I was never able to finish Farcry 2. Between jamming weapons, endlessly respawning enemy roadblocks, and quests determined to send me on the most remote journeys possible, I figured I could be better abused by other games. When it was revealed that the next installment of the series would seek to rectify these issues, I became interested again. Would Farcry 3 be the open-world shooter that the series originally intended to be? Can I really make ammo pouches out of dog skins? Perhaps it was time to return to the jungle.
Farcry 3 takes place behind the eyes of Jason Brody, a California dude who along with his rich friends have just finished taking the world's worst skydive. Finding themselves captured by pirates, Jason is forcibly introduced to Vaas, the pirate leader with a penchant for soliloquy and being insane. Fortunately, Vaas is so crazy that he allows Jason to escape the pirate camp, but only after killing Jason's brother. From there, it's a wet, hot tale of revenge as Jason attempts to rescue the rest of his friends and learn the way of the jungle warrior.
Just wait 'til I get out of this cage...
The game is populated by a diverse cast of characters who range from eccentric to manic. These characters, such as the aforementioned Vaas, the self-medicated Dr. Earnhardt, and the tattooed rapist Buck, all have personalities turned up past level ten till the dials fell off. They seem at first glance to be taken from the Rockstar Games book of writing (caricature equals character); however, the multitude of Alice in Wonderland quotes that fill Jason's head every time he is knocked unconscious give literary merit to their disposition. This island is Wonderland, and "everyone is mad here". Vaas is the most engaging of these characters, whose eyes bug out of his head as he quotes Einstein and ambushes Jason around every corner. He certainly has a Heath Ledger Joker quality about him but it is undermined by the fact that he never really DOES anything that crazy. There are no magic pencil moments here; still, he is undeserving of his inadequate sendoff and even more undeserving of his replacement in the second half of the game.
These characters inhabit the Rook Islands, a tropical paradise filled with all manner of plants, animals, and vicious pirates. Guns are the primary method of dealing with the human threat, and Farcry 3 gets this part very right. Weapons feel effective and satisfying with stealthy and noisy flavors of violence. Most of the weapons can be customized with a variety of sights and upgrades waiting to be purchased and equipped at the many island weapons dealers (many are self-service). But firearms are only the most basic tool to be found on the island. Plants can be harvested for healing syringes or for creating potent drugs to enhance abilities. Animals’ hides lend themselves to the creation of ammo pouches and wallets. I spent most of the first part of the game running around the map trying to find enough boars to make a rucksack or hunting sharks to make a holster.
The game also borrows from Assassin's Creed and requires players to climb towers (inducing vertigo) to scan the area and reveal the map. Enemy held camps can be cleaned out to grant the use of free weapons and fast travel locations. This has the added bonus of removing the roaming pirates from the area as well. Clearing the camps is perhaps the most involving of the non-questing activities and requires a lot of stealth or, when that fails, firepower to prevent being overwhelmed by alarm responding reinforcements. Fortunately, many camps contain vicious tiger or bear cages which release their contents with only the slightest bullet impact. From there, the player can sit back and enjoy the scene as the beast tears through the camp eliminating all resistance. While this was initially enjoyable, it felt too easy and I often opted to challenge myself by taking on the task personally.
I think I can see my house from here.
As with most open-world games, there are plenty of quests to occupy the player's time. Most of these involve hunting a special animal or dealing with a small issue for the local villagers. The main draw in Farcry 3 are the storyline quests. These are generally well crafted with a lot of direction taken from standard FPS levels. There are few quests which hijack the open-world geometry to make cookie-cutter types of events but most include scripted sequences and set-piece encounters. The story through the 10 hour campaign is very linear, which would have been fine except for the fact that I had taken every opportunity to hunt animals for upgrades and clear enemy camps for free weapons. This created a very odd disconnection when Jason would complain about being unconfident or inexperienced even though he had theoretically killed tons of pirates with his machinegun.
The game includes two multiplayer options in the forms of competitive and cooperative modes. The competitive multiplayer is a very vanilla affair consisting of Team Deathmatch, two control point modes, and third control point variation involving fire. Team Deathmatch is completely unremarkable and the other two control point modes are slightly modified Domination and King of the Hill types of games. Only the Firestorm mode tries for a unique Farcry gametype but its use of the game's foliage burning mechanics is its only real innovation. The competitive multiplayer is mostly dragged down by uninspired weaponry, unimaginative skills, and very few kill-streak type bonuses. The frustrating menus also make choosing weapons and skills difficult. The most interesting aspect of the competitive multiplayer is the ability of the winning team to abuse or pardon a player from the losing team. These are pre-scripted animations that can be unlocked from the XP system and are often humorous and/or vulgar expressions of bad sportsmanship.
What is going to happen next?!
The cooperative multiplayer is a bit better: a group of 4 characters unrelated to the main story fight their way through levels filled with pirates. It is very reminiscent of Left4Dead and includes a number of scenarios such as rail-shooting, object retrieval, and objective defense. The characters and gameplay are fun and the whole experience is enjoyable. The only game breaking bug I found was in this mode, however, and it rendered our team unable to activate a key button to continue the level. Upon deciding that we would all commit suicide by various means, it became apparent that the bug had also granted me immortality and I could not fall on grenades, get shot in the face, or even swim out into the ocean and drown. This was the only bug in the game, but unfortunately it kept me from playing more co-op.
Most of the game has been created with a tremendous amount of skill. Everything is beautifully constructed and rendered from the shark infested waters to the shantytowns. The game is filled with small touches which are simply great, such as when leaping into water from a height, Jason's first-person hands form into a dive and upon hitting the water, the screen goes black as Jason closes his eyes. In fact, much of the character in this game comes from Jason's own disembodied hands which reach out pleadingly upon impaling his first pirate or the way he lifts his leg to scramble up a ledge. He is not a silent protagonist either, and is often heard commenting, conversing, or directing "himself" towards the next course of action. There is very little of the customary "run faster" dialogue from a guide NPC and most of the time it's just the player and Jason.
The sounds of the jungle are often the only thing heard on long lonely explorations. This is useful for hunting game, as animals often reveal their presence with a small oink or hoot. Nothing made me stop in my tracks like the growl of the jaguar hiding in a bush only a few feet away. The enemies come with a number of idle phrases which are often repeated. As it turned out, many pirates got the clap from the same island whore. It is often distracting that all the pirates as well as the natives of the island speak with the same Australian accent.
Overall, Farcry 3 is a great example of a successful open-world FPS; the gameplay is suited well to its environment and provides a great experience, the presentational quality of the game is top-notch and is very appealing even if some of the dialogue can distract. I found that most of what I disliked about the game didn't really affect how I felt when playing it, which is the best that anyone can hope for. I thoroughly recommend this game for fans of open-world shooters and encourage interested players to give it a try for a deeper shooter experience. I cannot recommend the competitive multiplayer to anyone over better online experiences in Call of Duty or other contemporary FPS games, but the co-op is worth a look for those looking for an interesting slant on Left4Dead type gameplay. I must say that Farcry 3 is very engaging and certainly takes several bold steps in a great direction.