Last year, Far Cry 3 was launched toward the end of the holiday season. Many felt that it was almost too late for the game to be successful when competing with all the other games of the holiday season. Yet, the game garnered praise among critics and proved to be a financial success despite Ubisoft’s late launch decision. Since its release, it received a DLC expansion called Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which told a completely separate story and is considered by many to be better than the original Far Cry 3; in some ways, Blood Dragon has come to overshadow the original product. For one thing, the price makes Blood Dragon a more enticing sale. Far Cry 3 was originally released at full-price, while Blood Dragon came out at only $15. For something that didn’t require the original game and provided a very similar experience in terms of gameplay, $15 was a good deal. With all this in mind, it begs the question: Is Far Cry 3 even worth playing anymore? If you are only going to buy one, Blood Dragon is better, but the original game is far from lacking in content and may still be worth a look.
The story of Far Cry 3 is nothing special. There are strokes of genius that stand out and make it seem like it could go in a million different directions. Unfortunately, the story tends to follow the same familiar tropes instead. It brings a little comfort that the absurdity was saved for an expansion, but it would have been nice if this game’s story decided to go off the rails and decided to utilize some weird twists akin to a Phillip K Dick story, as opposed to sticking to its original inspirations; the main inspiration that comes to mind is The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Players take control of Jason Brody: a rich white partying daredevil college student/dropout from the burbs in Los Angeles. Jason is celebrating his birthday doing expensive and death-defying activities on some islands in the South Pacific. After skydiving with his fellow archetypical scumbag friends—during perhaps one of the best opening sequences in a video game, especially when it comes to effectively making it easy to hate all the “good guys”—they all end up landing on the wrong island and are captured by a group of pirates and are quickly on their way to being sold into slavery. After a quick and daring tutorial-filled escape, Jason finds himself working with the local freedom-fighters as he strives to free his friends.
Where the story stumbles and succeeds at the same time are in the directions it decides to go. Jason ends up going through a fair amount of trauma during his adventure and there are moments where the story would have gotten more interesting if the game had just decided to take a risk in its content. In the end, the story plays it safe and ends up being a bit of a joke. If it had focused more on making Jason truly a corrupted individual who had become warped by his bloodlust and various addictions, the impact of each horrific event or choice would have been much greater. Aside from the beginning of the game, killing someone does not seem difficult to him and the opportunity to see much growth in his character diminishes quickly. By the end, he’s a killing machine, but barely more than what he already was.
The intended story of a traumatized young man who has adapted to his environment and can’t escape the tragic lifestyle would have been much more interesting if the character actually seemed endearing at any point. Alas, the game decides to throw the arbitrary choice at the end, which felt empty without any real sense of his character shifting in his morality. He never seemed like anything more than the adrenaline junkie he already was, who was just getting off on the adventure he was having. There was talk of revenge and darker motivations, but he never dove far enough into that mentality, he just found some other thing to be a douche about.
It was the side characters who became interesting because they had clearly been broken down by their trauma and were showing signs of changing from their experiences. The primary antagonist, Vaas, was easily the most interesting character of the game with a great portrayal through motion capture and voice acting. He mirrored Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight as being an exciting psychopath you can’t help but watch. He’s so unpredictable and philosophical in his bizarre monologues, it’s difficult not to be interested in him.
Once the main story arc with Vaas is over, however, the pacing tends to slip a bit. There are only a handful of missions left until the end of the story, but a whole new area is opened up. Up till this point in the story, there had been a good balance of story beats and side quest to keep you busy. The game goes for quite a while before it runs out of new things to show/teach you. Once Vaas’ story ends, the second half of the game begins, yet with only about half a dozen story quests left. It’s an odd design choice, which happens to only further showcase the fact that Jason does not grow as a character. After this point in the story, much of his emotional turmoil is over with the removal of his interactions with Vaas and it’s mostly gameplay for the rest of the game. Thankfully, that isn’t entirely a bad thing.
Story aside, the systems at work in Far Cry 3 are fantastic. It follows the footsteps of its predecessors and uses many of the systems of the previous games in the Cry franchises. Far Cry 2 was a personal guilty pleasure of this generation as a shooter that tried something different, while being far from perfect. The story was much more intriguing than 3 and the gameplay was different than most other shooters on the market at the time like Call of Duty or Battlefield with the main difference being that it’s a first-person shooter in an open-world environment. Far Cry 3’s gameplay builds upon this mechanic and is an improvement across the board, with only a few nitpicks where the “flaws” of 2 would have been better. As a result, Far Cry 3 has managed to become one of the best first-person shooters of this generation and is a new personal favorite.
There is something about how the upgrade, crafting, and challenge systems in place all work together to make an addicting and rewarding experience. Completing missions, killing pirates, and collecting secrets all net you experience points, which you can use to unlock new abilities that can drastically improve your experience in the game. Some abilities are simple things like being able to hold your breath underwater longer or having a steadier shot while using a sniper-rifle. Others include exciting execution moves that allow you to take down your enemies like a skilled assassin. Being able to stealth-kill a pirate, remove his throwing knife from his pack, and throw it at an adjacent enemy proved to be much more exciting and useful than expected.
The best moments were when the various upgrades you’ve unlocked, the open world that allows you to approach the situation how you please, and environmental randomness all clash with one another. The missions that took advantage of these variables the most were overtaking outposts. Nothing was more satisfying than sneaking through an outpost with a dozen pirates, intelligently using all of Jason’s skills to eliminate each guard one by one without a single enemy becoming alerted to Jason’s presence. It became a personal challenge to try and overtake one of these checkpoints as creatively, skillfully, and silently each time. Sometimes it was made even easier by watching a random pack of wild dogs rip through the troops or releasing a caged tiger to do your dirty work
Killing NPCs isn’t the only thing you’ll be able to do in Far Cry, though. The game wants you to explore this massive sandbox and gives you a lot of side-missions and quests to do while you’re out. It seems a little out of character to stop and hunt a rare tiger with a bow and arrow so you can use the pelt to make a sick grenade pouch, or to play poker with some drunks, or to bet money on how quickly you can ride a jet ski downstream when your friends may be sold off as sex slaves, but it just serves as another reason to ignore the story and have fun. Naturally, once the second area opens up, a whole new batch of these missions show up to further drag out the experience, which is where the content starts to fail.
It ends up being excessive and repetitive by the end. Most of the hunting missions that allow you to craft and upgrade your gear can be completed pretty early in the game and once that is done, all other hunting quests are moot by comparison. The main reason for this is because there are only two rewards you get from any other quest in the game: experience points and money. This is fine, but like most other games that have an economy system in place, once you’ve bought everything, doing any other quest seems almost pointless. Not to mention that once your wallet is maxed out, you can’t open any chests that have money in them. The systems are almost anti-completionist even though there is so much to do. It doesn’t take long to get Jason’s skills and items upgraded, so finding those meta-motivators to keep playing becomes difficult. A simple fix, would have been making rare items or specific upgrades available only by doing those missions instead of just pouring more into the experience and money pot. You can get some rare guns by doing some of the missions, but the customization of various weapons makes this type of reward almost pointless. By the end of the game, there were still countless activities that remained untouched with very little reason to do any them.
Far Cry 3 is a great looking game, in the right environment. On consoles, the frame rate is a little touchy and a fair amount of detail is simplified. Some of the textures are optimized for the sake of use on the console and the game only comes across as “pretty” on the PS3. If you want to get the most out of the physical presentation of this game, it’s recommended you play on the PC. The extensive and detailed use of the foliage, lighting, and shadows will bring the best gaming rig to its knees, but its presentation will be upgraded to the level of “gorgeous”.
There are a few things about the physical presentation of Far Cry 3 that could be nitpicked, but it didn’t impact the experience enough to seem worth discussing. The main personal problem with the game’s presentation was the user interface. Menus and their designs are often overlooked, but they can make the experience that much more frustrating if not properly implemented. While the menu interface wasn’t the worst thing in the world, it definitely put a damper on the experience. It would have been nice to have made the menu more like Dark Souls if only for the sake of not having to wait for the game to load every time something needed to be crafted. Since crafting was so crucial to the gameplay, it was annoying having to wait on a menu screen while it loaded and then navigate through some touchy menu screens that were sometimes unresponsive.
The sound department was an overall plus. Voice-acting was good overall, with the main villain stealing the show. Obviously, there were some issues with the portrayal of Jason Brody, but it didn’t feel like it was necessarily the fault of the actor. His voice was consistent throughout the game and he was convincing, it was just a shame that the directors never allowed his character to go outside his boundaries. The other characters were all pretty fun to listen to and the voice acting for side characters was strong across the board, if not entirely memorable.
As for the music, while dubstep is not a personal preference, its influence and use in the game did not hinder the experience in Far Cry 3. Most of the music helped the experience and rarely took over the scene. It mostly worked as a proper background to what was taking place and matched the personalities at work. The only times when the music failed in improving the experience were the moments where the volume of the track seemed to suddenly go up and become louder than the voices and action.
If you are looking for a first-person shooter that is not of the typical Call of Duty or Battlefield style, Far Cry is a franchise that you should look into. While Blood Dragon may be a more stylistically brilliant and entertaining version of the game with the same mechanics for a lower price, Far Cry 3 is still a game worth playing. Its story can fall flat, but the rewarding gameplay and impressive level of content made for an involved and exciting experience.