Since the original Far Cry came out and the team behind it went on to make Crysis ( a game that felt decidedly more like the original Far Cry than Far Cry 2 did), the series has left players guessing what to expect in future installments. The console port of Far Cry (titled Far Cry: Instincts) added mutant powers to the mix, while the first true sequel ended up having nothing to do with Far Cry in favor of a tale of civil war in a failed African country. Far Cry 3 returns players to a tropical island as another unfortunate soul forced to survive events beyond his grasp, but it’s still a far cry (ironic “haha” here) from the series roots. It is hard to complain about the lack of connections with previous games when this ends up being the best game in the series thus far, and in the end it’s easy to see where all the games share common themes of survival, stealth action and open ended gameplay. As a bonus, it’s also very easy to recommend to series newcomers with no plot connections holding it back.


Players play as a talented but aimless yuppie named Jason Brody, who gets captured along with his friends and brothers by a band of slavers on an island with a history of inducing madness to everyone from Japanese soldiers in WWII to Chinese Warlords from centuries ago. The game has one of the most effective introductions in gaming I’ve seen this generation, forcing players to hit the ground running and learn on their feet as Jason himself does. The game never breaks from Jason’s point of view throughout the entire game, and while the characterization of Jason and his friends can feel a bit bewildering to players and forces the plot to center around Jason, it’s an effective way to keep the player immersed and makes the set pieces and story moments feel much more interesting and personal.


The story itself has its ups and downs, with the second half noticeably feeling weaker than the first half, but it ends up being very entertaining and can be very surprising. Without spoiling anything, the game seems to offer two different intertwining plot lines and does a good job of using differences in everything from the music to the characters in both to convey Jason’s internal struggle with the violence he’s forced to face. Jason’s rich friends are annoying and self-centered but it’s easy to forget how realistic their personalities and actions are compared to Jason’s approach, while the more outlandish island natives are more interesting but also aren’t exactly the best influences on Jason.



The characters all definitely have personalities all of their own, and it’s nice to see the contrast in personalities when dealing with different characters from different parts of the island (ranging from the lunatic pirate leader Vaas, to the drug addicted former scientist Dr. Earnhardt). Combined with some of the crazier set pieces and drug induced moments, it’s easy to see why the developers chose to go use quotes from Alice in Wonderland when the game has you tumbling down the rabbit hole.


With the main story thread, it’s almost as if the developers had two different stories in mind, one focusing on a gritty revenge/survival scenario, and another going for the Hollywood cliché of a handsome American outsider initiating himself into a tribe and becoming the best warrior of the Rakyat (the name of the main island tribe). It’s an interesting mix, and while there are commonly used tropes and clichés all throughout, it seems to be done on purpose to throw the player off from the more outlandish moments throughout the game. The game seems to take itself too seriously and reuses common plot devices far too often, but the presentation and seeing it through Jason’s eyes makes the plot more exciting than it would be otherwise. The game also does a great job of throwing subtle bits of history about the island and its characters through side missions and hidden within the environment, which goes a long way towards immersing the player into the world.



Even without the stylish plot presentation, the huge island and unbroken chain of events you experience make it difficult to pull yourself away. The island is full of activities and events, random and scripted that can keep players playing for hours at a time. From the outposts dotted throughout the land that the player can tackle any way they choose (rewarding them with a fast travel point and more jobs), to various side missions ranging from hunting and assassinations, to speed runs and target shooting. Even without side missions it’s easy to get lost just exploring the various unique caves and locations for relics and loot while hunting animals to craft better items or to sell. The game just makes it impossible to not have something to do, and it’s an improvement on the repetitive design of Far Cry 2 while also maintaining the graphical quality the game is known for. This is a very beautiful game, and if you have the money for a great PC it’s well worth it to see the impressive views and characters without sacrificing framerate stability (which the console versions unfortunately have a few issues with).


The actual gunplay and gameplay mechanics are also very refined and greatly improved from Far Cry 2. Different enemy types like snipers and heavies require different strategies, while combat seems designed for different approaches to utilize your vast arsenal and skill set. Want to run in guns blazing with a few combat syringes and some cover fire? Go ahead. How about using a bow to stealthily eliminate enemies from afar before sneaking in an eliminating the rest by hand? Also a valid option. You can even say “screw it” and just sit back and snipe everyone or drive in with a jeep loaded with C4. The AI certainly isn’t smart enough to deal with any plan you might come across and for an untrained newcomer to the island, Jason certainly ends up being more capable than he has any right to be, but it’s hard to complain when you’re having a blast.



The game also supports competitive and co-operative multiplayer modes, but both aren’t nearly on the same level of quality as the single player. The multiplayer ticks all the boxes for basic design in a modern shooter, but outside of a few cool mechanics (like takedowns and battle cries), it’s largely forgettable. The co-op fares better, but like the original Far Cry goes for a more linear path with open ended areas instead of allowing players to just go around doing what they like. Its fun with a few friends, but you can find better co-op in Borderlands or Left 4 Dead, and it lacks the sense of freedom and exploration the main game offers.


Overall, Far Cry 3 is a massive improvement from the first two games in the series and carves an identity for itself despite its name. Despite some minor issues in the campaign (somewhat unintelligent AI, jarring HUD, mixed plot), it’s one of the best games of 2012 and possibly the best shooter to come out that year. If you want a game you can marvel at and spend hours playing until the sun comes up, Far Cry 3 is that game.