Really good games tend to stick in our minds and keep us playing with the never ending cycle of "just five more minutes, just one more outpost" for many different reasons. Sometimes it is the gameplay. Sometimes it is the story. Sometimes it is the characters, and occasionally it’s even the art/graphics. With Far Cry 3, it’s really a combination of all of that. There isn’t any one thing I can put my finger on to pinpoint why I enjoyed the game so much. It’s just a sum of all the various parts working so well together.
"Welcome to the Jungle, it gets worse here every day…”
Far Cry 3 takes place on a pair of lush, gorgeous tropical islands. Well, there are actually quite a few islands if you count all the tiny ones surrounding the two main ones, but really, two islands. They’re covered in jungle and all the things you’d expect to find on a jungle island. The jungle foliage is lush and full and actually useful for sneaking around in and hiding from your enemies. Unfortunately there are things out there that are even better than you at using the foliage to their advantage: the wildlife. Far Cry 3 managed to set the record for the game to make me jump the highest out of my seat. It was fairly early in my playthrough. I was running around exploring, still getting my feet wet, etc. I had just killed a couple of wild dogs when I heard some more growling behind me. Thinking I had missed a dog or two I spun around and my entire 65” screen was suddenly full of tiger teeth and claws as my face was eaten. But we’ll talk about the wildlife a bit more later, right now we’re talking aesthetics. I found myself wandering around the game world just seeing the sights and admiring the artwork many times. And let’s not get into how many hang-glider trips I took just so I could admire the vistas. Everything in the game is just so beautifully rendered and fitting to the setting. If I were forced at gunpoint to pick a problem with the game aesthetically I would have to say that some of the NPC characters wandering around the various villages and outposts could get a little repetitive as far as their appearance went. But even that was barely noticeable.
“Ya learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play…”
Far Cry 3 is an open world romp, much as the first two Far Cry games were, just with some minor and welcome changes. Where Far Cry 2 felt a little large and unfocused, FC3 manages to keep the large scope and give you plenty to do without leaving you feeling like you’re lost in a carnival with an unlimited supply of ride tokens and no idea where to go first. There is a ton to do in FC3, but it all feels very well connected, like it belongs there and is really part of the world rather than just activities tossed around just for the sake of having more activities to do. You can hunt the aforementioned wildlife and skin them, using the resulting hides to upgrade your assorted bandoliers, wallets and pouches. And it makes sense because that’s what the tribal folks on the island would do. Hunting is a big part of their Warrior backstory and if you’re going to fit in with them, you have to prove yourself as a hunter. You’ll use the assorted vehicles on the island to run supplies from point A to point B. You’ll liberate outposts from pirate hands. You’ll gather plants to create makeshift medicines and potions of sorts. You’ll take on hunting challenges for rare beasts or multiple beasts armed with only a knife. You’ll assassinate pirates with only your knife to prove your worth to the tribe. Or you can ignore all of it and just focus on the main story.
Personally I spent a lot of time doing all of the side stuff available. I completed all of the hunting missions because they were challenging and fun. I assassinated all of the ‘Wanted’ pirate trouble makers because I enjoyed it. I crafted all of the available upgrades, because well, I had hunted all of the animals, why not? I liberated all of the outposts because it made sense and made my life on the island easier. I helped the villagers who asked me for help because their little side stories were often quite entertaining. One of the things I enjoyed most about the game was actually borrowed from another series made by the same development house: the radio towers. It’s quite simple, climb to the top of a radio tower, remove the scrambler thingy and suddenly a large section of your map is opened up. Complete the task with a fun zipline ride back to the ground. Sound familiar? It should if you’ve played any of the Assassin’s Creed games. I’m so glad it was brought over to Far Cry. It fits so well and has always been one of my favorite parts about the AC series. Liberating the radio towers also has the added side benefit of unlocking free weapons in the shops around the islands.
“If you hunger for what you see you'll take it eventually…”
The story is fairly straightforward and simple: a group of rich kids go on a vacation and end up sky diving onto the wrong island. They get captured by pirates who intend to ransom them back to their rich parents and/or sell them into slavery. You play as Jason, who manages to escape the pirate camp and clutches of Vaas. Excuse me to take a moment here: Vaas is one of the best characters ever put into any game ever made. Ok, that may be a bit much, but seriously, just amazingly designed and voice acted. Anyway, you spend the rest of the game trying to get the rest of your friends out of Vaas’s insane clutches all while liberating the island from the pirates for the tribal natives. Fairly simple and straightforward, like a said, you’ve probably played this story out before. While it doesn’t do much to change a tried and true formula, it is very well written and told extremely well for the most part. There are a couple head-scratching moments here and there that broke immersion for me and just didn’t feel "right," but for the most part the story is well done and enjoyable.
“You can have everything you want but you better not take it from me.”
Rounding out the game and providing many more hours of entertainment and playability is the multiplayer side of the game. There’s a bunch of co-op missions you can tackle with up to three of your friends which are highly enjoyable. If you’re more of the competitive type, there is a good selection of face-blasting fun to be had including the highly addicting Firestorm mode which quite often brings forth the Beavis “F-F-Fire… FIRE!” quotes. Character progression is handled nicely and again fits the setting very well incorporating things like the Battle Cry and decoding of electronic items.