I have hundreds of games in my Steam catalog and on my shelves that have been unplayed. My Backlog. I’m trying to get through those games one by one, and then write a short review for my friends to tell them whether it’s worth playing. I am not a writer by trade. This is just me, telling my friends about a game.
It’s no secret that I didn’t enjoy Far Cry 2. In fact, my first recording for the podcast was a diatribe on how the AI in Far Cry was too omniscient and the never ending checkpoints so infuriating that try as I might to really get into it I could never enjoy myself. Which was sad because I wanted to like it; I was trying desperately to like it; the game just fought me at every turn and I ended up abandoning it long before I finished the main plot line.
Going further back, I only played Far Cry 1 for about 5 minutes. I jumped into the water off a dock about 500 yards from some enemies and they immediately saw me. I dove under the water, but that didn’t affect their perfect aim. That’s dumb, I said and switched it off.
So, I was skeptical of Far Cry 3 when it came around. Fool me once, and all that. But reviews were so good, the price was coming down, so I took the chance and am glad I did.
Far Cry 3 is an open-world first person shooter set on a tropical island, overrun by bandits. You play as a twenty-something American tourist named Jason Brody, who gets taken hostage, escapes and discovers a natural aptitude for shooting things and making them dead. The game is primarily a first person shooter, with modern and realistic weapons. You navigate the island, trying to find your friends and along the way you have the option of taking over bandit camps and making the island safe from their oppression. The motivation to do this clean-up is three-fold. First, you gain XP by doing any sort of combat and this unlocks skills that improve your combat prowess. Second, clearing the camps makes it much easier to traverse an area since as long as there are camps there are patrols that will drive on the streets and attack you on site. And third, camps side-quests when they are liberated and some of these are used in the crafting system to unlock the most powerful item upgrades in the game.
Yeah, so FC3 has a lot of systems: XP and skill upgrades, crafting, side quests, Assassin’s Creed-like tower climbs with area unlocking, and weapon modification.
All of these play together well though. I didn’t feel like any part of the game should have been left out. The upgrades provided a nice carrot-on-a-stick incentive for doing almost everything in the game, and the the camps and the towers provided the things to do to get those rewards. The one issue I had with the upgrade system is they gated skill progression to events in the story… so you could build up a lot of skill points (due to the open nature of the game, and the ability to rack up XP on your own), but not be able to assign those points how you want, because you haven’t unlocked access to the full skill tree by playing the main quest.
The story was serviceable, and really I don’t recall a remarkable moment in it (except the one where you wake up from a dream and find yourself having sex). It fits and it works, but the real enjoyment of this game doesn’t come from the clever writing, it comes from the gameplay.
The AI was markedly improved over previous iterations. Though they still can be deadly accurate at range, they aren’t as omniscient as before. They tag the spot you were at, and if you break line of sight you can sneak away from them, retreat, flank them, or whatever other tactics you desire. But AI isn’t just about how the enemy fights, it’s also who it fights with and what else they do. They also have hostile animals on the island, and in some camps you will find an ally (or an enemy) in roving packs of wolves or a hungry lion. Sometimes you can free an animal from a cage and watch him liberate a camp for you. It’s awesome.
Besides fighting, enemies also have behaviors such as investigating dead bodies and triggering alarms. In the camps, if you are spotted the enemies will visit alarm stations and call for reinforcements. However, you can disable the alarm stations in the camp before engaging, preventing them from requesting back-up. Disable means sneak up to and turn off, or maybe shoot with your sniper rifle or silenced pistol. However, an exploding alarm panel might trigger an alarm in itself and there’s more than one panel in most camps.
Which leads into a discussion of how much stealth gameplay is improved. They give you a meter which tells you when you are being spotted, and it fills up and the enemy won’t engage until it’s full. Many factors go into how fast the meter fills (your distance from the target, how much cover you have, the speed you’re moving, etc) and it really helps you manage your stealthy-ness. It’s not very realistic, but it’s fun. You get bonus rewards for clearing a camp without triggering an alarm, and a massive bonus for triggering it without being seen. You can use noise to lure people around, stab people in the back and then drag their corpse away to prevent it from being spotted (not quite as good as hitman, you can’t move a corpse once it touches the ground–but as long as you’re still in the kill animation you can drag it forever and drop it where you like). Also, animals distract people, so if you are lucky enough to get help from a pack of wild animals, you can use silenced weapons to kill the enemy without being revealed. All in all, the options for stealth make it very rewarding, and the implementation ensures it’s not frustrating.
The game might be a little long as there’s plenty to do between the two islands and the many side quests/objectives but if you want to shorten it up I’m certain you can. I was having so much fun, I did everything. All the side quests, cleared all the camps, climbed all the towers.
Oh, towers! Speaking of which. I didn’t enjoy climbing towers in Assassin’s Creed, but oddly in Far Cry I did. Each one is different, and they slowly ramp up in difficulty, but I think that I enjoyed them because they were both shorter, and faster. Those may seem to go together, but really they are different descriptions. Shorter, meaning they have fewer jumps and climbs to be made, and faster meaning that you actually move around between the jumps faster (the hand-over-hand climbing animation in AC, while realistic, is just boring).
One final thing to say is fire is amazing in this game. It’s one of those things you just have to see. It’s not terribly useful and actually I think it is a little too relaxed, but when you see it happen it’s breathtaking.
Far Cry 3. Play it.