A great holiday gone horribly, horribly wrong. That’s where you start off in Far Cry 3, as you watch little snippets of holiday video before discovering that you’re locked up in a bamboo cage. Bound and gagged, you can’t even respond as Vaas comes and taunts you, Jason, and Grant, your older brother, quite plainly showing that he’s a complete nutter in the process.
It’s lucky for you that he’s so easily bored, and wanders off to find some more interesting people to torment. Equally lucky that your brother’s army training helps him break free and orchestrate an escape, stealthily creeping through the camp and distracting guards with thrown stones to make good your escape. Simplistically it acts as a tutorial to the game’s stealth mechanics, but it’s also really atmospheric and tense, with several close calls on the way to a big plot point which I’m rather hesistant to spoil and a frantic, cinematic chase sequence through the tight, cramped foliage.
It’s hardly the smoothest of escapes as you end up falling from a rope bridge into a huge river, before you wake up with the quite unsettlingly bug-eyed Dennis having rescued you and brought you back to Amanaki village. It’s here that you discover a bit more about what’s going on across the island.
Vaas’ gang of pirates and the more peaceful, slightly less crazy Rakiya warriors led by his sister, Citra are at war.
Having managed to escape from Vaas’ camp, you seem to be the catalyst that could tip it in the Rakiya’s favour. After all, you’re already going to set off to try and rescue your girlfriend and the rest of your group, and that clearly means you have similar goals to the Rakiya.
There’s a lot of gameplay elements to pick up in a fairly short time, and Dennis doesn’t really worry too much about dropping you in the deep end to figure out how best to go about things on your own. In fact, there’s just something a little bit off about Dennis. He might not be as obviously maniacal as Vaas, or as tripped out as Dr. Earnhardt who you meet later, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be being straight with you. Then again, nobody on this island seems to be completely sane, which does make it a little bit hard to tell…
First order of business is to buy a pistol from the shop in the friendly Amanaki village and head up to the nearby radio tower to turn off Vaas’ jamming equipment. For a crazy person, he seems to have a pretty good handle on how to effectively disrupt his opposition! Doing so will open up the map for you to see, and when you head to shops nearby they’ll have more varied weapons in stock. So it’s a pretty good idea to do as you’re told.
As you head up the hill to the tower and through a the rest of the game world, you get some really wonderful visuals. This might be running on really old console hardware but it’s pretty to look at, and lush greenery is everywhere you look. There weren’t any enemies on the way, but once you get up to the top of the tower you’re greeted by an utterly beautiful sunset dropping into the ocean, and as you look around the island just stretches off as far as you can see. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the Island in Lost.
Don’t get too distracted by the prettiness, as you have to remove the jammer and use the zip line to drop right back next to the patiently waiting Dennis. It’s very reminiscent of unlocking areas of the map in Assassin’s Creed, and as the jammer goes offline you’re treated to a quick tour of some of the places nearby that you could go and explore. No time to explore just yet, because Dennis send you off on your next mission, teaching you how to live off the island’s varied resources.
There is an abundance of wildlife and plant-life for you to see and collect as you go around these islands. Plants are set into a handful of distinct colour categories, and these are marked on your map for you to go and collect. Similarly, the stomping grounds for everything from Wild Boar to Komodo Dragons are marked, so if you know you need a particular animal hide, then you can go there and do some hunting.[drop]
It all ties into a fairly straight forward crafting system of the game, with various combinations letting you create everything from health packs to bigger amunition pouches or almost anything else you can imagine you’d need. You get to combine these items, tools and objects with a skill tree giving you new takedown abilities, extra bars of health, the ability to swim deeper and so on. There’s a sprawling mass of possibilities for you to be able to take Jason’s combat abilities in whichever direction suits you best, but the key is that you’ll never be too far away from what you need to help you.
Having collected what you needed and got used to the crafting, and you get word that one of your kidnapped friends is being taken to a nearby camp. Here you get a brief glimpse of some of the emergent gameplay that Ubisoft have blended into the title, and it’s a set up which will loosely repeat throughout the game, but almost always unfold in a different way.
It’s up to you whether you roll in guns blazing, or try to sneak around and get the drop on Vaas’ goons. I’m all about the stealthy approach, so went to find a gap through the back of the base to get in, but whilst figuring out how to tackle the enemies a couple of dogs caught my scent and started attacking me. Suddenly alerted to my presence, I then had to face all of the pirates head on and needless to say that got messy very quickly.
Whichever way you decide to tackle it though, once you capture a base your Rakiya allies roll in and start to occupy the area for you. The boards surrounding the base switch from red to blue, and you’ve now got a fresh fast travel point and place to stock up on weapons and ammo. It’s another little moment of gameplay which has jumped from Assassin’s Creed but quite a logical one to add.
Away from the set camps, there are a lot of AI interactions and somewhat random events which occur out in the wider island, too. At one point I got the drop on some bad guys in a truck. As I was attacking them from one side, some of my Rakiya allies rolled out from a nearby camp which I’d captured, and started giving me a hand. Sure, that was pretty cool, but sometimes animals will get involved too and I stumbled across a raging battle between humans and rabid dogs shortly after, with near endless possibilities for local wildlife to interfere with what’s unfolding.
It’s a big island out there with a lot going on in it, and I’ve really only managed to cover the basics here. I’ve not really talked about any of the other decidedly unhinged characters out there, the incredible hallucinations, the numerous collectables, side missions, vehicles, hang gliders…
This game is huge sprawling mass of variety and one that could so easily go a bit wrong in development. From what I’ve seen, it feels like Ubisoft are set to pull it all together successfully. It’s going to hit the shelves at the end of November, and you’d be mad not to at least give it a second look when it comes around.