Far Cry 3 multiplayer review: create, compete, collaborate

By Jeff Mattas, Dec 11, 2012 11:40am PST

Far Cry 3's single-player campaign is one of the best shooter experiences of the year. But can multiplayer reach the same watermark set by the campaign?

The various multiplayer modes Far Cry 3 offers are relatively enjoyable in their own rights, however they forsake much of what made the single-player campaign so compelling. The freedom afforded by the campaign's myriad of systems like hunting, exploration, and combat-based progression, are sacrificed when jumping online.

One of Far Cry 3's multiplayer modes is a standalone co-op campaign that takes place six months before the main adventure. Set on a completely separate island in the Rook archipelago, this story follows a ragtag co-op group comprised of a shady ex-cop, a Scottish thug, an ex-military type, and a Russian hitman. The setup is functional at best, offering a bare-bones story that pales in comparison to the main campaign.

At its best, the co-op campaign rivals other great co-op experiences like Left 4 Dead, though as a whole, the experience is a bit more uneven. My biggest criticism of Far Cry 3's co-op is that it could've been bettered by embracing the freedom provided by the single-player game. Co-op is much more linear and contained, meaning that you lose a good deal of what made the single player experience so exciting.

Many of the battles in co-op send huge waves of enemies at the players, creating plenty of opportunities and incentive to use the various booster shots and "battle cries," which are basically buffs that boost things like health, accuracy, and speed. A minor complaint about the combat in co-op is that it doesn't appear to scale. Encounters, therefore, are balanced for the maximum four players. This means that some sections can become tougher than probably intended if you're down a player or two.

I couldn't help but wish that co-op had simply been some multiplayer rendition of the single-player story, folding in many of the systems that make the primary campaign so great and giving players their run of the islands. All told, however, co-op provides a fun romp in which you'll fell hundreds of dudes and compete in some fun mini-games. It simply doesn't offer much more than that.

I think it's safe to say that Far Cry 3's competitive multiplayer modes--while fun--aren't going to pull dedicated fans away from Halo 4 or Black Ops 2 and the like. At least the game offers a now-standard progression system for skills and weapons, for those that choose to get invested.

Aside from the obligatory Team Deathmatch and Domination modes, the game also introduces Transmission and Firestorm modes. These new modes are similar to Domination, but Transmission's control points (radio transmitters) will sometimes change locations. Firestorm--my favorite of the competitive modes--requires each team to simultaneously set fire to two fuel dumps held by the other team, while defending their own. Once the Firestorm begins, much of the map catches ablaze, and both teams have to battle over a radio control point to win. The fire effectively changes the viable routes you can take, adding some nice flavor to the war of attrition.

On a slightly odd note, players also unlock "encrypted data" via playing that can be used to unlock new bonuses and perks. The strange part is that these encrypted items must be decrypted using a sub-menu, and each item has a time limit associated with it. You may have to wait thirty minutes or more of real-time before the bonuses are unlocked, at which point you'll likely queue up another decryption. It's an annoying little hoop that players need to jump through in order to reap all the benefits they've earned, and the game would be better without it.

Far Cry 3 also includes an incredibly robust level editor, which is already being used by some to amusing effect, with even the odd goat-filled scenario. Though creating my own levels in games isn't typically my cup of tea, even I had fun horsing around with all of the easy-to-use tools that Far Cry 3 provides. Those interested in making their own scenarios will find that nearly everything they need is easily accessible.

The editor does have some shortcomings, like not being able to place AI in multiplayer maps except for testing purposes, but I think it's fair to say that the tools are useful enough that some enterprising level designers will come up with some pretty great content to extend what's already a very robust package. There's also a community-driven system in place to help the best user-made maps bubble to the top, but you can always dive in to test and rate someone's unproven brainchild, if that floats your boat.

Far Cry 3 would have been an excellent game without its included multiplayer modes, but what's on hand is more than competent. The co-op campaign is a nice diversion, even though it's unable to successfully harness much of what makes the single-player experience so good. Competitive multiplayer may not dethrone other online shooters, but at the very least, it's fun. All in all, multiplayer adds value to an already-excellent package.


This Far Cry 3 multiplayer review is based on the final PC version of the game, provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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