Far Cry 3 is one of the best gaming experiences of 2012
After Ubisoft acquired the rights to Far Cry from Crytek, each subsequent instalment has managed to progressively elevate the open-world shooter genre. Far Cry 2 introduced you to a world of mercenaries, civil wars and revolutions amidst the dense jungles and barren deserts of Africa — the game was an absolute gem when it came out, and impossibly, Far Cry 3 raises the bar even higher, surpassing its predecessor in every conceivable way, with a gorgeous setting, interesting characters, engaging story, immersive tropical open-world and visceral action.
A tropical island, pirates, native warriors, vacationing Americans and all sorts of illegal, immoral trade practices: what could possibly go wrong? The premise of Far Cry 3 is simple — you and your friends decided to sky dive on the wrong island, got captured and are all set to be sold off as slaves to the highest bidder. Playing as Jason Brody, it’s up to you to get away from your captors, transform into a killing machine over the course of a few hours, liberate your friends and return to the company of good old Uncle Sam. The game does a great job of introducing a bunch of not-particularly likeable characters and then turning them into victims for whom you genuinely do feel sorry for. There’s an overdose of cliché here, but it plays second fiddle to narrative, which is driven more by scripted interludes, set pieces and level design than the writing and dialogue. The interesting character moments all feature bad guys — Vaas, a borderline lunatic who also happens to be a ruthless pirate lord, Buck, a savage Australian privateer whose love of killing is only topped by his love for inflicting pain, and finally, Hoyt Volker, a South African slave trader and chief antagonist. Voice-acted to perfection, these guys are just pure evil, and yet, they remain completely believable within the game’s context.
Just like its plot, Far Cry 3’s gameplay remains simple; all the while incorporating the now-ubiquitous RPG-inspired character progression system as well as a crafting system. Admittedly, the first few hours of the game can be a bit of a grind, but it’s the best kind of grind. The (spectacular looking) world is opened up to you right from the beginning, but you will be constrained, not just by a limited set of skills, but by the inability to carry more than one weapon, gear or even more than a little money. Sink a few hours into hunting the right animals, and you’ll have enough materials to craft bigger wallets, ammo pouches and weapon slings. Harvesting flowers and plants lets you craft syringes that grant temporary bonuses ranging from damage boosts to heightened awareness and healing abilities. The core of the game involves finishing quest missions, killing bad guys and taking over outposts (that double as spawn points), but the added benefit of activating radio towers cannot be understated. There are a finite number of towers — conquering each one will reveal the secrets of the surrounding areas as well as give you free weapons. You’ll spend all your time just aimlessly wandering the islands and engaging bad guys in random encounters, participating in organised infiltrations and occasionally taking a narrative leap of faith — Far Cry 3 doesn’t ever get boring, never feels repetitive (despite its inherent repetitiveness) and just keeps pulling you back so you can deal with some more unfinished business (sort of like the island from Lost).
Is it the visual magic of the Dunia Engine 2? Is it the perfect gunplay? Is it the thrill of punching a shark on its nose? Well, it’s all that and more. Far Cry 3 isn’t just one of the best shooters of the year; it’s one of the best gaming experiences of 2012. The game is available on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, but pick up the PC version if you’ve got a rig that can handle it.