(Ubisoft for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
With all of the wide-eyed excitement over the (still entirely unannounced) next generation of console hardware, it’s pretty easy to overlook the riches of gaming experiences we have right now.
Far Cry 3 is a prime example of the kind of superlative experience that we couldn’t even dream of a few years ago. The games of this current generation of consoles, we’re told, can only do so much. Tradeoffs and concessions must be accepted.
If you want a crazy, beautiful open world game (like Just Cause 2), you have to accept that the story and characters are going to be crap. It’s supposedly the tradeoff for emergent, go anywhere/do anything freedom. You also have to accept that the cost of such a huge, non-linear world is a raft of potentially game-breaking bugs (like Skyrim) and the gameplay is going to be serviceable at best (like GTA).
Far Cry 3 manages to avoid all of these caveats and delivers a full-bodied open world game, showing strength in all areas of its design rather than focusing on one aspect and leaving the remainder to wither.
Your character, Jason Brody, finds himself held captive on an exotic island, stranded from his traveling companions and at the mercy of a maniac who controls a small army of armed thugs. After escaping imprisonment in the opening moments, you must power-up your abilities and disrupt the operations of the group in order to rescue your friends and help liberate the repressed native population of the island.
The tropical environment is lush and gorgeous, filled with interesting topography, sweeping vistas, and bustling wildlife. As you complete missions over the course of the game, which range from hunting to scouting to full-on assaults, it plays like a great first-person shooter. There’s no need to grin and bear some sub par gunplay because of the openness of the world. Similarly, you don’t have to walk on eggshells and save your progress every few minutes in fear that the game will freeze or that you’ll run into glitches that take you out of the experience.
Perhaps best of all, you actually get a real story to go along with the satisfying open-world mayhem. Great care has been taken to create intense, story-based scenarios that inspire feelings of fear and disorientation rather than simply cut-and-pasting “clear the area of enemies” objectives across the map. Excellent voice acting and the consistently scene-stealing presence of the game’s best antagonist, the unhinged sadist Vaas, also help pull you in.
There is a fully featured competitive multiplayer mode and a series of four-player co-op missions to complement the main story, but these don’t add much to the entire package. They’re both pretty decent and offer up some quick thrills, and it’s hard not to appreciate so much additional content in the game, but these modes feel like an overreach on the part of the developers and fail to match the superlative experience of the single-player campaign.