Friday, December 28, 2012

Far Cry 3 Game Review

Ubisoft squeaked in Far Cry 3 at the very end of the year which can be risky for games since the major game release time tends to be between October and November and sometimes the general gamer public might look over something that comes out this close to the years end. However, Ubisoft definitely saved their best for last as Far Cry 3 is hands down the best in the series so far. If you’re not familiar with Far Cry, they are an FPS series that is characterized by its exotic settings with danger all around and with the need for survival. The first Far Cry caught the eyes of many PC gamers for its beautiful graphics and game play in 2004 and was set on a tropical island. I personally did not like it but I think that’s because the version I had was messed up or something because I could never get it to save correctly. Far Cry 2 was released in 2008 and was set in central Africa. It never seemed to be as popular as I felt it should have been and it was and still is one of the most realistic shooters I’ve ever played. It had a very raw feeling and took into account many things other shooters do not, such as keeping your weapon maintained or else it’ll jam on you and rocket launchers with back blast that can hurt you and cause fires. As for Far Cry 3, it once again is set on a tropical island in the Pacific which honestly turned me off to it as it seemed they were going for a pseudo-remake of the first game. Also it being called ‘Skyrim with guns’ has not turning me on to playing it (Sorry Skyrim is overrated) but I was wrong about FC3. While Far Cry 3 doesn’t do anything revolutionary for games, it does a great job with what it has and makes the series stand out more than the previous titles.

STORY: You play as Jason Brody, a rich college graduate from California on the vacation of a life time with his two brothers, girlfriend, and closest friends. As the final part of their trip through Asia, they go skydiving onto an island located somewhere between Indonesia and Australia. When they land on the beach they are horrified to discover that the island is controlled by pirates and they are captured. The pirates and the PMC that handles them are lead by a man named Vaas (pirate leader) and a man named Hoyt (PMC leader). They control human trafficking and drug trading in this part of the world and use these islands as a base of operations. Jason and his older brother try to escape the camp however Jason ends up fleeing into the jungle and is nearly killed. He is saved by a man named Dennis and explains how the island’s natives, the Rakyat, are leading a guerilla war against the pirates and need his help. Jason reluctantly joined as it seems to be the only means to save his friends.

Now I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but I will have to mention some borderline spoiler things here and there. So if you don’t want any spoilers, skip down to the game play section. First of all, Far Cry 3 has hands down the best story and characters of all the Far Cry games. I can’t help but feel there is some social commentary going on here with these privileged white Americans getting thrown into the situation. Jason, while I really didn’t like him at first, changes a lot of over the game and the change is a believable one up until a certain point. Vaas is one of the best villains in a video game this year. He reminds me of the Heath Ledger Joker, when he’s on the screen, you can’t take your eyes off him. Now this game is divided into two halves and I have to say, the first half is stronger than the second. The game starts out strong and ends strong but the 2nd act, it kind of falls flat and feels pretty different from the first half of the game. It doesn’t make it so you will want to stop playing but you’ll definitely notice the change and it makes Jason’s character development feel less believable though this does come to a head at the very end of the game. Also this is when Hoyt becomes the main villain and he’s just not nearly as interesting as Vaas. Jason’s friends are very believable as they react to the situation they are in and you meet some other messed up characters along the way. As I said, the strong characters that this game has sets it apart from the other FC games. I should also mention that there is some very heavy subject matter in this game. In addition to all the usual violence you see in an M Rated FPS game, there are also drugs, human slavery, and implied raped.  

The tropical island setting is used well as for the story and game play and seems to use it better than the first game. While this game tries to be realistic much like Far Cry 2 was, there are some mystical elements to it as well. There are bizarre drug induced segments and boss fights and this subtle Alice in Wonderland motif going on. The game also has a lot of Rambo references. If you’ve seen the 4th movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is a pretty long game, around 20+ hours especially if you try to do all of the side quests, which there are many. As I said, the game has a strong start and finish but the 2nd act is where the game kind of falls flat as it just seems to take on a new tone. Also the game has a very long credit roll at the end. Might be one of the longest credit sequences I have sat through since Metal Gear Solid 4.

GAMEPLAY: Much like Far Cry 2, it’s an open sand box world but because of the island setting, it gives you freedom to REALLY explore everything. The shooting is pretty basic if you’re familiar with most FPS games these days and you have a large variety of weapons to acquire in this game which are all customizable. They range from assault rifles, machine guns, launchers, bow and arrows and flamethrowers. The flamethrower is fun. All the weapons can be customized and are fun to find creative ways to use them which leads to the best part of the game: the assaults. Observing, planning, and making attacks against enemy positions are a lot of fun in this game because you are given complete freedom on how to go about it. You can try storming in with guns blazing but most of the time that will end with you dead. You have to plan your attacks, make use of the environment and the weapons at hand. You can sneak in and disable the alarm and then attack or sneak in and take down enemies one by one with knife (which is a lot of fun to do) or set the camp on fire or shoot open the cage of a predator in the camp and have the animal attack people. There are many possibilities to play with.

Hunting and gathering is another major game play point. Unlike in other games like Red Dead Redemption or Assassin’s Creed 3 where hunting wild life can be done but isn’t needed unless you want to make some extra cash. In Far Cry 3, you must hunt if you want to be able to progress through the game. At the start, you have very little on you and you must craft rucksacks, bandoliers, holsters, wallets ect. If you want to be able to carry more stuff and you will need to be able to do so or else you’re going to have a bad time. Everything requires certain amounts of animal hides to make so it’s a good idea to try and get most of your hunting done as early as you can in the game and be aware, you’re not the only one hunting. Predatory animals will hunt other wild life, humans, and you which add a much more realistic feel to the game’s wild life. You need to watch out for leopards, bears, and tigers on land and watch out for sharks and crocodiles in the water. You can kill these creatures, of course, but they do not go down as easy as many of the human enemies in the game. You also gather plants for making health items, combat and hunting items as well.
Plants and hunting grounds are clearly marked on your map which is handled differently from the previous game. This is where some of the rawness from FC2 is taken away in FC3. In the previous game, your map was literally a map that your character pulled out and looked at while holding a GPS device. In FC3, it’s just a map screen that gets pulled up when you press select. There is nothing wrong with that but the map screen and menu screen for crafting and item management will take you out of the immersive feeling the game is going for. The map itself is easy to read and has easy to use fast travel stations that you unlock by liberating enemy camps across the island so that’s another reason you want to assault enemy positions. Your map is not all there however. You must unlock more sections of the map by finding and climbing radio towers. The more you turn on, the more of the map you see. These are pretty fun as they act as mini plat forming segments and are sort of like climbing vantage points in Assassin’s Creed games. Other side missions include assassinating specific enemies with your knife, hunting animals with a certain weapon, and odd jobs you’ll find from other people on the island. You can also find and collect relics, WWII letters from dead Japanese soldiers, and memory cards that give you drug recipes. You get some exp points from these but not really worth collecting everything unless you’re an achievement hunter.

You level up like you would in an RPG and you do it fairly often. When you do, you gain a skill point which you can spend to unlock new skills and gain more on your arm tattoo. Some of these skills are helpful but some of these are throw aways like faster turret cool down or shooting from zip lines. You’re never really going to use it. You get the most exp points from killing enemies and completing main missions. The game has a much improved money system from the previous game as it uses actual cash instead of diamonds and the money is much more plentiful. There were many times when I had too much money and I had to just spend it on stuff to free up my wallet. Driving vehicles is much more realistic in this game. Take that as a good or bad thing. Some cars have trouble driving on rough terrain and some roll over pretty easily. Thankfully the hang glider is much easier to control in this game and not just a death trap like it was in FC2. The weapon selection inventory is the last thing I’ll hit on. It’s kind of confusing to use as it is never explained and if it is, it’s not explained well. I had to check in the instruction pamphlet. You hold the left bumper to make it appear you use the joystick to select the weapon. However, if you switch between weapons like normal it will go back to whatever weapon was previously selected. It’s kind of confusing to explain but it can be annoying especially in the middle of combat when pulling up the inventory screen isn’t easy to do. While the game play over all is fun, it runs into the similar problem I find with games like Skyrim that there are a limited number of different types of side quests and once you get the hang of how these missions go, it gets kind of repetitive. This is more evident the 2nd half of the game as well.

GRAPHICS: Visually Far Cry 3 is a beautiful game. The landscape, water, people, animals, plants all look amazing and life like. There is nothing here to honestly complain about. However, if you are someone where the best possible graphics are a must, then you should definitely play this game on PC if your computer can handle it. The 360 version looks good but kind of has this weird slight flickering when you’re looking around sometimes. Also the game did freeze on me once but I am using a used game so if you get it new, hopefully you won’t have that issue. Like the games before it in this series, FC3 is very easy on the eyes.

SOUND: All the sounds of the jungle and combat sound great in FC3. The audio is very helpful in hunting animals as you can maybe get the drop on them by hearing animal grunts and growls through the brush. It can also be tip off as you turn around to see a tiger jumping into your face. There is this sound you where whenever you pull up the map or menu screen that sounds like a picture being processed out of a Polaroid camera. It sounds cool at first but considering how often you will be pulling up those screens, it gets annoying after awhile. The music of Far Cry 3 is odd. The main theme is the airy electric rock song that kind of reminds me of the theme from Mirror’s Edge. The majority of the music you hear though is this foreboding, suspense building music you hear when walking around in the jungle or you just hear nothing but the wild life. I’m not saying FC3 has bad music, I’m just saying hearing the good music is fairly rare.  The voice acting is the best in the franchise so far. As I said before, Jason and his friends sound and act believable to people in this situation and the more corrupt characters are also fun to watch and come to hate for being such bastards. Vaas is the one who steals the show however. Like I said, he’s like the Heath Ledger Joker, when he’s on the screen you can’t take your eyes off him because you’re terrified and also mesmerized by his insanity and the crazy things he is saying. Ubisoft knew he was an awesome character and it’s why he’s on the cover of the game. Sadly, he’s only in the first half of the game. Notice a pattern here?

Overall, Far Cry 3 is the best game in the series so far in terms of story, characters, and general survival game play. There are a couple things I wish they had kept from Far Cry 2 but it doesn’t hurt it much. As I’ve said multiple times in this review, the 1st half of the game is stronger than the 2nd. Survival with the elements becomes less of an issue by then and your character’s objectives change but it does start and end strong. If you’re tired of typical CoD like FPS games and like big open world games then you should check this one out. It can be repetitive but it’s the kind of repetitiveness that makes you feel like you’re moving towards a greater goal and it’s rewarding because of that so come take a trip to this island of madness. If you’re going to play one Ubisoft game this year, let it be Far Cry 3, not AC3.

OVERALL: 8.5/10

This is probably my last major game review of 2012. Look out for my picks for games of the year coming up in a couple weeks.  

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