Ubisoft already scored a winner with the release of Assassin’s Creed III earlier in the Autumn Of Gaming, but can they replicate that quality of success with their latest first-person shooter FarCry 3? In short, not quite, but it’s still one heck of a ride. Taking place in a separate universe to previous entries in the series, this instalment focuses on a holiday-set teen who finds himself forced to take arms when his friends are captured and auctioned for slavery on the most dangerous island in the world.
This premise seems set for greatness, with the potential for a developing character arc of a man who takes a journey from being a simple tourist to a trained killer and warrior at first feeling limitless. It’s a shame, then, that in the end Jason Brody’s transition between occupations is rather swift, with just a few moments of genuine psychological conflict genuinely having their intended impact and the ending allowing for a solitary genuine sense of choice in the final actions of this flawed protagonist. Indeed, many effective plot-based moments essentially segueway into basic FPS missions that aren’t very cleverly disguised, no matter how strong the narrative ploy involved in initiating such rudimentary objectives.
Looking on the positive side, though, FarCry 3 has plenty of strengths. Visually, the impact of the huge open-world has all the same splendour as the likes of Just Cause 2, Grand Theft Auto IV and Batman: Arkham City before it, and while it perhaps bears the most striking similarity to the former, Hoyt’s set of islands are certainly diverse and have a lot of choices in terms of gameplay style and extra excursions. Ubisoft even ape Assassin’s Creed to an extent, using eighteen sparse radio towers virtually as synchronisation points in a manner that feels unoriginal yet effective. On top of that, despite the predictability of the main objectives, the core FPS engine intact here is definitely a step up here from FarCry 2, showing how far the developers have come since that Xbox 360 launch title shipped in 2006.
Moreover, the soundtrack works incredibly well at times, often reflecting the mood of the protagonist and/or situation with alarming realism that should have a profound impact on the player. It’s a shame that there aren’t more groundbreaking setpieces like an early drug-field burning mission which involves a Skrillex tune, as surprisingly this is one of the defining moments of the experience and is barely rivalled by any other mission in the game. There’s actually quite a sense that the first three quarters of the game are far more accomplished than the majority of its clmiax due to their emphasis on the strange but gripping character of Vaas, a man clearly derailed by his experiences on the island to the point that even his deranged family have turned against him.
Once Vaas’ role in the storyline is completed for reasons I won’t spoil here, FarCry 3 begins to lose its narrative momentum, struggling to find a meaningful way forward that will genuinely compell the player as much as the ‘friend rescue’ arc of the first half and indeed the hunt for the deep antagonist in the third quarter. I can understand why Ubisoft’s writing team chose to give Vaas the ending they did, but bar a few small highlights in the climax of the campaign I can’t help but wonder the storyline would have better off ending around there, seeing as the multi-choice conclusion feels a little old-hat this late in the current generation. FarCry 3 is a hard one to rate, then- in the end, I’ve stuck with a score that shows my annoyance at the increased focus on standard FPS missions after the true innovators are out of the ways, but ultimately still my profound love for the open-world, mostly impressive narrative and great gameplay engine Ubisoft Montreal have created here.
With a bit more polishing and innovation, the developers really could ensure that the sequel to FarCry 3 will be a genuine Game Of The Year contender when it inevitably enters development thanks to the fairly strong sales. This is undoubtedly a solid redefining of the FarCry franchise, but there’s still work to do.