Review: Far Cry 3

Call me insensitive, but I can’t help but feel that if people with too much money are dumb enough to go sailing and vacationing in pirate-infested regions, they almost deserve it when they get kidnapped and held for ransom. Yes, this is really what I think when you see something like that on the news – and I found myself thinking something similar during the opening of Ubisoft’s newest big-budget shooter, Far Cry 3.

The opening is actually rather cleverly done. You’re hit with a montage of footage showing the protagonist, Jason Brody, on an island vacation with his friends, drinking, sailing, skydiving, wakeboarding… I half-expected to hear an announcer chime in, “This is the world of Peter Stuyvesant!” Or something. But after a minute or two, the footage is suddenly pulled back, revealing that it’s a recording on an iPhone, held by a not-so-friendly looking guy, who proceeds to taunt you through your prison bars. Turns out you’re already captured and being held for ransom.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: 360 / PC / PS3

By chance, Jason – that’s you, in the game – manages to escape, but his brother is killed. Jason manages to get away and is rescued by the local villagers, who offer to help him rescue his friends if he’ll help them fight the drug-manufacturing pirates who have siezed control of the entire island. What this translates into is the kind of open-world sandbox shooter we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

The writers have done a good job of explaining why you can’t just tool up and go straight in to rescue your friends. You have to weaken the pirates by doing story missions and restoring radio towers to working order so your allies can help you find where your friends are being held. It’s basically narrative covering for the underlying busy-work, but hey, that’s why we play these kinds of games, right?

The main story missions are clearly marked on your map, and they’ll involve everything from covertly acquiring certain items to assaulting bases. But before you dive headlong into that stuff, you’ll probably want to spend at least a little bit of time faffing around. The reason for this is because, as you start out, you can carry only one weapon and one extra clip of ammo. That’s it. No joke. There’s a lot of wildlife on the island, everything from docile herbivores to dangerous predators, and you can hunt and skin them all. You’ll want to do this, too, because you’ll need their skins to craft additional weapon holsters to hold more than one weapon, ammo pouches to hold more clips and grenade bags to hold more grenades.

Why you can’t simply buy these is beyond me, but you definitely don’t want to go into a huge battle with only one spare clip – so you’d better suck it up and hunt yourself some game. Restoring the radio towers to working order makes more weapons available in the shops, which you purchase with money collected from containers around the world, hidden on the bodies of enemies, and given to you as quest rewards. You can also buy mods for these weapons, like laser sights, reflex sights, extended clips, silencers and so on.

In addition to the hunting and radio towers, there are enemy bases to assault, each of which unlocks a fast-travel point and lessens the chance of running into enemies in that area when conquered. There are also racing challenges, shooting challenges, mini-games and freelance assassinations to dabble in. You certainly won’t be wanting for something to do in Far Cry 3, and it’s all such good fun that you’ll probably want to.

A new feature to the series is the skill system. As you kill enemies and complete quests, you’ll earn experience, level up and gain skills points to spend in one of three skill trees. These skills are things like steadier aiming for sniper rifles, a bigger life bar, explosion resistance, faster swimming, the ability to repair vehicles, and so on. There’s even a flying assassination move with a machete, and a move that allows you to kill an enemy on a ledge directly above you. Hmmm… That sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? A bit like Assassin’s Creed, maybe? In fact, restoring the radio towers smacks more than a little of synchronising with viewpoints in Assassin’s Creed. Buying maps to locate treasure chests, looting enemy bodies and conquering enemy bases also brings Assassin’s Creed to mind. Well, I guess Ubisoft can mix and match parts of their games if they want.

Maybe it depends on how much you like open-world games, but I found Far Cry 3 quite enjoyable. There are nearly 40 enemy bases to conquer, and I never got tired of it. I like to make noise with guns and grenades, but only after I’ve ensured that the enemies can’t summon reinforcements. So what I like to do is sneak up to the base and locate the alarm – the big pole with two speakers on top. I fire an arrow into the alarm box to break it, and then begin my assault. Something unexpected always happens, be it an enemy throwing a molotov and burning himself to death with his own brush fire, or a tiger biting my face off.

I also found it quite engaging to drive to the various animal breeding areas to hunt for the pelts I needed to create a new weapon holster or enlarge the size of my quiver – and the developers have managed to make what are usually the most tedious aspects of a sandbox game fun. But if that’s not enough for you, you can play a specially created co-op campaign either split-screen or online, and compete against other players in the mandatory competitive modes.

The amazing visuals mean you won’t be bored while you’re bopping around the island. You’ll see everything from shanty villages and scuttled ships to ancient, forgotten, vine-covered temples and secret World War II bunkers and science labs. It’s a little bit more off-the-wall than the super-serious Far Cry 2 in that regard, and all the more fun for it.

There’s not a lot more to say. If you like open-world shooters, you’ll probably like Far Cry 3. It’s got the great visuals and a compelling story to drive it along, with hours of faffing around and side-questing to keep you busy. It’s also a lot cheaper than taking a real tropical vacation.

Bottom line: An entertaining open-world action shooter.
Score: 85%