Far Cry 3 review – an intoxicating high

Far Cry 3 wraps open-world shooter action around one of this year’s best gaming narratives

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
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    Layered narrative

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    Great characters

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    Fantastic campaign

Reasons to avoid
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    Fiddly driving

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    Auto-fail stealth missions

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Far Cry 3 feels like the culmination of the best elements of the series, merging the open world of Far Cry 2 with frenetic shooter action

Far Cry 3 harkens back to an older, and some would argue better, aesthetic in shooters, which goes against the trend of justifying an anorexic story mode by packaging it with a robust multiplayer. In Far Cry 3, the online modes may be competent, sure, but the reason to pick up this game is for its superb single-player campaign, which boasts one of the best narratives in any game all year.

Far Cry 3: Characters and Plot

The game kicks off with its protagonist, a blue-eyed American boy called Jason, being shown having the time of his life with his mates and his two brothers on holiday in an island paradise. In the montage the player sees them doing shots, leaping into rock pools and skydiving.

The camera then pans back to show this montage being shown on a camera phone that's being held by the group's captor, a twitchy, erudite psycho called Vaas Montenegro, who has a smile similar to that of a boa constrictor before it swallows its prey.

Vaas, by the way, is one of the best villains created in gaming in the last few years. Intelligent, charming and utterly insane, he's as likely to casually stab a helpless captive through the heart as he is to wax philosophical on the nature of madness.

Vaas heads up a colourful list of slavers, pirates, criminals, perverts and nutcases who Jason finds himself ranged against in his search for his friends, once he escapes Montenegro's clutches in the early stages of the game.

As Jason explores the tropical island environments, racking up an impressive number of corpses, he transforms from a scared first world brat into an unhinged killing machine, tossing vestiges of his humanity to the four winds in his quest for alpha male supremacy. In short, he starts to resemble Vaas…

Far Cry 3: Gameplay

Ubisoft toys with the player in this way to an extent. Naturally, in order to progress, players need to earn XP to open up new skills and craft new equipment – and the only way to do this is to blow away human adversaries and hack up the local fauna and flora. In other words, the more they tackle the hostile wilds that Jason finds himself in, the more lethal they're likely to become.

A large portion of the player's activities will be taken up exploring the game's huge open-world map, which is a virtual treasure trove of side-quests, mini-games and time challenges, to say nothing of the resources it proffers.

Players can craft perk boosts and equipment from plants and wildlife. They can open up new guns and map locales by scaling giant radar towers. They can plonk themselves on in-game leaderboards by beating the score of their friends in mini-games. They can even open up fast-travel points by taking out enemy bases.

Everything they do feeds into Jason's XP meter, which allows them to unlock perks and skills, turning him – and by extension, the player – into a more affective adversary for Vaas and the rest of the island's psychos.

Far Cry 3: Multiplayer

While the main campaign is most certainly the draw in Far Cry 3, the game's online modes are competent and quite enjoyable. Co-op allows up to four players to take on the role of four criminals in search of some payback, and they shoot through a series of missions in which they have to achieve certain objectives.

Teamwork is hinted at, but not actively encouraged, although players can buff each other with Battle Cries while on mission. The competitive online mode is decent, offering up some interesting spins on familiar templates. Top among them is Firestorm, which is a desperate battle for survival in which the winning team is the one that isn't burned to a cinder by the end.

Far Cry 3: Verdict

But in the end, the online modes are distractions – albeit worthwhile ones – from the game's main narrative, which asks some disturbing and distinctly un-PC questions of the player. In the world of Far Cry 3, violence isn't just a necessary tool, it's an intoxicating high and a means to social advancement.

You could argue that this is rather repugnant, but then, you've never had to fight for survival on an island populated by thugs and madmen. You know the old saying; if you can't beat 'em, join 'em….

Far Cry 3 Release Date: 30 November 2012

Far Cry 3 Price: From £27.99 on PC

Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen studied Classical Civilisations and English at the University of Witwatersrand and joined T3 as Editor at Large, writing about subjects including video games, gaming hardware, gadgets and consoles. You'll also find plenty of content by Nick on T3.com about video game industry events and shows.