Available on: Xbox 360 (Version tested), PS3 & PC
It’s been a while since I’ve done a game review. Don’t really have an excuse. Just been busy with various other things. But, in the last few months, I have built up a backlog of games that require a bit of the old reviewing from me and so I’m gonna try to get that ball rolling with today’s game, Far Cry 3. Eventually I’ll get around to reviewing the other games I’ve recently finished off, such as Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed and Bioshock Infinite but for now you’ll have to make do with a game released last year that everyone else has already played to death. Click the link or something.
Far Cry 3 is the sequel to the games Far Cry and Far Cry 2. It features a man who learns how to shoot people because he’s been told he should and before you know it he’s fighting a one man war against a bunch of pirates while stuff blows up. All this is wrapped up in the premise that we’re being told a big important story that is about things and even stuff. In the game you can shoot people, stab people, run people over in cars and, yes, you can even shoot people.
I’m making the game sound a little stupid here. Maybe it’s because after playing Spec Ops: The Line I’ve started demanding a little more from the stories my games weave or maybe it’s because the game is stupidity masquerading as intelligent fiction. It’s the latter reason. A lot was made of Far Cry 3’s depiction of the lead character, Jason Brody, and his descent into madness as he learns to become the warrior he didn’t know he was capable of being. It’s the modern take on the hero’s journey story trope that’s been used time and time again. Hell, a few days ago I finished the new Tomb Raider game that has a very similar character arc for Lara. Well, for the first third of the game. After that it just turns into a cover based shooter. I’ll get to Tomb Raider another day though. We’re here for Far Cry 3.
The reason I concentrate on the story here is two-fold. Firstly the story it tells is poorly thought out. It leads us to believe that Brody is struggling with the idea of killing but once you get past the first sequence of his murderfest, a murderfest he pulls off with little sign of a learning curve I should add, his struggles with what he has become are only touched upon in a couple of scenes. On top of that no reconciliation beyond a single line of dialogue between the games narrative and how immediate and familiar the games gunplay is portrayed. Brody asks himself why he’s so good at killing, the answer being because YOU are controlling him, and then he never touches on it again. There’s a nice stage later on where you’ve rescued one of his partying friends and they show signs of fear at how much Brody is enjoying blowing his enemies up with a grenade launcher, but moments like these are few and far between. If, perhaps, the game featured a few missions where you had his friends witnessing how Brody was changing, giving them a chance to comment on these changes, then maybe the game’s story ideas could have hit home a little harder. A sub-plot where another friend of his maybe takes a darker version of his same path would have worked as a good mirror to Brody’s character arc too.
Secondly the gameplay is entirely built around over the top action set pieces the likes of which are normally reserved for Michael Bay films. At one point you’re in a helicopter reigning all sorts of explosions down on your enemies as, And I shit ye not, Ride of the Valkyries is being played. Big flashy action sequences will always juxtapose badly with any attempts to tell a serious story, as Bioshock Infinite has proven greatly in the last few weeks. This ludo-narrative dissonance isn’t has jarring as it was in Far Cry 2, but that is mostly because that game did a better job of depicting the dark side of it’s story. Far Cry 3, on the other hand, actually has a scene where Brody looks at his blood stained hands and says “what have I become?”. It baffles me that the game won a writing award when it actually contains that line of dialogue. On top of that the game’s much vaunted depictions of madness just boil down to a handful of drug induced fantasy sequences and the odd boss battle set in a dark room that then degenerates into a QTE event.
Enough being mean though because, truth be told, the moment to moment gameplay in Far Cry 3 is extremely solid and a lot of fun. There’s a few memorable characters to keep you entertained as you meander your at through the story at whatever pace you wish which helps offset the moments where you’ll feel like the story plain feels like a distraction. The gunplay is smooth. There’s enough variety in your weapons and toys that you have at your disposal to engineer some emergent gameplay the likes of which are usually reserved for Battlefields multiplayer. There’s a lot of distractions too, such as bounties and animal hunts, which can help you get what you need for the games crafting elements and also earn some extra xp for the token RPG mechanic all games have to have now because 15 years ago Final Fantasy 7 was a hit. Regardless, the fact remains that the actual gameplay is a hell of a lot of fun. There’s a few missteps, such as a hunting and skinning mechanic used to gain materials for crafting weapon pouches being made pointless when it takes all of a couple of hours to collect all the mats needed. But at least that hunting mechanic has some element of use, unlike the hunting mechanic in Tomb Raider.
The game features tow flavours of multiplayer and, to be fair, their adequate. That’s about it. The competitive multiplayer is your standard mixture of deathmatch modes and variations with a few subtle Battlefield elements worked in, likely down to the game’s lead produce, Jamie Keen, being a vet from DICE and the lead on Battlefield: Bad Company. It’s nothing unique at all but it seems to have retained a small community of consistent players months after release. The co-operative mode is pretty much a series of point A to point B to point C based missions objectives livened up a little with a cast of characters that feel like rejects from a lost Left 4 Dead game. Again, nothing unique but it serves it’s purpose. Coupled with this is the expansive and very difficult to master level creation tool. It’s a powerful tool (ooo-err) but I feel that the difficulty of controlling it with a pad would likely put people off using it if they didn’t “get it” right away.
Overall Far Cry 3 is a blast to play and has a couple of fun moments during it’s story but is, more often than not, distracted by it’s own attempts to be dramatic and dark. About half way through the game you’ll kill the game’s cover star and most recognised villain, Vaas. The moment this happens you’ll feel some of the momentum leaving the game. You’ll realise that there’s still more to go but it feels like a addition to a completed story by this point. And then, at the end, the game presents you with a choice to make that undermines the entire character development that had been made over the game’s last few stages. If you’re happy to ignore the story you’ll have a hell of a time exploring the, quite frankly, stunning vistas of Far Cry 3’s island paradise. It’s not that the story is bad, it’s just fails to hit the mark it was aiming for and so it does a disservice to the rest of the game whilst also not reconciling the action with this story. Far Cry 3 is a blast to play and there’s a lot of fun to be had. You’ve just gotta get through a very inconsistent story along the way.