After spending a couple weeks doing extra work in a position of menial physical labour, I decided it was time for some serious self-gratification, and bought Far Cry 3 for XBOX from the local games shop.
I already knew it was going to be really good, since critics had spent a good couple of months salivating all over its junk, and used the word awesome to cover its every possible aspect so often that even 11-year-old, caffeine overdose victims would feel a slight flash of red embarrassment reading them. Even if they had a hard time following the line to the end without blacking out in the middle.
Still, there’s no doubt that Far Cry 3 is a massively awesome experience, with real effort and thought put into every aspect of its realization, and it is absolutely the best game out in years, and certainly the best in 2012. Far Cry 3 is not essentially too different from other sand-box hits like Assassin’s Creed or Rockstar Games like Red Dead Redemption, in its basically a big, entertaining time-sink built around a loose, story-based core.
What I think lifts this bastard well above the rest is the huge amount of content crammed in, but extremely well balanced between free roaming, RPG elements, collecting, shooting, casual cruelty to endangered animals and good story. The flow between all the elements is pretty much seamless, and it all works very well, keeping compact without limiting player freedom. The amount of crap the player is free to do is absolutely staggering, while most of it seems to center around unlocking more shit to play around with. Hunting and collecting are fun and feel very purposeful, but there is also quite a bit of doing stuff for its own sake. Looting bodies and selling off bits and bobs you find around in the pirates pockets, after stabbing him and his 115 friends in the neck, is basically just another chore, but no means mandatory.
The addition of predatory wildlife into the game is a huge improvement, and adds a great random element into the game play It adds so much to the atmosphere of the game to have to look out for panthers in the bushes, you know, like a real jungle, and to spend minutes in the foliage, looking at a pirate through a cross hair scratching his arse and muttering about how he likes drugs and raping, calculating possible approaches and tactics, ready to pull the trigger when a tiger comes the fuck out of nowhere and mauls you to death. Still, you have to wonder how the hell a single acre of jungle can have more tigers, panthers, snakes, bears, dingo’s, dogs and even fucking Komodo dragons than a metropolitan zoo.Also, it is kind of cool that simply marching off into the jungle without bothering to buy proper supplies is really difficult without coming out at the other side as minced meat.
There are some annoyances though, the main one being the interface. At least on the XBOX controller, RB throws grenades and LB brings up the weapons menu, meaning that just as you are sneaking into an outpost full of pirates and slavers and would really like to pick out the silenced weapon, three times out of five you fumble with the buttons and decide it would be the polite thing to do to announce yourself by throwing a grenade at the nearest lamp-post and throwing every alarm nearby. Also, when there is a Komodo dragon hanging onto your bollocks and your shotgun is out of shells, it would be really nice to have the game paused while going through the weapons menu, when you don’t necessarily have the best patience and accuracy while trying to pick between the komodo-shredding assault rifle and the welding gun that could only menace rust and grass.
The second minor annoyance is having two menu screens: the map (select) and the main menu with crafting and journal entries (start), and no smooth way to switch between the two. Though this should by all rights be the winning entry on the list of problems only entitled, well-off, unappreciative twats have, I always end up opening the wrong menu and have to spend 0.43 seconds closing it and opening the other one. And it makes me a bit peeved. I have to deal with a very minor inconvenience while having an awesome time playing my game. Phew.
The story, so far, seems excellent, with good character and drive. Jason is a rich, whooping, entitled little shit of a frat-boy who’s come to the island on an action packed holiday with his rich, whooping, entitled friends, before shit gets royally fucked as they get captured by slave-trading pirates, lead by a mohawked lunatic named Vaas. Wimpy Jason and his butch older brother Grant bust out of their cage, sneak out of the camp and then Grant gets shot in the head. Jason runs into the jungle in a panic while Vaas is shouting “Run, Forrest, run!”, and after being chased through the jungle gets knocked unconscious like a little woman.
When he wakes up he’s tattooed by another lunatic who is with the local resistance, claiming he’s a soul of a Rakyat warrior, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So, Jason starts as a wimpy, little lady man, and he has to work hard to become a Rambo-like guerrilla fighter, in turn practicing Bear Grylls style survival skinning deer and making little jaguar-skin handbags to keep all his bullets and collecting plants and making performance enhancing drugs out of them; as well as learning to kill pirates by the hundred and helping out those lazy Rakyat freedom fighters. I thought this was really cool, as opposed to starting out a Steven Segal leveled SAS, and making everything you do as Jason a lot more relateable. Also, having a physical representation of your progress, like a tattoo getting filled with every skill point, is a really nice idea. So, Jason’s job on the island(s) is to drive out the slavers, save his entitled friends, help out the jolly rebels, collect a bunch of arbitrary mementos, and if he’s got time, extinct the Asian Tiger.
The most charismatically captivating and awesome character of the game is absolutely Vaas Montenegro. Vaas is absolutely one of the best villains in gaming so far, as well as the best on any screen since The Dark Knight. The screenwriters at Ubisoft had clearly ripped a whole wadful of pages from the same book as Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker, and the voice acting and animation are good enough to compete with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candee from Django Unchained, and quite possibly top it. Watching Vaas going apeshit is absolutely hypnotic, as well as his balancing on the sanity curve, switching between elocution and violent bursts, chaotic moral philosophy and shooting people in the face. Vaas’ ransom video on Jason’s girlfriend is absolutely brilliant, and not too far away from Joker’s creepy video message in The Dark Knight. Apparently, later on Vaas makes way for a more typical cigar-smoking villain of the top-hat/monocle variety, probably hinting back at the good old history of European Colonialist that is still seen in a lot of the second and third world. Still sounds like a bit of disappointment, as Vaas is hands down too damn fun to watch.
Besides the brilliant story campaign, FE3 has a good looking solid multiplayer, as well as a fun extra co-op campaign for four players, including more bloody unlockables. Also, there’s a possibility for multiplayer map editing and playing player created maps. So, Far Cry 3 is a ridiculously well written, produced and balanced sandbox game, and really good value for money. I have to hand it to Ubisoft Montreal for making a very fun, daring and organic sandbox, when the shooter trend is so completely dominated by tightly scripted cover-based modern military shooters. There seems to be very little compromise in the production, whether it’s brutality, drugs, language, themes or nudity, which all seem to scream “Fuck the Australian censorship laws!” You would think they would at least be shy about the protagonist going on psychedelic drug-trips or shooting the rarest species of exotic animals in the world today, of which there are about 2.4 individuals alive in the wild today. Almost makes up for Ubisoft making such as money-grubbing mess of the Assassin’s Creed series and the DLC content (not that anyone can compete with EA on shameless commercial greed and player distancing.)
Of all the massive amounts of content the only thing I bluntly refuse to do is kill the Galapagos Tortoise. And I don’t care if it’s just a game. Tortoise rock. You monster.