Far beyond the limits of civilisation lies an island (which given the accents seems to lie between New Zealand and Asia), a lawless place ruled by violence and human suffering. You're Jason Brody, backpacking with your friends around Asia, looking for fun and adventure. You end up on this beautiful island that's not on the map... You quickly find out that this place has forgotten right from wrong. It's a place where you must live by the principles of violence to survive.
So Far Cry 3 is essentially an open-world First Person Shooter, but it's not just a game about mowing down the opposition as it offers some interesting side-quests, hunting, and even RPG elements which allows you to guide your characters abilities. As with any good game the first hour or so is comprised of "tutorial" based missions; how to move around, throw a rock to distract enemies, use weapons, craft and use items and use Skill points. As with any great shooter the game offers a wide range of weapons including pistols, SMG's, Shotguns, LMG's and some other special weapons including a flame thrower and bow and arrow - the latter of which is brilliant for stealth takedowns.
One integral aspect to this game is Jason being able to hunt animals including sharks, tigers, buffalo, crocodiles, boars, deer’s, and komodo dragons to name a few. These animals can then be skinned to craft new items primarily allowing you to carry more essentials such as ammo, money, items or syringes (for healing or boosting abilities). In many enemy encampments though they will have a caged animal, shoot open the cage and the animal will run wild through the encampment often taking down a couple of enemies for you and without raising suspicion that you released the animal.
As with previous titles the landscape can very much been a friend or foe. Enemies can be hidden or obscured by the foliage - as well as animals such as bears or leopards which will tear you to shreds. Naturally, you can use the jungles to hide from enemies, or set the grasses/trees on fire to draw enemies out of an area. In fact, the setting fire to landscapes or buildings is quite a useful tool - unless, of course you get burnt yourself. Water too can be useful allowing you to swim up close to enemy encampments without being spotted.
The landscape is also littered with items to loot be they from dead people or crates with loot around the lands. Unfortunately this loot generally only holds a few bullets, a small amounts of cash, or inexpensive items to sell at stores. I would have liked seeing less loot, but with items of more value as it feels a bit "grindy" - although there is no requirement to actually do any looting. Picking leaves off trees is also a valuable source of power as you can create syringes with abilities to aide you - replenish health, animal repellant, increased awareness of animals and being able to hold your breath longer underwater.
Moving on from the single player campaign and the developers have also included an extensive co-op mode and while there's not much story here - it takes place six months prior to the events of the main campaign and sees pirates taking over a cruise ship, and with the Captain assisting them - the action is relentless.
Supporting 2-players split screen or for 4-player online. In this mode four characters - Leonard, Tisha, Callum and Mikhail - work together through a series of missions and it really is a delightful, action packed mode which is split up across six chapters. During these missions there will be tasks to complete - planting bombs, repairing equipment, holding down locations and similar. It's exhilarating and with a few other good players you can have a great time in these modes which probably add another 3+ hours to this game, with much replayability in Co-Op.
Naturally other familiar multiplayer niceties are included such as a “Kill Cam” which offers quite a bit more detail than usual with a rotating view of the enemy location, his health and the weapon used to kill you, Leaderboards, Statistics, Weekly Challenges, and XP to level up your character and provide new/upgraded items. Something new is the "Final Move" which allows your team to select a humiliating post-game move. But yes, overall a disappointing multiplayer experience given the quality of the Campaign and Co-Op modes.
One aspect of this release that very much impressed was the level editor which uses the objects, texture sets and rules established within the main game so you can create your own levels. Not only do you have full control over the terrain, objects, spawn points, objective locations, but can test the map offline, and then upload and share it for the world to enjoy. This is such an enjoyable process that - even before we played the game proper - we delved into this mode and created a map. What started out as playing for 30 minutes, ended up being over 3 hours of time building our battle-scarred island which is now available online (called Aardvark Island for those interested).
Unfortunately there are a couple of issues that hold this game back from being a standout on the visual level. First of all the frame rate occasionally stutters, and there is occasional draw-in but given the massive amount of detail being drawn that's not surprising, and doesn't affect the gameplay too much. Likewise some of the texturing and shadows look a little odd. I'm sure there's a name for it, but at times it looks like you're viewing some objects, or shadows, through flywire. Still, that's only when you stop to look at something closely and doesn't affect gameplay. What does affect the enjoyment of this game is the amount of screen tearing. Not only is this quite evident in the game world when panning around, but even when scrolling around the skill tree - there's no excuse for that and for that reason the visuals score much lower then these gorgeous screenshots would suggest. As I've said though, this is still a gorgeous game visually.
Dialogue also deserves a special mention too. Despite the fact that there is occasional repetition from people around the islands (although even my wife says I become repetitive in comparing everything to "sliced bread") what's there is delivered well - even if often with a Kiwi accent. In the cut-scenes though this dialogue is superbly scripted and delivered - I don't think we've seen a villain with as much personality as Vaas for a very long time.
There's no doubt that Far Cry 3 isn't just a great shooter, but one of the best games of 2012 and sets a benchmark for open-world games. Due to screen-tearing the visuals disappoint slightly (and perhaps if you have a decent PC you should opt for that version), but if you only have a console this game is still an essential purchase. With a superb storyline, brilliant dialogue delivery an extensive campaign, fun co-op missions, multiplayer and level-editor there's no reason not to check this out.
Review By: Dave Warner