Ah vacations. There’s nothing like laying out on a nice warm tropical beach, or taking a hand-glider tour around a lush island. Of course, most vacations don’t involved getting kidnapped by warring tribal factions or fighting for one of those factions in order to rescue your friends from a mad man. But then again, not all vacations are as insane as Far Cry 3.
Up until this point Ubisoft has been very hush-hush about what we can expect from this highly-anticipated sequel plot-wise, but now they’re lifting the veil and giving us a good look at the games plot, characters, and campaign gameplay and what a pleasant surprise it is.
As the game begins we see a video of a bunch friends just having fun and enjoying their extreme vacation. Skydiving, rock climbing, and boozing on the beach. It’s almost as if you’re watching the opening to a season of “The Real World”, but then the camera pans out to reveal that this is nothing more than a vid playing on a fancy smart phone. The reality is that you and your friends decided to do a parachute drop without a guide and have paid the price for your arrogance.
You’ve been kidnapped by the madman Vaas, and he is looking to cash in by ransoming you all back to your families. Fortunately, you’re able to escape, but not without sacrifice. After passing out somewhere in the jungle, you awaken in a small village with a new tattoo that marks you as some sort of chosen one. From there on out, it’s up to you to decide which route you want to take in order to save your friends from the insane Vaas and restore order to the warring factions of this mysterious island. What’s really interesting about the story in FC3 though, is the fact that your character isn’t really a tough guy, he’s just thrown into the chaos. As you progress you see him change from a scared, unsure victim to a rugged hero doing what he must to survive.
Folks who played Far Cry 2 will be familiar with many of the gameplay aspects in 3, but that’s not to say things are exactly the same. The open-endedness and options as to how you’ll carry out your missions is still there, but there’s just more. You can still take out enemy encampments any way you see fit, whether that means sneaking around with a bow and arrow pretending you’re John Rambo, or running in guns a-blazing like you’re -well- still Rambo, but more like the 2008 version. Then there’s the outside factors, such as the animals that roam the island. A tiger or leopard could find its way into a firefight and start chomping down enemies for you. Or maybe you decided to let that bear out of its cage and let it reap revenge on its would-be poachers.
You’ll also need to hunt and kill animals all over the island in order to create items such as ammo cases, wallets to carry more money, gun holsters to open up weapon slots, and much more. Medical supplies and booster shots that give temporary increases to things such as speed, damage reduction and accuracy can be forged from plants you scavenge throughout the island as well and new recipes are constantly being unlocked.
As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely open sandbox world, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to unlock. For instance, none of the world map is visible when the game begins. In order to actually see where you’re going, you’ll need to climb radio towers and activate them. It’s sort of like the eagle-vision in the Assassin’s Creed series. After you’ve unlocked an area of the map you can either take out the enemy encampments in the area, which will unlock more side quests, such as murdering pirates or going on big game hunts, or you can continue on your quest to rescue your friends.
While many of the side quests are repetitious in their nature, the campaign missions are anything but. One mission sends you out to find medical supplies for the eccentric Timothy Leary-esque doctor of the island and quickly turns into a self-reflective mushroom trip, while another finds you trying to rescue a girl from a burning building before being engulfed in flames. If the early levels are any indication, things are going to get perpetually interesting as you play through the story.
One new addition to FC3 is Borderlands-like skill tree. As you upgrade abilities you’ll see the tattoo on your arm gain new features and expand in design. You can buff skills in the Heron category such as gun accuracy by spending skill points earned after leveling up your character. Or perhaps you’d rather spend them learning more aggressive skills in the Shark category or learning how to stealth kill with Spider skills.
There is just so much that can be done in the world Far Cry 3 that it’s hard to imagine FPS fans getting bored at any point. It’s also interesting to see a main character that is more a fish out of water than a battle-worn badass. The open-endedness of the gameplay combined with an intriguing plot that isn’t giving everything away in the beginning are making this look like a game that shooter fans will not want to miss out on when it launches on December 4th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.