The Far Cry series has offered gamers a fresh alternative to big-name shooters like Activision’s Call of Duty series (and every shooter that tries to emulate it) since the first title dropped in 2004. Now in its third incarnation, Ubisoft continues to put the pressure on one of gaming’s biggest names: Far Cry 3 is an incredible game, offering one of the best single player campaigns of 2012.
Everything about Far Cry 3 is polished. The archipelago that your player traverses is lush, expansive and vibrant. Just when you think you’ve seen all that there is to see, a new, unexplored temple shoots out of the horizon or a plume of smoke erupts from the distance: inspiring more exploration.
Not that the story will ever leave you with a reason to tread far from the main objectives. The plot itself isn’t the most complex – the main character and his adrenaline-obsessed bro friends get kidnapped and held for ransom after a skydiving trip gone wrong. But the benchmarks along the way keep your eyes glued to the screen: you start the game as an innocent blank slate, but end the game as something much darker and edgier. Far Cry also benefits from one of the most psychologically twisted antagonists we’ve ever seen in gaming, a fully-realized character impossible to ignore. Prepare to sink marathon sessions into this game, trying to peel away more and more layers to the story.
Gameplay is a joy as well. Running, shooting, jumping, driving, swimming, hang-gliding – this is a very ambitious experience and it pulls off everything with a degree of polish one would expect from Ubisoft. There isn’t a moment in the game where holding the controller, sprinting from point A to point B feels like a chore. RPG nerds will rejoice as well: the level of customization here thrusts it into the company of Bioshock as great role-playing/shooter hybrids.
If there’s one criticism, it’s that multiplayer was gravely overlooked in favor of the campaign. The gameplay works well in single player mode but the simplicity of everything will probably alienate FPS veterans used to COD. Simply put, if you buy shooters primarily to play online, your money will be better spent elsewhere. The game’s map creator is a bonus, offering simple-to-use interface and enough varied backdrops and items to keep the customization-happy crowd busy for hours. A solid, personalized level design won’t change the fact that you’re still playing on a multiplayer engine that doesn’t compare to other shooters on the market, but it works for what it is. A simple-but-fun co-op mode also adds a layer of variety to the multiplayer experience but won’t hold you over for long.
The question of “should I buy Far Cry 3” all boils down to taste. Ubisoft has crafted one of the best story modes in recent memory; one that should offer 10-15 hours (depending on your pacing) of incredible gameplay, a chilling, enthralling narrative and great level design. The multiplayer falls way short of the single player, but for those of you who choose to venture into the Pacific, you’ll be left with one question: when the hell does Far Cry 4 come out?