I’m lying on the ground in a wooded area with the sun shining through the colourful trees and plants as they sway gently in the tropical breeze. To my left is a car that I parked up a few minutes ago while I went foraging for herbal supplies. While the trees and plants were swaying gently my arm was thrashing violently. Why? Because it had a leopard attached to it. I kick and slash at it and run for the Jeep as I realize my gun is out of ammo and my health bar is flashing dangerously low. I reverse rapidly back onto the dirt road only to crash into a Jeep full of angry pirates. With no health syringes I am destined to die behind my battered yellow car as their bullets start flying. Suddenly I hear a loud roar and screaming. I have been blessed with one of the wonderful interactions that can be seen in Far Cry 3. For whatever reason the leopard has pounced onto a pirate, tearing him apart and distracting his friends who are now firing wildly at my former foe; but as they say, ‘The enemy leopard of my enemy is my friend’. With the help of Lance (cool name for a leopard I think), we finish off the pirates quickly and I bid Lance a fond farewell as he starts growling at a Boar herd nearby.
Ubisoft have done a tremendous job in making the world of Far Cry 3 feel as natural and as organic as the hallucinogenic plants you munch on throughout the game. You will often come across herds of different animals and their predators, which will hunt and kill them; or civilians with broken down vehicles asking for help. The emphasis is very much on survival and using the environment rather than popping down to the local store to get what you need. Granted you still have a shop to buy ammo, maps and weapons (with bizarre items it has to be said) but in order to carry and use more ammo or medical supplies you will need to make larger and larger ammo belts or syringe kits. To do this requires crafting the items you need from certain plants and animals in different combinations. In doing so it adds an element of survivability that most game developers either skip over or simply forget to include; it gives the game more depth and a sense of dependency on the environment around you which is unique.
So why are you running around this tropical island slaying animals and getting high? The story is told through the eyes Jason Brody who came to Rook Island with his friends and brothers but who were kidnapped by a scary eyed man named Vaas. Vass is a complete nut job to put it bluntly, and it is down to you to find him, kill him and save your friends. Unlike the previous installment you are not fighting alone; instead you are fighting for the native people of Rook Island against Vaas, and his army of pirates and mercenaries. The natives will come to your aid if they see you fighting the pirates and you can choose to return the favour if you see the two sides fighting each other-or raging leopards. In this way the game feels more immersive and you feel like you have a duty to help the native people which motivates you into taking back territory claimed by the pirates. This is a far cry (Come on, you knew it was going to happen) from the previous installment, which had practically no one in the maps save for a few angry mercs in various outposts or the two only towns. To Ubisoft’s credit, they seemed to have addressed this issue so now the world is busy with friends and foes alike making the game feel more wholesome and you feel as though you are not alone for the main story.
Following the main story is, paradoxically, a secondary feature as the game urges you to explore the island and complete side quests such as delivery of medical supplies (a checkpoint race against the clock) or hunting down a rare creature with a bow to create unique items and unlocks. I only mentioned two of these but there are others and the variety makes the game even more enjoyable if you get bored of hunting for loot and completing the main quest. Despite the variety and the great passive interaction between the AI I always find that these types of open world games can be too long and I find myself starting to think about playing other games. So be warned, players may find even this polished and immersive game repetitive after a few weeks of playing.
I have to say I am equally disappointed with the Co-op and multiplayer experience. At first I thought it was quite an enjoyable alternative to perhaps Battlefield or Halo but the servers are always empty. People simply have no need or time for another multiplayer game in their lives and this is painfully obvious when you try and join a game, especially if you want to try out some of the Ubisoft handpicked player made maps. As a consequence you are forced to play Team Deathmatch on the vanilla maps, which are, well, vanilla. Couple this with a small variety of weapons and pitiful attempt to replicate the Call of Duty killstreak system; throwing all this in with dodgy internet connections means you quickly tire of the multiplayer and go back to the single-player or another game entirely.
Most people wouldn’t choose to go back the Co-op either since that is equally buggy and frustrating. When it works its better than a G and T in the sun but sadly it simply breaks more often than G and T breaks sobriety. The concept is innovative and adventurous with four players controlling a set of characters who are trying to escape prior to the main events of the single-player, and giving them an opportunity to compete with each other at certain moments to obtain the best score and win the most experience points. The last time I played this was the mission Overboard. At one point on a riverboat you are armed with a machine each and have to kill as many pirates as possible before you reach the other end of the river. Almost immediately the game glitched and we all awkwardly got stuck at the back of the boat, eventually falling off and having to run alongside the boat trying to keep up. It also made killing the pirates easier since you could see where they spawned and rack up chain kills. Easier made it boring. Far Cry also couldn’t detect when all the players had reached a cue point and wouldn’t allow us to proceed to the next area. After 10 minutes of my player muttering ‘Uh oh. Can’t go that way!’ my teammates and me quit one by one. Admittedly I have only attempted to play five co-op missions but each has broken and ended up with me quitting the game in frustration and disappointment.
Overall, disappointing is the calling card of Far Cry 3. It has, however, certainly raised the bar for the sandbox style of games. I appreciate that they have taken Far Cry from the browns and yellows of the African plains to the mind melting technicolour dreamcoat that you see in the Pacific. The developers have tried hard to take the game play back to its roots of desperate survival that made the first Far Cry incredibly gripping by playing a character eager to escape from the clutches of evil mercenaries in a tropical paradise gone wrong. Perhaps it is wrong to use the term ‘back’; more like ‘improve’ on what made the first Far Cry so fun and interesting. Don’t be put off by the similarities to the first game, the story and game play have changed a lot since then and the world can be more friendly or more hostile depending on if nature chooses to spare you. Instead be put off by the mediocre multiplayer and Co-op, which deliver nothing but awkward despairing frustration – much like Miley Cyrus and twerking.