Published on December 14th, 2012 | by Adam Lee
Far Cry 3: The Wildlife Strikes Back
I’ve always been a huge fan of action movie clichés, wronged father in pursuit of his offspring, grisly ex-military looking to avenge his fallen comrades, most of us can probably reel off half a dozen without diminishing our love for them. Somewhere amongst that list would inevitably be the naive socialite thrown head-first into danger, eventually mastering his new environment and becoming a ninja / magician / psychopath. Our encounter at Eurogamer meant I knew Jason Brody and Far Cry 3 would embark on that same journey; a millionaire playboy stranded on a tropical island has to save his friends and family from rather angry natives, and in the process become one with both nature, and a variety of high calibre weaponry.
So with images of myself as an horrific melding of Bear Grylls and Rambo, I started up Far Cry and got stuck in. Following the narrative tutorial level, which brutally demonstrates why this game didn’t get a PG rating, you quickly find yourself in more familiar territory. Far Cry is happy to take cues from other open-world games, the most obvious one being the Assassin’s Creed series. Initially just an outline, a small section of map is revealed once you’ve leapt, crawled and bunny hopped your way to the top of a nearby radio tower. Each tower reveals hunting areas, quests, and enemy camps in the immediate vicinity as well as a cinematic fly-by of various local landmarks – some may be quests, others might be the location of a collectable or even just a scenic spot to entice a local lady of negotiable affection.
Something you’ll notice when progressing through the increasingly devious radio tower jumping puzzles, is that traversable surfaces are always identifiable by either dangling vines in the forest, or ropes in more civilised areas – this expands to the rest of the game as well, and eagle eyed scouting will uncover all manner of secret areas and short-cuts.
The other regularly repeating landmark, much like the Little Chefs on your local motorway, are enemy outposts. Easily spotted from either A) The huge red camp mark on your map, or B) The plumes of black smoke rising through the canopy, making them pretty hard to miss. Each one is tailored appropriately to the surrounding area, meaning they rarely feel out of place. A riverside camp might have docks complete with machine-gun-toting dinghies, whilst deep forest frontiers after are often home to caged beasts awaiting delivery.
The approach is entirely up to you, the only guidelines being experience incentives for tackling them without raising the alarm. My personal favourite consisted of sneaking in, hacking the alarms to prevent reinforcements and placing a few strategic mines around the button. Working through the guards with my machete, eventually someone would notice the bodies, run to the alarm and trigger an explosive surprise. Once the dust settles and all the heavy lifting is over with, my allies – the Rakyat (or as I refer to them “the blue guys”) – will arrive fashionably late to sweep up.
With captured areas becoming quick travel locations, there’s yet another reason to clear them out whenever possible. Ubisoft really want to make you go after these, and to be fair, with 34 scattered across the landscape, they needed a fairly large carrot to keep things interesting. It’s a respectful nod to the designers that I never got bored of devising new and ingenious ways to blow them up.
Part of that is thanks to the AI letting you know you aren’t the centre of the universe. The Rakyat are quite happy to take care of business themselves, and the pirates do whatever they want; animal catching, Rakyat hunting or even terrorising locals. You can while away a good amount of time just watching people through your magic camera, which on top of being more or less indestructible, is also capable of “tagging” enemies – helping to identify and track them through walls…
However, it’s when you throw the animals into the mix that the game really comes alive, though my aforementioned image of badassery was shattered thanks to animal involvement – pull up a chair and sit on Rambo Grylls’ knee so he can tell you a story.
There I was – crouched down in the bushes outside the enemy outpost – making sure I tagged everyone before drawing my bow, quickly identifying the enemy sniper on the roof as being the easiest mark – I let the arrow fly, dropping him unnoticed. Adjusting my sights to the next enemy I wait patiently for his patrol route to give me a clear shot, I take a breath and draw the bow in preparation, when suddenly, from nowhere, a lion leaps onto my back!
Now when animals attack you it’s not just a claw attack animation – you get a screen full of raging fur and fangs and a quick time event to reduce the damage you take. If like me you’ve had your breakfast scared out of you – your panic will leave you ten feet from your keyboard trying to decide how you’ll explain this to the dry cleaner. I think I may have developed ailurophobia, every time I look at a cat I feel like it’s waiting for me to make a mistake. Even the lion who decided to wander into an enemy camp and slaughter everyone – earning me both the camp and 1500XP for an undetected capture – proved that he wasn’t to be trusted. His insincere demonstration of support only lulling my poor allies into a vicious furry embrace. Thankfully, when I accidentally quick travelled to that camp later, he’d moved on – not even bodies remained to mark his merciless rampage.
Various plants and herbs can be combined to create your own healing remedies or concoctions to increase attributes like run speed, while better backpacks and ammo pouches can be crafted from the still warm skin of a slain dingo, shark or lion. Our Jason is surprisingly industrious. Quite why he wants to be wandering around a carnivore-filled jungle smelling like fresh meat is beyond me, but it does go some way to alleviate my cat issues.
The ultimate stuff can only be crafted from unique animals, each of which must be killed with an appropriate weapon. A giant bear with a shotgun in the study, a terrifying man-eating shark with a bow in the pantry, you get the idea. Story snippets provide some background and set them apart from your usual fodder.
On top of potions and gear, Far Cry 3 offers a huge repertoire of weapons, though you’re limited to a maximum of four with a fully upgraded weapon sling. As you liberate radio towers you’ll eventually unlock pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, LMGs, sniper rifles, flame-throwers, RPGs, grenade launchers and the iconic bow and arrow. Each can be customised with various mods and paints to suit your play style, giving you plenty to spend your cash on. The graphics are stunning as you can see, and my computer is far from top end. The hallucination sections being particularly noteworthy, conjuring vivid effects fanciful creatures. In full swing it’s a real spectacle. Huge explosions rock the landscape, apache gunfire tears up the ground, and your flame-thrower ravages vegetation.
Sound like a lot of content yet? There’s tons to do and I haven’t even touched on the story yet. Sandbox games are generally mediocre in the story department, so much development goes into facilitating your whims that the story falls by the wayside. I had a lot more fun exploring Skyrim’s world than following its story, but Far Cry manages to surprise me here – brace yourselves.
The story is exciting and engaging, buoyed by some stellar voice acting – Michael Mando as Vaas is incredible. Threatening, interesting, and a little bit unhinged in a way that puts his contemporaries to shame. He actually unnerved me a few times, no mean feat (shh you, lions don’t count). Every major character has personality and depth. Missions are varied enough to hold your interest, giving you a handle on Brody’s progress toward ultimate badassery.
Progress through the story grants unlockable abilities – each one applying a unique tattoo to Jason’s forearm, making your body a living progress bar. It’s a nice touch, instilling the urge to finish the whole thing. By far the most exciting unlocks are the surprise “takedown” kills which are context sensitive and can even be chained together to devastating effect. Once you start unlocking skills you’ll notice a real difference in your performance. An example from near the end of the game
I distract a group of guards with a stone, sneak up behind the first and take him down with the machete, chain into another and throw my knife at a third. The fourth guy has a belt-mounted grenade, I pull the pin and kick him back into the reinforcements – I turn my back. Cool guys always walk from explosions.
It’s not all sunshine and light though I’m afraid. The peripheral NPCs you’ll encounter every thirty seconds have very limited dialogue, and acting so poor it makes Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen look emotional and highly strung. The stark contrast with the main cast does them no favours. There’s also the dreaded Uplay DRM monstrosity to ruin the party, multiple server outages set me back hours of gaming. Ubisoft are always very apologetic about these issues, but the solution is simple. Stop punishing your legitimate customers for giving you money.
Menus are clunky and the interface is poor. Crafting a stack of potions for example, is incredibly frustrating when each one requires individual confirmation. Another oddity is the restriction to 1 – 8 for short-cuts, something that irritates me when I have plenty of spare buttons on my keyboard! Along similar lines flashlight has a mind of its own – as it would be one too many buttons for a controller – it just sort-of-automatically turns on or off as it deems necessary. But by far the most annoying of all is the mouse wheel, which appears to arbitrarily work in some menus, and not in others. This is something that is becoming more and more common on the PC – if you as a developer are committing to a multi-format release, at least pretend you’ve put time into the UI for those of us playing on big boy computers. The interface is our window into your game, something that’ll be used for the entire duration, and after 30 hours a small niggle becomes a significant annoyance.
All in all, Far Cry 3 is an excellent experience with an exhaustive amount of content, and I’ve not even touched the plethora of mini-games (poker, duck hunt, knife throwing, etc.) or multiplayer (co-op and versus). It’s extremely ambitious and surprisingly successful for a game that tries to cram so much in. A little bit of UI polish would have made the experience a lot more enjoyable, but I suppose we can’t have everything. To that end Ubisoft recently revealed to Kotaku that a patch allowing players to disable the HUD is in the works. Hopefully, they’ll address the other UI niggles I’ve mentioned at the same time. We’ll keep you updated as we know more.
Based on feedback from both press and fans, the Far Cry 3 production team is working on a patch that will allow you to toggle most HUD/UI elements based on player preference. The patch will also avoid issues encountered in the .dll hack that might create a mission walkthrough break (missing QTE prompts, critical information, etc;). The team is excited about how the Far Cry 3 community and fans of the game are enjoying themselves, and finding new ways to experience the Rook Islands. More news will be coming on the patch shortly…
So think of Rambo Grylls and his journey of self-discovery when you step into that jungle, and for the love of god, watch out for lions!