By Jay Krieger
The “Far Cry” series is an interesting case of a franchise trying to find its identity. It’s always provided players with a certain amount of freedom, either when exploring environments or approaching combat, but has never had a story or characters. From a story perspective it’s hard to become attached to any particular character in the game, as there’s no continuation of characters or events from one game to another. The game has struggled to decide what direction it wants to take, as the previous “Far Cry 2” introduced to the franchise a wide-open, free roaming environment, but they forgot to give the player a compelling reason to explore as there was a lack of side quests or story motivation. “Far Cry 3” not only gives the player an expansive world, but fills it with countless objectives, while also having the best story of the franchise thus far.
Previous games dabbled in giving players a set of mutant abilities known as feral powers, but these have been dropped in “Far Cry 3” and it seemed as if the series was returning to its roots. You play as Jason Brody, and well, Jason is having a bad day. He and his group of friends have been vacationing on an undisclosed tropical island, when suddenly they are caught by a group of pirates that are looking to ransom our protagonist and his friends.
From the start, “Far Cry 3’s” story takes center stage and gives player purpose and drive to continue playing. The games plot starts strong, providing a strong antagonist that shows the player the psychological ramifications caused by Jason stabbing and killing nearly everything he comes into contact with. An example of this is a memorable scene when another character pulls the player aside and says, “I barley recognize you anymore, with all these guns and tattoos.” This sets the mood for the story as Jason starts out as a whiny and spoiled rich kid on vacation to his transformation into a warrior.
The antagonist is, without question, one of the best villains in all of videogames. His voice, acting, dialogue, and facial expressions make him a man to not only be wary of, but to fear as well. This is by far the best story of the “Far Cry” franchise, and while the story begins to falter halfway through leaving the ending with a lot to be desired, it’ll get you through roughly the 15-20 hours you’ll spend with the single player story traveling from one point of the island to another, and typically fighting any pirates or wildlife encountered. While the mission types aren’t anything spectacular, the gameplay is.
The game features a standard arsenal of guns, but the handling, and upgradability of these weapons, complimented by satisfying machete close quarter take downs, leaves no stone unturned when giving players a multitude of ways to dispatch enemies. “Far Cry 3” has retained player’s freedom to approach combat in any way they please, and this is only complimented by including skills for a player to unlock. For every kill, objective completed, and relic discovered, Jason gains experience points which can be spent on skills that give him unique abilities. These abilities branch into three categories that focus on different aspects of play, such as combat, psychical abilities (running and swimming), and crafting items.
Crafting is the newest addition to the series, and provides an interactive gameplay mechanic with wildlife amongst the island. Jason has a variety of different types of equipment he can craft, such as pouches for greater ammo capacity, health syringes, and various improvements to his personal arsenal. For the first few hours crafting is mandatory since Jason’s initial capacities are severally limited. But, after a while, crafting feels unnecessary as players will likely have created everything. Either that or they simply won’t have to. Players can still sell these resources for money at a town store. These abilities also let the player focus on what they want to specialize in early on in the game, and towards the end of the story mode players will have unlocked most of the abilities making Jason’s growth, and the player’s familiarity with mechanics feel like a natural progression, as you start relatively weak but gradually grow into a stronger warrior.
Even after the single player story is completed players have the option to continue exploring the island and completing side quests. If there’s one thing “Far Cry 3” does well it’s providing the player with a world worth exploring. The luscious jungles, desolate beaches, and decrepit ruins not only add variation to island locals, but give the player a sense of just how large the games world actually is. Side quests are littered throughout the island offering an opportunity to fetch quests, instructing to kill X pirates or hunt X amount of animals with a certain weapon, and while they may not be the most original side quests, they’ll give the player a reason to explore every inch of the environment.
Once players have exhausted the single player content, “Far Cry 3” has both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. Competitive multiplayer doesn’t differentiate itself much from the slew of yearly generic and uninspired first person shooters. You pick a class, which has its own weapon and perk load out, and compete in standard team death match, capture the flag, domination, and other team oriented modes. Competitive multiplayer may provide a brief distraction, but when compared to the level of quality in the single player it’s surprisingly underwhelming. Cooperative mode is slightly more enjoyable allowing up to four players to select one of four available characters, each with their own predetermined weapon load outs to tackle six co-op specific missions. These missions are enjoyable and brief, though they are linear in nature as you’ll fight through wave after wave of enemies, with your end objective amounting to something along the lines of “repair that boat engine or plant those bombs”, though when played with friends it can be enjoyable. In addition, the franchise favorite Map Editor returns, giving players an almost unlimited amount of freedom in designing maps for both local and online multiplayer.
Without any hesitation I can say that “Far Cry 3” provides the best single player experience of the franchise, and would recommend it solely on the merit of this achievement. Its story is, for once, cohesive and engaging- to a certain point- and the games world is full of missions to do, while the gameplay feels more purpose oriented. In a game that relies on giving the player complete freedom to approach every aspect of the game, “Far Cry 3” does this by ensuring that players will always have something to do, always know the reasoning why Jason is doing the things he is doing, and more importantly, making the player care why. The competitive multiplayer is a complete throw away, though the somewhat entertaining co-op missions give players a way to share the “Far Cry” experience together, despite these missions being shallow in depth of content and mission structure. “Far Cry 3” doesn’t revolutionize the way you’ll experience open world games, but the games pristine gameplay pared with an overall refined single player experience makes it a game no one should miss.