Far Cry 3 single-player review: 10-ton guerrilla

By Jeff Mattas, Nov 21, 2012 12:00pm PST

Jungles can be dangerous places. Especially jungles on remote, tropical islands that are inhabited by amoral, psychopathic, human-traffickers. In the case of Far Cry 3, developer Ubisoft Montreal has set its latest open-world FPS in the fictional Rook Islands in the south pacific. The game tells the story of Jason Brody, and the perilous and tragic events that befall him and his adventure-seeking friends while they're on vacation.

The game's narrative devices and execution are strong, bolstered by some engaging first-person cutscenes and voice acting. Aside from an effective revenge story that the game hinges much of its emotion on, Jason's character progression from an average 25-year-old thrill-seeker to a stealthy guerrilla fighter is handled quite well. It's worth noting that the story components of the game's final third aren't quite as compelling as what's delivered earlier on, but the mission design is solid throughout.

In fairness, by the final third of the game, I was already so invested in the world and my role in it that these weaker story beats didn't sour my enjoyment. They're not "bad" per se, they just seemed a little weak when compared to the story's earlier sections.

Far Cry 3 proudly continues the tradition of sandbox-shooter gameplay, allowing players to go where they want and do what they want, thanks to a large number of optional in-game activities that support the lengthy single-player campaign. I never felt limited by the number of choices available to me, and the Rook Islands are rich with opportunities to venture off the beaten path. Some of the ancillary activities can be considered distractions, but to simply write them all off as gameplay throw-aways wouldn't be accurate. Sure, there are racing missions and optional story missions that allow you to earn some extra, all-important cash, but one of Far Cry 3's strongest attributes is the way that it integrates much of its optional content to make the larger campaign more meaningful.

Some of my favorite optional activities were scaling radio towers and clearing enemy encampments. Climbing to the top of one of islands' numerous radio towers and removing a GPS scrambling device allows you to see the surrounding area and roads on your map, making navigation much easier. Actually scaling some of these rickety radio towers involves some light puzzle-platforming, and reaching the top rewards the player with a sweeping view of part of the island, and highlights new locations to explore. The process scratches the same itch as synchronizing viewpoints in the Assassin's Creed games.

Enemy encampments are also fun to take down, and some are much easier than others. Once cleared, the encampment becomes a fast-travel location, allowing you to reach certain areas of the map more quickly. A captured camp also has the benefit of eliminating enemy activity in the surrounding area, which is handy if you're getting tired of being ambushed by random enemy patrols. Capturing camps fed into a great sense of progression for me, as I watched my efforts pay off in a tangible way.

There are instances where the game's difficulty spiked considerably. No mission was insurmountable, but there were a few sections with timed objectives, and a couple of particularly tough firefights. In fact, some of the more difficult campaign missions occur earlier in the game, and some the game's final few campaign missions opt for spectacle over challenge. Personally, none of this negatively impacted my experience in significant ways, and the missions, on the whole, provide some excellent variety.

If fast-travel isn't an option, there are plenty of vehicles scattered around the world, including ATVs, hang-gliders, and various watercraft, as well as the usual cars and trucks. Given the sheer size of the map, the plentiful transportation options are essential.

As Jason accrues experience, you can assign skill points to unlock new abilities that strengthen him, or improve his moveset. All of these choices are reflected in the tribal tattoo on Jason's arm: a nice visual touch.

In most open-world games, the sheer amount of ways to earn money usually renders currency moot at some point. While it's certainly possible to amass a fortune in Far Cry 3 by doing things like exploring, racing, and special hunting missions, you'll feel like you've earned it. Ammunition isn't exactly scarce, but you'll either need to buy it, loot it from enemies, or gather it from weapon caches in the world. The constant need to scavenge is really effective at driving home the game's survivalist mentality.

Far Cry 3 is the best open-world single-player FPS experience I've played in recent memory. The world is beautiful, teeming with things to do and places to explore. Many of its underlying gameplay systems do a great job at bolstering the feeling of surviving in the wild. The story spins a compelling yarn of revenge and self-discovery, and even though the game's two possible endings are both decidedly macabre, the end result is an experience that is immensely satisfying and brimming with content. For fans of shooters and open-world exploration, Far Cry 3 is a vacation from hell that's well worth booking.


This Far Cry 3 single-player review is based on a near-final PC review copy provided by the publisher, and additional impressions via near-final Xbox 360 review code. Far Cry 3 comes out for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on December 4. Far Cry 3 also features a number of multiplayer modes, including a separate 4-player co-op campaign, but we've opted to review those elements after the game's official release.

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