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

We go on a tropical vacation turned horribly wrong in Far Cry 3, Ubisoft Montreal's latest entry in the open-world first-person-shooter series. Is it a fun experience, the definition of insanity, or both?

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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.

Poker!

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.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 21, 2012 9:00 AM

    Jeff Mattas posted a new article, Far Cry 3 single-player review: 10-ton guerrilla.

    We go on a tropical vacation turned horribly wrong in Far Cry 3, Ubisoft Montreal's latest entry in the open-world first-person-shooter series. Is it a fun experience, the definition of insanity, or both?

    • reply
      November 21, 2012 9:26 AM

      Does this compare more closely to Far Cry 1 or Far Cry 2?

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        November 21, 2012 12:34 PM

        It's sort of a "best of both worlds" scenario.

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          November 21, 2012 12:39 PM

          I'll be in my bunk.

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          November 21, 2012 12:40 PM

          Having played a lot of Far Cry 1, Far Cry: Instincts, Instincts: "Evolution", and Far Cry 2 (I never finished "Evolution" but I finished the others multiple times) I really hope it's more like Far Cry 2.

          Also looking forward to messing around with the Sandbox editor again.

          I never missed anything from the earlier games that I didn't do in Far Cry 2 (except for the tropical setting, which I didn't really miss). I can't think of anything I did in the earlier games that I didn't get to experience similarly in Far Cry 2. Except getting raped by Trigens.

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      November 21, 2012 9:30 AM

      Thanks for the review. I was wondering how it worked out.

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      November 21, 2012 9:38 AM

      really looking forward to this. Thanks for the review, sounds pretty much what I expected.

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      November 21, 2012 9:38 AM

      Oh nice, I didn't know that eliminating enemy encampments permanently kept enemies from respawning there. I hated that in Far Cry 2.

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      November 21, 2012 9:41 AM

      Ugh I hate when games ramp down...save your best missions for last. I know I know that isn't practical since most people will never see the end of a game, but dammit players should be rewarded for sticking it out to the end of games but rarely are these days.

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      November 21, 2012 9:48 AM

      "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."

      Thank god! I hated this about Far Cry 2, the constant predictable respawn. Respawn wouldn't be so bad if it was a "beat them back, they slowly grow" kind of thing, but it was too repetitive.

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        November 21, 2012 12:12 PM

        This is really great to hear. It addresses the number one complaint about FC2 and gives you an incentive to take them down vs just driving through the gates like everyone did in FC2.

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        November 21, 2012 10:56 AM

        A bunch of positive reviews... I'm kinda surprised! Eurogamer and PC Gamer also give it the thumbs-up, with a couple of their best reviewers.

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      November 21, 2012 10:23 AM

      Oh sweet, totally didn't expect this. Pre-ordering and looking forward to release.

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      November 21, 2012 11:51 AM

      Quick poll: After reading this and RPS' review, who went from "not interested" to "will buy"?

      I didn't give a shit and now I really want this game.

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        November 22, 2012 5:09 AM

        I eloved both 1 and 2, so I was getting it regardless of how it was reviewed.

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      November 21, 2012 12:04 PM

      Nice, I am ready.

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      November 21, 2012 12:19 PM

      Wow, I half expected this game not to be that good... cool. Not that I really need a new game.

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      November 21, 2012 12:39 PM

      Far Cry 3 is the best open-world single-player FPS experience I've played in recent memory.

      Just curious - what was the best open-world single-player FPS experience prior to FC3? FC2?

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        November 21, 2012 12:39 PM

        For me, Borderlands 2.

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          November 21, 2012 12:41 PM

          Shit! Totally forgot. What else?

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          November 22, 2012 9:44 AM

          i thought Borderlands 2 wasn't so great for singleplayer. That you needed to play in coop to really enjoy it. I don't do multiplayer. Would you recommend Borderlands 2 for the SP only?

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            November 22, 2012 5:13 PM

            BL2 multiplayer's loot mechanic was broken. Even when playing with friends, it was too difficult and took too long to distribute the drops. There would always be a person that ran ahead and grabbed all the good loot.

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        November 21, 2012 12:41 PM

        Just Cause 2, The Saboteur

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        November 21, 2012 12:50 PM

        STALKER COP

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          November 21, 2012 12:55 PM

          The original STALKER for me (haven't tried CoP yet) although Far Cry 2 certainly had its moments.

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            November 21, 2012 1:05 PM

            CoP is in many ways better than SoC. There are some differences that I found annoying at first having skipped CS, but the A-Life system got a major overhaul making it much more immersive in my opinion. In CoP I would often just go wandering around to see what I'd run into.

            And OMG, blowouts were scary at first. :)

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              November 21, 2012 1:38 PM

              if you go S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 1) Yay 2) Go For Complete mod. it is essential.

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        November 21, 2012 12:59 PM

        Skyrim

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        November 21, 2012 1:00 PM

        Does Skyrim count?

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          November 21, 2012 2:27 PM

          i think it would be more of an FPS RPG. I associate a term like "open world single player FPS" with a more pure action shooting fun time.

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            November 21, 2012 10:39 PM

            FPM: First Person Melee/Magic

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        November 21, 2012 2:25 PM

        without Stalker Call of Pripyat IMO

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        November 21, 2012 2:29 PM

        ArmA II?

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        November 21, 2012 2:51 PM

        I am currently loving Dead Island at the moment. It's flawed, but no more so than FC2 was.

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        November 21, 2012 11:09 PM

        Crysis.

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        November 21, 2012 11:18 PM

        Dead Island had little shooting but it was exactly what I loved about the openness of FC2.

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        November 21, 2012 11:51 PM

        Whoops, accidental LOL. My favorite open-world single player FPS so far has been Fallout New Vegas.

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          November 23, 2012 3:15 AM

          Original Fallout 3 for me.

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        November 22, 2012 1:24 AM

        STALKER is the only answer

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        November 22, 2012 5:06 AM

        STALKER. It always will be STALKER tbh.

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        November 28, 2012 2:48 PM

        STALKER, its just too good

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      November 21, 2012 1:01 PM

      Can't wait!

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      November 21, 2012 9:26 PM

      2 things I hated in Far Cry 2 were 1) the need to travel from one end of the map to the opposite end from mission to mission and 2) quicky respawning enemies. Are those two 'features' present in this FC3?

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        November 22, 2012 1:39 AM

        Both of those things have changed. Encampments are captured permanently and turned into fast travel stations.

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      November 21, 2012 10:35 PM

      Any deals on this? between blops2, hitman, asscreed3, and everything else piling on my asshole I cant take much more.

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        November 22, 2012 9:49 AM

        You can get it free (with hitman and sleeping dogs) like I did when I bought my new 7970 on sale a couple weeks ago (anyone want to buy a 6950 2GB before I put in on ebay?)

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      November 21, 2012 11:03 PM

      God damn it, don't make me buy this. i loved the previous two but the insane villain thing seems totally retarded.

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        November 23, 2012 9:50 PM

        As opposed to a non-insane villain? Because villains are straight thinking good people normally.

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          November 24, 2012 11:03 AM

          Perhaps it's just a guy who wanted to do Black Friday shopping and you cut him off on a parking lot or something. He trackex you down and has been trying to kill you since.

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        November 23, 2012 9:57 PM

        Actually, maybe have no bad guy, and just go on a quest to spruce up a dilapidated chicken.

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      November 22, 2012 12:11 AM

      10/10 on Eurogamer: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-11-21-far-cry-3-review

      I need this.

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      November 22, 2012 5:08 AM

      One concern about the camps no longer respawning enemies...will the entire map just become a lifeless wilderness eventually? Because that doesn't sound better.

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      November 22, 2012 9:19 AM

      This was already a must buy for me...this review just cemented that further!

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      November 28, 2012 6:54 AM

      Oh yes, this is a must-buy!

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      December 3, 2012 1:59 PM

      the UI gives me eye-strain. I had a raging headache after about twenty minutes, then I knew why my friend had a towel over his monitor.