Please Note That While Great Care Has Been Taken To Ensure There Are No Spoilers in This Review, if You are VERY Uptight About The Information You Know About a Game Before Playing it, Then Please Read With Caution.
That said, Far Cry 3 is easily my most anticipated game of 2012 and has been at the top of my 'Can't Wait' list for some time.
The game is set on a tropical island called Rook - or rather, Rook 'Island' - and follows main protagonist Jason Brody as he attempts to survive on the deadly island while trying to rescue his friends after a skydiving expedition went more than just a bit wrong.
Getting captured by psycho bad guy Vaas wasn't part of Jason or his friends' or brothers' plans, but unfortunately, that is sort of the way things went.
Playing as Jason Brody, it's your job to survive a wilderness thriving with vicious animals and evil humans as you attempt to find your family and friends and escape.
Far Cry 3 is very much as story orientated as it is focused on bringing Rook Island to life; so in other words: very story orientated. That is great, because to make the whole journey worthwhile, a game like this needs to have deep characters and a rich narrative.
It is great that Ubisoft has accepted in Far Cry 3 what many other developers still don't: that the player's character should often be their own character. It's getting boring having characters being 'strong and silent' in an attempt to make them feel more like the player. Instead of being like this, you are simply going along with Brody for the journey; but not actually him.
Indeed, Jason Brody is a fairly mouthy character that clearly is his own person. Just like everyone in the game, he has a distinct personality. He isn't necessarily the most likeable character; in fact, neither he nor his friend's and brother's are necessarily going to be everyone's type of people. That is fine, however; Far Cry 3 embraces its story and characters and basically says that is the way they/it are so deal with it.
After all, you are along for the journey, and not every character is designed to make you love them.
As much as Jason is, technically speaking, the main guy on the scene, it tends to be the two main bad guys who steal the show. Vaas and Hoyt are incredible enemies to come up against are interesting characters. Just like everyone in the game, they are superbly voice acted.
While the mental transformation Jason Brody undergoes while roaming the island and trying to save his friend's is well portrayed, the other characters are not explored enough. I'm mainly referring to the likes of Vaas and Hoyt here. They are both two awesome bad guys but not only do they not appear in the actual game enough, but their characters are left hanging.
This is, in a way, how the entire story goes. It's good, but builds up to epic moments and then doesn't do anything. I'm not necessarily talking about the ending; more situations throughout the game. Is there a massive twist? Do these hallucinations Jason suffers from mean anything? Is this or that going to happen? These are all examples of things not explored enough by the game.
Don't get me wrong; it's an interesting tale - just don't get caught up in it thinking something astounding is going to happen.
Despite the seemingly heavy focus on your two main enemies, you will meet plenty of other interesting characters throughout your journey. Whether it's bad guys who you will want dead or rebels with a cause; there are many great personalities that make the adventure even more interesting.
As much as completing missions and helping the rebel's is key to Jason's success, the most important thing to do is learn the island. Only a small chunk of Rook Island is actually visible in great detail at the beginning of the game; the rest is simply a blue blur. It will remain that way until you activate radio towers. Doing this makes that small part of the map available for detailed viewing.
Just as important to complete, however, are the stronghold takeovers. These involve going to enemy strongholds and, well, taking them over. Killing all enemies in the base is enough to warrant this and the immediate area will become free of enemy patrols to allow for safe travel. Rebels will move into the base and you will unlock more side quests.
Hunting and plant collecting is essential to progressing and surviving. Killing and skinning various animals, both predator and prey, allows you to craft better weapon holsters to carry more weapons, ammo pouches, munition pouches, wallets etc. Crafting these items requires fairly basic skins at first but the more you craft the rarer and harder to obtain the skins become.
Plants are also necessary to craft health, hunting and exploration syringes to name a few. These aren't essential as you can still heal without health shots and the other syringes are mainly helpers and not vital. In fact, I found myself rarely crafting any syringes except health ones.
Obviously, getting around Rook Island is important and while it is likely a lot of time will be spent traveling on foot as to try to remain as stealthy as possible in case of unexpected enemy encounters; there is the option of many cars, boats, trucks and even hang gliders. As much as the land vehicles in particular are useful, it is advised that use of them is mainly only in areas known to be safe; otherwise you could find yourself alerting nearby enemies to your presence.
That is one of the awesome things about Far Cr 3. It is driven by it's fantastic landscape as much as it is the story. Albeit, the story does underplay itself but is still an awesome adventure. Many games of this type often focus on one or the other: story or sandbox environment. But Far Cry 3 doesn't and that is certainly good.
E3 2011 left me unsure whether to expect a Call of Duty styled combat system or one more reminiscent of Battlefield - because it certainly didn't look anything like Far Cry 2.
Gunplay and movement instantly brought to mind Battlefield; however Far Cry 3 still remains its own master. It took a bit of getting used to, which was nice. Having expected a more arcade styled system, it was surprising how realistic the weapons acted. Shooting an enemy a fair distance away even with an assault rifle is not an easy achievement. Trying to use an SMG for that is near impossible.
Whether playing a mission or attempting to take over a stronghold, there is almost always a choice of how to complete the objective. Go in guns blazing or stay stealthy - the choice is there. Going in balls out crazy it not always the best option though.
At the beginning of the game Jason is fairly underpowered compared to opposition and almost every point of the available arsenal is restricted. How much ammo, weapons and syringes that can be carried is limited and going into a battle without using stealth is a real challenge. Like I said earlier, however, you can easily go on a large hunting spree and upgrade your equipment to allow for a better load-out early on.
Also available are the, arguably overpowered, takedowns. Go up behind an unaware enemy and press the right stick and Jason will instantly take him out with a knife - silently too, I might add. There are plenty of takedown variations to unlock too. Above takedowns, grenade takedowns, knife throwing takedowns, chained takedowns - you name it, there is a takedown for it.
Unlocks play an important part of increasing Jason's ability and skill in different areas. Earn enough XP and a Skill Point will be available to use to unlock a new ability. There are three different categories - The Shark, The Heron and The Spider - that offer different types of skills.
Far Cry 3 isn't overwhelming in this department and it's easy to mix and match what you unlock. In fact, by the end of the game it is likely there will only be a few different skills left in each category.
Unfortunately, this part of the game is a little hit and miss. It is certainly more hit than miss, but it isn't exactly perfect. Combat and skills are fun - very fun and it is never boring entering into a fight with the enemy or completing a quest; however it is very easy to become what can only, really, be described as overpowered early on. As already mentioned; dedicate yourself to hunting and you will be able to carry the max number of weapons and ammo in no time. Weapon unlocks are dependent on how many Radio Towers have been activated; so put a lot of time into that and great weapons will be available earlier too.
Very little of the things unlocked are dependent on how far you progress in the main story. Ultimately this leads to the games combat situations becoming fairly easy at an early stage.
What's more, the game never tries to throw you off course. It's not hard to just fall into a routine of activating radio tower after radio tower and taking over stronghold after stronghold before moving onto the main story missions and side quests.
On the whole the single player is an outstanding experience. The story isn't executed to its full potential but it is still an extremely enjoyable and mature experience. The combat may become fairly easy early on in the adventure but that doesn't make it a drag to play in any way; it remains a massively fun experience. Rook Island is beautiful, dangerous and, most of all; full of life and things to do.
Despite the fact that single player is clearly the main focus of the game; it also offers a multiplayer and co-op mode. To save some time for everyone I'll just go ahead and say that, strictly speaking, both are average.
The co-op feature offers a separate story set six months before the main single player and follows four people who, after being ripped off by Vaas, go to seek revenge. It's not a massively long story - about six hours compared to the 20+ you'll spend in the single player - and, quite frankly, not all that interesting either.
Multiplayer is a fairly standard affair. It offers the usual line up of game modes; the main difference is that it is set in a beautiful jungle. While offering nothing new, the core mechanics of work and the setting makes the maps that bit more interesting. It's nothing special, but it isn't bad either. Will this be the game to replace CoD? No, never; but don't bother not playing a game or two because it is still a bit of fun.
Far Cry 3 is one of the best games of 2012. The criticisms made throughout the review are relevant, but Far Cry 3 is a mature, unique and, most of all, extremely fun game. It has issues but so do other games and the pros way override any cons.