Far Cry Three Assessment

I was floating with a kite over a beautiful tropical island when I heard gunshots below. Waaaay down the street was a gang of friendly islanders walking head to toe with a group of ruthless pirates. I reared up, dropped low, and landed right on the tree line. I pulled out my high-tech bow, snuck up to one of the pirates, and took him down with an arrow before someone else saw me. Screams and shots broke out from all sides.

45 seconds later, burned bodies were scattered in all directions; A deadly tiger had come roaring from the jungle, and the grass and trees to my left were on fire, and deadly hot flames spread as fast as I could. I reduced my losses, sprinted toward a cliff overhang, and jerked my dislocated thumb violently back into the joint as I ran. I dived a hundred meters deeper into the open water. A crash as I broke the surface, then silence. Sun rays cut into the murky depths as I orientated myself again. And then I saw the first shark.

That’s Far Cry 3 in a nutshell.

Repeat the above encounter five times in the game and you will get five different outcomes. Maybe you take out all the bad guys without causing a riot. Maybe you stay high up on a hill and blow everyone up with missiles only to be hit by a tiger you didn't hear behind you. Maybe your allies will win the gun battle before you land and all you have to do is clean up. Or maybe the battle spreads to an enemy outpost and before you know it you face an army of troops, trained dogs and helicopters.

Anything is possible, and each permutation is just as fun as the last. Far Cry 3 is an open world shooter through and through. The setup is simple: you are on a huge island in the South Pacific and you have to gradually conquer it, one dead pirate / tiger / shark at a time. Here's a gun. Have fun.

WHY: Far Cry 3 does so much right: It is an exciting and powerful adventure that wonderfully combines the freedom of the players with brilliant technical splendor. Far Cry 3

developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Rated)
Release date (USA): December 4th

Type of game: Open world first person shooter with an emphasis on exploration and stealth.

What i played: Completed the single player story and a lot of side content in around 30 hours. Played about an hour of co-op and about an hour of versus multiplayer.

My two favorite things

  • When I realized my 20th basic attack was just as exciting and unpredictable as my first.
  • Walk up a winding ridge before hanging out. It never gets old.

My two least favorite things

  • Each time Jason Brody got in touch to tell me how he was feeling about things.
  • The inability to turn off the HUD, minimap, or target markers.

Back-of-box offers made to order

  • "My leopard army and I will pick you up."
    -Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
  • "I swear I saw a hatch around here somewhere."
    -Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
  • "Why doesn't Vaas only play this game?"
    -Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com

There is also a story to play through, although the distinction between the "story parts" of the game and the "non-story parts" is important: it is in the balance between the two that Far Cry 3 finds success. The game stars you as Jason Brody, a 20-year-old whose drunken island vacation is interrupted by pirates (the scary modern kind). They kidnap him, his brothers and friends and set about releasing them and selling them into slavery. The story parts are a long series of mostly linear, varied adventures that Jason undertakes in the service of this rescue / revenge conspiracy.

The non-historical parts, on the other hand, are the emerging actions that take place between missions across the island. As with many of the best open world games, the story parts are fun, but the non-story parts make Far Cry 3 special.

The story begins with Jason narrowly escaping captivity and then quickly meeting up with a group of friendly islanders named Rakyat, led by a charismatic guy with glasses named Dennis and a sexy, mysterious (and somewhat ridiculous) woman named Citra. Dennis believes cowardly Jason is a warrior at heart, and the rest of the game follows Jason's (and your) quest to save his friends and defeat the men responsible for the slave and drug trafficking empires of the Rook Islands.

It's a perfectly working setup, but the character at heart – Jason Brody – is little more than a party-boy nebbish. Despite the fact that he was likely cast because the highest percentage of young male gamers would see themselves in him, he's never as reliable, and while his journey from zero to hero sure looks compelling when you blow up enemy helicopters, never feels convincing when he talks about it. He's an overwritten Tryhard who often yells exposure in the middle of action sequences, just in case we forget what's going on. "I have to find Riley, Liza and the others!" he roars to himself and runs through the jungle in horror. "I can't take this heat anymore!" he grunts as a burning building collapses around him. At some point he actually looks at his hands and asks: "What have I become?"

But while the story is something of a mishmash, it certainly has its moments. The motion capture technology used to portray the villain's gallery of quest givers – a paranoid CIA agent, a deadly renegade hostage-taker, a sultry island woman, a drug addicted scientist – is awe-inspiring stuff that in some ways surpasses Naughty even dog work on the Uncharted series. The main antagonist, a pirate named Vaas Montenegro, is wonderfully brought to life by actor Michael Mando, who performs a magnetic, menacing performance. Whenever Vaas was on the screen, I couldn't take my eyes off him.

The single player campaign also offers a welcome amount of variety – a series of grave exploration missions in the center play out like Uncharted first person, and a series of hallucinated drug sequences are creative, pure fun. The story missions are best viewed as a supplement, as a way to break up all of the sneaking, shooting, and exploring that you do in between.

That the story is inconsistent is perhaps Far Cry 3's main flaw, just because the rest of the game is so good that the story keeps it from the truth, we'll still be talking about that size in five years. The more compelling story is the one outside of the real narrative, the ancient video game story of progress and mastery. As players gain experience points, Jason levels up and his arm tattoo becomes more and more elaborate with every new armor upgrade or removal ability. The transformation from the start of the game to the end of the game is remarkable, if not tied to the narrative as skillfully as the writers would have liked. You will start out as dead flesh – a weakling with no health and a gun running for his life. At the end of the game you will be a deadly predator who flits silently through the jungle and handles death with tremendous precision. You will play with your enemies and you will like it. Rarely has progress in a game of this kind felt so satisfying.

The Rook Islands are a spectacular video playground, part Ling Shan by Crysis, part The Island by LOST. From the dense jungles and murky swamps of the North Island to the open fields and expansive vistas of the south, the entire map is filled with fun distractions and worthwhile things to take up your time. And the most remarkable thing is not that there is so much to do, but how well it all works together.

You will play with your enemies and you will like it.

The game is more or less about five core mechanics: sneaking, shooting, driving, exploring and hunting. All five work well and are fun on their own. All five tie in with the leveling and progression system, so every time you do something you feel like it makes you stronger. It's that sense of seamlessness that Far Cry 3 enhances – there's a sense of "concert", of interlocking systems that have come together to find a hell of a groove. This encounter that I described earlier in this review is a good example, and something like this happens more or less all the time. The game encourages you to quickly jump between driving, hunting, hiding, swimming, shooting and hiding again, all with amazing fluidity.

The systems for collecting, experiencing / leveling and crafting items are also well balanced. You are encouraged to go hunting because when you skin animals, you can use their pelts in the crafting system to make better holsters and containers for your gear. Animals roam different parts of the islands. So if you want to go hunting, you'd better explore. To get better health improvements, you need to harvest the best plants. In order to carry more plants and sprayers you will have to hunt the animals to make the right cases. To get upgrades for your equipment, you need money that is constantly in short supply. Better to loot, hunt, or do side missions to get money. It's all balanced and the game is very effective at keeping up the resource scarcity. The "joy of playing" of it all could be a departure for some – Far Cry 3 exists in a middle ground between the complex micromanagement of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and the minimalism of Far Cry 2. The balance worked really well for me and felt like a sweet spot.

Earn points, money, and equipment on each of the island's many non-storyline diversions. Enemy bases are the most satisfying of these diversions, pirate camps that you can capture and take for yourself. After killing everyone at a base, you will hoist a blue rakyat flag and the base's bulletin board will open with additional hunting and murder challenges for you to complete. In a smart touch, the hunting challenges must be completed with specific weapons (usually the game's bow and arrow), and assassinations must be carried out with a machete at close range. You can sit down and play a number of poker games across the island or take part in fun, arcade-style Trials of the Rakyat that give you a special challenge ("Shoot guys and every time you kill a guy, your weapon. "changes instantly.") and then put your bottom line against your friends. In addition, there are story-based side quests you can complete ("Taking pictures of dead pirates") which could be filling, but often fun Include writing and interesting challenges.

In fact, the biggest complaint I have about the side effects is that the signal-to-noise ratio can get a bit overwhelming. There is no way to turn off the minimap, HUD, or target markers. This means that no matter what you do, the game is constantly throwing information at you and constantly reminding you to move on to your next story mission. When the wubby soundtrack whirled around and the Hud popped up and got me back on track, it was hard not to piss off the game a bit because I was on my grill the whole time. Back up, game! I want to explore you! As an avowed fan of the notoriously HUD-minimal Far Cry 2, I found the lack of display customization a bit daunting. I would love to play this game with the HUD off, especially on a second playthrough. Why don't you give me the option, Ubisoft? Sure, it's not that important to give me all this information if I don't want or need it.

The Far Cry 2 question: This comparison isn't that important to the majority of people, but it's very important to me. How does Far Cry 3 match one of my all time favorite games, Far Cry 2? Basically, Far Cry 3 is a mechanically fine-tuned, more complex upgrade from Far Cry 2 that adds a lot of very entertaining, but very video-playful junk to the equation. Far Cry 3 lacks the dark, oppressive magic of Far Cry 2. They have a minimap and HUD data is on the screen. Your weapons never deteriorate, they just get stronger. The Rook Islands are beautiful, but they lack the haunted size of Far Cry 2 in sub-Saharan Africa. The story has much higher production values, but is less sophisticated. The music, while fun, is inferior to the creepy strings and hand drums of Far Cry 2. But what Far Cry 3 lacks in focus it makes up for in functionality. The enemy AI is greatly improved. Stealth works. Surround sound audio is more location-based and useful, and the hunt is easier. You have a reason to drive other cars than the machine gun jeep. Hang gliders are no longer a cruel joke. I really like Far Cry 3, but in a more traditional way, I like well-made, very entertaining video games. I sense that the majority of players will prefer it to its predecessor. And most of us who prefer the second game will still have a good time with the new one.

Ubisoft took a smart lift from its own Assassin & # 39; s Creed series by adding 3 radio towers to Far Cry that you have to climb and activate to fog up parts of the map. There are 18 of them on the islands, and climbing becomes increasingly difficult over time. The radio towers might have been red or boring, but they are delightful – dangerous climbs that can be downright tricky but almost never frustrating. It's not all first-person platforming, but more like first-person climbing, with an emphasis on figuring out how to get to your next point of ascent. When you stand up, the tower buckles slightly and sways under you and creaks in the wind. This attention to detail runs through almost every moment of Far Cry 3.

None of these things are that new, but it's amazing how well it all works and how well it all works together. It feels great to play an open world game with all the systems spruced up to this extent – the game is seldom buggy and regularly comes with surprises. Cars drive with a realistic sense of physics and dynamics. There's an organic first person cover mechanic who works so well it feels like a revelation. Push against a wall and you take cover. Press the "aim" button and you jump out to take a shot. Please, other first person shooters, borrow the Far Cry 3 cover mechanic!

The camouflage is just as sophisticated as the gun game – defeating an enemy base without anyone discovering you is an exercise in terms of caution, observation, deactivating the alarm and manipulating the enemy. But full combat works just as well – enemies are deadly and will often overwhelm you on normal difficulty levels, and you need to play smart to win. Enemy types – Chargers, Riflemen, Snipers, Heavy – all perform varied and complementary routines, forcing constant improvisation. And none of that mentions the (really) wild map: these deadly animals. Cobras, tigers, leopards, boars, Komodo dragons, sharks and the most amazing crocodiles in the world – they will all conspire to put a wrench into your best plans.

Talking to ten people gives you ten different highlight roles of their time on the island. Shark hunting off the north coast, escaping a collapsing Chinese ruin, zip lining from the top of a rickety radio tower or destroying an enemy camp with a ton of strategically placed C4. The only constant is this beautiful and deadly island that spreads out before you. Walking on an open ridge, the sun is setting in the distance and feels like an extra on LOST for the whole world … it's something that for myself hasn't gotten old after about 30 hours of playing the game.

Far Cry 3 looks fantastic on PC – I've played on both an AMD Radeon 6870 and a newer GeForce GTX 660Ti. Especially in the GTX with Directx11 activated, this is real madness. I would recommend anyone with the resources to play the game on PC. While I don't have final console copies of the game for comparison, I was less impressed with the PS3 version at a press event I attended recently. The 360 ​​version looked okay, but none of the consoles come close to the sharpness and high frame rate of the PC version. Far Cry 3 is as close to a real "next generation" game as anything I've played this year, and it requires up-to-date hardware to function optimally.

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In addition to its lengthy single-player campaign, Far Cry 3 also has separate co-op and competitive multiplayer offerings, though both are much harder to judge at this point. The game won't be available in the US for a few more weeks and there are few people playing it on PC right now. I teamed up with some press buddies to play co-op for about an hour and found it fun enough, if flawed, but not really in the same league as more elaborate co-op games like Gears of War and Left 4 Dead.

Co-op has its own story and characters, but mostly weird acting clichés and everything is very far from what happened in single player. Opponents in co-op mode are damage sponges that seemingly can take 400% more damage than their single player opponents. Un-updated multiplayer characters move and aim fairly slowly, and the levels are all linear. You won't be able to snap up your friends and explore the main island for single player which feels a shame – that's really all I wanted to do! I'll probably still play through all of the co-op missions, but so far I've found that co-op is a lot less satisfying and enjoyable than the single player game.

I also struggled planning sessions to test the competitive multiplayer. I've played a couple of rounds in "Firestorm" and "Transfer" modes, both of which are riffs for capture and defend. They worked well, although they generally felt sluggish compared to Far Cry 3 as a single player and other popular first person shooters like Borderlands 2 and Black Ops II. Much of this, however, could just be related to my low-level character. The judging panel is out and at this point, two weeks before the game's release, it's just too early to tell if the multiplayer mode is good. My sense? That it's fine and that it finds a certain longevity in the fantastic map editor, but that it doesn't attract a large multiplayer fan base. Far Cry 3 is a single player game at heart. I will be playing more multiplayer once the game finishes and will update this review after that.

Even if Far Cry 3 shipped without multiplayer, the game would be a breeze. It's a smart, challenging, and polished adventure that does what it is very good at. Some missed storytelling opportunities don't overshadow the fun, the occasional daring narrative success, and the whole revelers in a luxurious glow of high production values ​​and exceptional design talent.

Far Cry 3 is an example of the rare, high-budget game that does exactly what it set out to do – chaotic yet controlled, with a brilliantly balanced mechanical ecosystem that challenges and empowers at every turn. It's a wild ride well worth it. Watch out for crocodiles.

Republished with permission. Kirk Hamilton is an editor at Kotaku.

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