"Welcome to the jungle." Both Vaas and Axle Rose's words ring true in this thrilling jungle adventure. From the gorgeous scenery to some of the most memorable characters, Far Cry 3 is overall a joy to play. With but a few flaws, Far Cry 3 has made a final statement in 2012, making it a must have for your holiday wishlist. 

Personally, story is always an all important factor in video games for me. I find that without a gripping story, many games simply feel hollow. Far Cry 3, however, is not lacking by any means in the story department. Far Cry 3's storyline is highly intriguing and is very unique. A group of young friends and the Brody brothers are off on a egregious vacation that unknowingly takes a turn for the worst when they choose to sky dive unto an seemingly harmless island. This island is all but harmless. It is the home to murderous pirates, vicious wildlife, a drug trade, and a slave trafficking business protected by highly trained mercenaries. What a vacation. The group is kidnapped by Vaas Montenegro's pirates who are planning to sell the group into slavery. Jason Brody, the main character, however escapes and goes on a rampage of death to rescue his friends and his brothers. During his adventures he meets a local tribe called the "Rakyat." Through a series of events involving the Rakyat and his previous life, Jason Brody meets one of two possible fates at the end of the game, the choice is up to the player. 

The story of Far Cry 3 is one of my favorites of the year. The transition of Jason Brody from a silver spooned thrill seeker to a relentless, merciless warrior made for a great narrative. His constantly becoming more complicated relationship with the Rakyat and his old way of life is also a very intriguing part of the story. Jason Brody basically ceases to exist and becomes little more than the perfect warrior. Many of the moments throughout the story are also, most simply put, holy sh** moments. Scenes such as the battle between Brody and the giant, climbing through the mass of dead corpses, and the final showdown with Vaas were, quite frankly, amazing. 

The story is, however, not the main attraction of this game, it is the massive scope and beauty of the world that you've skydived into. Far Cry 3's visuals are breathtaking and compete with some of the best visual games such as Assassin's Creed or the Elder Scrolls. The sheer detailing of every blade of grass and leaf is remarkable. I will never forget the moment that I climbed the tallest mountain I could find and simply looked around in awe of the surrounding jungle. Moments like this are reminiscent of my adventures in Skyrim. From sunken ships to dark, empty caves to luscious jungles, the visuals simply feel right. 

The environment is not just for show, it also is a living, breathing habitat in which both man and beast interact. The animals in the environment can often be seen hunting prey, sometimes other animals, sometimes not. People move about the world, engaging in different activities including skirmishes between the pirates and Rakyat. Every creature basically reacts to your presence in their own unique way. Interacting with the environment is also a very large part of the game. Climbing radio towers similar to the viewpoints in Assasin's Creed and clearing out pirate or mercenary infested compounds is a must to getting through the game. All of this simply makes the experience feel more so real instead of simulated. 

For all of you action and gameplay savants out there, Far Cry 3 will not disappoint you. The first person gameplay is some of the best that I have ever experienced in all my years of gaming. The "takedown" ability is incorporated brilliantly and seamlessly into the gameplay. As you level up through the ranking system, you will unlock new abilities such as multiple chain takedowns, knife throwing after a takedown, pulling the pin on an opponents grenade and then kicking him at his comrades, or even using a victim's own pistol against his buddies while using his body as cover . The ability to air takedown two enemies, string together multiple knife takedowns and then finish off anyone left by using the last takedown victim's own pistol against them without a hitch is extremely satisfying. Once you get really good at this game, the things that you can do as Jason Brody become evermore awesome. 

Unlike many other games, Far Cry 3 actually gets its stealth mechanics completely right. Taking down an entire compound of pirates without  getting caught is entirely realistic. Takedowns and other weapons such as the bow are completely silent and allow for the ability to become a stealth master. The AI's are, however, relatively intelligent. If they notice something odd moving around in the bushes or hear a sound that should not have been, they will investigate, if they find a dead body lying around, they will be put on high alert and will not stop until they find the perpetrator (unlike in Assassin's Creed). As Jason gets further and further into the jungle, stealth will becomie increasingly difficult. Problems such as dogs, undraggable heavy troopers, and snipers will always have you changing up your tactics. If, however, you want to go in guns blazin, you are welcome to do that too. 

All of these things are great and important aspects of Far Cry 3's experience, but what really makes it stand out from other games is the uniqueness of its characters. Each character is memorable and inherently unique in their own way, particularly the game's antagonistic characters. The realism and personalities of Far Cry's villains make for some of the best characters of the year. Villains such as Vaas, Buck, and Hoyt all have a certain uniqueness to them, a certain way that they think and operate. Vaas in particular is the most memorable. The way he babbles on in his insane way, taunting Jason Brody, eating away at his psyche, is like no other character I have ever experienced. He's also hilarious to boot, although in a sick and twisted way. Vaas as a character was so expertly developed that I actually felt a sense of remorse when Jason killed him. The back of the game case was not lying when it said that Far Cry 3 had memorable characters. 

Far Cry 3 is, however, not without its flaws. The game often feels repetitive at times. There are essentially only three types of side missions, all of which are very similar to each other. There are also "main missions" outside story missions, but these fail to hold much interest or reward. Also, the concept of the compounds can initially feel repetitive but upon further investigation you will realize that each compound is unique and has its own strategies that can be implemented to complete them. Weapon customization is also somewhat lacking. There is limited ability to put different attachments on weapons and the only real personalization of the weapons is the ability to pick from preselected camos. A greater variety in weapon attachments and the ability to create camos or markings on weapons would have been welcome additions to the game. The climbing mechanics of the game are one last thing that could have used some work. There should have been more options to where Jason could climb, not just at areas with ledges laced with rope. Climbing a tree in preparation of an ambush on some pirates would have been great. 

All in all, Far Cry 3 is a must have for any gamer, both casual and hardcore. The gorgeous environment, responsive gameplay, memorable characters, and intriguing story will captivate anyone who plays it. Who knew the jungle could be such a fun place?