As you may have noticed with recent firstperson games, Immersion appears to be a difficult thing to achieve for most developers. Well its that or Single player campaigns are just thrown in as a side-thought to what is essentially a multiplayer-focused shooter.
But i have one thing to say thank God for Far Cry 3.
Its safe to say Ubisoft’s third installment of its open-world exotic shooter is the best yet, restoring the tight plotline and personality that went missing in the savannahs of Far Cry 2, while introducing a sense of the world being your playground a la Just Cause 2. There is violence and combat in abundance, but this with cliff-jumping, paragliding, goat-gutting and treasure-hunting makes for one of the best single-player FPS experiences of recent years.
Far Cry 3 starts in a cinematic fashion. After a brief montage of you, a free soul, American backpacker dude called Jason and his admittedly annoying group of friends enjoying their tropical holiday. Just as all the partying, YEAH-ing and middle-finger-pointing begins to grate, the camera pans out to show that the images are from your camera, which is in the hands of a sadistic pirate called Vas. You and your brother have been captured, your friends are missing, and it’s up to you two to escape.
The early stages of the game give you a good idea of Far Cry 3‘s mechanics. As you slide down slopes, climb rocks and dive into waters, Jason’s hands are visible throughout, giving an added level of tactility to the game. Through the way they’re visually utilised, these digital limbs become an effective extension of the player’s body, giving the game a kind of immersion rarely seen in the genre.
Despite the fact that Jason seems to have chosen a stereotypical bunch of backpacker bellends as his friends, the storyline is emotionally involving. This is thanks to a soundtrack that’s always in-sync with on-screen events, with the music swelling when you tell your brother’s girlfriend that he got killed as you tried to escape, and becoming pointed and tense during stealth sequences. Furthermore, all the secondary characters are larger than life. From the psychedelic doctor, to the rebel leader Dennis, to the brilliantly maniacal pirate Vas, Far Cry 3 is a game with big personality.
Jason himself starts out as probably the most cowardly hero in videogame history, we relate to him as it’s probably the way any one of us would react in the situation (minus the genocide-level kill count). As the game progresses however, and he becomes an increasingly confident and lethal killer, and you cant help but begin to question his sanity. Of course, this doesn’t stop you from rampaging around the island slaughtering sharks and sniping pirates, but it’s a convincing and original form of character development.
True to the current trend, Far Cry 3 has enforced an RPG-style levelling and looting system. As you level up, you can spend points in one of three skill trees, which give you such abilities as jumping knife attacks, better underwater breathing, and improved foraging skills.
For all its brilliance, Far Cry 3 does have its flaws. The PS3 version of the game suffers from some nasty pop-in seizures, ruining one particularly psychedelic sequence early on in the game. The AI also leaves a bit to be desired, as enemies seem to think that by running straight at you, you’ll drop your gun and run, or that you’ll run straight back at them (which is always an option with the satisfying sprinting knife attack). When the gun-toting goons in a game are no more intelligent than the rabid dogs that populate it, it’s a little disconcerting.