It has been about eight years since I first gave Far Cry Instincts on the original Xbox a spin. At the time I fell in love with the picturesque tropical island setting, Jack Carver’s over-the-top feral powers, and an online experience that made for some memorable multiplayer games. Fast forward to 2008, Far Cry 2 busted on the scene with a completely different open-world game. Missing was the original protagonist Jack Carver, Stephen Dorff’s voice acting, the island setting, zombies and feral powers. In fact, if it were not for the title of the sequel you would not have known it was a Far Cry game at all. At the time I was skeptical but after I sunk my teeth into the game I walked away impressed and so did many gamers. Fast forward t another four years to present day and Far Cry 3 for the Xbox 360 has landed on my lap. Far Cry 3 heads back to that tropical island setting that started it all but maintains that deep open world experience so many enjoyed in the second game. Does Far Cry 3 do the franchise proud and round out the year with yet another fantastic Ubisoft game? You better believe it does.
There is no doubt that the development team took a chance when they released Far Cry 2. It was a significant departure from the arcadish and linear experience of the original game. It was an open world title that took place in a modern day Africa caught up in a state of anarchy and civil war. It was a deep enjoyable experience but not without its share of flaws. Respawning enemies, infrequent save points, and long periods spent travelling from one objective to another are just a few of the complaints. Much like the previous installment, Far Cry 3 is also an open world game but it features far more “colourful” characters, a much more compelling storyline and a rich single player experience that is incredibly deep and hard to put down. The multiplayer experience, a co-op mode, and the map editor return, but they all seem to take a back seat to a single player experience that managed to suck me right in.
You play as Jason Brody, a regular straight-laced dude who is right out of college. He has no real military background or any special abilities. He and his friends decide to go skydiving somewhere in South East Asia and they eventually find themselves on a tropical island where they decide to unwind a little. Without paying attention to the danger that awaits them, Brody and his friends are eventually captured by the games main enemy, “Vaas”, and his rather large crew of bandits. Brody’s friends are brutalized and just when Brody is about to meet his fate he manages to escape. His goal is to get off the island and save his friends by doing whatever it takes. So the adventure begins as Brody fights to survive an island filled with insane characters including the notorious Mr. “Vaas” himself.
Overall I certainly enjoyed the games direction and storyline. It is indeed a different “brand of insanity” where every character you encounter does not seem all that mentally balanced. As the story progressed I really found myself caring for Brody’s plight and enjoyed watching how the island started to consume him. Sure, there are times where the story seemed to drag, but at the end of the day this is easily the best Far Cry narrative to date. It is captivating and held my interest over the course of the single player campaign. For those who want to know, the story mode can easily take over 20 to 30 hours to complete. Far Cry 3 is not a game you can simply steam roll through all the chapters as you will need to do a fair share of hunting, skinning animals, and crafting such things as ammo pouches, wallets to hold extra cash, and weapon holsters so that you can go into battle and come out alive.
If you are obsessive compulsive like me you will want to explore all parts of the island and complete the 40-single player missions at your leisure which adds even more time to the gameplay experience. This sandbox style gameplay is perfect for those who do not like to be held captive by linear or mission based games. Sure there are elements where some of Far Cry 3’s missions do feel very linear but you do have the option to back out of a mission at any time if you feel you are not up for. It is this “freedom-to-play-as-you-like” that makes Far Cry 3 pretty special.
Much like other open world games there are side missions and collectibles. You can do such things like hunting quests, where you track down certain wildlife; you can do supply runs, where you race from point to point in an ATV; and you can do assassination quests where you perform a certain type of kill on a certain type of enemy. All these side missions and collectibles earn you XP and money. Money is used to purchase weapons, ammo and other explosive devices. Yet it does not end there. Far Cry 3 features Radio Towers and Outposts to challenge you. Radio Towers reveal the world on your mini-map and should be your first order of business when you embark of journey to a new part of the island. There are 18 towers in total and each offer up a tricky and sometimes challenging way to get to the top. Outposts are pirate encampments and once you take them down you can unlock further quests and activities.
It is the level of variety and that constant unnerving feeling which makes Far Cry 3 a fantastic experience. Even when travelling from one mission to another you are never safe. Bandits can approach and open gunfire at any time and wildlife also attack without any warning. Throughout the campaign tigers, a bear, several snakes, a gator and some komodo dragons are just some of the island’s animals that attacked me. Heck there are even some great white sharks you need to be careful of in the water. In addition to hunting wildlife, crafting items, taking down outposts, climbing radio towers, collecting items and doing a variety of side quests, you can also collect plants. These plants allow you to craft syringes that will boost your health and hunting abilities as well as temporarily assist you during combat.
Unlike Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 features a fast travel system. No longer do you actually have to travel from one end of the map to other. The fast travel icon appears on your mini-map and allows you to move from location to location much quicker than you would using your regular modes of travel. Granted you will still have to do a fair share of hiking and travelling in the game but nowhere near to the extent last time around. Speaking of travel, you can still get around by hover craft, jet-ski, car, buggie, ATV and hand glider to name a few; and yes, you can even zip line which is a Far Cry staple.
Far Cry 3 features more save points then its predecessor and enemies do not respawn as often as they used to. Granted there were a few times where I would clear out an area only to return to a fresh batch of enemies, but these instances are far and few between. Bottomline, if you take down the outposts enemies drastically reduce in numbers in that particular area. Far Cry’s combat has also received some enhancements as well. This time around there is much more emphasis on stealth and taking down the enemy without the use a weapon. In fact, if I had any one complaint it would be the scarcity of ammo and a tendency for the game to have a bit too much emphasis on stealth gameplay. You will quickly learn that throwing rocks and using sound suppressed weapons is key to your survival. I can’t count how many times I would use my AK-47 to kill an animal only have a rush of enemies rush on in to my location.
As you progress through the game you earn skill points that unlock various skills. Things like throwing a knife or attacking an enemy from above are just a couple of examples of the types of skills you can unlock. As Brody gains more skills a tattoo on his arm gets bigger and thus shows him how the island has left its mark. As much as I enjoyed some stealth takedowns or chaining together a string of attacks, I enjoyed the game so much more when it was complete chaos. Firing my weapon and running for my life was a riot. There were times where I felt the enemy was a little too proficient with their weapon but all in all I didn’t have too much difficulty taking down most of the enemies I faced. I say most because you will encounter some juggernaut-like enemies who do not go down go down so easy. In the past the Far Cry franchise has excelled is in the multiplayer department. This time around Far Cry 3’s multiplayer game is good but is not on par with some other triple A shooters released of late. The map editor is back and offers up an endless amount of environments to play in and it is improved this time around as well. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Ubisoft has always included a “make-your-own” level editor in each Far Cry game released. In its latest form the editor is a very user-friendly device that will allow players to design their own maps, save them on their hard drive and make them available for download to other users online. Downloading of the maps is easy too
Fellow Editor “The Outcast” had an opportunity to experience some multiplayer and cooperative gameplay earlier this week at a Far Cry 3 event. Here are his impressions:
The multiplayer experience, while not over the top, provides some enjoyable experiences. Up to 14 players can head online in an effort to dominate the world of adversarial play. Along with the typical deathmatch and team deathmatch modes there are to new unique modes to the world of Far Cry. The first is Firestorm. Here you must first ignite your enemy’s two depots while protecting your own. When both depots are on fire a radio will activate in the middle of the map and it is team vs. team to see who can get it first. The other mode is called Transmission. Here you protect certain transmitters from the other team. The trick is that one transmitter is overheating and will give you greater points for a shorter time while the other one is not overheating and will give you less points but for a longer time. We played Team Deathmatch for most of the night and the competition was fierce. Constant communication with your teammates is key. It was fun to play, but I did note there was some serious spawn camping now and then, which always takes away from the overall experience.
We also had a chance to play some of the four-player cooperative mode. Here you are tasked with completing certain objectives in phases. The first cooperative mission had us taking out enemies, repairing a train engine blocking a tunnel, defending the train as it moved just long enough to allow us access to a tunnel to get through. It was a tough mission and all the other cooperative missions you will face will provide a challenge too. It was amazing to see people have to play the same mission over and over again until they managed to get it right. Being that these modes provide a challenge, it adds to the overall playability of the game as you can step out of the single player experience and head online to play some stand alone missions with some friends.
Finally, the whole online experience allows you to customize your loadouts. You can choose from the initial loadouts that are tuned to certain gameplay (e.g. sniper rifle, SMG, assault rifle) and as you play you open up more guns and you can also grab guns from dead enemies at your feet. Far Cry 3 adds something called “Battle Cries” to the online experience. Here you can use a battle cry (online adversarial or online co-op) that will give some boosts to your teammates. You can add to extra health to your teammates health bar, you can improve your teammates regeneration of their health when injured, you can improve your teammates accuracy or you can increase the speed of your teammates. Those you wish to help must be close to you. You can also revive your enemies during gameplay. All in all I had fun with all the online modes, both adversarial and cooperative. Sure, they may not add anything particularly new to the world of online play, but it was still fun and can be a nice distraction from the story mode.
As I suggest at the top, Far Cry 3 has gone back to the look that tropical island paradise that made such games like Far Cry Instincts and Far Cry Predator such a hit, except this time around the island is much larger. I don’t know how big it is in terms of square mileage but I was impressed with the not only the size but the level of detail everywhere. Given the size of the game it amazes me that nothing was sacrificed with regards to the in-game visuals. The lush and colourful jungle island environments look fantastic. It is simply a beautiful setting which sets the perfect isolated and insane atmosphere.
Another strong point for the game in the visuals department has to be the water effects. They are quite stunning, but this comes as no surprise as the water has always looked great in previous Far Cry games. What I noticed different this time around is the river, streams and moving water effects. The way the light reflects off the water and the way the mist at the bottom of a waterfall sprays up is much like you would see in any real-life tropical destination. The lighting effects in Far Cry 3 are second to none as well. The transition from early morning to late night is so smooth it is almost not even noticeable. The way the shadows of the trees reflect off the hood of your car is incredible. It is almost as if the lighting impacted my mood. When the day turns to night things just seemed a little more intense and a little scarier on the island.
In terms of the character animations Far Cry 3 is much improved over its predecessor. They are very solid this time around and all the various characters you run into have their own look about them. Granted some of the enemy AI could have used a bit more in terms of variety, but as for the games main cast of characters, they all look fantastic. Technically speaking Far Cry 3 is fairly smooth and I did not experience any major slowdown in the framerate. I did however notice some issues with the draw distance. For instance, I noticed when I was hand-gliding that many of the visuals would pop onto the screen the closer I would get to them. These are not major issues but rather just some technical issues I observed. I also experienced some rather long loading times, but again for a game of this size and scope this is not exactly a deal breaker.
In terms of the sound, Far Cry 3 delivers. The sound effects are easily the star of the show. Being able to hear a carload of bandits approaching from a fair distance down the road was impressive. Also those jungle sounds with birds chirping, tigers roaring, bushes swaying, grass crunching as you walk over it, and other nature sounds was a real a treat. It is a game that features plenty of ear candy. The musical soundtrack is also fairly good but I did notice that some of the tunes seemed out of place at times and these tracks could be an annoyance. There was one scene where I had to burn down crops of marijuana plants while listening to some god awful and overly loud tunes. This had me reaching for the mute button. This being said, these are more the exception than the norm. As far as the weapon sounds are concerned Far Cry 3 is good but it does seem like it has fallen behind the pack a little when it comes to how weapons should sound this far into the life of the Xbox 360. With games like Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six under their belt, I expect a bit more from Ubisoft in this gun sound area.
One last note in terms of the audio, the voice acting is also incredibly well done. Michael Mando, the voice of Vaas, remains the star of the show. He brings a level of intensity, craziness and unpredictability to his voice acting which really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge when his character appears on screen. I just wish we got a little more of him. There are massive chunks of gameplay where he does not appear at all. As for other Far Cry 3 character voices, they are clear and engaging. I did however notice some lip synching issues at times.
Far Cry 3 has effectively managed to bring a level of unparalleled insanity to a franchise that listens to its fans and manages to effectively redefine itself with each outing. Far Cry 3’s deep open world experience filled with its cast of unforgettably insane characters, entertaining storyline, vibrant visuals and varied gameplay makes it one of the best open world games to touch down in 2012. While the multiplayer aspects of the game are not quite as memorable and have fallen a bit behind other triple A shooters already on the market, as an entire package Far Cry is an impressive feat and one that should be under a lot of trees this holiday season.