It’s the best game of the year, if not the generation.
Little shafts of light penetrate the canopy above me, as I creep through the lush jungle towards the enemy encampment. Butterflies dance around me, and tropical birds take flight when I disturb the foliage obscuring them. I end up on a verge overlooking the camp, so I pull out my camera and zoom in to do some reconnaissance. I hover the reticule over each soldier I spot, marking his location for when I infiltrate. I can now see the silhouette of each enemy dotted around the camp.
A lone sniper is standing on the West tower, so I pull out my silenced rifle and take him out with a single shot to his head, a red mist hangs in the air as his body folds into a heap on the floor. The camp remains calm, so I slide down the slope and take cover behind the large hut in front of me. To the right of the hut stands a sentry; in front of him are two others engaged in a worldly conversation. I strike like a panther, jumping from my cover and slicing the guard’s throat; quickly snatching the pin on his grenade and kicking him towards his allies.
The calm is punctured by screaming and three bodies fly off into different directions, as the grenade detonates and forces them into the air. The alarm has been raised, so I pull out a light machine gun and start peppering the soldiers who are running at me with bullets. A stray bullet strikes an ammo dump inside one of the huts, causing the inside of the hut to flash and crackle in its own, private fireworks display. The side of the hut soon ignites and spreads into the grass, killing countless enemies and spreading to the cage of a detained tiger.
The front of the cage breaks off and the tiger darts towards the militia, pouncing on them and tearing out their throats. The tiger kills the two remaining soldiers and turns around, seemingly spotting me; so I pull out my RPG and prepare to write a letter of apology to PETA. This was an actual experience I had in the game, along with countless others, I could just write a list of the amazing experiences I’ve had and if you were to do the same, yours would be completely different from mine.
Did I ever tell you about the time I went shark hunting on my boat, so I could craft a bigger weapon holster? Well I did hunt some sharks, but I also went for a swim with some stingrays; it was the most serene, relaxing game experience I’ve ever had. You can get sidetracked so easily in the game, with various activities keeping you busy outside of the main mission of saving your friends from the maniacal antagonists. “Look guys, I know you’ve been captured by a Mohawk-sporting fruit-cake, but I really wanted to fly around the island on this hang-glider and pretend that I’m a bird; CACKAW!”
The aforementioned Mohawk fruit-cake, really is the fruitiest of cakes. Vaas is one of the main antagonists and his seething presence is one of the highlights of the game, his voice acting is superb and the people responsible for casting him deserve a respectful nod of appreciation. The weakest voice actor is the protagonist, not because he is a bad actor, just that his voice is so whiny and wimpy. Yet he can kill a shark with his fists. His voice just contrasts with his character hugely, although it does make a change from gruff, brooding soldiers you usually play as these days.
The island’s inhabitants are suitably crazy, which seems to be the theme for the game, really. What does isolated dictatorship do to the human psyche? Even down to the game menus, everything is mirrored, giving the impression of a Rosarch inkblot. The loading icon is two mirrored guns; is it meant to be a butterfly? No, it’s an inkblot. When you notice it for the first time, you will start seeing them everywhere; it’s a neat little trick and helps everything feel consistent.
The island may be isolated, but it is absolutely vast. Although the map is huge, every inch has been given some deep thought, so there is no filler here: underwater caves, waterfalls, vehicle missions, random encounters, wanted posters, the list goes on and on. In a similar mechanic to Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed games, parts of the map are blacked out and you reveal them by scaling a radio tower in the area. Each one plays like a first-person climbing puzzle, gradually increasing in complexity, but never frustrating. You leap and climb to the top, whilst the tower creaks ominously around you. There are coils of rope hanging from the edges of the climbable surfaces, so you are never leaping at the wrong edge in vain. When you get to the top you are treated with a beautiful vista, before you disable the the electronics, revealing the map in the process. Instead of making us like Ezio and leaping off into a bale of hay, you jump on a zip-line and make an adrenaline fueled descent to the ground below.
Then there are the enemy camps that need occupying. There are dozens of these dotted around the map and each one needs liberating, so you can move your tribal allies into the camp and lower the enemy presence in the area. Each one is a sandbox and has limitless ways to achieve your objective: you can sneak in and pick them off one at a time, go in guns blazing, use the wildlife to your advantage, or just start a fire and let nature’s fury deal with them. The stealth is much improved in this iteration, the foliage makes you invisible and there is an indicator for when you are about to be spotted, which allows you to get in cover.
The soundtrack pumps in at key moments, with swelling baselines adding paranoia to the already tense atmosphere. In one of my favourite missions in the game you even get treated to a bit of Skrillex, as you set fire to a cannabis field with a flamethrower. It just works perfectly and intensifies the fun of the section. The fire is amazing, it’s the best illusion of the deadly, unpredictable element ever seen in a game. Other than flamethrowers, there are multiple weapons that you can buy and fit attachments to; every time you scale a tower a shopkeeper makes a weapon free to purchase.
Apart from buying and upgrading weapons, there are three skill trees, which unlock health buffs, damage resistance, killer moves, let hold your breath longer underwater and so on. You can also make medicine syringes by picking flowers (in a real manly way) and crafting various medicines, like things as simple as health replenishment, to the more impressive flame retardant. The skin of animals you hunt can be used in a similar fashion, upgrading your carrying capacity; making ammo pouches and gun slings.
There are various vehicles to use throughout the campaign, each handling differently, but each handling beautifully. It feels amazing to make a clean run through the jungle in a jeep, it feels just as awesome when you flip it over or crash into a tree. The boats all feel great too; you can’t beat whizzing around the beautiful, blue ocean and taking in the sights. Most of the vehicles have radios too, so you can just go for a cruise around the island, head-bobbing to some smooth reggae. Some of the vehicles have missions attached to them too, and upon completion your time is posted onto a leaderboard.
There are some trials dotted around the map, called Trials of the Rakyat. These missions are basically score-based, time-attack diversions, that force you into using one set weapon for the duration of the entire mission. These are more fun than they have any right to be; you can extend the time by shooting blue barrels and there are plenty of conveniently place explosive barrels lying around. You get more points for stealth kills, headshots and killing tougher enemy types; and it all feeds into an online leaderboard, which encourages replays.
Then there are the multiplayer modes, which I unfortunately didn’t get chance to test, as nobody was playing. The single-player is worth buying the game for, however, and having a fully fleshed-out, four player co-op mode and competitive multiplayer, certainly doesn’t lower the quality of the main game. Are you sick of buying map-packs for shooters? Good, because with Far Cry 3 you won’t have to, as there is a ridiculously extensive map maker thrown in for good measure. Little Big Headshot indeed. So you have a massive, immersive campaign, a full co-op game and a multiplayer game with infinite maps. Value for money? Yes.
There are the odd drops in framerate, but it isn’t nowhere near Rimlag proportions and it certainly isn’t game breaking. Fast-travel is now in but if there are multiple points of interest on the map, clustered together, it can be fiddly to choose the fast-travel option. Sometimes you can catch the textures loading as you get near the geometry of the game, but it is handled more subtly than Unreal Engine’s texture pop-ins. I really am grasping at straws here, because these are the only criticisms I have for the game and the rest is as close to gaming perfection as we have come this generation.
The weather effects are used sparingly, adding to their potency, because you aren’t over-saturated with them. When a tropical storm kicks in as you stalk through the jungle, the atmosphere grabs you and refuses to let go. There is also a day/night cycle and you can’t help but stop and appreciate the sky turn red, as the sun sets on the horizon.
If you enjoy shooters with a bit of brain, buy it. If you are a fan of the RPG genre, buy it. If punching a shark sounds awesome, buy it. You know what, just buy it- it’s the best game of the year, if not the generation.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Massive, beautiful experience; Fire mechanics; Unpredictable encounters; Animals; Atmosphere; Soundtrack; Guns; RPG elements: Multiplayer, map editor
It's the best game of the year, if not the generation.