Far Cry 3 is something special and sets itself apart from other open-world sandbox games in such a different and unique way that it’s hard to stop playing it even when the action becomes a bit repetitive.
Having said that, let's first get a few gripes out of the way. The first and foremost is that you, as the protagonist, have to often skin animals to make certain things and after skinning your fiftieth animal you're asking yourself why the heck the protagonist still flinches. I’m sure it’s gut-wrenchingly disgusting the first ten times you do it – hey, even the first twenty times. But after you have skinned your seventieth Komodo Dragon you ought to be used to it. Especially since you're also gunning down humans with high-powered rifles, giving them the KFC extra crispy effect with a flame thrower, or firing a grenade-like arrow into the fray to watch body parts scatter the walls.
The second issue I have is with the loot. For the first twenty minutes you loot everything until your horrible little knapsack becomes full. Then you discover that you've been wasting your time because there are only three types of items in the game – plants to make medicine, skins to make apparel and everything else you have to sell and that really seem to have no apparent purpose. This pretty much makes the looting system in the game a complete waste of time because you will pick up something like an LCD watch, which you cannot use, and then consequently sell it for a few dollars even though later on guns can become free. There isn’t really much use for money beyond four or five hours and that made me sad.
Steering away from these two dumb-founding points in the game, let’s take an in-depth look at what is surely going to be the Game of the Year for 2012.
Far Cry 3 is an open world role-player, first-person, loot-collecting, animal hunting shooter. That’s not actually how it’s advertised, but that’s what it is. The game is set in a remote area of the world called the Rook Islands which are situated somewhere at the intersection between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. As the protagonist Jason Brody, you are on these islands for one hell of a holiday with your friends – and 'hell' becomes the right word to use as things end up going horribly wrong when you're all captured by Vaas, the leader of a group of pirates who specialises in slave and drug trafficking.
What struck me most about this premise is it's plausibility. It’s the type of story that happens to the very unlucky, but it definitely happens and that’s what gripped me right from the beginning. The opening sequence in the game is encapsulating and you will be breathing rapidly by the time you set out to complete your objectives.
In terms of playing through Far Cry 3, be prepared to set aside a full day of gaming. The development team claims you'll get around 30 hours of gameplay but I find that it could probably be done in a little less time as you become more familiar with the game's systems like fast travel and the knowledge of using all of your abilities efficiently.
The game itself is rather complicated and apart from it having a storyline that is somewhat on-the-rails, 80 percent of the game is completely up to you to complete in a fashion that you feel most comfortable with. A lot of the game revolves around breaking into outposts and liberating them from the pirates. The beginning bits are quite tough as you get used to the game controls and familiarise yourself with the island, friendlies and enemies. After that it becomes easier and then after a couple hours it begins to get harder again as the game realises you have started to become familiar with the way outposts and missions work.
I spent a lot of my time hunting and clearing outposts while keeping the main storyline as a secondary task for myself to do at some point. The point about hunting is that you need to amass a certain amount of skins to upgrade the things that you carry on you. For example, your first wallet can only hold $500 and that quickly becomes full. You need to upgrade to different types of wallets that can hold more cash and to do this you will need to hunt down certain animals, skin them and craft bigger wallets out of the different skins. This applies to ammo pouches, backpacks, syringe packs, grenade slings and many more things that you need in order to become the most effective in combat.
When breaching outposts you will need to clear it of all enemy pirates and hopefully not have them set off any alarms so that their reinforcements come to help out. This can be done in a number of ways and you can go really heavy by driving a military truck in and gunning everyone down, or go stealthy by being a ninja and taking out enemies one by one. You could also start a fire with a flamethrower and some molotovs if you feel like being an arsonist.
As you liberate each outpost, the island natives will move in and the area becomes a safe haven as well as a fast travel location. In it you will be able to restock ammo for your guns (at a price) and also play some games at night, should you fancy a round of Poker or even a knife-throwing contest for a few extra bucks.
Sometimes the outposts will have particular methods in which they can be optimally captured. A certain outpost may have a black bear caged up inside it that they are keeping locked up. A quick arrow with a Recurve bow on the lock will allow the bear to break free and start mauling all the pirates inside the camp and you, if you don’t keep your distance. This can be very beneficial when you are feeling outnumbered or out-gunned.
The trick is to know that the game is alive whether or not you're in the area. Sometimes you can be sneaking through the trees about to approach an outpost from a vulnerable side only to be swiped across the face by a tiger because you are in its personal space. These are the points about the game that make it so attractive as anything can happen and if you speak to a friend, there is a good chance you will both have different methods for doing everything in the game and no two experiences will be exactly the same.
When you are struggling to find out exactly what’s happening on a particular part of the map due to it being radar-silent, you will need to climb up communication towers and activate satellites so that your map becomes revealed. This is clearly inspired by Assassin’s Creed and that’s fine because Ubisoft develops both titles. It’s a nice little break from the action as no two towers are the same and they become more and more difficult to scale as time goes on. As embarrassing as it sounds, I actually died in two separate occasions on the radio towers from my own incompetence.
The game provides a lush and magnificent area in which to play. The seas are a magical light-blue and the areas are peaceful and serene with the odd rabid tiger and aggressive pirate surfacing. The entire island is constantly alive and sucks you in from the very beginning. A number of characters have been voiced to perfection and the game has a brilliant soundtrack to back everything up.
Far Cry 3 does a few things wrong on some occasions but the game is pretty amazing all the way through from when you are tripping on plants (double entendre intended) or simply using a hang-glider from a cliff to enjoy the sights.
However, the friends that you save as you progress through the game are quite bland and don’t really seem to be that shaken up about the entire experience, which does some discredit to the believability of the game. But the protagonist really comes into his own as the game progresses. Sure, he seems to have a bit of a selfish motive as the guy is wading through enemies to rescue his friends, but it feels like he is becoming more and more native to the land and starts to figure out his own spirituality with each and every task he completes.
Far Cry 3 is the ultimate in guilty-pleasure gaming because it allows you to experiment morally quite often and will challenge your feelings. The game will make you do things you never wanted to do in a game and may even make you uncomfortable at times but there is a serenity that will envelop you from time to time and make you appreciate exactly what the developers have done in certain situations to complete a well-rounded and brilliant game.
Rob 'GrIdL0cK' Clegg has been in the gaming industry for over 15 years and has competed in both local and international tournaments at the highest level. He is also a respected gaming critic and is Telkom Do Gaming’s lead reviewer