If there is one thing the Far Cry series has given gamers over the years, it is stunning locations beautifully realised by the CryEngine, then in Far Cry 2 on the Dunia engine. Yet it wasn’t just the visuals and locations that stood out, Far Cry tried to do things a little differently.
In Far Cry 2, the generic HUD that can be seen in 99% of modern games was replaced by a more realistic and immersive way of checking vital things like a map. Players would have to pull an actual map out of the pockets and view it while still in the game world. Meaning if under attack, that wouldn’t stop while looking at the map. There was more to the survival aspect, as the main protagonist also had malaria which had to be treated every thirty minutes (in real time) before he would become sick and eventually die.
Yet both Far Cry and Far Cry 2 did have their faults, re-spawning enemies, AI that would instantly spot you no matter how well hidden you were and various little bugs. They both played great games though and it was easy to become lost in the vast world as you played through for many, many hours.
So Far Cry 3 then, another location, another main protagonist, another set of features that offer up a brand new experience. Aside from the name and that it is a sandbox, open world, story driven game, there is nothing in common with previous Far Cry titles. The stories don’t overlap, they do not share anything with characters, each is standalone. Which is ideal, as it allows developers to really try new things in each game and not be shackled by previous iterations.
The story is based around Jason Brody, who along with a bunch of friends is captured by the quite insane Vaas (we know he is insane, as he tells us, he tells us what insanity is). Jason along with his brother manage to escape Vaas, however things take a turn for the worse and when Jason is rescued by Dennis and taken to his village, he is tasked with helping them, so they will, in return, help him find his friends.
As usual the story in a game like this, is they as an engine to encourage you to explore the massive open world and play around in its glorious surroundings. It’s fairly well written and acted, the pacing is just about right and will take a good few hours to complete, should you ignore everything else. That isn’t Far Cry though, Far Cry is all about exploration and experimentation.
A major new addition to Far Cry 3 is the ability to actually hunt and kill animals. This was left out of Far Cry 2 due to moral decisions. These are digital animals, in a game aimed at adults, it isn’t teaching children that it is fine to slaughter their pet kitten in cold blood. Most of the animals you will kill are either hunters, so you do so to survive, or because you need to use their hide to craft items. It isn’t just hunting for the fun of it. It is fun though and depending on the animal they vary in difficulty to kill.
They also add to much more to the game, in one mission Gamestyle had just done a re-con on an enemy outpost, used out camera to tag the enemy positions and were starting out attack. Sneaking past one guard before silently taking him down. Then on to another on a watch tower. It was here that all of a sudden a rattlesnake came from nowhere and struck, this caused us to fend it off, which caused noise and all of a sudden the outpost was on full alert.
It was one of those moments in a game where despite your character dying and needing to return to a previous checkpoint, you sat back and had to take in what had just happened. It’s not Fallout 3 levels of amazement, like stepping out of the vault for the first time. It was however a moment of realisation at how far games have really come. Our whole planning was taken down, not by an overly bias enemy AI, but by a random wild animal, just think about that for a second.
It’s not just here that the wildlife has an effect, as you navigate the island, you’ll see Tigers chasing prey, leaving their remains for you to scavenge from, goats along the hillsides, sharks and various fish in the water, boar which will be fairly timid until it feels threatened and much much more. The variety here is just so vast. It is stunning just how well integrated this is.
Aside from the odd scripted battle, how you approach each mission is totally up to you. Whilst it is possible to go in all guns blazing, which is perfectly acceptable and really affective, you can also go for a stealthy approach, by planning ahead, then silently taking out enemies one by one. Or even mixing the two, taking down the main threats, then opening up to clear out the rest. It is even possible to do some missions without taking on the enemy at all.
The stealth in Far Cry 3 is so well done, it can be difficult to not use it at times. The enemy in Far Cry 2, was too efficient and should you attack they would home in on your position. Here though should you break your stealth cover, an alarm will be raised and the enemy will be on high alert, which doesn’t all of a sudden stop after a few seconds, they are ready and alert until they know you are dead. However, they won’t instantly find you, so if you do make a noise by firing a weapon, it is possible to then move to another area and attack from another angle during the confusion, However, should you remain in the same spot, firing your weapon, the enemy will find you. It feels so much better than previous titles and the way stealth is integrated, feels better than many games whose main feature is just that.
As said previously, you can collect the hide from the wildlife you hunt, which can be then crafted into items which will prove useful as you progress. Bigger rucksacks to carry more items, wallets to carry more money, weapons holsters to carry more weapons, etc. It is a really clever technique, which allows the player to learn to survive and adapt. The wallet idea whilst initially feeling frustrating is actually a fine idea. A game that is trying to have a degree of realism, cannot have the player carrying around obscene amounts of money, as where would you put ten thousand dollars on your person? So limiting the amount you can carry by the size of the wallet works rather well, the same with weapons and ammo.
Players can level up too, by earning XP for completing missions, killing enemy, successfully doing side tasks, all the usual ways in a game like this. Every time you level up, you earn a skill point, which can be used to gain a new (magical) tattoo, this allows Jason to learn new skills, or become more enhanced to skills he already has. Not only do you need to earn the skill points to learn the skills, you need to complete objectives and side missions, to unlock the skills before you can learn them too.
In fact, pretty much everything this game does, encourages you to explore, to do more than just run through the story and toss the game aside. It actively wants you to play everything and it is hard to resist, with many ways to navigate the island, on foot, by road, by water or through the sky, it is much more than just a simple game, there is so much more than the story and the side quests, you would be doing the game a great injustice if you didn’t take in everything it had to offer. It would be like going on a safari and just looking up the facts on wikipedia while riding the off road vehicle.
Far Cry 3 is not only one of the games of this year, it is one of the games of this generation. There was nothing about it that ever came close to ruining the fun, it is a true sandbox experience and all the faults from the previous games have been ironed out. Simply put, you must buy this now!