Review: Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 Car Fall

I am not going to compare Far Cry 3 to its predecessors. To try and intimate that there is a heritage it has to aspire to, given that both previous games were made by different sets of people with no consistent creative vision, is unfair to what the Far Cry series is becoming.

Similar to Final Fantasy the Far Cry trilogy looks to become one that, apart from the title and some common gameplay/character types, follows a unique vision in each installment.

In the case of FC3 it is about being as annoying as possible for as long as possible whilst stifling anything interesting the game might have had to offer, all while trouncing Call of Duty for linear hand-holding bullshit.

Make no mistake, the fidelity of the environments, the kick of the weapons and the invisible systems that underlie each encounter can lead to thrilling experiences (something that it shares with the other Far Crys – or should that be Far Cries?).

I experienced one of my favourite examples early on, watching two men on patrol jumping out of their jeep to take pot shots at dingoes, only to accidentally blow their own vehicle up, killing themselves and leaving the animals unharmed.

There were other such moments, like stumbling into a camp and having to murder everyone whilst everything burnt to the ground because of a loose Molotov cocktail, that may or may not have been thrown by me, falling into an ammunition pile. Another came after scoping out a base, taking the time to tag each of the guards, then following their patterns until I could take them out without the others noticing. I slowly sniped them from a hill, carefully picking my moments, until there was just one troublesome guy left who had parked himself out of line of sight. As I was adjusting my positioning for a better shot, a leopard ran out from the jungle and murdered him before slinking back from whence it came.

My problem is that every one of those experiences happened to me outside of the main storyline’s utterly constrained missions, and this damages the game because what seems like it should be the crux of the game experience is sidelined by the sometimes mediocre, sometimes downright awful nonsense that the development team decided was what you wanted.

It is almost as if the developers don’t have the confidence in what they have created on their game’s periphery, because every time you try and engage with that content the game will stop you with a message. ” Hey, remember you have a mission. Careful, you still haven’t gone on a mission, not sure if you noticed that pop-up  from 5 seconds ago but here is a another one reminding you about that mission, it’s cool if you want to go do some exploring you know, but you know, like, that mission needs doing. Not important, I know, but oh! Will you look at this, another reminder about that mission. Not important or anything.”

Just looking at this screen is making me tired
Just looking at this screen is making me tired.

Your screen will be barraged with this harassment constantly. The game bombards the player with reminders of what to do next, what they could be doing or what, because they aren’t doing what the game tells them, they are missing out on. There is no breathing space and all of the little things that could have made Far Cry 3 one of the best games of 2012, possibly the last five years, are stifled as a result.

It is as if Far Cry 3 has no respect for the player or itself.

This authorship over what we are told to like or care about, and not allowing the player to take the time to explore the world – which does feature some truly interesting places – means that I grew to resent all the moments I gone through. It’s like spending a wonderful evening with an attractive lady only to be taken back to her place for some tarmacking. (Warning: googling the adult definition of tarmacking will bring up some unpleasant imagery.)

And it goes on and on, finding new ways to stifle the exploration. The game unlocks constant quick travel points as you get to them so that you can skip swathes of content. Later it starts doing that with places you haven’t even been to yet, further denigrating the game’s exploratory nature.

Everything is also tagged, so if you’re searching for something just bring up the map and select the relevant icon. No need to search, no need to learn the terrain. It is as if Dark Souls never existed.

Yup, fuck exploration just go to the icon
Yup, fuck exploration, just go to the icon.

But what makes the core of the game so terrible?

The ‘main’ story is inundated with Quick Time Events, turret sequences and other pure on-rails moments that would not be out of place in Virtua Cop. That is topped off by unskippable cutscenes which are admittedly fantastically rendered but go on for too fucking long.

The amount of information thrown onscreen suggests a philosophy of the player being an idiot who has no way to find their way through a mission even when they are in the middle of pursuing that very objective.

The number of times I was reminded to sneak into an observation post, whilst I was sneaking into the observation post, became belligerent; partly because this particular pop-up included an audio cue similar to the sound made to warn me that I had been spotted by an enemy.

There is nothing emergent throughout the ‘core’ experience of Far Cry 3 and this becomes a drain on everything that happens. There are constant fail states if you deviate outside of the path created for you with no flexibility around your objectives. It is as if the game wouldn’t know to handle your choices even if it didn’t just smack a ‘game over’ in your face whenever you pushed its boundaries.

Far Cry 3 is by no means a bad game but it is one that is not adventurous either. It is happy to be better than its peers, such as Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty, rather than something truly phenomenal – which some singular moments suggest it might have been.

These prompts will continue to appear tens of hours into the game.
These prompts will continue to appear tens of hours into the game.

The same can be said about its narrative; there are bits of writing where it feels as if the game is trying to break the fourth wall, or even make you question what you are playing. Boss battles that should be impossible to win but have you coming to with everyone around you dead, even though you were armed with a knife and heavily out-gunned, or a prison scene in which the televisions are showing imagery that could only be there for you, the gamer not the character, to let you know that this is only a series of digital illusions.

At least that is what some of the earlier scenes hint at. It unravels at the end with no real meaning delivered and the story remains undecided as to what it wants to be – a commentary on game violence or a celebration of it.

Finally, there is the Co-Op multiplayer that appears to have been made by an entirely different team of developers with the core engine tampered with (fire propagation doesn’t work the same way) and any fun that might have been derived replaced by heavily scripted encounters and a learning curve that spikes horribly all over the place. Awful only half describes it.

There are better open world games with RPG elements (Saints Row The Third, Dead Island), better games with stories about what might be the same topic Far Cry 3 was aiming for (Spec Ops: The Line), and there are games with cheaper thrills (COD 4: Modern Warfare must be going for less than a tenner now). As a result Far Cry 3 simply doesn’t have enough going for it to recommend to anyone short of those who have run out of other games to play.

Please note this review is based on the X360 version of Far Cry 3. A patch has been released for the PC version allowing the player to turn off a lot of the UI elements, but no patch is available for the consoles at this time. Also, the patch does not make the game fun to play, just less insipid.



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18 responses to “Review: Far Cry 3”

  1. @RuthlessCult Avatar

    I don't like this game at all.

    I hummed and hawed about buying it largely because a lot of the negative reactions appeared to be based on the fact that FC3 is not the same game as FC2. Realising that this is a silly basis for not liking a game, I picked it up and ran into precisely the problems you mention.

    It isn't that FC3 is linear compared to FC2, it's that it's linear compared to pretty much every action-RPG out there. There's an early mission where you have to sneak into a wrecked ship and you literally have to kill certain people in order and then go and stand in a particular place for an ensuing battle against loads more men thereby making a sham of the suggestion that you needed to sneak into the place in order to avoid being out-gunned.

    There's no denying that this is a slickly made game but almost every other aspect is botched: The writing is awful racist nonsense, the voice acting is terrible, the level design is like something out of a rail shooter and the powers system sits at the bottom of a supernatural uncanny valley — substantial enough to undermine the sense of realism and yet not substantial enough to open up new tactical dimensions.

    1. aj Avatar

      I think it was compounded by my oscilating feelings about this game. My first reaction was this:

      (Incidentally Shaun I was right, you DO have to hunt animals so nuh)

      But the more I listened and read, the more I felt like I was over reacting. By the time the glowing reviews came out and I had some people at work, who never play games normally, telling me it was really good, I decided that I needed to play this game. RPS and Giantbomb both listed as one the games to play this year and I usually trust their judgement on these things.

      Anyway, I was saddened when I started the game and it immediately pummeled me into indifference. That mission you mentioned is a good example and it happens really early on and only gets worse as you progress. Later you have to sneak through a camp that is situated in a sinkhole and there is a clear mission UI that tells you not to jump in the water as that will alert the guards.

      1. ShaunCG Avatar

        You got me there, you crazy soothsayer you.

        1. aj Avatar

          It is a logical step. If they mention the animals, then it means that the next step, given the verbs available, you would have to kill them

  2. @radian_ Avatar

    "It unravels at the end with no real meaning delivered and the story remains undecided as to what it wants to be"
    Reading Yohalem's interviews he wants to be (/believes he is) the voice of a generation.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      Reading Yohalem's interviews, the man's a bit of an idiot.

      1. aj Avatar

        Yeah, I am pretty conflicted about what he is saying. I want to believe some of the stuff he says but it is like he has these great ideas but can’t finish on them.

  3. Harbour Master Avatar

    I like this review, AJ, because it resonates with some thoughts I've been having regarding UI in games. (And you know what that means, it means I'm going to write about it.) But by the sounds of it, the on-rails mission design is the real crime, which is something that the excellent Dishonored avoided for the most part.

    1. aj Avatar

      Look forward to reading the UI piece.

      I need to give Dishonored more time as we dicked around with it before a podcast and we found lots of scripting problems in the tutorials.

      1. ShaunCG Avatar


        1. aj Avatar

          Yeah that was a bit of an awkward moment, I liked that we imagined a totally different spin off story if the game had allowed you to kill that woman whereby you aren’t falsely accused of shit.

  4. @sw0llengoat Avatar

    "Far Crys – or should that be Far Cries?"

    The latter I suppose, as it is Crytek's want to insist upon uncomfortable usage of the letter 'y' and therefore Ubisoft should try and distinguish themselves from Far Cry's daddies.

    I sort of like the look of this game despite your review. I will not get it though, I've learnt my Far Cry lesson three times before (once with the first, twice with the second).

    1. aj Avatar

      I’ve been trying to palm my copy off on someone, so if you want it I’ll bring it down and you can have it. Seriously, I went back in the game to take some screenshots with the video capture and within 10 minutes I turned it off as I simply did not want to play any more.

      1. @sw0llengoat Avatar

        WOOOO!!!! Yeah, I'll definitely take an free game.

        Cool, cheers man. Anything I could throw at you in return?

        1. aj Avatar

          Only that you promise never to give Far Cry 3 back?

          I’ll bring it down this weekend.

  5. Simon_Walker Avatar

    It seems FC3 manages to hit quite a few of my peeves with modern games.

    Oooh! Maybe I ought to write about some of them, eh?

    Uh… you just open an editor and type, right?

    1. badgercommander Avatar

      Do it, another article about hating stuff is long over due from you.

      This is bit random to be replying on, but I finished Dishonored a couple of weeks ago. That game is a delight.

  6. […] of the first mission. Dishonored is certainly not the only game to overdo the player props – take a gander at Far Cry 3 for a worse example – but I am anxious about what this […]