Monday, December 3, 2012

Far Cry 3 Review

Cool Jungle, Bro

One of the beautiful sights of Rook Island
I must say that I've developed quite a fondness for sandbox games. Whereas some people are paralyzed by the ton of things to do, I become obsessed with trying to do all of them. Far Cry 3, developed by Ubisoft, was honestly not on my radar, but I was given the opportunity to try it out. Let me tell you, this game is a lot of fun, and if you're looking for yet another game to scratch that sandbox itch, there is really no way to go wrong with this game.

I'll start with what is the weakest element of the game so far, which is the story. The main narrative begins with with a group of friends vacation in the Pacific islands somewhere, and they end up skydiving over Rook Island. It seems their landing was rockier than normal because it landed them in the grips of a drug and human trafficking ring of pirates somehow, managed by the intense Vaas Montenegro. After a bungled stealthy escape attempt, the game's hero, Jason Brody, manages to run for his life through the jungle before he passes out. A man residing with the local Rakyat rebels, Dennis, saves you from certain death and tries to empower you to save your friends and support the local cause. He simply sets Jason off on his quest into the dangerous jungle. As Jason points out to him, he's never even shot a gun in his life, but so goes the story of a bro who becomes a hero. (Hebro?)

After finishing some introductory steps, the whole of Rook Island becomes Jason's oyster to crack. Along with following the story, there are a number of side activities to follow. First, in similar fashion to the Assassin's Creed series, climbing to the top of radio towers reveals portions of the map to better navigate the terrain and find secrets, and there are many secrets. Chests containing ammo and money, ancient relics, memory cards with pirate logs, and letters from WWII are littered all over the island. Next, there are outposts in every square area of the map; by overtaking these areas for the rebels, the amount of enemies reduces making the majority of that section relatively safe for passage.

There is nothing creepy about this scene.
The game even rewards Jason with more XP based on how stealthily these outposts are claimed. As much as I enjoy this, given my preference for stealth, I can't help but feel bad for the players who prefer to waltz in with guns blazing. The game even rewards you for stealthy takedowns better than normal shooting. Still, taking over these areas are fun, and when you're done, they become fast travel points replete with a locker that acts as a mini-shop and extra sidequests including assassination missions and rare animal hunting. What remains baffling still is that when you're done, the local rebels drive in with a handful of guys holding machine guns. Almost all the rebels hold machine guns. Why can't they take over these places themselves? Better yet, why can't you recruit them to help you? The connection is so obvious there.

Personal progression through the game is represented by a strange tattoo involuntarily given to Jason early in the game. Utilizing a skill tree system with three branching paths, as you learn skills, the tattoo grows down your forearm, a symbol of your growing skill as a warrior. Great games have great skill trees, and this one is no exception with unique abilities like kicking an enemy away from you as you pull his grenade clip or taking down a guard stealthily and using his knife to kill another one. However, those great skill trees don't always need great backstories, and this tattoo, which grows on its own without ink, only has a ridiculous explanation. Circling back to the story, this ultimately makes Jason's story of a simple partying twenty-something turned guerilla warrior seem like it could only possibly appeal to the already empowered single heterosexual white male audience that most video games are already marketed towards. It's a rather shameless plea for their rapt attention. You can already imagine Jason's friends after the end game going, "Cool tat, bro!" For a game that is enough fun to appeal to anyone, it is sad to have a sellout protagonist geared towards a niche demographic. That said, to Jason's credit, he is not silent in a story that demands he speak up, one of my gripes with Dishonored before.

Back to the good, though, Rook Island bears one of the most fascinating terrains I've explored in video games. The designers really went through a lot of trouble to create a huge area that is actually believable as a setting. With only endless waters surround Rook Island as a hidden wall around the whole setting, the environment  of Far Cry 3 is really yours to travel and have fun with. The terrain has many elevations ranging from tall mountains to underground caves. Every time I found a waterway that led to the middle of the land via a winding cave system, I was in awe. However, getting lost is not really an option. The map allows you to set way points to any objective, outpost, or mission, and the minimap is handy enough to help you navigate the local terrain without popping open the main map too often. I think it could afford to have mulitple zoom options (like the one in Grand Theft Auto IV), though, which would help with fast driving segments over and around hills where you can't see the road ahead too well.

Seriously, look at this.
Along with the varied topography, Rook Island features equally varied wildlife populating the area. As I said, you are given missions to hunt some of these animals, but otherwise, they are roaming free waiting to be picked off. Although you are not rewarded with any XP for the endeavor, the game features a crafting system that utilizes the hides from the deer, boars, tigers, and whatnot wandering in the wild. At the beginning of the game, Jason's ability to carry ammo and money is limited until he can craft larger carriers for all his stuff. Each time you craft an item, the next size up usually requires the hide of an animal in a completely different section of the island, which encourages more exploration and risk taking.

Also in each area are different color classes of flora, which Jason can use to craft syringes that enhance his performance (ahem) and abilities. I won't deny that all of these systems are useful and provide more fun to have in this well-developed game, but once again, the writers ask me to suspend a lot of disbelief. Jason is immediately knowledgeable in the art of hunting and skinning an animal, though his grunts of disgust never dissipate regardless of how often he does it. Slicing leaves off of plants is an easier skill for me to believe he can figure out on his own, but his willingness to shove syringes in his arm repeatedly tells me that he should've been in rehab instead of traveling the world. Oh, and this is all without going into his divinely conceived recipes and crafting diagrams for this stuff. And can anyone explain why he needs two deer hides to make a so-so wallet, but he can't craft a larger wallet with either more deer hides or better utilization of large hides? How does he know he needs a tapir? Has he ever seen one before?

Far Cry 3 features a plethora of weaponry to fit your killing desires. On top of covering essentially every class of firearm you could desire, it also feature multiple types of each, including a bow and arrow to make you feel like Rambo. (Rambro?) Then, if that doesn't sate you, you can purchase attachments to modify almost each gun to your liking, such as better sights and silencers. I have never played a game carrying an arsenal of bow and arrow, silenced sniper rifle, and silenced assault rifle before, but it makes me feel awesome. If the price for any high class weapon seems prohibitive, climbing the aforementioned radio towers and reestablishing radio access to the locals opens up higher classes of weapons for free. With all the XP and money you can earn from sniping random pirate camps and the like, this game is practically giving you more power away for little effort. It could probably afford to be a little more restrictive with the weapons, but I can't complain while I'm having fun accomplishing my tasks with deadly accuracy. The only problem is the backstory with the skills designates that until you reach a certain point in the main narrative, you will be stuck a limited set of skills to unlock and a surplus of skill points waiting to be spent. I personally recommend breezing through the story at a quicker pace to make the skill tree more accessible sooner.

To accompany the continuously fun gameplay, the graphics are really gorgeous. Not simply a console port, the settings allow players to really ramp it up and make it look quite lush. Admittedly, since The Witcher 2, this is the first game in a while that I couldn't run on max settings without sacrificing playability, but even on lowered settings, the game looks really good. An additional bonus is that human and animal character models all look good and animate believably, though the game suffers from the common trope of giving the most discernible details to the main characters, leaving the citizens of Rook Island to live with doppelgangers meandering about.

The majority of textures look good and are fairly passable up close, i.e., I did not focus on muddiness like I do in other games. The plants are all gorgeous from afar, too, but hiding in a bush does reveal the cracks in the rendering work. I should also mention that I experienced zero texture pop-in. The soundtrack varies from tribal to techno, which is all fitting without any one song standing out from the rest. Voice acting is all handled well and words generally match lip movements on all characters and NPCs. What is confusing is that the locals and rebels all speak Malay convincingly  but when it comes to English, they vary between a Pacific Islander accent and a Kiwi accent, going so far as to occasionally say, "Kia ora," when Jason passes by. I don't get it, but it's a detail the majority of gamers won't be bothered to notice.

Your digital camera acts as a way to tag and track enemies. Also, you can just look at the graphics better.
Control in Far Cry 3 is fairly comfortable with a typical mouse and keyboard setup on the PC. Most elements react well to input. The worst offender seems to be driving vehicles, where using a keyboard clearly lacks the nuance afforded by a controller with thumbsticks and pressure-sensitive trigger buttons. There is essentially one gear, and it's pedal to the metal. Also, the game allows you to maneuver the camera while driving, which I don't suggest doing ever because you'll drive off a cliff and not know why. In that regard, the game is a lot like real life! Another navigation gripe is the game's sensitivity to walking over small edges. I complained about something similar in Borderlands 2, but here it rears its ugly head in the silliest areas, requiring you to literally jump through doorways to proceed inside a house. Jason's ability to climb ledges is restricted to ones with overhanging ropes or vines that he doesn't actually use as grips despite their presence. Coming off of Dishonored, with the best first-person platforming ever, I found it jarring.

Finally, the game is a little too particular about the exact angle and distance at which you can interact with objects, such as found money and bodies to be looted. You have to be the in a precise position before it'll prompt you to do anything. This also emulates real life but in an unpleasant way. With all the money to steal and bodies to loot, you just want to grab and go. The worst culmination of all these came when I wanted to open a chest on a porch. I could not walk right onto the porch, of course, but the roof over it was too low for me to jump onto the porch. However, the extra foot the edge of the porch set me away from the chest prevented me from opening it. I had to climb nearby stairs on the other side of the house, jump onto and over a lounge chair placed at the corner, and maneuver myself to the chest that way. Imagining this scenario in real life yields only puzzlement.

Regardless of all these meaningless faults, I must reiterate that Far Cry 3 is a ridiculous amount of fun. The narrative notwithstanding, you will just have so much fun actually playing the game. The sandbox style is remarkably rewarding, and it affords you to have a very meaningful time doing nothing important. There is just the right amount of things to do written into the gameplay, and there are enough enemies, animals, and caves to pursue in between these moments. Combat is fun and provides a silly amount of options to play the way you want. Even as frustrating as it is to hear a tiger growling right behind you while you are picking off a pirate base one guard at a time, it's these unique moments that separate the game from others. I don't know what else I can tell you. Go play it!

Images obtained by playing the games through Uplay through Steam. It's like video game launch Inception.

1 comment:

  1. perempuan itu cakap dalam bahasa malaysia