Far Cry 3 is the story of Jason Brody, a thrill seeking rich kid, who parachutes with his friends into the unknown Rook Islands. While this adventure may have seemed like a good idea, the tides quickly turn as the group are split up with Jason and his brother captured by the maniacal pirate Vaas.
Vaas’ aim is to ransom the brothers for an extortionate amount, however the pair attempt to escape which cleverly forms the games tutorial section. Without spoiling all too much things don’t go to plan. Jason is rescued from the brink of death by local tribe the Rakyat who give him the tools to get his friends back.
This is easily one of the best narrative journeys in recent memory, helped by a superb cast, with Michael Mando being a particular stand-out with his performance as main antagonist Vaas. There are plenty of twists and turns, notably the distinctive strong use of drugs which lead to highly visual and mind-bending sequences, similar to the Scarecrow sections of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
If you’ve played a Far Cry game, or any FPS game (anybody?), before then the gameplay feels almost instinctive. Players can use a variety of weapons including classics such as shotguns, pistols, grenades and sniper rifles as well as the flare gun and stealthy bow. All of which feel satisfying and can be customised with paint jobs, silencers and add-on sights.
What sets Far Cry apart is that players are encouraged to experiment with the tools at their disposal to either take out enemies stealthily, go in all guns blazing or avoid them completely using distractions such as fire. Rewarding XP bonuses are given for being stealthy so this is always the most beneficial option, but there’s a simple liberating joy in knowing that you can essentially take whatever approach you fancy.
On the subject of XP, there is a role playing element in Far Cry 3 which helps develop players skills. In the beginning of the game Jason is imbued with a magical tribal tattoo on his left arm (stick with it!) that grows as players invest in three skill routes known as The Shark, The Heron and The Spider. As your character levels up and you further develop a skill you gain plenty of new abilities such as increased reload times, less damage and increased speed. Other skills include the ability to perform a takedown from above, sliding to the ground after sprinting and the capacity to kill an enemy before throwing their knife at another foe close by. These additional skills make you feel like a progressively improving hunter, capable of clearing enemy camps in no time.
Without question the huge island is the main star of Far Cry 3 with stunning vistas, lush jungles and dilapidated ruins all ready and waiting to be explored. While a lot of the map is locked to begin with, players are encouraged to investigate and climb the 18 radio towers strewn across the landscape. Ascending these spires adds supplementary diversity to the game, with each tower providing unique platforming challenges. Your reward when you reach the top is an Assassin’s Creed-style reveal of the wider environment, which is just begging to be explored.
Outside of the main missions there are also numerous side quests, including assassination missions, driving tasks and more than enough collectable hunts to keep even the most hardcore competitionist busy for hours. Fortunately with an island this well designed it’s never a chore to discover, especially with the handy fast travel system.
What truly brings the island to life is the vast variety of wildlife, which isn’t just there for show. All animals act exactly as they would in the wild so predators such as tigers, bears and even sharks hunt their prey or even humans should they get too close. This can lead to some truly distinctive moments as a loose tiger can distract or clear out a group of enemies or a stampede of buffalo charge away from a pack of hungry dingos. Wildlife can also be skinned to craft new items such as weapon holsters, grenade pouches, arrow quivers and wallets. These all directly impact gameplay so there’s plenty of incentive to go out hunting on your own or take on the specific hunting challenges.
Far Cry 3 could have held it’s own as a purely single player experience, but as is now customary for most games Ubisoft included multiplayer, in both competitive and cooperative formats. The co-op side allows four players online or two local split-screen players to take on waves of AI enemies while they achieve various objectives across levels. The competitive element is a standard FPS affair with deathmatches and capture-the-area modes all present as you might expect. Multiplayer in Far Cry 3 doesn’t do anything different to stand out from the crowd.
From a single player perspective Far Cry 3 is nothing short of an utter triumph, fusing immensely satisfying shooting, player choice, an engaging story and RPG elements into a lush open world island environment teaming with life. While the co-op mode and multiplayer hardly set any new benchmarks, the story mode provides more than enough value with numerous side quests and secrets to discover that will undoubtedly keep you hooked for hours.