Tropical islands usually conjure images of sun, sand and surf. Drugs, guns and people trafficking certainly aren’t the first things that spring to mind. For Jason Brody and his trust-fund friends however, paradise becomes a nightmare in Ubisoft’s newest game.
In Far Cry 3 you assume the role of Brody, on a whirlwind vacation with his two brothers and their mutual friends, experiencing all the thrill-seeking activities an island resort would offer. However, when they decide to skydive onto the mysterious Rook Island, they are torn from their idyllic holiday and thrust directly into the hands of a group of bloodthirsty pirates, led by the depraved Vaas. FC3 certainly starts on a high note, thrusting the player right into the action and also introducing one of the strongest personalities in the game. Vaas, and his lookalike voice actor Michael Mando, have been heavily featured in FC3’s promotional material, and for good reason. In every scene where he is involved, Vaas completely steals the show. He is a perfect mix of charisma and insanity and his frequent monologues, while completely unhinged, will keep the player glued to the screen. Soon after Brody’s encounter with Vaas, he finds sanctuary with Dr. Earnhardt, another of FC3’s more colorful characters. While Dr. Earnhardt seems to mean well, it’s apparent that he has been sampling a few too many of the drugs he has been synthesizing from the island flora. While nowhere near as manic as Vaas, Earnhardt’s unsettling presence and his slightly deranged delivery have a similar effect of capturing the player’s complete attention. While Vaas and Earnhardt are the standouts, the cast is filled with notable performances. Characters like Willis Huntley, a CIA agent, Sam Becker, a mercenary with a thick German accent, and Citra, the Amazon-like leader of Rook Island’s indigenous population, all have distinct and memorable personalities, greatly strengthening what, on the surface, appears to be a very simple rescue/revenge plot.
The plethora of excellent characters actually has a drawback in that Brody’s brothers and his friends all feel very flat by comparison. There are few chances to interact with Brody’s group in the first place, and when you do, it is far from memorable. The game may direct you to save them, but it never makes the player particularly want to save them. Instead it is just a means to an end. Brody is also one-dimensional, more a vessel for the player’s actions than a fully realized character. While there are many examples of successful games with flat, sometimes even mute, protagonists, the abundance of strong personalities in FC3 makes it all the more apparent that Brody is just boring. Perhaps it is because the insanity of Rook Island has not had the chance to touch them as it has Vaas and Dr. Earnhardt, who are given far too little on-screen time.
After Brody’s first encounter with Vaas, he is introduced to the Rakyat, the indigenous people of Rook Island. Realizing they have a shared enemy, the Rakyat pledge Brody their support before sending him off into the wilds of the island, and wild it is. As with the previous entries in the series, FC3 gives the player a large open world. While not as big as other open world games like Skyrim or Just Cause 2, FC3’s world is extremely dense, with points of interest and collectibles liberally sprinkled throughout. It is also brilliantly beautiful. The beaches look pristine, the jungle, verdant, and the ocean is a striking clear blue. There are very few muddy textures and despite all this, performance rarely suffers. The island truly looks like it is alive. Animals inhabit every corner of the island as well, often resulting in irritating, see cassowary, to deadly encounters, which enhances the appearance that Rook Island is a living and breathing environment. It also creates some memorable moments, as the first time an alligator pulls you into a death roll, or a shark takes a bite out of you, it will likely stick with you for the whole game.
The flora and fauna serve more of a purpose than just making the island look more realistic. FC3 implements a crafting system that lets Brody use many of the plants and animals he finds to craft medicines and larger pouches for his arsenal. Initially, for example, Brody can only carry one weapon, but by using the skins of various types of animals, he can eventually carry four. While it is not required, many of the items you can craft are almost essential to the game, so it can be annoying to have to go on what amounts to fetch quests. Luckily, there is a plethora of the plants and animals needed for crafting and they are clearly marked on either the mini map or the world map.
As Brody continues on his quest to free his friends, there are side activities he can participate in, like hunting challenges, races and capturing enemy outposts. While there isn’t anything particularly engaging about these activities, the sheer number of options the player is presented with keeps them from becoming boring. For example, to capture an outpost, the player could go to the top of a tall hill and snipe all the occupants, or they could sneak right into the camp and silently take each enemy out with their knife. Or they could free one of the caged carnivores so often found in outposts, and then sit back while the bear or jaguar takes out all the enemies. Or they could turn the camp into a raging inferno, thanks to a well-placed molotov cocktail and FC3’s realistic fire tech. There are many more options, with the only limit being the player’s homicidal imagination. One of the only negatives is that after liberating an outpost, all enemy presence in that part of the island ceases, so there is little to do on the island once all of the outposts are taken down.
Far Cry 3 also offers a multiplayer mode. The multiplayer feels nearly as polished as BF3 and COD and fans of either franchise will immediately feel at home with the loadouts and perks that FC3 employs. FC3 separates itself from these franchises with its maps. The thick jungle foliage creates many new strategies, as well as obstacles like zip lines. There is also an online co-op mode that features an entirely new story and characters. For the player who wants to get everything out of their game, FC3 is jam-packed with content that ensures they will get their money’s worth.
The Far Cry series has always been known for its exotic settings and its solid FPS gameplay and the newest entry in the series doesn’t disappoint. FC3 brings new features to the table that will please series veterans, while maintaining solid gameplay and beautiful graphics that will attract the stalwarts and the newcomers alike.