By William Chandler
Purchased on Steam and reviewed on PC using an Xbox 360 controller
Remember when Far Cry was exclusively about mutants, mercenaries, and hawaiian shirts? Those were simpler times. I really enjoyed Crytek’s old design philosophy of making linear, story driven shooters that frequently featured extremely vast open sections which allowed you to tackle some objectives in a multitude of ways. That shit was what made Crysis so enjoyable to play in my opinion. Well, that and throwing countless North Korean soldiers through the walls of shitty village huts. You know what Far Cry 3 has going for it? Fucking radio towers.
I kid, I kid. Far Cry 3 is, in all honesty, a very well made FPS with some extremely solid mechanics that have been polished to a mirror shine, a decent story, and shooting that feels just right from start to finish. Ubisoft, having long ago taken over the development reigns from Crytek, appear to truly be doing their best. But making an open world game is really tough. You have to design this massive environment that the player can roam through, fill it full of shit to make it feel alive, sprinkle it full of objectives and missions to keep the player entertained, and ensure there are plenty of easy ways to get around. These are the areas in which Far Cry 2 often struggled and, unfortunately, Far Cry 3 still struggles in.
They have certainly made a massive environment for the player. Too massive, in fact. There are two islands of a similar size and they often times feel absolutely fucking barren. I mean, it’s a massive improvement over Far Cry 2’s game world, and Ubisoft have completely nailed the atmosphere of a tropical island, but the actual content (story missions, side missions, hunting quests, etc.) would fill up a game environment roughly half the size. The only good reason that the rest of the land even exists is to allow for even more enemy bases that the player can then capture in order to reduce the frequency of enemy patrols in the area. Something that I imagine most people will want to do considering how ridiculously annoying those patrols can be when you’re minding your own fucking business trying to commute to your next mission or hunting down four more raccoons in order to carry a couple more grenades, and then some random dudes in a jeep cruise up and fill your ass full of lead.
The base clearing mechanic is genuinely fun, too. It harkens back to the “tackle an objective in any way you choose” days of yore that I mentioned earlier and am quite fond of. That said, just about anything becomes boring the 30th time you do it, and by the later hours of the game I was definitely growing tired of it. This issue is mostly to do with the checklist like nature in which you explore, uncover, and capture more points of the map. Similarly to the Assassin’s Creed series, Far Cry 3’s map starts off completely obscured and must be gradually uncovered by scaling and activating radio towers, of which there are 18. However, unlike Assassin’s Creed, your ability to get around is marred heavily by the terrain and proves to be a chore without any map to guide you, so locating and activating the radio towers can actually prove to be quite time consuming.
Indeed, my biggest problem with Far Cry 3 is the exact same one I had with Far Cry 2. It often feels needlessly padded with unnecessary content, stretching out the total play time to a length that makes many of its mechanics feel dry and uninteresting over time. The hunting mini game, something that should be an enjoyable and immersive experience, later feels like a fucking chore because of the stupidly large number of upgrades. One could claim that this content is entirely optional, however, I couldn’t imagine completing the game without at least a few of these upgrades because the player starts out with such a low ammo and syringe capacity. Even the story meanders around foolishly towards the middle, creating ridiculously frustrating scenarios that push the player’s goals ever so gradually out of reach without any good reason time and time again ad nauseam.
Thankfully, the characters are varied and interesting enough to keep the player invested in the story even at these points. The writing is far from good, sure, but it is absurd and exaggerated, much like the plot, and feels tonally appropriate throughout. The villains, Vaas and Hoyt, are deliciously insane in their own fascinating ways and lend to some of the game’s greatest moments. Too bad these moments are spread far too thin across a game as lengthy as this.
I enjoyed playing through Far Cry 3 if perhaps for no other reason than to say I finally completed it after numerous restarts since the game’s launch nearly a year and a half ago. That said, there are so many elements that made the actual playing part of the game feel like a second job. Activate the radio tower, capture some bases, kill some animals for upgrades, kill some people to gain skill points, play through several story missions, then rinse and repeat for a dreary and draining 30 – 40 hours. Far Cry 3 really is the best example of why less can sometimes be more and it’s extremely frustrating to see a good game be held back by a bunch of small problems, but one can only hope that Ubisoft will realize the true potential of this franchise with Far Cry 4.
Or maybe they’ll just ignore all of that shit and needlessly throw in four player coop.