Far Cry 3 Review: Primal desires meet modern gameplay

 
Survival games often provide gamers a unique chance to revert to some of their more primitive instincts. Exotic locations or dangerous surroundings often evoke a sense of exploration or discovery, that usually runs parallel to a constant threat of danger. Ubisoft’s new open-world shooter ‘Far Cry 3’ consistently juxtaposes the idea of classic survival games, with the idea of playing with a sense of modern-day morality and evolved sense of social-awareness.
 
In the past games have always succeeded with instilling a sense of ‘survival’. Many times developers make it too easy to forgo preconceived notions of having to kill to survive, self-defense, stealing or lying in video-games. What Ubisoft did well in Far Cry 3 was made me question my basic-responses in video-games themselves (killing anyone that I wanted too with little or no remorse for example) and made me reevaluate just how horrible those situations would be if I truly found myself in this tropical island of suffering.
 
There is a lot of choice in Far Cry 3, the story is left open to discover and how you interact with the people that you meet, and how much you choose to do, really alters how the story plays out. The plot of Far Cry 3 reads like a standard horror movie. You will play as Jason, a person who is enjoying an exotic archipelago with his friends, when they are all kidnapped by slave-traders. Jason and his group are not mercenaries, they are not trained killers or survival experts. The characters are very relatable in that way, and that is important because Ubisoft didn’t appear to making the standard ‘male power fantasy’ title, and the game started as a horrific tale of survival. At least it begins that way.
 

 
 
From the comfort of a movie-seat or from behind a controller, we might wonder what we would do if we had to save the ones we loved in a time of danger. I think many people would like to think that they would be the “calm one”, or the “the fixer”, or the “rational one” in these situations. Ubisoft eases players into the role of Jason by allowing some pretty natural, and believable, reactions to events that unfold first. First of all there is terror, no average person would turn killer in an instant and that doesn’t happen in Far Cry 3 either. The game is filled with killing, stalking and moral depravity but there is a sense of the island winning when I started taking that path in the game. I felt that the true challenge of the game wasn’t to kill and destroy everything in sight, the true challenge was never to lose myself to the insanity of the island. When I was forced to do something barbaric because the game made it mandatory, it made me want to redeem myself and prove that I was more resilient and it made for a great twist in the game. To get back to my point from before, would you help your friends if it meant never seeing your family again? Would you kill people if you could just walk away? The emotional toll builds in the game, just like I imagine it would in a real-life scenario. Fear, hunger, depression and constantly questioning you morality can take a huge toll on a person. Think of the last time it felt like you had so much work to do, that you didn’t want to get out of bed. Now imagine waking up on the jungle floor with a to-do list of this nature.
 
[quote_right]Simple survival is a large portion of the opening chapters and it felt right. It was a palette cleanser to the chaotic beginning, allowing me to reflect on the nightmare that I just encountered and reminded me of just how much danger I was in. [/quote_right]Vaas is the leader of the island and the black-market slave operations. After you and your friends are captured you will escape, hope that isn’t a spoiler but you don’t die five-minutes into the game. The game has you hunt down the pirates in an effort to save your friends but you can’t just run in their with a gun like you’ve been training for this moment your whole life. The most important thing is that you survive. You can’t help anyone dead, and surviving the island will be your first true challenge. To do this players need to learn how to hunt and scavenge throughout the dangerous landscape, all the while looking for anyone or anything that could help them against the pirates. The islands offer a lot of upgrades in the form of crafting, trading and scavenging. These are things you will need to prepare yourself for later on, when you finally take-on the pirates. Simple survival is a large portion of the opening chapters and it felt right. It was a palette cleanser to the chaotic beginning, allowing me to reflect on the nightmare that I just encountered and reminded me of just how much danger I was in. It also allowed another build up to the next big event, instead of just power-washing me with gore and violence like so many other open-world shooters have.
 
I would love to say that you stay the same simple vacationer, constantly hoping to survive the next 30 minutes on a deadly island but that wouldn’t make for the best gameplay or story-line. If the game was truly realistic, I would have been chopped up and serve as fish-food within the first 20 minutes of playing and my loved ones would be bought and sold faster than a used-game. You do progress your skills on the island, you get better with weapons, stealth, killing and crafting items and soon you will become a viable predator to the pirates. Open-world exploration and discovery off-set this violent nature and offer players the opportunity to uncover some pretty amazing details about the island. These aren’t just basic ‘hidden items’ that you collect because you want a trophy. These actually tell a story and have a meaningful purpose in the game. You can learn about others who found themselves in your situation, or discover lost locations in the map where civilizations of old still hide their secrets. I’m looking at you ‘feathers’ in other games, these are quests worth doing.
 
[quote_left]You constantly have to regain, and loose control of, yourself. Drugs, morality choices and life-changing events take place throughout the story-line and the game does a great job of pushing you to your accepted limits and then making you backtrack to find which way is right.[/quote_left]Sanity is a theme in the game and it’s true definition is often questioned. Vaas would be a psychopathic killer and war-criminal if found in our society but we are playing by Rook Island rules now. You constantly have to regain, and loose control of, yourself. Drugs, morality choices and life-changing events take place throughout the story-line and the game does a great job of pushing you to your accepted limits and then making you backtrack to find which way is right. None of this could have been accomplished without the acting in this game. As I said before, some of these themes situations and plot-lines are familiar in survival games and what makes them unique is the pure authenticity in the actor’s voice and the amazing animated cut-scenes in the game. Everyone has a motive in the game, and an honest one that you can either stand against or get behind, you may not agree with the motive but it’s believable and well written.
 
Gameplay offers a wide-array of choices and leaves an open-road of possibilities when fighting. You can be stealthy, hidden and manipulative of your surroundings, or you can rely on tactical shooting and firepower to do the wetwork for you. The island can be slowly captured by you and your allies. Giant fortresses that are run by the pirates can be taken over and used as trading centers to help you later on. Everything about Far Cry 3 has a purpose and one that actually makes it worth the trouble, and that is something I truly enjoyed about the game. The title is a slow decent into madness for many of the characters but there is a terrific thread of finding one’s true-nature when forced to play out certain roles.
 
The multiplayer-side of Far Cry 3 is the opposite of the single player, and I’m not sure if that was Ubisoft’s intent. It does offer a very dramatic change in gameplay that could be welcomed after hours of combing the jungle and stalking tigers. The multiplayer is more of a “team-based” multiplayer title, with many of the modes requiring teams to work together in order to achieve a goal. There isn’t anything revolutionary about the multiplayer but it does stand on its own two feet. The mechanics are decent and the gameplay is very fast and chaotic, with a sense of guerrilla and tribal warfare taking place.
 
The game-modes are nothing to write home about and offer multiplayer gamers the same collection of time-tested game-modes with very small maps and some explodable set-pieces. You can create new maps however and drop in some animals of your own to spice up the gameplay, and I think that will be a hit with the community. Playing multiplayer will allow you to level up your character with new weapons, attachments, battle-cries and other unlockables that are standards to a multiplayer shooter. Co-op modes were a big push from Ubisoft leading up to the release of the game and are less dynamic than I had hoped. I tried playing co-op with just one friend, and it seemed so impossible that I felt we had to be doing something wrong. Playing again with four-friends we learned that the maps do not change based on players. The game plays out much like other co-op games, you set off as one of four characters that must work together and progress through a series of linear checkpoints and missions to win. Nothing about the maps really change the more you play, and soon you are just rushing to get through it as quickly as possible. The only benefit to co-op is that you are sharing all of the explosions, spectacular deaths and impossible shots with a friend.
 
If you compared either the co-op portion of the game or the multiplayer portion of the game to larger titles built for that category, they wouldn’t stack up very well. If you compare them to other games that stapled on a multiplayer side to a popular single-player title, it’s one of the better experiences.
 
The single-player experience in the game is what will drive sales and Ubisoft has made the best Far Cry 3 title to date in that respect. Every portion of the single-player campaign is polished. From the acting, the location, the story-line, all of it comes together to make an open-world game that I loved to be in. Even the simple side-quests were done better in this game than other leading open-world titles. Far Cry 3 lets you live out a survival fantasy in a new and exciting way, even though it is a more perverse and honest way than other games in the past. It brings realism and surrealism together to create a unique experience that I think any open-world shooter fan would enjoy.