By David Mayne
Open world games. Ahhh, their vast maps, huge swords, big guns, bigger explosions, awesome vehicles, and epic stories! Couple those things with freedom: the freedom to roam, the freedom to explore, the freedom to choose! Open world games hold a very special place in my gaming library, and when done right, are the kinds of games I return to time and time again. Skyrim with its immense map, endless dungeons, snowy peaks, and stirring story. Just Cause 2 with its redonkulously huge world, crazy-epic gun battles, and vehicles ranging from golf carts to 747’s. And the king: Grand Theft Auto, with its amazing stories, beautiful graphics, and playground-like city to roam around in. These are a few examples of what make open-world gaming my genre of choice!
FarCry has always been a fun series. The first installment offered a drop-dead gorgeous island to explore, and one that challenged just about every PC gamer’s hardware at the time, the FarCry games have always impressed. FarCry 2 did a complete 180, location wise, this time replacing beautiful water and relaxing beaches for the scorching heat and merciless expanse of an African landscape. While FarCry 2 was a definite improvement over the first game, featuring jaw-dropping visuals and an excellent story, the major gripes that existed centered mainly around constant and unrealistic enemy “respawning” and an overall repetitive feel to the mission structures. While indeed these faults are well-earned, FarCry 2 served as an almost “test” phase for what was to come in the 3rd installment, and if this was the case, the test was a resounding success. FarCry 3 is the freshest, most innovative of the series, and a genuine example of open-world gaming done right.
The main story of FarCry 3 has you playing the character of Jason Brody, an unassuming everyman on vacation with his girlfriend and party buddies, traveling around Bangkok on a drunken roller-coaster ride of fun and games. After a decision to skydive over a remote island which happens to be infested with bloodthirsty pirates, deadly wildlife, and unforgiving terrain (something that your group didn’t bother to research), all hell breaks loose.
Upon landing, your friends are abducted and separated around the island by a sadistic crimelord known as Vaas, while you and your brother are imprisoned together. After escaping, you soon realize that the entire island is crawling with pirates who are trying to kill you! Your “mission” starts simple: search for and rescue your friends and girlfriend. However, as is the case in ANY FarCry game, you soon realize that there is much more to the story than its opening pages suggest. It ain’t all bad though. Also residing on the island is a “friendly” band of armed mercenaries called “The Rykat” led by a beautiful and mysterious woman named Citra, who also happens to be Vaas’ sister.
The island in FarCry 3 is pretty damn big and sports many new features and improvements over its predecessor. First and thankfully foremost, gone are the persistent and atrocious enemy “respawns” of FarCry 2. My one and ONLY gripe of the second game was having to constantly battle the same sons of bitches I had just killed 5 minutes before, and in a looong game like FarCry 2, respawning got old really FAST. FarCry 3 also features enemy outposts, much like FC2, but once cleared, they become controlled by Rykat mercenaries and are henceforth available to you as safe houses where you can replenish your ammo, buy and sell new weapons and items, and take on side-quests from the Rykat.
Throughout the game, you will earn skill-points for doing various tasks such as completing story and side quest missions, satisfying achievements (headshots, animal kills, etc.), all of which will allow you to spend said points on Jason’s various upgrade skills. These invaluable skills are broken down into three categories: The Shark (warrior skills), The Heron (scouting skills), and The Spider (stealth skills). While at the beginning of the game Jason is merely an everyday guy caught up in a fight for his life and barely knowing how to hold a gun, by mid-point in the game he will be a seasoned badass capable of wreaking havoc on the pirates (granted you spend the skill points well). Take down an enemy silently from behind with the “Silent Takedown” feat or strap a grenade to an enemy’s waist belt and kick him away with the “Grenade Takedown”. For reals, lettuce! For gamers looking towards a more holistic approach instead of turning Jason into the next John Rambo, points may also be put into such talents as better herb and resource gathering, increased crafting skills, and ninja-like sneaking abilities. For each skill that you “inject” into Jason’s overall ability, you will receive a tattoo on your left arm, which over time begins to look like a tribal sleeve straight out of Sons of Anarchy Hawaiian Edition. The tats correspond to Jason’s continual bond with the Rykat tribe, especially Citra, with whom you form an intense, yet bizarre love affair.
As is true with all FarCry games, weapons are always bountiful, FarCry 3 being no exception. While at the start of the game you are only capable of carrying one weapon at a time, you can “unlock” more slots (up to 4 for guns/crossbow) by crafting bigger and better holsters and ammo bags. How do you craft these invaluable items? By hunting and harvesting the furs and skins of the islands various wildlife. While the crafting system in FC3 isn’t quantum mechanics, it can be a pain in the ass for little things like crafting a bigger wallet. Let me get this right: I need to kill 2 great white sharks to craft a wallet? Really? Unrealistic shark-wallets aside, the crafting system adds a layer of depth to FC3, and while the animal crafting is a bit burdensome, herb-based crafting is much more intuitive. It’s simple really: collect various plants and create different medicines and ointments that will heal you and enhance your skills temporarily. Basic? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. I loved the herb-crafting system, and when I wasn’t busy stocking my Hyena-skin medpac with health stims, I was busy creating various combat boosters or mixing up pheromone blockers that made me “invisible” to dangerous animals like tigers and bears. Nothing like getting bitten in the ass by a 500lb Bengal tiger while scoping out an enemy camp in the middle of the night! It’ll ruin your plans in a big way, trust me.
Now…the BIG question. PC vs. 360 vs. PS3. For console gamers, it all really comes down to which console currently graces your television set. Having seen both the 360 and Ps3 versions of FC3, I can honestly say they look pretty much the same, which is, pretty damn good. I was hesitent about getting the console version of this game, as the FarCry series has always being a visual lap dance on the PC and as a graphics whore, I tend to gravitate towards which ever version looks prettiest. That said, having bought the PC version only to find out that my video card had yet to release an updated driver covering FC3, I was treated to beautiful visuals met with a less than stellar frame rate. Not good. Being the impatient gamer that I am, the PS3 version seemed the next logical step (only because it has HDMI and my 360 does not). While the console versions definitely take a hit in overall texture and frame rates, they are in no way sub par. After 20+ hours of FC3 on the Playstation 3, I am happy to report that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience as far as graphics were concerned. Nothing to worry about my console brethren!
Trust me folks. FarCry 3 is the real deal! While not perfect, no one problem had me running for the razors. Moderately difficult, this game had me on my toes for the duration. I rarely encounter the often associated “downtime” or “boredom” generally coupled with ambitious open-world games. The story is both intriguing and well scripted, leading from one event to the next with near-prefect pacing and excellent voice acting. For those of you who play your games for the story, FarCry 3’s is not one to be missed. While some of the side quests can and will wear thin after a while, the main quest and the varied locales of the island is plenty to keep any determined gamer interested for quite a while!
In closing, FarCry 3 is the best yet in what I hope will be a continuing series. With each game having its own separate story, location, and characters, developer UbiSoft is free to take FarCry anywhere it sees fit! My recommendation for FarCry4? Old west or near future!
Fun Factor: 10 – Never a dull moment, plenty to do, and an adreneline-fueled ride all the way!
Graphics: 8 – While the PC easily beats all comers, the PS3 and 360 do admiral jobs, minus high textures and perfect frame rates.
Sound: 10 – Excellent voice acting, with Vaas stealing the show. Guns, animals, and explosions all sound grand!
Control: 9 – Easy, standard FPS control. I honestly prefer the 360 controller over the PS3 when it comes to consoles, but either way, control is fine!
Lasting Appeal: 8 – While not as intoxicating as say, Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto IV, I may come back to FarCry3 someday. A blast while it lasts!