Alternate title: Jason Brody’s transformation from party animal to jungle psychopath.

Man, the Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don’t understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.

But Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they’re mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.

Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year (along with Tomb RaiderDark Souls, the BioShock trilogy…), and I bought it knowing that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here.

Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.

When I started Far Cry 3, I was welcomed to a video montage of a bunch of dudes partying out on some island, having fun and being idiots, all set the tune to M.I.A.’s Paper Planes. It’s like something out of a horror movie. Then it cuts away to our hero Jason being captured with his brother Grant, who eventually escape, but not without the villain Vaas deciding to kill Grant and leave poor Jason fighting for his life. Afterwards, you’re found by a guy named Dennis, who’s part of this jungle tribe called the Rakyat and then you go through the steps of trying to save everyone and get out of the island alive. Eventually it leads to a revenge plot, where Jason eventually wants to kill Vaas and his boss Hoyt while helping the Rakyat tribe.

While Far Cry 3 does share a few elements from 2, such as the free-roaming world, outposts, and fire propagation, it got rid of the bullshit that made the game annoying: No longer having to find malaria medicine, outposts can be cleared for XP and convenient fast travel with no respawning enemies, no bullshit faction trust that meant nothing story-wise, and side missions that are actually useful. It’s got the trappings of a modern open-world action game, basically.

Get used to seeing this. A lot. An option to quickly craft these would have been useful.

Get used to seeing this screen. A lot. An option to quickly craft these would have been useful.

In addition to killing dudes, Far Cry 3 added stuff like skinning animals and cutting plants to make materials. I wonder if the designers were influenced by Red Dead Redemption, because that’s what I immediately thought of while doing most of this, complete with the protagonist acknowledging that skinning animals is disgusting but he does it anyway. When you skin animals, you can use their skins to upgrade everything from how much ammo you can carry to how big your wallet is. It is essential to do the “Path of the Hunter” side quests so you can get some of these upgrades conveniently. By the time I got to the other island, I had pretty much crafted everything and didn’t need to find any more animals save for the last few Path of the Hunter missions I had to do, which were for pretty crappy rewards.

As for the plants, you use them to craft syringes. Some are useful (healing, fireproof, being able to stay underwater for longer), others are only effective for hunting (repellent, increased damage to animals, know where animals are), whereas two of the syringes are literally “god mode” and “one hit kills.” With so much fauna in the world, it’s easy to craft a whole bunch of these syringes and basically be unstoppable. I like the idea, just not the implementation: there’s two you can add to quickly use at any time with the 7 or 8 key, or you can use them in the crafting menu which is inconvenient. I’d rather there have been a quick use menu, as well as a quicker way to craft the syringes I wanted to use.

As for the story, very few games ever tackle having a protagonist who isn’t already a military mercenary do all the killing. I can applaud Ubisoft for at least trying with Jason Brody. In the first few minutes of the game, you have a fight with a knife-wielding guard who you plunge the knife into, which Jason panics, realizing he just killed a man for the first time in his life. Jason also gets hesitant over doing things like killing people and skinning animals in the beginning, which at least makes him somewhat human.

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting something like this...

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting something like this… Maybe I should lay off the jungle juice.

Alas, this doesn’t last, because once you get further into the game, Jason starts becoming just as bad as the people he’s fighting against. I won’t spoil exact details, but Jason decides to put his trust in working with the Rakyat and the mercenaries on the island instead of the friends he has to save. It doesn’t help that the game exacerbates this problem by adding challenges and skills that further convert Jason into this Rambo-like character, such as giving you takedowns where you can chain kill enemies or pull the pin on an enemy’s grenade, or the “Trials of the Rakyat” which are basically score attacks where you’re killing swaths of enemies for leaderboard superiority. It’s a weird disconnect, and while Ubisoft does acknowledge Jason’s quest of being a jungle warrior towards the final story missions of the game, it doesn’t fix the inconsistent tone.

Tech-wise, this game screams “console port.” The radial menu is clearly meant for a 360 game pad, and instead of having multiple keys for the different purposes, you have to hold the use key (E) to do everything. With having one key have multiple purposes, it does lead to many unintentional deaths. (Because I totally wanted Jason to hop over the top of the radio tower and fall to his death instead of grabbing the zipline above him.) It doesn’t help this game also throws quick-time events at many opportunities, switching you between mashing E, Spacebar or Control while occasionally hitting the mouse buttons to do things. There’s also the map bound on a key that’s hard to reach in normal play (M instead of the unused TAB), among other things. I know the 360 and PS3 makes beaucoup bucks for publishers like Ubisoft, but at least make your PC port not feel like you slapped on mouse and keyboard controls to a game built on the 360. Despite that, the game looks gorgeous and has fairly robust graphic settings. It’s definitely a looker if you got the PC to handle it.

Pretty sure my revolver's not supposed to do that.

Pretty sure my revolver’s not supposed to do that.

Far Cry 3 is also buggy at times. When doing Path of the Hunter missions, there are times where I swapped my flamethrower with the bow that the mission required, but when I opened the radial menu to check what syringes I had equipped, it switched back to the flamethrower I previously tossed, causing the bow to disappear. I had to restart the mission to get the bow back. It was either that or said mission required weapon somehow appearing in my arsenal while I was trying to clear an outpost, or appearing while doing a story mission. Yeah, I totally wanted to toss my cool assault rifle for a bow, thanks Ubisoft.

As for multiplayer, I only dabbled in co-op with some friends. I liked the more team-focused action, but didn’t like how it was disconnected from the main story. I wouldn’t mind Ubisoft making a standalone Far Cry co-op game with the unique characters they made for this. I *am* a sucker for co-operative games like Borderlands 2Killing Floor and Payday 2. I can’t say anything about the regular multiplayer, but I assume it ticks all the boxes of a modern-day multiplayer focused shooter.

Such a beautiful horizon... for me to set on fire.

Such a beautiful horizon… for me to set on fire.

Other than that, Far Cry 3 is a first-person open world action game set in a jungle where you stop evil men doing bad things while saving your friends. I paid $7.50 for this during the Steam sale, and it’s a fairly competent action game. Better than FC2 by a long shot, but hardly the best game out there. It does make me mildly interested in Far Cry 4, though I hope they actually build the PC version from the ground up and not do some dumb “best on PlayStation 4” or some bullshit marketing thing like that.

IF I HAD TO SCORE THIS: From the average gameplay to the weird bugs and the tonal shift, I think this is about a 6, maybe a 7. There’s not much here that makes it stand out from the others.

Other random observations:

  • I wonder if Far Cry 3 was the trendsetter for the “year of the bow” that permeated a lot of games in 2013. It’s a damn shame the bow is useless in this game, though.
  • If you’re a completionist, Ubisoft made most of the collectables reasonable. Stuff like memory cards and lost letters are easy to find and collect, and there’s not a lot of outposts, radio towers or side missions to do. The only collectable they screwed up on were the relics, where there’s 120 of them strewn all around the islands. Funny thing is, even they realized how worthless they were because there is an achievement is for finding only half of the relics, and not one for finding them all.
  • You get XP and money handed to you like candy. Some of the special takedowns give you ridiculous amounts of XP (up to 500-750XP per kill), and there’s loads of money everywhere. By the time I got towards the last few missions, I had fully maxed out everything, and still had plenty of money to spare. (Here’s a challenge I thought up: Try to play through the game doing just the story missions and none of the side stuff. I wonder how much progress you could make.)
  • There’s dumb bullshit stealth segments where you have to walk past enemies while getting to an objective, where being spotted counts as an instant mission failure. Considering this is from the same company that brought us Splinter Cell, this makes no damn sense, plus these kind of stealth missions have never, ever been fun.
  • Vaas is one of the more underrated shooter villains, his crazy demeanor and attitude fits perfectly with the crazy jungle atmosphere. (It’s a shame he’s replaced by some asshole in a purple shirt halfway through the game…)
  • On a side note: uPlay seems real useless. One time I had the game constantly nagging to check the “Far Cry 3 servers” while playing single player, presumably to update some things. It kept checking every few minutes, and there was no way to cancel it or go into an “offline mode.” The only upsides uPlay has are redeeming credits for bonus content, and being able to stream through Twitch. Why Steam hasn’t done the “stream your games to the internet” thing is beyond me.
  • This is a problem not just with Far Cry 3, but with many other games over the past few years: Shorten your freakin’ credit sequences already! FC3‘s clocks in at 25 minutes, and it’s ridiculous to have such long credits. Can’t we take a few pointers from movies and make them short and sweet, please?