There is a point a few hours into Far Cry 3 where you as Jason Brody, super frat boy avenger, storm a pirate base singlehandedly to rescue your girlfriend from torture, slavery, and possible death. Having murdered everyone who stands in your way, you are knocked out by a somehow unseen pirate. You wake up in a temple half the island away where you have a nice little chat with the pirate leader before he sets the place on fire and leaves. You, somehow still in the possession of an arsenal to make Arnold take notice, manage to break free, rescue the damsel in distress, and escape in a thrilling car chase as the temple explodes using a grenade launcher you found under the seat and your girlfriend’s somehow unerring sense of direction. It’s a super awesome sequence, fun to experience.
And then you pause to think about it, and realize none of that made any sense.
Welcome to Far Cry 3.
Let us be up front here and note that Far Cry 3 is a Ubisoft game, which means Uplay is going to be a thing you contend with. My experience with that may be summed up with the above picture, which ultimately required me to uninstall and reinstall Uplay for a game I bought on Steam.
I think all of us except Ubisoft are pretty much in accord at this point on the value of Uplay, which is to say that it is completely without value – it launches on top of Steam for no reason, adds none of the useful in-game features of Steam, and is essentially a DRM system not so cleverly disguised with features nobody wants.
The best I can say about that experience is that at least once I fixed the crash problem it was at least moderately unobtrusive and easy to kill once I stopped playing the game.
These are not positive statements.
As you can see from the above, this game is amazingly gorgeous, and if these aren’t the best 2012 graphics 2012 has to offer, they’re at the very least about as good as we’re going to get considering consoles. While by the end of your 20th hour or so of wandering the jungle it’s probably going to seem a little monotonous, it’s still a refreshing change from the likes of Skyrim.
Similarly, the audio is stellar – guns bark, explosions explode, wildlife is wild, and the soundtrack is, if not in the vein of the completely unmatched stuff I’ve been listening to lately like Payday 2 and Hotline Miami, pretty good.
Far Cry 3 is, at its heart, a console shooter. This manifests itself in a number of ways.
On the plus side, almost everything involved in roaming around the world and shooting dudes in the face with your giant arsenal of guns and explosives is fluid and extremely satisfying, although using your knife to perform stealth takedowns was quite often wonky. Since about 90% of this game is roaming around the world shooting dudes in the face (or stabbing them in myriad different ways), this means that 90% of the time or so you should be having fun.
On the other hand, most of the UI is a pretty shitty console port, which makes mouse and keyboard a sometimes frustrating way to play the game. For example, no seperate volume sliders for music, voice, and effects. Or, even better, A radial menu that more or less doesn’t work with a mouse – fantastic in a firefight. Lots of weird little UI quirks abound that could have been easily fixed for PC but weren’t because consoles are bullshit like that. The buy/sell interface makes me want to stab myself in the eyes with a log.
Too, while roaming around the world and shooting dudes in the face is fairly fun, there are upwards of 40-50 hours of that, and at some point you’re going to ask yourself: is this still worth it? And the answer is probably going to be no.
Yes, you can collect all 150 of the various collectables and free everyone and do all the quests. But the collectables stop mattering after a certain point (once you unlock the last gun), wildlife is pointless after a certain early point (although tigers still think you are delicious), and the quests stop mattering for XP and almost all of them are pointless fetch quests given out by pointless lifeless automatons, so why bother? You can keep collecting cash, but cash is essentially free by midgame anyway, so what’s the point?
Which ends up with a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, this is an amazing open world exploration game with a variety of vehicles and seamless indoor/outdoor transitions. In a technical sense, it’s better at being a Bethesda game than any given Bethesda game. It would make a great basis for a Fallout game.
On the flip side though, the emotional connection to characters and the environmental storytelling that keep you playing a game like Fallout are almost completely lacking here. Even the gear progression tops out fairly early, so the whole thing just ends up being a souless grind after a while. It’s fun, but completely empty.
But, you know. There are hang gliders, so 10/10 GOTY I guess?
This is where the game pretty much goes off the rails for me. Allow me to elaborate with heavy usage of spoilers.
Like everything else in this game, there’s something of a dichotomy between what this game wants to be, best described by lead writer Jefferey Yohalem as a sort of commentary on escapist violence in videogames, combined with a satire on white savior narratives, colonialism, FPS protagonists, and the nature of fantasy and reality. It’s backed up by a bunch of Alice in Wonderland quotes and some insanely trippy drugged out visions that are probably the best part of the narrative. And I mean that sincerely – I actually felt like I was tripping on something during some of them.
To be sure, these are pretty compelling ideas, and that story sounds really cool. Reading the words of the guy who wrote the game after the fact, I can see those elements and appreciate them.
They are all but invisible while playing the game.
Let’s start from the beginning. You are Jason Brody, mid-20s frat bro from Hollywood, on vacation on a South Pacific island with your equally frat bro brothers and combination of frat bro friends and sorority chick girlfriends. While skydiving, you somehow come down on an island teeming with thousands of vicious pirates and are quickly taken prisoner. You manage to escape, winding up in the care of Dennis the token black dude, who gives you a bitchin’ tribal tattoo and tells you to “walk the path of the warrior” to rescue your friends. And so you do this, with the aid of Dennis and a bunch of Polynesian-style tribal warriors who need the untrained white kid to do everything, quickly becoming involved in a haze of hallucinogens, tribal legends, the CIA, World War II, Zheng He, and various and sundry bad guys.
If that sounds completely stupid, nonsensical, and devoid of logic, that’s pretty much because it is. This is a very disjointed story told in a very disjointed way by unreliable narrators in unreliable ways. It’s often extremely difficult to make any sense of why you’re doing some of the things you’re doing except that the game is telling you to do them, and it’s even harder to make sense of some of the shit you see in visions beyond accepting that you’re having some kind of vision. It’s even more disjointed when combined with the gameplay, which being more compelling than the seemingly worthless plot meant that I spent vast stretches in between story missions. This led to disconnects between what the game was doing and what I had already done – for example, Jason eventually gets a flamethrower and gushes over how cool it is, but I’d already had a flamethrower for like ten hours by that point and it was old hat.
Too, the game pretty much plays the whole “frat bro gets wicked tribal
tattoo tattau and kicks ass” thing extremly straight, which completely undermines any possibility of satire. It’s very hard to ponder how Jason being a huge asshole to his girlfriend and talking about his boss tattau is supposed to be satire when I’m so busy mercilessly mocking the living shit out of it.
Other thematic elements get the same sort of treatment. I actually didn’t think the whole “white dude saves a bunch of worthless minorities” thing was racist, because that was ascribing more intelligence to the writers of the game than I was willing to give them. That it was supposed to be satire was a complete surprise to me, given how arrow straight the whole thing was played.
It’s hard to know what to do with that.
I have a habit, upon finishing most works of art, be they games, movies, or books, to take a look at the internet and see what the conversation surrounding them is. Usually they help me contextualize and solidify my own thoughts on the thing, and in some cases they broaden my horizons about a work.
Reading Yahelem talk about Far Cry 3 I think falls into the latter category for me. I don’t think the game actually does the things he wants it to. Maybe that game exists somewhere within the 35 hours or so of really fun open world gameplay, and maybe if this had been 5 or 10 hours of solid storytelling in a more linear fashion that concept of the game would have worked.
Unfortunately, as much as this game wants to be about something larger, the marriage of those two games just results in 35 hours of really fun open world gameplay shackled to 5 or 10 hours of nonsense. It is not a successful marriage, though I suppose I must applaud the attempt.
7/10 aliens and a gold star for effort.
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