Did I Ever Tell You…

2012 has been a big year for shooters, including an assorted variance of both stellar and ultimately disappointing titles. Seeing a release past the popular November launch window however Far Cry 3 arrives a little late to the party with North America only just getting their hands on the title. Being a notoriously overcrowded genre however first person shooters are often put to the sword by gamers before they’ve even gotten hands on. Numerous phrases immediately come to mind such as “it’s too much like that game” or “That franchise has already done it better”. I cannot say this about Far Cry 3.

As many fps fans will vividly remember, Far Cry 3 was revealed as Ubisoft’s ace in the hole back at E3 2011 and players were introduced to a new tropical island playground that promised many dark secrets. More importantly however we were introduced to the antics of Vaas, a mass murdering and somewhat comical psychopath that also happens to be mentally insane (That can only be good right), and of course the game’s new protagonist Jason. Your typical rich kid from privilege out looking for a good time at mum and Dad’s expense, who has come to the island with friends and family on holiday to celebrate. The contrast created by these two profoundly different personalities, intentions and backgrounds helps drive the games narrative forward as it helps paint a broad picture of just how isolated and alone Jason really is and also the effect the forsaken island has on Jason and his friends.

The game wastes no time in introducing you to Vaas and his distinct brand of insanity, as the opening scene sees you and your brother Grant tied up in an animal cage at the mercy of his many taunts and threats. The game does an excellent job of instilling the player with a mixed blend of hopelessness and despair generated by the fear for not only Jason’s life, but the lives of his friends coupled with reminders of the brutality of the island and its savage inhabitants.

It is not long however before you find yourself attempting to escape only to witness your brothers brutal murder at the hands of Vaas, and your narrow rescue by a mysterious member of the Rakyat, a band of warriors who oppose the pirates’ oppression and fight for the freedom of the island.

It is these events that embark Jason on an emotionally driven rollercoaster to not only find his friends and make it off the island alive, but also sets into motion Jason’s evolution and growth as a human being and a warrior, as he soon discovers he must adapt to survive.

Far Cry 3 offers players a smorgasbord of different missions and activities to engage in but more importantly offers them the freedom to go out and complete them on their own terms. From the moment the game’s introduction concludes you have the ability to completely free roam the majority of the island. This is a luxury and flexibility we are rarely spoiled with in modern games and it allows the player to progress through the game on their own terms. Whether you fancy hunting down every last animal on the island to get that shiny new quiver you’ve always wanted or, simply exploring the game’s many secluded caves to amass a wealth of currency to splash out on weapons and attachments. Freedom of choice is a beautiful thing.

There are numerous radio towers scattered throughout the games environments and it is by traversing and climbing these towers to deactivate scrambling devices placed there by the islands oppressors, which players can begin to uncover the map and discover points of interest, as well as score free weapons and equipment from the surrounding shops. This is a mechanic very reminiscent of the Assassin’s Creed franchise however Ubisoft has incorporated an entirely unique climbing puzzle into each tower adding some much needed variety into what can ultimately become a tedious and monotonous task at times. Players will want to make discovering these towers a priority as it will grant them easy access to all the islands secondary amusements such as gambling, island races and hunting missions.

The inclusion of a fast travel system is also a welcome improvement to the Far Cry formula allowing players to quickly jump around the island from mission to mission. This addition is music to the ears of Far Cry fans as the cumbersome and lengthy travel system in the franchise’s previous installment was arguably its biggest flaw. Fast travel points can be acquired by liberating pirate controlled outposts for the Rakyat which results in the enemies complete expulsion from the area permanently, which is also a welcome change to the infinitely respawning enemies featured in the previous iteration.

Perhaps the most appealing and addictive addition to Far Cry comes in the form of an intricate crafting system. This essentially allows the player to harvest the flora and fauna of the island itself to help aid and empower Jason on his journey. This can range from simply collecting basic herbs to create healing and performance enhancing syringes, or hunting rare animals to acquire the materials needed to craft a new loot bag. This urge to continually improve Jason’s capabilities, whether it be enabling him to hold an additional weapon in the form of a new weapon holster, or simply carry a few more arrows in an upgraded quiver, is incredibly engaging and satisfying and serves as a nice break from the antics of the games main narrative.

Far Cry 3 does an excellent job of blending light RPG elements into an FPS experience. The ability to be able to loot corpses and treasures in the environment and the inclusion of an inventory management system is a nice addition and although this isn’t new in an FPS by any means, it fits Far Cry 3 like a glove. Another new addition to the Far Cry formula is the skill tree system. Players are rewarded with XP in game for completing numerous actions, whether it be killing pirates or completing races etc., which earns skill points. Players are then able to spend these points in one of the games three talent trees The Spider, The Shark, or The Heron. Ranging from the ability to silently takedown two pirates at once to enhanced breathing time underwater, each of these talent choices reflects a different play style whether it be up close and personal with the trusty machete or safely entrenched in a sniper position or a bit of both, the game caters to all play styles. The most appealing aspect of the talent system however is the ability to spend points across all three disciplines allowing for a very diverse and creative approach to combat and this system definitely deserves merit.

Gunplay feels as satisfying as it ever has in Far Cry 3 with a wide variety of weapons to dole out death and destruction, each more entertaining then the next. Whether you opt to burn your enemies alive with the flamethrower, wielding fire as your ally, or silently cut them down one by one with the recurve bow combat feels very satisfying and leave you itching for more.

Focus on modern shooters is often weighted very heavily towards its visuals and a lackluster performance presentation-wise can often be its undoing. Far Cry 3 does not suffer this cruel fate however. Running on a modified version of Far Cry 2’s Dunia Engine this game looks gorgeous. The island is a tropical paradise teaming with vibrant colours. There will be numerous moments during your adventures on the island where you will have to stop to appreciate the splendor of what you are seeing. Whether you are looking out into the horizon as the sun falls from atop a conquered radio tower, or high tailing it through dense jungle the visuals are truly stunning. With a nice combination of crisp high resolution textures complemented by silky smooth animations Far Cry 3 really is eye candy in its true form.

Whether you’re listening to the majestic sounds of the wildlife as you stalk your prey in the wilderness or listening to the moronic drug infused banter of the pirates, audio does an impressive job of engaging the player in the living breathing world of the island. Weapons roar with the appropriate intensity, and the numerous ambient sounds provided by the environment do a great job of evoking atmosphere and succeeds in immersing the player in the action.

When Far Cry 2 launched I think it’s fair to say that a fairly high end rig was required to truly extract the most from the game’s visuals. Much of the same applies here you’re going to require a very powerful rig to get the job done here. Anything over 2 years old and you’re going to be in real trouble. A GTX660TI or ATI equivalent coupled with a quad core processor and a 4GB or more of RAM would be a fair starting point. If you wish to meet or exceed the games recommended specs however you’ll want nothing less than a GTX 680 or Radeon 7970.

That being said there is still plenty of room to improve optimization wise. You will definitely want to run the newest beta drivers from Nvidia and ATI to ensure your experience is as smooth as possible, and look to Ubisoft for future patches to increase stability and performance.  Expect to experience a few crashes during your adventures on the island and although this is nothing new to people who have been gaming for years on the PC platform, it can be very frustrating and at times force you away from the game.

Although Far Cry has brought the series forward in a big way and succeeded in amending the errors made in previous iterations, it is not perfect. As with any open world environment you can expect a healthy serving of bugs and glitches. Perhaps the most immediate flaw comes in the form of the games AI. It is not uncommon for you to witness an island local struggle for minutes to pass through an open door or watch helplessly as a Rakyat warrior crashes his car off a bridge a metre from where you just repaired it. These inconsistencies can also affect combat however, as parts of enemies bodies can often disappear into the environment making them impossible to hit. It’s particularly frustrating when trying to engage enemies at long range and are unable to land hits due to glitched enemies and this causes a rare disconnect between the player and Jason and spoils what is usually an utterly visceral and seamless experience. You will also find yourself stumbling and fumbling with the looting system at times as it can be very touchy and temperamental towards the player’s position in relation to the looting target. With a game of this scope however minor inconsistencies and blemishes are to be expected and although they don’t come close to spoiling your experience on the island, it would have been nice to see a few of these bugs ironed out pre-launch.

As a complete package Far Cry 3’s many redeeming and positive characteristics greatly outweigh its minor blemishes. You’ll have a blast getting familiar with not only the island’s landscape and many nooks and crannies, but also its many thoroughly engaging characters and personality. Each individual feels completely unique and mysterious and this is a nice break from the uniformity we often see in this type of experience. The games narrative serves as more than just a means to an end to guide the player from start to finish. It manages to immerse the player with the trials and tribulations of Jason and his friends and the many adversaries that stand in his way. Add this to the plethora of new side missions and a satisfying crafting system and you’ve got the most engaging, beautiful and entertaining Far Cry to date.