Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Review: Far Cry 3 (Steam PC)

In the past I have mentioned how much I love playing open world games like GTA, Skyrim, Fallout, Prototype, the list goes on.  These games aren't the most in depth or even the most refined, but they offer hundreds of hours of entertainment in a massive playground where the only rule is: to have fun.

Far Cry has been a game series that has been open world since day one.  Many gamers fondly remember the tropical island horrors of the original far cry, despite it's numerous bugs and cheating AI.  Far cry 2 took us to Africa where we got to play with fire and a wide array of weapons, but it suffered somewhat with basic AI and a pretty uninteresting story.  Far Cry 3 takes us back to the tropical paradise of the pacific, this time being a mix of pirate hunting and drug induced hallucinations.

The story of Far Cry 3 begins with Jason Brody and his friends enjoying a typical holiday resort.  Clubbing, swimming, shagging and skydiving, although that last one takes a turn for the worse.  You see unfortunately for Jason and Co. the island they are skydiving over is controlled by a rather dangerous and deranged group of pirates, involved in human trafficking, murder, drug trafficking, weapon smuggling and a lot more.  Jason meets the deranged but highly entertaining Vaas who leads his merry pirate crew, who takes pleasure in harassing and tormenting Jason and his captive brother.  Jason manages to escape with the help of his brother and after a brief tutorial and subsequent death of said brother you are free to roam the land.

Combat can be hectic and you need to stay focused
Of course the story has more structure than this, but after another smaller tutorial the game just let's you wander as you see fit in any direction.  The map is huge, spanning two large islands with the ocean water around and between them.  Terrain in the world being a mix of jungle, mountainous and rolling hills with smatterings of Japanese bunker fortifications from WW2 and the more modern Rakyat civilisation.  The whole map is meant to evoke this paradise in peril idea, where the indigenous people need your help to free them of this pirate threat by any means necessary.  Jason's journey from terrified jock to steely eyed killer is a little quick though, but when you the game needs you to shoot people and animals quickly, it's hard to keep that feeling intact.

The world is full of strange and psychotic characters who you are never quite sure what they are planning or even what they will do next.  Characters who help you always seem to have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive and the great thing is that you have to accept their aid or else you will never find the rest of your party, who are spread around the islands in varying states of health.  It would be safe to say that the island has a weird effect on those not born there and that madness creeps in eventually if you stay too long.

Gameplay here is a mix of stealth killing and balls to the wall action, sometimes switching between them on the fly.  It's fair to say that the AI is a little dim at times, like not noticing friends vanish one by one and the only place a killer could hide is the nearby shrubbery.  The stealth works though when you infiltrate a camp and slowly mark targets with your camera (don't ask why a camera can do this) which can then be seen through walls.  Targets can be distracted with thrown rocks to lead them to a quiet spot for a bit of up close and personal ventilation.  With other weapons like landmines and C4 you can have some real fun, setting traps on corpses and waiting for investigative guards to approach can give you that distraction you need to knife a guard commander for instance.

Firefights work just as well with weapons functioning realistically and each having their own drawbacks and benefits.  Guns come in the usual variety of rifles, sub machine guns, light machine guns, rockets, shotguns and pistols.  There are a few extras not seen as often such as the high tech bow and flare gun.  The flare gun is good for igniting enemies at range, while the bow is great for silent takedowns.

The game is teeming with vista's such as this
One of major distractions of any open world game is the sidequests and collectibles.  Far Cry 3 has you covered in this area admirably.  Hunting wild animals for their skins nets you improved carrying capacity for example, allowing you to carry more guns, more ammo and create more syringes (more on them later) while creating wallets give you greater cash carrying capability.  I think the wallet upgrade is a little weird myself, I mean why do I need to hunt a shark to make a better wallet?  Don't I have fucking big satchel to carry money in?  Clearing out pirate camps unlocks new fast travel locations and shops to restock ammo and supplies, while also unlocking bounty boards to hunt down pirate commanders.  Deactivating radio towers unlock more weapons and collecting plants allows you to make numerous drugs.

The syringe creation covers a few areas.  Healing syringes are pretty self explanatory while hunting syringes can help with spotting wild animals or keep them away with repellents.  Combat syringes basically act as combat drugs, giving you increased damage, faster movement or greater accuracy.  Finally the discovery syringes include drugs that allow you to hold your breath longer underwater or to highlight collectibles in the nearby area.  Each one has a tactical use, but generally just sticking to one or two basic drugs are more than enough to complete the game.

Collectible hunting ranges from lost artifacts of the Rakyat tribes to unsent Japanese soldiers letters to friends and family.  Memory cards hold information on drugs with a few Easter eggs for gamers to discover.  There are hundreds of artifacts to find alone on the map and there is a reason for doing this.  Every kill or item collected grants you experience which eventually unlocks points to spend on the Tatau.  The tatau is a mystical tattoo that grants the user certain abilities like stealth kills, sprinting slides, increased health and so on.  The only downside to the tatau is that it's progression is tied to the games story, meaning you have to complete the story to unlock all the skills for purchase.  I had around 20 points to spend by the time I got to next set of skills to purchase because I spent time completing sidequests and opening up the map.

Travel around the map can be done in a few ways.  Fast travel is available in any cleared pirate camp or local town which act as resource points for you.  You can restock on ammo and change your equipment provided you have the cash before moving out into the jungle again.  If you prefer to travel by foot you can, although the myriad of predatory wildlife can hinder you.  Being attacked by a pack of mountain lions can really ruin your day if you stray into the wrong area.  Hang gliders exist on some of the high points on the map allowing you to cover huge distances in a single go, although the landing can be a little rough.  Finally there are vehicles, although the handling can be a little spotty at best.  Most cars barely hold together let along drive in a straight line so you more often than not end up rolling down a hillside than reach your destination.  Still there is a certain thrill to ramping a tiny four door hatchback off a cliff and seeing what happens.  Boats are available for the odd sea voyage, handling better than the cars, but need very little use outside of a few missions or if your destination is along the beach.

Poker is one amongst a few mini games
Multiplayer is a mixed bag at times.  The competitive multiplayer is pretty standard really now with the popularity of Call of duty's experience and unlock system.  Players can fight in a number of generic gametypes with experience awarded at the end of each match which in turn unlocks new weapons and modifications for your online character to use.  They even have COD style killstreak bonuses.  The maps are slices of areas seen in the main game but I can't help but think that this would have been a brilliant game to have utilised that open world.  Capturing points on the island and using it's terrain to fight over with large player numbers would have been much better than a standard 8v8 team deathmatch mode.

The cooperative multiplayer is far better compared.  Set 6 months prior to Jason's capture by Vaas, a cruise liner is given up by it's captain to the pirates in exchange for a fortune.  Four members of the crew decide that revenge is what is needed here and so they give chase.  The characters aren't that interesting, but the gameplay is good.  Missions are long and feature several checkpoints as you go.  Exp. made here goes toward your competitive character as well so you can unlock everything without the need to fight other players.  Missions in coop are a mix of linear shooting zones with a competitive bonus round at some point, such as racing each other on jet ski's to deliver bombs to a fallen tree or gunning down scores of pirates on a slow moving raft.  The winner gets a massive experience bonus so the friendly competition has something to aim for.  

There are bugs of course like any open world title.  The odd glitching enemy or floating item box can be seen here and there, but the game holds up well overall.  Quests work without hitches and I have never encountered an issue where I couldn't complete a mission due to glitches or spawn errors for example.  If I had to really criticise Far Cry 3 it would be on the forced use of Uplay for the PC.  I don't understand why I have to install through steam to then launch the game through Uplay which I also have to login to before playing.  Steam does nothing while the game runs, it just sits there while Uplay handles all of the multiplayer and achievement data.  On consoles Uplay is neither here nor there, but it is really felt on the PC since you need to install the client before playing.  It isn't invasive or anything, it is just unnecessary when you already have steam running in the first place.

Shark + Shark = Wallet?
Graphically Far Cry 3 is great to look at.  The world is incredibly detailed and realised in it's attempt to capture the paradise island look of the world.  Weapons look worn and weathered with rust and slight damage on them, putting across the preowned nature of these weapons.  Animations are detailed and intricate for Jason and the wildlife, but human enemies sometimes move a little awkwardly for some reason.  The mo cap segments with Vaas and the other cast during cutscenes are far better though and the actors do a great job physically.  For current gen tech this game looks like one of the high points of the generation and should stand as an example for other developers to strive toward in the future.

The soundwork is of a similar quality to the visuals.  The soundtrack is a mix of combat beats and fast jungle drums, while the quiet moments have an almost surreal quality to them.  The voice acting is great with each character being brought to life with the dialogue despite it's clunkiness at times.  Vaas is the real standout here and is easily one of the best gaming villains alongside the likes of Handsome Jack for a villain you are almost sad to see go when they eventually die.

Overall Far Cry 3 is a good first person shooter.  It feels like playing the early parts of Crysis all the time in a good way and allows you to enjoy the world that has been created without any restrictions.  Buy this and you will easily sink in a hundred hours before you finally complete everything before wanting to do it all over again.

SCORE: 8.1/10


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