Warning: potential spoilers including the introduction of the game, progression through the story and plot highlights. Please read at your own discretion.
Note: I’ve rewritten this review to cover all aspects of the game now that I have finished it in its entirety. Previously, the first version was written covering basic aspects to serve as an indicator that the game is completely worth the cost and hours to be put into it. Here is a complete review of Far Cry 3, from head to toe.
It’s not every day the gaming industry takes a break from the trend of milking the proverbial cow of a successful franchise, but thankfully every now and then it does, and we receive in return a gem like Far Cry 3 served up on a gleaming, diamond encrusted platter. Initially I was a bit sceptic about the game, because I’d feared it’d be enough like its predecessor, which would have deterred me entirely. I found that Far Cry 2 was a game that I loved to hate and hated to love, and the relationship I had with it was a bit wishy-washy. As it pleases me to report, Far Cry 3 shares enough of what made Far Cry 2 a good title, but changed enough to avoid stepping in the tracks of its predecessor. As a matter of fact, I personally found Far Cry 3 to be so much better than the previous instalments that going back to play or replay the titles that game before it would be an overall annoyance.
The game kicks off with an interesting scene and we’re introduced to the main protagonist and his friends as they enjoy their holiday, with their last stop being an Asian-Pacific archipelago called Rook Island. The group—Jason Brody, his two brothers, his girlfriend, and three friends—are portrayed as typical, spoiled rich socialites, who you might connect with similar characters from mid-rated horror films involving cabins in woods, a road-trip gone sour, etc. You might also make a connection to Jersey Shore. We’re shown a montage of their festivities ranging from arriving on Rook Island, drinking shots at a club, and skydiving, all to the tune of ‘Paper Planes’ by singer M.I.A. However, the idyllic paradise isn’t as tranquil as it seems; the final moments of the scene transitions into a recorded video on Jason’s—the main protagonist—smart phone in the hands of Vaas Montenegro, the famous villain we’ve seen in pre-release trailers and gameplay videos. Vaas demonstrates a small example of his colourful and actually quite intimidating personality and his dip into insanity before he leaves to tend to his other captives. Jason manages to escape with the help of his Army-trained brother, Grant, who was tied up with him in the cage. As the two reach an entry into the jungle, Grant is shot in the neck by Vaas who then gives Jason a head start, sending his soldiers after him. After a wonderfully cinematic-esque escape, Jason falls into a river when a rope bridge collapses and is rescued by Dennis Rogers, a Liberian immigrant trying to mobilise the only village on the island not in thrall to Vaas and end the reign of terror. As a military expert prone to mysticism, Dennis instructs Jason in becoming a guerrilla warrior.
As expected, Jason prioritises rescuing the remaining members of his holiday party, who’ve all be separated and held captive by Vaas’s soldiers, with the intent of selling them into slavery. But simply tracking them down, rescuing them and leaving the island would be too simple in lieu of a story, of course. Along the way, Jason encounters Dr. Earnhardt, a psychotropic alchemist and Citra, the female leader of the Mayan-like Rakyat warriors, rebelling against the hostile takeover—she’s also Vaas’s sister. I want to say the entire story revolves around that “You help me, I’ll help you,” demeanour, but only about 90% of it is. There are a handful of missions where Jason will take things into his own hands and set out on an individual vendetta. However, as previous Far Cry games entail, a majority of the game involves carrying out tasks and assignments to basically prove yourself worthy of receiving information to help your cause.
Far Cry 3 is chock full of colourful characters and the story is vivid and overall brilliantly executed, and you can drop into it whenever you’d like—after all, there’s a huge island for you to explore—and it’s not just the main story that takes importance. There is also an interesting back-story that shows what happened to Rook Island during World War II. As the story progresses, you’ll find it twisting in insanity as Jason is further thrust into the island’s depths. It turns from an idyllic holiday gone wrong and doing what you can to escape, to a civil war between the island’s savages and the Rakyat who are fighting for what is right and to return the peace. However, it isn’t just Vaas that you have to worry about; Hoyt, the man that Vaas reports to, is the Tony Montana of Rook Island. Harbouring a drug syndicate, criminal organisation, and slave trades all over the world, he is certainly a force to be reckoned with. However, as the story continues onward, it turns into a bit of a disappointment. While players will be able to understand why it happens, the execution could have been a bit more thought out. Towards the climax of the game, Jason has now rescued his girlfriend Liza, his friends Daisy and Oliver, and locates Keith after a three to four mission side-story given by a rather likeable, yet equally disturbing and annoying man by the name of Buck, who purchased Keith from Hoyt. After it’s revealed that Buck purchased Keith as a sex slave, and intends to keep Jason as well. It’s here where we’re shown our first “boss” encounter, where the fight to the death between Buck and Jason takes place on what looks like a dance floor. It’s safe to assume that it’s based on Jason’s rage. However, the ensuing encounters between Jason and the other main antagonists are styled in the same fashion. It seems tawdry and a bit on the ineffective side when you consider everything that has happened and you’re left yearning for something a bit more on the epic side.
Regardless, the story as a whole has been brilliantly executed and it just reeks of hard work, dedication, and quality. There isn’t a single plot hole unfilled and what I enjoy most about it is that you won’t learn everything there is to learn—about how the group was captured, what made Vaas and Hoyt insane, the rebellion of the Rakyat, and what happened to the island in World War II—unless you explore, explore, explore.
Far Cry 3 is simply put an amazing and unbelievably fun experience. There’s so much to do and while the island isn’t the biggest map we’ve seen in open-world titles, everything fits perfectly and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Some aspects from Far Cry 2 has returned including access to a variety of different vehicles, a dynamic weather system, and a day and night cycle. However, the game has done away with the ability to sleep or wait for day time or nightfall—it occurs naturally. The health system is as it was, including health syringes to restore the player to full health and the ability to perform first aid, ranging from removing bullets with a knife and popping bones back into place.
In terms of realism, the game has done away with weapon degradation; you’ll no longer have to worry about weapons jamming or falling apart. There is also no physical map or GPS; instead, you can pull the map up in a pause menu at any time and use it from there. Quite a lot has been added though, including hostile wildlife such as tigers, komodo dragons, sharks, bears, and the occasional herd of boar, as well as a new handful of docile creatures. All of which can be killed and skinned, their hides useful for the new crafting component which is a necessity if you’ve any intention of carrying more than one weapon at a time as well as having more room in your rucksack for ammunition and loot, as well as a big enough wallet to carry your money. You can also craft medicinal and perk boosting syringes from plants. These aspects really reinforce the feeling that you're reinventing Jason as a survivalist. He starts off as a wealthy brat and is thrown into this torment, forced to do what he can to survive.
Everything you do—whether you’re completing missions, hunting, or killing countless hostiles—will feed into Jason’s experience (XP) meter which allows you to unlock perks and skills, turning him into a more effective adversary for Vaas and his comrades. However, what's nice about the levelling system is that there's such a great balance, you never feel overwhelmed.
Early on, players are encouraged to scale and deactivate scramblers inside the radio towers to reveal more areas on your map, and it also allows for discounts on ammunition and generously, free weapons in stores. If you’re willing to dedicate about an hour to deactivating these towers, you’ll have yourself every weapon in the game completely free of charge—all you’d have to purchase are attachments like suppressors, sights, and extended magazines, and camouflage paint. With over 30 weapons in the game, getting these towers out of the way will give you great access to a bloody proper arsenal.
The best part of it all, you ask? Well naturally, it would be the fact that once you eliminate all hostiles in an outpost, it becomes yours and the enemies do not respawn. Instead, the outpost is filled with your allies and the island grows safer to explore.
With countless side-missions including supply drops, bounty hunts, game hunting, and Rakyat warrior trials, you won’t find yourself short of anything productive to do on the island. I found myself doing nothing but exploring for the first couple of hours after starting the game; adventuring across the island by land, sea, or the occasional hang glider will prove nothing but brilliance on the attention of detail and immersion that is presented. It’s a rich and beautiful open world with so much to offer without even having to start a mission.
Previous instalments in the Far Cry series required some serious skills, and while that remains true in this game, Far Cry 3 gently leads you in and teaches you along the way. While the AI can be rather tough even on the easiest difficulty, you’ll be forced to use your head—going in like Rambo might sound fun, but you might want to even the odds first by disabling alarms and performing a few stealth takedowns. However, if you’ve got the firepower for an all out mini-war, go right ahead. Either way, you’ll find yourself dying quite a bit until you get the hang of things and learn to determine what will work and what won’t with the game’s mechanics. It’s a great bit of variety.
While the story is certainly the main attraction, your experience won’t be complete until you dip into the online components of the game. For the first time in the series, Far Cry 3 offers a co-op mode with an individual story that serves as a prequel to Jason’s. Four characters who were in a similar boat to Jason and his friends return to the island to serve up some explosive and bloody payback, shooting through a series of missions with objectives revolving around guerrilla warfare.
Online multiplayer makes a return similar to the way it was executed in Far Cry 2, but somehow more fun. There are a handful of issues that were present in the previous game, including poor matchmaking functionality, a few glitches and bugs, and sometimes your shots aren’t registered even though you’d bet your life that you really did shoot your target, but it isn’t so terrible that it’s unplayable. An interesting spin is that in some game modes, the top player on the winning team can horribly humiliate and torture the lowest player on the losing team...or show mercy and let them go unscathed.
Lastly and certainly not least, the map editor has made a stellar return and has been completely overhauled in terms of what you can and can’t do. While it’s quite similar to the previous map editor in FC2, this one is a lot more in-depth and less restrictive. While I haven’t completely explored the map editor, I have played around with it and it’s quite brilliant. You may create basically anything you’d like within your creativity level and you can add hostile and friendly NPCs as well as wildlife this time around. Of course, vehicles and buildings may be added, as well as various objects found in the game including decorative items like books, chairs, etc. In short, if you desire you may basically create a game within a game, with how in-depth the map editor is this time around.
Overall, Far Cry 3 is not a game to be missed. I was a little sceptical at first considering my experience with Far Cry 2, and it greatly pleases me that my preconceptions were completely wrong. With a gripping story full of believable characters, the most fun gameplay I’ve ever experienced, brilliant aspects of realism, and an extensive length as well as replay value and the amount of things to do once the story is finished, it’s not the island that will kill you. It’s the amount of time you’ll spend with this game before realising that it might be time to have a bite to eat or go to the restroom.