Far Cry 3 is a sprawling beast of a game. It's giving you a rabid look, right now. It wants you. It wants your evenings, your nights, your 3ams between now and the year 2013. It hasn't decided exactly what it wants to do with them, but it has some pretty good ideas.
As was the case with the last game, this isn't a direct, story or character-oriented sequel so much as a spiritual one – though it has more in common with its predecessor than Far Cry 2
did with its
prequels. You're once again thrown into a massive open world map and left to go forth and do as you please. 'What you please', of course, will probably be killing lots and lots of pirates.
You're Jason Brody, a thrill seeker who finds himself in a bad place. After a holiday sky dive goes wrong for Jason and his mates they find themselves captives of pirates on a wild, dark tropical island. The opening is incredibly tense stuff. Ubisoft has done a very good job of scripting a sequence that will set your teeth on edge and make you really want to stick something rough and pointy into your antagonist's belly.
Fortunately your brother, Grant, has some experience with the army reserves. 'Ah,' you think. 'He's the traditional action hero, but you don't get to be
him – you have to be someone less capable. Someone who has to learn from scratch. This is what would happen to me
if I found myself in a desperate situation.'
For the first 10 minutes or so you're right. A very tight escape in which Jason mewls a lot and probably does a little wee in his combat pants follows and there's a very present sense that you're horribly outmatched.
Alas, by the time you reach the half hour mark Ubisoft has ditched this vulnerability and you're shooting up pirates in a bid to rescue your friends with the best of the first-person shooters. If Sly Stallone and his expendable mates turned up, they'd have you signed up and oiling your muscles in no time.
It's a shame. The entire game suffers a little from not knowing precisely what it is. Moments that strive for emotional realism are immediately followed by he-man shoot-outs in which our supposedly n00bish protagonist is casually making John McClane look like he couldn't really be arsed.
Similarly, numerous elements of the presentation chuck realism right out of the window. There's the disappearance of the 'physical' map and GPS featured in FC2
in favour of the usual full-screen menu-based map (activated by the rather arbitrary capture of those key drivers of 21st century mapping, radio masts).
It's not that there's a problem with either taught realism or balls-to-the-wall action – it's that Ubisoft is trying to have its cake and eat it and doesn't quite get away with the whole thing.
Still, this somewhat failed bid for realism isn't something that stops Far Cry 3
from being a great experience. There's a wealth of content here and a level of depth that really enables you to immerse yourself in the game.
RPG elements are foregrounded, with a complex skill tree and a crafting system encouraging you to really get up to your elbows in the islands. Skill points become available as you build XP and can be used to emphasise your ability in different areas. You might learn new skills that improve your stealthiness, for example, or boost your resistance to different types of damage if you prefer to pile in.
Crafting makes use of natural items found around the islands. About half the 'items' are the skins of still-living animals, of course, so there's hunting to be done. Even in hunting there's an element of choice in how you want to go about things – will you put animals down with a single, silent shot from a bow so you can swiftly move on to surrounding animals, or charge in with a shotgun? It's possible you'll get through the game without crafting any new weapons holsters or health serums, but you'll certainly be making your life difficult. You may well find crafting does your head in, but that's really going to depend on you.