Just another day in paradise…
After skydiving your way into what looks like a tropical paradise only to find it full of assault rifle toting pirates and mercenaries, you could be forgiven for thinking the fictional world of FarCry 3 isn’t all that unlike the Somali coastline. After all, there are speed boats and AK’s there too. White coral sand beaches stained with blood, a crazed lunatic after your head, a strange tattooed woman with mind altering drugs, and a maniacal crime lord running the show…; just another day in paradise. FarCry 3 is unlike any other FPS you’ll play: it has depth, a good storyline, great action, and a huge open world to explore. Ubisoft has tried to do a lot of things with this game, and it has actually managed to pull most of them off. The corner of the tropics that is ‘Rook Island’ is lush, and often quite pretty to look at – the textures are well rendered and the colours are rich. The foliage waves majestically as it flexes from a grenade blast, and the blue water glistens, reflecting the flames from that speed boat you just machine gunned to destruction. The sun climbs slowly creating that beam across the sea, and gently illuminates your little corner tropical hell. Whether you are just out exploring, or waging war with wanton disregard for ammunition and explosives, the effects in this game are very good, even up close. Its quite satisfying to see your knife punch through an enemies throat, or your character digging shrapnel out of his arm in HD. Just sometimes on this game, its nice to stop and smell the cordite, so to speak. You are quite literally plunged into the action, as the first ‘tutorial’ type mission has you escaping from a pirate strong hold (much less friendly than Jack Sparrow) and then legging it through the jungle trying to escape certain death. The story then plays out in a series of missions that you can undertake at your leisure. The USP (“Unique Selling Point”, not “Universal Self-loading Pistol”) of this game is the world you escape into; the beaches, the jungle, the ancient ruins, and enemy strongholds. Its up to you what you do with it, and there is so much to do and explore. Firstly you are pretty much naked; I don’t mean your balls are hanging out as you strut round in your birthday suit, I mean you have one gun, and a knife initially. If you want to carry more weapons and ammunition, you must craft holsters and pouches from the skin of the fauna found on the island. If you want to survive a gun fight, or hold your breath for longer when underwater, you need to find the right flora to make syringes to reap the various benefits. Luckily all this doesn’t require a degree in engineering or alchemy, it just requires a little time, and what way to spend that time than exploring and hunting on Rook Island? Whilst out foraging and hunting you will inevitably come across other points of interest such as shanty towns, ship wrecks, sunken ruins, underwater caves, or old WW2 bunkers, to name but a few of the attractions. Exploring has also never been more fun with a host of vehicles to hoof it around in. From jeeps with machine guns on top, Land Rovers with machine guns on top, boats with machine guns on top, to hand gliders, and quad bikes (without machine guns sadly), the driving, flying, and boating physics are also pretty good. The different vehicles all handle and feel different too, a point often missed in games that mesh a lot of concepts together under one roof; usually something remains unfinished. Thankfully this is not the case in FarCry. The game play is fairly intuitive and doesn’t require much getting used to; after all, it is, at it’s core, simply a fancy first person shooter, so most situations can be solved with a suitable application of firepower and/or explosives. It handles pretty well on the whole, and I have only suffered glitches a few times – the ‘getting stuck in scenery’ and ‘the miraculous disappearing objects’ type. There are a number of “skills” that you unlock throughout the game that will help you better survive the jungle and the bad guys. These can make things more fun, my personal favourite being the “grenade takedown” – no prizes for guessing the outcome of that one. The skills you learn are depicted as tattoos on the characters left arm which builds into a half sleeve as you learn more skills, which is certainly a novel way of showing progression, if nothing else. The skills are also quite varied, as they range from health increases, to more functional skills like special take downs and other stealth and fighting abilities that you can use. Though the game is a huge advancement over the previous FarCry games, and indeed any other FPS/free roaming type game, all that glistens is not gold, and it does have its flaws. One of the biggest flaws that shows up after a great deal of game play is the enemy AI. Most fire fights are just too easy, even if you crank the difficulty up – all that really changes is enemy accuracy and how many more grenades they’ll lob to flush you out. There are four types of enemy that you will face for the whole game; regulars, chargers, heavies, and snipers/RPG wielders. Even though shooters have advanced a great deal, and FarCry 3 is a good testament to that, the enemies remain as dumb as ever, and quite frankly its not hard to run circles around them. All you need is a good position and your pretty much set, and by good position I don’t mean dug in on a hill top, behind your jeep seems to suffice for 98% of encounters. They don’t flank effectively or gain position, its generally always a frontal assault, they call in back-up but its more of the same and never more than 3 or 4 guys. If you are in a ranged position up a hill or another vantage point, its ridiculously easy, as they never even come looking for you or deploy heavier weapons to flush you out or mess you up. This is a shame, as it means every encounter with the bad guys is pretty much repeat of the last hundred times you shot those four mercs’ with child-like ease. Although you can liberate areas by clearing out the occupying enemy camps, after doing 4 or 5 you’ll begin to struggle with new ways to do that as well. Thankfully the story missions offer some variety and the story itself isn’t all that bad considering its an FPS. The protagonist, Jason Brody, skydived into hell when he and his friends were captured by pirates (gun swinging, not rum swilling) after landing. After a shocking escape sequence, Jason Brody (the daredevil skydiver) then goes on a search for the rest of his friends who have gone missing too. During the search, Jason loses himself and finds new allies to follow on Rook Island, leading to some interesting plot developments and choices as you follow his own personal story arc. The way the story, and Jason’s character, develops isn’t done all that badly, and i
ts is quite good to follow. It won’t win an Oscar, and its no Metal Gear Solid, but far flimsier tales are usually found in the realms of the first person shooter. I guess this one is also well done because Jason isn’t some double’ard bastard ex-marine gone rouge, he’s just a normal bloke who is forced to learn the skills he needs to survive. Besides mercilessly slaughtering bad guys in missions, and mostly for fun, Rook Island offers some other, perhaps, more wholesome past times, including poker, knife throwing, racing, hunting quests, and favours for the locals. So when you’re bored of gratuitous destruction and bloody murder, you can cool your heels at a card table or take to mountains in search of some rare beast. Thankfully, these activities also offer financial incentives, how much depends on how good a poker player you are sometimes, but money can be made from selling the hides and plants you gather and other ‘loot’ items you can find as well – these are more bullet tokens than beer tokens, in truth.
FarCry 3 is a pick-up-and-play kind of game
There is a good selection of remorseless pieces of metal for you to unlock and do harm with. However, another flaw in this game I found is that all the guns can be unlocked for free once you activate the right radio tower, so what was the point in having a price for them in the first place if they are all going to be free eventually? In this sense it also make the economics feature of the game a little redundant, as there is little point in gathering money other than to buy ammunition (which can also be looted from enemies or found in weapon stashes) – it would have been nice to make the gun you want more of a challenge to get. Another minor issue is that the type of combat tends to be short to mid range for most encounters, meaning a good assault rifle and a shotgun will pretty much do you for everything ,making unlocking something new later on have very little impact. Sure FarCry 3 has its flaws, but it does what it does better than most that have tried it. Rook Island as a huge arena is inspired and the game play is tidy and smooth. The graphics are lush and the textures are rich and look great, it seems as though no expense was spared in creating this little corner of the tropics. The missions are varied and enjoyable and include everything from proper stealth missions to frontal assaults. There is a host of other things to do on the island from hunt bad guys for money in the “Wanted: Dead” quests, to doing “Rakyat Challenges” where you best performance is recorded online. But what is more important for me is that its enjoyable, and FarCry 3 is a pick-up-and-play kind of game. If you are bored you can just grab a controller and shoot up an enemy base for half an hour, create havoc, burn and pillage, run out of the bushes and knife someone in the face. But if you want you can spend a long time exploring and discovering, doing missions and earning the associated rewards and all the time its fun, and that’s important. For me FarCry has excelled where so many other FPS games have failed; longevity and replay value. That is a mark that many new games have sadly fallen far short of. You could do much worse spend a few hours discovering the awesomeness of this lost paradise.
The Bad: Enemy A.I is pretty standard, can be a little glitchy, economics system is a bit redundant.