. Far Cry 3 is one of the best open world games of the generation and is highly recommended for shooter fans. Find out why in our full review.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Pros: Great shooting; fun exploration; great villains and supporting characters; nice main character progression; awesome presentation; lots to do
  • Cons: Your "friends" are awful and unlikable; the bow sucks

Far Cry 3 takes place on a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean where your character, Jason Brody, and a group of friends end up after being captured by slave trading pirates. Jason and his friends are all crazy spoiled brat entitled Americans and are 100% unlikable. The story is that Jason escapes and then sets out to try to rescue the others, but because they are so shallow and unlikable, actually saving those "friends" is basically the worst motivation ever. You as the player don't care about them at all, which seems like a major storytelling backfire.

Something interesting happens, however, in that even though his friends are all awful, Jason actually makes a genuine transformation as a result of what happens on the island. By the end, Jason is pretty awesome (and kind of insane). Sure, there is a lot of cliched tribal nonsense along the way as the natives of the island help you fight the pirates by giving you powers via tattoos and training you to be a warrior, but it all works surprisingly well by the end. You meet a lot of fascinating characters - Dennis, Citra, Buck (and they even make the "Kill Bill" joke in-game ...), Willis, and an amazing villain in Vaas - that more than make up for your dumb friends you don't care about. You do care about Jason, though, and the local characters you meet on the island, which becomes your motivation to keep playing.

Gameplay

Ubisoft
From a gameplay perspective, it is important to note what is improved here from Far Cry 2 because FC2 was a very polarizing game for players. One, you don't have malaria. That is a good thing. Two, you actually have radar that shows enemies, and objective markers, and other videogame conveniences absent from FC2. Some would argue that it reduces the immersion and is a bad thing, but it makes the game far more playable, so we don't mind it. Third, not everyone is out to get you this time around. When you clear an outpost of enemies, they are gone from that area of the game forever. You'll be able to explore that area freely without worrying about enemy patrols driving up the road every ten seconds that you have to fight off. The flip side of this, of course, is that once you clear all of the outposts there aren't really any enemies around anymore, which makes the game world feel kind of empty after a while. There will still be enemies scattered around in isolated spots or during missions, of course, but you won't have patrols screwing up your hunting or exploration anymore. Four, your guns and vehicles don't constantly jam or break down in FC3. Again, this is a good thing. Certainly not realistic, but a lot more fun. Five, you can fast travel instead of having to drive everywhere!

The rest of the gameplay is what sets Far Cry 3 apart from not just its predecessor, but the rest of the FPS genre. Almost from the start you are set loose and are free to explore the island. The game lets you know that climbing radio towers reveals more of the map and also gives you free guns to use, clearing enemy outposts makes those areas safer, and that hunting wild animals will let you upgrade your gun / ammo / loot carrying capacity, and then lets you do whatever you want. You also have a number of extra missions like assassinating specific enemies, hunting specific animals, finding hidden loot and objects, or taking missions from the locals. You are free to do any of these in any order you want. You also level up and earn skill points that you can spend on new abilities (more health, better accuracy, better hunting abilities, etc.) that unlock as you finish the story missions.

This all organically ties to your character progression because you gradually get more powerful as you complete more of the game. You get new abilities and weapons as you complete objectives. You learn how to fight more effectively. When you first start the game, you are a pathetic weakling and every enemy encounter is a major risk. Walking through the jungle off the beaten path is also very dangerous since the predator animals (tigers, bears, leopards, crocodiles, etc.) don't mess around here. By the end, though, you have enough skills and abilities and weapons and general knowledge of how to tackle the situations presented to you that you no longer really fear anything. You eagerly anticipate the next enemy outpost you'll take over. You hear a tiger growl somewhere nearby, but instead of panicking like you do for the first half of the game, you just get out a shotgun and wait for it to make the first move. The progression that Jason makes during the story as he transitions from a spoiled American into a confident Rakuyat warrior is the exact same as you feel while you are playing. It is really, really satisfying.

Depending on how you play, however, the game can risk feeling repetitive and bland if you don't mix things up. It is tempting to just go to all of the radio towers and clear all of the outposts ASAP because of their direct connection to your weapon arsenal and checkpoint system (each cleared outpost gives you a fast travel spot as well as a store to buy ammo or weapons). You'll get burned out on the game fast if you do that, though. My advice is to only do a few of each type of mission at a time. Do a few radio towers. Do a few outposts. Do some hunting missions. Do some assassinations. But don't do everything of one type all at once. When you spread it out the game stays fresh and fun and interesting. The story missions are also vastly different from the exploration-based missions in the game, which keeps things fun.

The combat in the game is also noteworthy because of how many options it gives you for every scenario. You have your pick of a number of pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles, and even rocket launchers and flamethrowers. You can also customize them with silencers, extended magazines, or better scopes. Clearing outposts are interesting missions because they are always slightly different. Some might have more guards. Some might have trapped animals you can free to fight for you - nothing better than sniping the lock off of a tiger cage and letting the tiger clear most of the base for you. You can use fire to burn down the buildings. You can sneak in and execute enemies in one hit kill takedown moves. You can use mines and C4 to create traps and then lure enemies into them. The rest of the game is the same way. It is always totally open to your imagination of how you want to do stuff.

We do have a couple of little nitpicks. First, the bow sucks. It just seems a lot weaker than it should be. Sure, you can eventually use grenade arrows, but that sort of defeats the purpose of using a bow in the first place. Even worse, most of the hunting missions make you hunt only using the bow, and shooting a tiger with an arrow just pisses it off instead of killing it. On that note, however, even the guns kind of lack power. You can shoot enemies in the chest with a sniper rifle and it isn't always a kill shot, which is pretty ridiculous. Headshots usually kill in one hit, but not always. Again, ridiculous. The game can also be somewhat difficult as you have very little health most of the time, so expect to die a lot. The checkpoint system, at least, is really good during missions, but keep in mind that if you die outside of missions while you're exploring you'll be reset at the nearest radio tower or outpost and you'll lose a few minutes of progress. The story missions also have a bit of Call of Duty syndrome where they typically end with your character having a weapon pointed at him.

Ubisoft
All in all, though, Far Cry 3 is a fantastic experience throughout. The progression you feel over the course of the game is really satisfying and you really do feel like a skilled hunter by the end. It is kind of like a current day Skyrim or Fallout, but with better combat mechanics than either of those games. The thrill of the hunt. The satisfaction of progression. The atmosphere of the incredible tropical island. It all comes together to make Far Cry 3 an amazing experience.

Co-Op and Multiplayer

Along with the 25+ hour single-player campaign, Far Cry 3 also has multiplayer and co-op offerings as well. Co-op is a self-contained side story where up to four players can team up to play as ship passengers out for revenge on a captain who sold them to pirates. The competitive multiplayer isn't anything particularly new or interesting compared to the current heavyweights of the FPS multiplayer genre - killstreaks and XP and unlocks are all present and accounted for - but it takes place in gorgeous jungle settings instead of drab brown and grey warzones, so it does at least look different. More interesting is a robust map editor that lets you create just about anything you want.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation in Far Cry 3 is stunning. The jungles of the island are lush and green and dense and look nice and realistic. Outdoor lighting effects are also very well done, with a full day / night cycle and some brilliant weather effects during the occasional thunderstorm that rolls in. Character models look very good for main character, though the villagers and enemy grunts are all pretty bland and repetitive. Fire and explosions are all wonderful. The animals look good. This is a good looking game overall.

The sound is also exceptionally well done. Voice work for the main characters is great all around. Vaas and Buck in particular are very memorable. Sound effects are also very nice, though the animals are probably noisier than they should be. You always know a predator is around because they growl and roar, though the game would be a lot tougher if you were constantly being ambushed by tigers, so it isn't a huge complaint. The music features a lot of dubstep (barf) and some sunnier tropical "local" music on the radio when you're driving.

Bottom Line

Far Cry 3 is a fantastic game overall that we can highly recommend to almost any shooter fan. It takes fantastic shooting gameplay and sets you loose in an open world where you are free to explore and progress the story, as well as your own abilities, at your own pace. That freedom does require a different way of thinking to be successful than players used to linear shooters like Call of Duty might be used to (since you can attack any objective from literally any angle with any weapons you want), but once you get into the right mindset it is undeniably fun. Far Cry 3 is a game that gets better the deeper you get into it, which is always a good sign. It also features tons of content outside of the lengthy campaign, so value isn't an issue here. Buy it.

Game was purchased with the author's own money.
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