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Quietly, I stalk through the jungle in a low crouch, watching the pirates move from afar through the scope of my sniper rifle. What they’re talking about is paid no attention as I move to the perfect vantage point. I peer down the scope and line up a headshot when I hear a far off growl. To my left is a caged tiger, prowling back and forth, eyeing up the pirates. I set him free with a single shot. The cat explodes out of the cage and mauls the first pirate before he can yell. The second fires a burst before he goes down. A second later, the whole camp is on high alert and the tiger is tearing through them. I sit back and watch the carnage unfold from a safe distance.
Welcome to the jungle.
Far Cry 3 thrusts players into a beautiful and deadly world full of so many things to do; you’ll be hard pressed to even move forward in the story. Ten hours in, I was barely a quarter of the way through the story missions because I’d spent so much time hunting, exploring, completing side missions and upgrading my character that I couldn’t tear myself away.
The story of Far Cry 3 is something to experience, though it is pretty hit or miss. You control Jason Brody – a spoiled rich kid on vacation with his brothers and friends. After getting captured by the resident psycho of the island, Vaas, who wants to ransom Jason and then sell him on the black market, Jason escapes by the skin of his teeth. Jason vows to find his friends and get off the island. The story plays out like a very generic revenge tale but the place that it stands out the most is in its secondary characters, starting with Vaas.
Vaas is a breath of fresh air when it comes to video game villains. He can go from calm, cool and collected to screaming madman in no time at all. The voice acting is beyond pitch perfect for Vaas. Insanity was a much marketed aspect of Far Cry 3 and it’s easy to see that portrayed through Vaas’ performance. He might be one of the best villains of the year. Each ancillary character feels real and believable, from the kindly doctor who’s strung out on drugs to the paranoid CIA agent to the power hungry Hoyt Volker, the island’s kingpin and Vaas’ boss, to Brody’s own terrified friends. Unfortunately, all the characters are well fleshed out except for Jason, who transitions far too quickly from one stage to another to be believable.
Brody is a wimp at first; he’s afraid of blood and only kills when he absolutely has to, but once you’re set free into the jungle with a pistol in tow, he turns into a cold-blooded killing machine who actually enjoys the killing. After all that he’s been through, especially after the opening sequence, you’d expect this sheltered kid to cower in fear of the pirates that are hunting him. Instead, he turns into Rambo. It takes away from the narrative and is something that I really wish Ubisoft had fleshed out better, as it would have been awesome to slowly build up Brody into the ultimate fighting machine.
Building Brody into a badass is fairly easy in Far Cry 3. With each kill or mission completed experience points are gained that can be used on three different skill trees. Each tree has its own set of skills that range from stealth takedowns, to more health and quicker reloads. While progressing along the trees, the tattoo on Jason’s arm grows, adding an interesting element to keep track of how far along you’re progressing. The only issue is that leveling Jason up is far too easy. A few hours in I’d already filled most of the slots and every slot had been filled by the end of the game. It would’ve been nice to see skill progression be more challenging for you to make Jason into a Terminator, since he started as someone who, according to Jason, had never even held a gun before. You wouldn’t believe him, however, the second you hop into a firefight.
Combat in Far Cry 3 is all about choice and when you do get your hands on a gun, those choices make all the difference. You have a plethora of options when sizing up how to go about killing. You can choose to run in guns blazing, blasting whatever breathes. Maybe you like not raising alarms and killing from a distance; that works perfectly as well. Perhaps you want to go the crazy route and drop in from your hang glider, throw a couple of blocks of C4 and detonate them. Far Cry 3 is flexible enough to let you handle all these options and more. Depending on how you play it, no one mission is the same as the next.
So you’ve gotten acquainted with the residents of Rook Island, learned how to takedown an enemy and slowly drag him away and killed in innumerable ways, what comes next? Thankfully, Far Cry 3 has addressed the problems of Far Cry 2 and given players a great many things to do if you want a break from the story.
Hunting is an integral part of Far Cry 3 and gets addicting quickly. Unlike Assassin Creed 3’s hunting, Far Cry 3’s hunting has a purpose that directly affects the player. With each skin you get from an animal you killed, you’re taking another step in upgrading your kit. Collect a certain number of skins to unlock a new wallet to carry more money or a bigger bag to hold all your loot. Each upgrade gets progressively harder, tasking you with collecting skins from hard-to-kill animals like tigers, bears or sharks. It all adds up to a time consumer that saw me going from one skin to the next in search of the better piece of equipment.
Searching for those skins can be a challenge because Far Cry 3’s map is enormous and exploring it to find all its hidden treasures can take up as much time as hunting can. At the start of the game, most of the map is blacked out. As you learn early on, radio towers have jammers atop them, blocking you from seeing the whole map. Finding these towers and disabling the jammers opens up sections of the map, giving you a basic layout of the land. Climbing the towers is very reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed 3; each tower is a small platforming puzzle and once you reach the top and disable the jammer, the camera pans 360 degrees showing points of interest.
Certain points of interest that show up are side missions. Optional tasks are varied from running medical supplies from point to point within a time limit to hunting rare animals to killing pirates and liberating outposts. The Trials of the Rakyat, which are specific side missions found on rocks hidden throughout the world, style themselves after Grand Theft Auto’s rampages by giving players a specific weapon to kill enemies within a time limit. The competition aspect of the trials comes in the form leaderboards displayed on the rocks. The need to get my name on that rock, declaring me the leader of that trial, drove me to replay certain trials dozens of times.
After you’ve completed the single player aspect of Far Cry 3, which could take at least 40 hours, depending on your play style, you can hop over to multiplayer or co-op. Multiplayer is a decidedly weaker choice of the two, with maps that seem cluttered and uninspired game types. Co-op lets you and three friends battle it out in various linear missions that frustrate after spending hours exploring an open world.
The jungle has and always will be a dangerous place. Ubisoft has done a great job of bringing the location and inhabitants to life, even if that life makes them utterly insane. Though there may be some gripes here and there and the protagonist is the weakest point, Far Cry 3 shines. It’s one of the best shooters on the market today and I’d definitely recommend picking it up as soon as possible.