Lasting First Impressions of Far Cry 3
Developed by Ubisoft
» There may be less than a month left in 2012 but that isn’t stopping people from already calling Far Cry 3 the Game of the Year. Far Cry 3, from Ubisoft, is a sequel to their open world military shooter, Far Cry 2, released in 2008. I had not played any of the previous iterations of this series, so I was unprepared for what was in store for me as I sat down with this intense introduction to survival.
Far Cry 3 begins with six friends on a tropical island dream vacation having the absolute time of their lives when all hell breaks loose and they are taken captive by a local mercenary, Vaas, intent on selling them on the black market. What follows is probably one of the most intense and heart-pounding sequences in a video game I have ever experienced as our protagonist, Jason, must escape captivity without being seen and caught. I have played many stealth games in the past, but the intensity of this game was apparent right from the onset. Once free, Jason must now begin his long journey to find, rescue, and escape the island with his friends. The path will not be easy and the island will test Jason’s mettle before he may be ready.
I was unprepared for how much of an open world sandbox Far Cry 3 was going to be and I was pleasantly surprised that there was much more than just a First Person Shooter lingering inside this box. Many Assassin’s Creed influences are present here, from stealth take downs, hiding in cover, to controlling cell towers to open up the map, and liberating enemy bunkers. Unlike previous Far Cry games in the series, this one now introduces more RPG elements with XP and skill trees that increase your abilities as you progress through the story. The skill trees grant some interesting and useful abilities such as overhead take down, knife throw take down (kill an opponent while in stealth, then throw a knife to take down another), or even skills that provide double loot for different collections. Like Assassin’s Creed, numerous side quests also litter the map for the completionist in you that feels the need to do everything a game offers. As in any tale of survival, medicine and items are not always readily available when you need them so Far Cry 3 introduces a very minimalistic, but effective, crafting menu to allow the player to create medicine, tonics, and items with plants and animal parts obtained in the wild.
Far Cry 3 is an absolutely stunning game, graphically, and proof that our consoles, even at the end of the their lifecycle still have more power than we ever imagined. The world created here is fully realized with vibrant colours, luscious vegetation, plants to harvest, animals to hunt (and protect yourself from) and, of course, the local mercenaries out to get you. All of this lend to a world that truly feels real and one that I found myself believing I was actually in. The animals and human enemies react realistically to events around them making for an intense thrill ride every minute. In many occasions, I took down a few mercenaries and then quickly hid in some brush as a vehicle approached. Instead of just driving by, the vehicle stopped and the mercenaries reacted to their dead compatriots, then proceeded to come looking for me. In other cases, when one enemy spotted me, instead of just attacking, he called for help first. Realism like this really makes a world that immerses the player and truly pulls them into the shoes of the protagonist. I found my heart pumping hard many times as I cautiously approached an enemy in stealth trying not be seen or heard. Though it is not just the mercenaries and enemies one needs to be on the look out for. This island is full of dangerous animals who will not hesitate to attack should you wander through their path. In that regard, the use of sound works well in Far Cry 3 as there are many times you will hear a creature or enemy long before you see it. For example, as I was crouched in some foliage watching the enemy’s movement, I heard the hiss of a Komodo Dragon somewhere nearby. Instinctively, I turned to look for it before it could attack.
Far Cry 3 is a world that allows the player to play exactly how they want. I enjoy the challenge of a stealth game and I can do that here. For players who enjoy the up close and personal method, you can do that too. Or if you like to hang back and pick opponents off with a sniper rifle, you can do that. This is a world that places no constraints on the player in order to achieve their ultimate goal. A friend described Far Cry 3 to me as “Skyrim with guns” and that is a fairly accurate account of what Ubisoft has successfully created here.
The gameplay controls are fluid and natural and most players will not feel like they need to ‘get used to the controls’ in any way when jumping into FarCry 3. Though there are some frustrating issues with the game especially when wanting to loot the dead enemies. In many cases, when an enemy is killed, not only can you loot their bodies, but you can swap your currently equipped weapon with theirs. The problem is that holding the X button (on Xbox360) is used for both of these actions. Many times, it is just small movement from looting the gun to looting the body that will make the difference. This finicky control is quite cumbersome at times since I often find myself accidently swapping my weapon when I didn’t want to. The map is also not very well designed for selecting areas to create a waypoint. Unlike games such as Assassin’s Creed, where the map reticule will automatically snap to an interest point, the reticule here does not. It will eventually snap to a point on the map, but I have yet to figure out how to do it consistently. The same can be said when looting other items in the world. The area of selection seems to be just a little too small which makes quickly picking up items as you run by just not possible. Finicky controls when selecting items can, at times, take me out of the experience, but not enough to detract from the overall fun of this game.
Far Cry 3 will suck you in, and never let you go. It will drop you on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere and leave you to your own vices; hunting animals, liberating enemy strongholds, completing challenges, driving an assortment of vehicles including boats, jet skis, jeeps, and even hang gliders, all await you as you will struggle to not only survive, but save your friends in the process. Everything in Far Cry 3, from the incredible visuals, to the eerie tribal music, to the realistic sound effects, all combine to immerse the player in a living, breathing, insane island, and keep them from escaping anytime soon. Whatever you decide to do, you are not prepared. There is no escape from insanity.
Ubisoft, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.