Tuesday, 18 December 2012

REVIEW: Far Cry 3

It has been an incredible year for gaming and Far Cry 3 has ensured 2012 ends with loads of explosions and bullets whizzing through the air. After the mixed response of Far Cry 2, I am happy to say that Far Cry 3 has returned to its island roots and has overcome the hiccups experienced by its predecessor. An amalgamation of FPS, Sandbox and RPG, this descent into madness will offer you longevity and a desire to never leave this deadly paradise.

You’re introduced to Rook Island, the setting where the game takes place, through a montage of adventure and youthful exuberance. This home movie features you, Jason Brody, as well as your brothers, girlfriend and friends. The good mood is soon shattered, however, when your character is shown watching the video from behind bars, being taunted by a truly fantastic villain known as Vaas. Vaas is a pirate leader and he has taken you and your companions hostage in order to ransom you back to your families. Being the dirty, vile pirate that he is, he intends to sell you into slavery anyway. You escape but sadly your brother is killed by Vaas, which is incredibly powerful as you literally feel him dying. Subsequently you begin a personal journey to find the strength to save your friends and loved ones.

You join forces with the local tribe known as the Rakyak, who subsequently initiate you into the tribe. Their teachings and guidance help you to find the mental and emotional fortitude to accomplish your goals and more. Jason starts off as a frightened boy but the farther he falls down the rabbit hole, the more he embraces the madness that is Rook Island. You can expect a number of hallucinogenic sequences, particularly when you fight bosses. Far Cry 3 is an engaging tale about an ordinary man who will go to great lengths and sacrifice much to save those he cares about. Wonderfully interesting characters are scattered throughout your journey and each help to shape you in their own interesting and insane way. It seems sanity has abandoned Rook Island and before long you realise it has left Jason too.

From the outset you are introduced to the basic mechanics and let loose on the island. Teeming with plant and animal life (both on land and in water), the island feels alive and treacherous. Some animals are incredibly dangerous and unless you have a powerful weapon, it is better to avoid them than try and take them on. The RPG inspired crafting uses various plants and animal skins. It is very rewarding and will keep you busy as you hunt various animals for their skins. You can create things like bags, wallets and ammunition pouches. Using the various plants on the island you can make a number of injections to help you with combat, exploration or hunting. One of my favourite aspects of the game has to be swimming. The water is murky and feels completely authentic and I would have spent most of my time in the ocean if it wasn’t for the sharks.

The island is populated with radio towers and outposts. You are required to climb the radio towers and activate them in order for the stores to get more stock and reveal a section of the map. Outposts are essentially bases controlled by the enemy and in order to gain control you need to murder all of the inhabitants to take over. A large amount of time is spent doing these two activities and thankfully it only gets stale towards the end of the game. You’ll be happy to know that unlike Far Cry 2, outposts remain captured. There are also scores of side quests available, each one offering something different, which is a welcome change of pace.

The visuals and audio both work hard to draw you in. Rook Island feels natural and (madness aside) looks like you could enjoy a wonderful tropical holiday there. Bright blue water and gorgeous greenery, with frequent explosions thrown into the mix, epitomises your visual experience. The epic vistas you see from the top of radio towers educate you on how big the island truly is. Fire makes a return and is completely dynamic, taking on a life of its own. A well placed Molotov can create havoc for your enemy and for you if you don’t pay attention. The sound was truly phenomenal and the game's voice acting is of the highest quality. My favourite feature, however, was the music, which was unique to each mission and mirrored your actions. For example: burning marijuana fields while awesome Reggae beats grace your ears, which seemed appropriate. When the music picks up you feel empowered and it gives you the 'oomph' you need to conquer any obstacle.

The single player alone clocks in at around 15-30 hours depending on how much of a completionist you are. Far Cry 3 also offers a large range of multiplayer modes to add value and extend your game time. This includes a wonderful four player co-operative mode. It has its own unique story and characters but being swarmed by pirates and completing objectives reminded me of Left 4 Dead. It felt very familiar which to be honest, is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a staggering amount of unlocks available through an experience system. The unlocks include weapons, support weapons, perks, accessories and even battle cries to help change the tide of battle. At the end of each map the best player on the winning team has the option to punish or show mercy to the top losing player, a nice touch and an interesting ego boost...or humbling experience.

Many gamers are still trying to catch up with all the incredible releases this year and Far Cry 3 certainly doesn’t make our lives any easier. Its compelling story, gorgeous visuals, powerful soundtrack and rewarding game play make this one of the best FPS games of the year. Far Cry 3 is more than likely an indication of what is to come within the genre, going beyond simple point and shoot to create an engaging rich experience with loads to offer. I for one am happy about this. Far Cry 3 is one of those games you cannot afford to miss.



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