Game review: Far Cry 3

An hour into this game I had:

Parked my Jeep slightly off the rugged jungle road; wandered away before hearing a crash. I turn round to see another Jeep bounce off mine; tumble over, killing the two passengers. I walk to them for loot; hear another Jeep approach; hide beside rocks. They get out and I ambush them with my rusty AK. Thinking that’s the end of it, I start to loot. Then I hear another freakin’ Jeep approach. It stops before even getting to me though, the passengers disembark and proceed to battle a crazy tiger.

I would like to thank Crytek for giving me the experience I had originally expected from Bethesda’s Skyrim. That fantasy RPG, which I bought for PS3, turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of my gaming life, utterly ruined with bug after bug, and painfully generic quests that usually ended in a dark dungeon. But don’t worry Skyrim fans, I’ll be defending that RPG later in the review.

Driving off cliffs while jumping out at the last moment is a rite of passage on Rook island.

Driving off cliffs while jumping out at the last moment is a rite of passage on Rook island.

FC3 has essentially not changed much since it’s first iteration. You traverse an island in the Pacific to your heart’s content, tag enemies with your binos and make a full on assault or sneaky attack. It also follows a little of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption template for adventuring and hunting, and takes the Elder Scrolls approach to discovering new destinations on an initially blurry map.

Once you trek to a radio tower and climb to the top (in a subtle puzzle-ridden climb reminiscent of Valve) you visually open up the surrounding area on the map. More points of interest reveal themselves, and certain locations become safe houses allowing you to fast travel there after you find yourself barely alive in the jungle miles from civilisation.

I used Skyrim as a contrast because they’re both large open world games on the PS3, and here is where FC3 succeeds:

  • More modes of transport
  • Better frame rate
  • Better draw distance
  • Better enemy AI
  • Better populated with animals that behave more coherently

Why am I harping on about Skyrim so much? To slam a nail in the coffin of Bethesda’s argument that the PS3 is difficult to code for.

What is the point of having so many scripts running to manage so many “fetch/kill” quests if they’re all easily bugged? In FC3 I go up to an NPC who tells me to fetch or kill someone, same as Skyrim. Except in Skyrim’s case, if I’ve already got that item or killed the person, the game suddenly breaks. It’s needlessly convoluted. Skyrim has a lot more going under the hood obviously, but that’s just an excuse. the point is: the user needs a comfortable progression through the world, not tip-toe around for fear of breaking something.

Again, Crytek: thank you. (but I’ll be cursing you later in the review, don’t worry)

I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun, I'm gonna have me some fun...

I’m gonna have me some fun, I’m gonna have me some fun, I’m gonna have me some fun…

The story of FC3 revolves around spoilt rich kids getting kidnapped on an obscure island in the pacific. There’s no connection to the previous two FC games, just a continuation of the same style of gameplay. No monsters make an appearance, but FC3 makes up for that with a casually somewhat-racist depiction of a weirdo tribal clan and their savage way of life. The hook of the game is that the character you’re playing finds himself seduced by the violence he’s embroiled in, getting more tattoos along his journey. More tattoos = more abilities.

Along your journey into the heart of darkness you can do side missions hunting animals under certain criteria, killing bad dudes with knives, driving medical supplies via a variety of vehicles racing against the clock, and side story missions given by the witless citizens of the island. You can spend summer evenings hunting deer with a bow, drive into an outpost and toss rocks around sending curious guards walking into your machete, or you can lure enemies into fields and burn them to death with handy molotovs.

What this game does brilliantly is immerse you with nature, or at least a digital version of it. Jean Baudrillard would have had a field day with this gorgeous hunting simulation, where the wildlife are more terrifying than the armoured enemy with their rocket-launchers and attack helicopters. There is nothing more terrifying than crawling through a jungle at night and hearing a dreaded Komodo dragon slivering nearby then being chased by a pack of them, or being attacked by a crocodile while wandering too close to a riverbank, or swimming in an ocean knowing a shark is about to bite your arse off.

I hit a slight snag early on where I thought I was going to end up with no money and no ammo. Didn’t happen, but I guess the way out of that predicament would have been to wander around looking for plants (used for crafting syringes), and selling those for ammo. You could also have a knife-fight with a dog and sell its skin.

So that this review doesn’t look like an utter Elder Scrolls bash-fest, here are things that Skyrim does better and Crytek should have worked on:

  • Lore. I got more enjoyment reading books in Skyrim, than the actual quests. FC3 has attempts to flesh out the history of the island, but its minimal at best with collectible memory cards revealing drug dealings, and old letters from WWII Japanese corpses.
  • Skyrim still has the best night time sky I’ve seen in a game.
  • Skyrim has a better human population with day/night cycles. FC3 disappoints on this aspect, the dialogue is horrendous, the worst I’ve ever heard. A big step down from FC2 which felt authentic.
  • Side stories in FC3 are so half-assed, combined with the shitty voice acting, it’s truly laugh-inducing. I remember one story where I went to do a task for a village lady, and later another NPC half-heartedly comments she was a ghost. He said it as if the voice actor was running late for a dentist appointment and just wanted to get his acting gig out of the way.
  • Music in FC3 is not good. I’m not going to rant about dubstep as seemingly everyone online hates it. I don’t mind the genre, I’m very open-minded musically, but the music here is very jarring, especially so when you’re stalking an animal in the jungle and some really out-of-place dubstep blares on the soundtrack. it’s maddening. I had it turned off for most of the time.
  • Some of the hunting side missions start to get really stupid, i.e – “blow up 12 rabid dogs with an RPG launcher.”  What.the.fuck? Fun, I guess…
"Get to da choppa! Oh, wait."

“Get to da choppa! Oh, wait.”

This game has some seriously good ideas swirling beneath the mayhem, it depicts your friends as arrogant douche rich kids, there’s a great albeit brief rant by an islander who explains how he tried to move to America but ultimately left due to racism and always being treated as an outsider. There’s some food for thought desperate to be consumed, but it’s like the game was handled by two people. One guy came up with awesome ideas, and gave it to a writer who was not capable of executing them, or just didn’t want to alienate a demographic that just couldn’t handle weighty topics. I don’t know. All I know is failed potential when I see it.

It also has the worst end boss fight of recent memory: rapid-fire quicktime events with unskippable cut-scenes. What in the fuck were they thinking? Enough with the stupid quicktime button mashing!

Far Cry 3 still delivers on the gaming front, even if it falters on the storytelling. The bouts of utter surreal antics you get up to are a great breath of fresh air polluted by samey shooters populated by grey walls, miserable environments and characters. In FC3’s island you will get high and wander in a daze, battle strange phantoms, and crawl out of caves into the light bleary with blissful exhaustion.

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