It’s fair to say that the Far Cry series has been a bit of rollercoaster ride. The first Far Cry developed by Crytek Studios in 2004 took the world by storm, wowed everyone with realistic environments, a compelling story and solid gameplay. The positive reviews led the way with some spin offs, some good some bad (Wii’s Far Cry Vengeance). Far Cry 2, set in war torn Africa brought the franchise back to its core roots receiving good reviews, but it is this version that has really ignited the flames in the series, feeling more in touch with the general public where a fight for survival becomes one in which the protagonist must confront a reality which may cost him his sanity.
You play the role of Jason Brody, who is on holiday (somewhere in the Pacific Islands) with a bunch of friends including two brothers. What starts out as an alcohol and drug bingeing non stop party soon turns into a nightmare as the rowdy tourists are captured by pirates to be held for ransom on an unknown island. Things tend to go from bad to worse and before you know it you are fighting for survival against the crazed pirates and the islands over abundant wildlife. The story in the game fantastic, you can feel Jason’s pain as his world is tipped upside down, starting out as a frightened kid he soon discovers that he must man up, settle some scores and try to rescue his friends against all odds.
The game set as a first person shooter will require you to master stealth to survive as well as the basics of combat from your trusty knife through to rifles, sniper weapons, flamethrowers and rocket launchers. Travel on foot or via the many available means of transport including land (usual cars, jeeps and quad bikes), sea (jet boats and Jet Ski’s) and even air (gliders and even parachutes). Once you have explored and conquered areas of the map there will be fast travel options so you don’t have to spend hours trudging through the jungle. The open world game is big with tonnes of missions to fulfil as well as the main story.
What I found quite interesting is that the developer has chosen a very much Maori-inspired indigenous population, there is no denying the look of the local Rakyat in comparison, which includes Maori themed facial themes, the language and accent and if that isn’t enough then there are hakas, and the standard greeting of ‘Kia-ora’. Even some of the fauna and wildlife looks familiar including the tranquil sound of the Morepork at night. It’s all good stuff and a tribute to the land of the long white cloud.
The environments much like previous games are stunning where many people refer to this game as ‘Skyrim with guns’, which isn’t too far off the truth. There are plenty of options as an RPG, where you can develop your skill sets broken into three main categories of Shark (strength/health), Spider (stealth) and Heron (speed) each with their own skill-set trees. You’ll be rewarded experience (and skill points) for levelling up as you complete missions or simply kill the never ending re-spawning enemies.
As well as skill trees you can also craft items, this will involve you hunting (and skinning) wildlife from the mundane pigs through to more powerful foes such as sharks, bears, leopards and tigers. On top of the standard forms of wildlife there are also quests to hunt down a single rare species of each type of main animal, be it a black panther through to a white tiger. The items are set pieces such as a quiver for your bow, ammunition bags or weapon holsters. The rare animals will allow you the final build in a crafting line; for example the largest type of holster allowing you more room to hold weapons.
The only part of the game that I found could be infuriatingly frustrating were some of the missions set in dark environments (caves or even underwater), it was very easy to get disorientated and have no idea where you were supposed to go. There is a final objective marker but that doesn’t take into account the route you need to take to get there. It was particularly annoying during an underwater escape mission where I drowned many times before stumbling into the right route. Sure it adds to realism, that sense of claustrophobia and panic being in the dark, but really it doesn’t make the game fun.
The voice acting and characters are top notch; I especially liked one of the leading baddies – the Pirate Commander Vaas, who not only looked insane but sounded that way too. It didn’t take long for you to really want this guy dead. The open world environment is vast and you can choose to build up Jason by completing as many side quests as you like before continuing the main story. The side quests also include taking enemy camps (which will then become friendly one inhabited by Rakyat ‘soldiers’) and freeing up Radio beacons that allow more items to be bought in shops and clearing visibility on the maps. Note that if you take the bases it does change the area to ‘green’ meaning that you will no longer encounter free roaming enemy soldiers.
The shooting and combat element feels great, although you can take a bit of punishment you will also be taken out quickly if you make mistakes. The self healing (via your first aid skills) can be a bit rough ie digging out a bullet with your knife or relocating dislocated fingers, but it all works well. You can use stealth to conduct various take downs which also can be brutal. Hunting with the bow is also fun and again highly dangerous, the wildlife often have teeth and claws that will take you out very quickly – again this all adds to the excitement and variety offered in the game. Some of the drug induced dream elements in the game can feel a bit much but I do get why they were added.
The driving portion of the game does feel a bit rough, where you will often careen out of control, which isn’t great on some of the steep cliff clinging dirt roads. But it can be fun. The gliders work well but to use them you will generally need to get to the higher mountain/hilltop areas. Swimming is always good if you like the excitement of the odd shark or croc ready to tear you a new one. Seeing that fin in the distance suddenly veer straight for you or sometimes an attack you never see coming is pretty cool.
The multiplayer also has plenty to offer for both co-op and online multiplayer team play. The three multiplayer options include co-op, competitive, and a map editor for competitive games. The map editor, while a nice addition can be difficult to use with a controller on console. The competitive multiplayer is just what you would expect it to be. Team up in deathmatch, domination etc — all with added perks for your characters. What I enjoyed was the co-op missions, where it is a separate story based around four people trying to earn a few bucks and end up on a mission of revenge. The bonus is that whatever levelling you do on the co-op carries over to the more competitive multiplayer modes including the perks and weapon loadouts. It’s something you can do with your mates before jumping into the online arenas.
Far Cry 3 is a fantastic game. The realistic environments, gameplay and characters make it a solid package. Add to that the online gaming options and you can’t really go wrong. The story was gritty, taking you on Jason’s horrific ordeal of pain and growth and never relenting. With so much to do in the open world environment you are getting great value for money and it never seemed to feel repetitive or overly mundane. For me its one of the stand out games of the year. 
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Players: Single, multi online/offline co-op