Far Cry 3 Review: Entertainment for a Price

Far Cry 3 is a virtual playground for hunting, climbing, shooting, stabbing and looting. In contrast to its predecessor, the nuisances of realism do not apply in Far Cry 3. All that matters is whether you have fun.

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m part of the cult that really liked Far Cry 2. So while I’d like to review Far Cry 3 as a separate entity, the reality is that I can’t separate my feelings about these two very different games.

Far Cry 2 was like cinéma vérité in video game form. Guns broke down over time. Fast travel was not an option, so traversing the African landscape meant battling through roadside checkpoints or sneaking around them in the tall brush. Just to keep players even further on edge, the game stretched save points apart by dangerous distances, and threw in an occasional bout of malaria.

By most video game standards, these were inconveniences. But what emerged was a feeling of being in a dog-eat-dog world, where everyone was implicated in the moral quagmire–even the player, as game critic Iroquois Pliskin once noted. Far Cry 2 felt real, but it was not always entertaining, so it polarized critics. No wonder its sequel takes a much different path.

Far Cry 3 is a virtual playground for hunting, climbing, shooting, stabbing and looting. In contrast to its predecessor, the nuisances of realism do not apply in Far Cry 3. All that matters is whether you have fun. And chances are, you will.

The game puts players behind the eyes of Jason Brody, an initially wimpy and spoiled twentysomething whose island vacation is ruined by slave-selling bandits, who take Brody and his crew for ransom. A hair-raising escape sets the stage for Brody’s re-awakening as a sort of island warrior, who becomes one with the jungle and at ease with spilling bandit blood.

The plot is not very good, but let’s set that aside for a minute.

The main attractions in Far Cry 3 are its gorgeous island setting and its clever approach to combat. Seeing as this is the jungle, the game encourages players to skulk around in the bushes, marking their prey and silently taking out enemies one-by-one. If you can get close enough to a bandit, all it takes is the press of a button, and Brody unleashes a deadly knife attack, dubbed the “Takedown.”

Jared Newman / TIME.com

The beauty of this attack lies in the way it breaks from tired stealth gaming tropes. It matters not whether the enemy is on alert, or looking in the player’s direction. As long as there’s an element of surprise involved–say, the player leaps out from behind a tree–the Takedown prompt will appear. With time, players can unlock even more elaborate versions of this attack, allowing them to chain a few quick kills together or begin a Takedown from midair. The rush of a successful attack doesn’t get old by the time the game is done.

Players have an incentive to be stealthy, because noisy kills attract enemies and can raise alarms that call in even more reinforcements. But whether by accident or by sheer bravado, full-on firefights are inevitable. Here, Far Cry 3 takes the role of a more traditional shooter, but it’s a solid one with a wide selection of firearms and enemies that do their best to sneak up on you and avoid getting shot in the process. I played on medium difficulty, and felt properly motivated to thin the enemy lines and disable alarms before falling back on guns and ammo.

Far Cry 3 asks players to split their time between the story missions and the open playground of Rook Island. While the story brings the most excitement–prowling through creepy ruins, or setting a marijuana field on fire, to name a couple of examples–it behooves players to explore the island on their own. There are towers to climb, enemy outposts to conquer and wild animals to hunt. Players can race around in rickety island vehicles, or go searching for ancient loot and letters that reveal some of the island’s history. Most of these activities provide a direct benefit to Brody, such as free weapons, checkpoints for instantaneous travel and the raw materials for crafting medical syringes or inventory slots.

I wish these side activities had a bit more depth. Hunting, for instance, is a shallow experience that consists of moving slowly to the general vicinity of an animal, then opening fire. Syringe mixology is so straightforward that it feels like busywork, and the benefits are often too fleeting to be of much use anyway. At times, exploring the island feels more like an obligation than a welcome respite from the story.

Usually, though, it’s easy to waste hours in the wilderness, leaving the story on hold as you find other things to do. And although Far Cry 3 offers competitive and cooperative multiplayer, they feel too much like bland derivatives of other games. It’s much more enjoyable to dive back into the main game, even if it’s just for the childlike pleasure of bounding through the forest.

It’s just too bad the plot fails to tie everything together. Far Cry 3 is too quick to rely on cheap stereotypes for its friendly island natives–I like Jim Sterling’s remark that it ‘veers dangerously into ‘Mighty Whitey‘ trope territory”–and Brody and crew’s dialog is saturated with eye-rolling lines. (The lone exception is Vaas, the game’s central villain, whose profanity-laced spitfire dialog is far more interesting than what Brody and friends have to say.)

Jared Newman / TIME.com

Far Cry 3 also tries, unsuccessfully, to turn the mirror back on its players, asking them to confront their violent urges. This might have worked if the game was convinced of its own argument, but too often the tone in Far Cry 3 waffles between a terrifying survival story and an over-the-top B-movie where not even the characters are taking it too seriously.

The story does have its moments. Both the opening escape sequence and the first time Brody rescues one of his friends convey some raw fear, which Far Cry 3 could have run with. But the game quickly and routinely casts this tone aside in favor of scenes from the Uncharted/Indiana Jones playbook. It’s not uncommon for characters to express spine-tingling terror one moment, and exchange witty banter the next. The jarring tonal shifts make the occasional commentary on Brody’s violent rebirth all the more hamfisted.

Still, there’s one subtle moment where Far Cry 3 drives its message home — maybe not even on purpose: It’s when you’re hunting wild game, seeking their skins to help Brody carry more gear. The defenseless goat wails as it makes a futile dash for safety, Brody running the animal down and plunging the knife in, a deep and ominous bass tone droning in the background. It has to be done, but it doesn’t feel right.

That sad and beautiful moment, where the horror of your actions is implied rather than spoken — oddly enough, it’s a lot like playing Far Cry 2.

And then Brody ruins it as he stuffs the skin into his napsack, saying, “Ugh. Disgusting.”

Score: 3.5 out of 5, reviewed on PC

14 comments
odiigis
odiigis

Just played for just over 11 hours straight and I think this game is far and away from ACIII.  I have both games and both are great.  As far as Open World/FPS/RPG, this is one of the better ones if not best one out there right now.  Jared's review is mostly on point and a bit over zealous.

Story-wise, yeah, it's ok and about on par with some movie plots out there right now (like Savages.)  It's been a little more realistic in terms of a story then say ACIII.  Saying it's terrible is just asinine.  That's like saying the car you drive is terrible.

Technically, the graphics are superb and better than ACIII (but not Batman:AC.)  I'm technically savvy on the specifics but I can say the the simulated AI is more reactive (therefore, more unpredictable) than ACIII.  The engine used is better than the one used on ACIII providing less "jittery walkers."  Another thing, the graphics detail of gameplay is very near the level of detail on the cut-screens.  I'm not sure if this is a big deal or not but to me, it blends the action with videos better.  Oh yeah, the Open World in this one? What? It's HUGE.  Why not jet ski with a skorpion and use it to fish for sharks??

I think every game is going to have it's quirks.  For the decent story, superb graphics/gameplay, and the OW, you get a BETTER than average game.  I haven't tried the COOP yet but my friends tell me it's a prequel.  Sounds nifty.

Go buy it, c'mon now.....

odiigis
odiigis

*correction*  3rd paragraph  "I'm NOT technically...."  aw hell...oh well....  

Just play y'all  

CjLaity
CjLaity

@odiigis You made all these conclusions after only 11 hours of playing a game that takes upward of 100 hours to play? I felt the same excitement for it as you do after my first sitting with it. But after my 30th sitting, well, I'll tell you, all I wanted was for it to end already so that I could move on to something else. 

CjLaity
CjLaity

I have been playing Far Cry 3 for a month and a half now and I can tell you that it's not all that it's hyped up to be. The mission levels and the overall story is just terrible. When you start it, it feels like it's going to be a solid 9 out of 10 but by the time you're halfway through it's obvious that it's no more than a 7.

CjLaity
CjLaity

@CjLaity , finally finished Far Cry 3 after two months (warning spoilers ahead). When I say finished, I do NOT mean I collected every relic and treasure chest. Doing that is just about impossible during a normal play of the game unless you want to spend six months on it and continuing to do that after going through either one of the two possible endings is so pointless I don't even know why it's an option. I stand by the game being at highest a 7 out of 10. I'd even go as low as 6.5 due to all the WHAT THE HECK!!! moments where I was forced to trudge through some stupid stuff in order to advance the game. The most disappointing part of the game is the hunting missions. One of them even has you hunting dogs with a flamethrower. That's suppose to be hunting? Taking out the enemy camps and the Wanted Dead missions were a lot of fun, as most of the races although they were pretty easy. The Trial of the Rakyat side missions were okay but after a while the novelty wears off an there's no need to really do them since money and experience come so easy anyway. Harvesting plants is just a boring, monotonous chore and the crafting system is no awful the game loses a full point just for that in my book. The story is just awful. The main villain dies halfway through the game and we are forced to continue after another villain that we don't care at all about. Jason Brody has no motivation whatsoever. We have absolutely no idea why he's making the choices he's making. He doesn't even want to be with his girlfriend after he saves her. He'd rather go off and slaughter more people for some reason. At the end I accidentally chose to stay on the island rather than go off with my friends and what proceeded was just the sickest, most pointless, unrewarding ending you can possibly imagine. Luckily I had a saved file and was able to go back and do the mission all over again and this time made the decision to go off with my friends, and although this at least left me with some sense of conclusion for my two months wasted on it, it was still a rather lame, underdeveloped ending for such a massive epic. I was lucky enough to trade my copy in before the price went down so I ended up only paying $12 for it, which makes me feel better, since I knew when I finally finished it I would never, ever in my life want to spend one more second playing Far Cry 3.

yobgc
yobgc

i'm buying i knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

szore2006
szore2006

Well I LOVED FC2, played it through twice, I thought they truly captured an ambient environment, where I would love to loose my self for hours. I'm instaling FC3 now, lets see...

MarkRenshaw
MarkRenshaw

This game isn't gripping me much at all. It's like trying to be Assassin's Creed, Dead Island and a whole host of other games rolled into one but it's failing to be a compelling game that I want to  invest the time to complete it. Taking over the towers is a direct copy of Assassin's Creed, when I took over my first compound I saw the 'Taken over 1 of 34 compounds' message and did a facepalm...there's 33 more of these? Sigh. The relics, letters, loot, hunting and other side-quests are meant to provide an open world environment for you to waste time in but they quickly become more of a grind than something I really want to do. As for the main plot, well a the reviewer rightly pointed out, it's distinctly lacking. I was hoping this would be as rich and entertaining as Bordelands 2 but it falls flat in comparison.

CjLaity
CjLaity

@MarkRenshaw It's the exact OPPOSITE of Borderlands 2. Borderlands 2 was overly difficult with sympathetic characters and an engaging story. Far Cry 3 is way too easy with cardboard characters and no story at all, in fact all the characters from the first half of the game aren't even in the second half, including the main villain Vaas. What were they thinking?

JoseArroyo
JoseArroyo

Far cry is realistic and a run n gun.. far cry 3 misses all of that.. Too stealthy.. boring and stupidly futuristic.. taking it back to redbox.. only lasted a hour with me

dakinboys
dakinboys

I love this game. I would recommend this game to anyone. I have not looked fwd to playing a game daily with as much excitement as this one. Truly a beautiful game. Perfect no but pure fun.

NicholasMarino
NicholasMarino

Reviewer, how do you feel about the show Twin Peaks?

commentonitall
commentonitall

Visuals? Performance? What did you play it on? Regardless of what you think about MP, how many people were on the servers and why is it derivative?  

newmanjb
newmanjb

@commentonitall My PC is a core i5 (second-gen) with AMD 6870 graphics. I kept visual settings on 720p and about medium details to achieve a nice, smooth framerate. Sorry, I'm still sort of a layman when it comes to PC gaming so I can't really get into benchmarks and that sort of thing. It's definitely a pretty game to look at, though I think Just Cause 2 nailed the vibrant tropical island look a little bit better. I thought character animations--particularly faces--looked pretty good, doing well to stay out of the uncanny valley.

I didn't do a player count on servers. There's a matchmaking setup that works nicely, and I didn't have any trouble getting into either competitive or cooperative matches. The multiplayer itself just didn't seem to offer anything we haven't already done countless times in COD--it's the usual loop of grinding through matches to unlock more weapons and perks, with extremely twitchy shooting action. Likewise, coop is a standard affair of running through enclosed areas shooting at hordes of enemies, with the occasional objective (more object A to point B, for example) thrown in. I feel like the stealthiness/openness that makes the main game so enjoyable was lost in the translation to multiplayer. Sorry, I could have gone into all this in the review proper, but it all seemed kind of like an afterthought to me, and I wanted to focus on the more interesting (in my opinion) discussion of mechanics and plot in the single-player.