Far Cry 3 Game ReviewFar Cry 3 is a big, belligerent, oft times clumsy but ultimately gorgeous rumination on violence in all its forms. Like a first year film student who knows what they like but doesn't have a base of influences that strays beyond films they watched whilst stoned throughout their teen years, the game careens carelessly from Apocalypse Now homages to LOST references; from Indiana Jones style temple runs to churlish stoner comedy. But it works. Mostly.
First up, let's get the combat out of the way. It's an immense part of what makes the game pop, and it's what most gamers and critics are going to focus on anyway: it rocks. The combat in Far Cry 3 is a dynamic, exhilarating fusion of stealth and unfettered brutality, depending on your play style, and three talent trees turn fighting into an art form. You genuinely do begin to crave kills, in a way few first person shooters have achieved. The range of weapons is vast and pleasingly customisable, though I did grab a compound bow early on and effectively re-enact Green Arrow: Year One, stalking pirates and drug dealers from the bushes, and generally being an absolute DIY badass. I even pulled a bullet out of my arm with my teeth at one point.
The free roam aspect of Far Cry 3 can't be undersold; whereas Dishonored let your stunningly compelling protagonist out on field trips and demanded you return at the end of each day, Far Cry 3 gives you actual freedom. The island the game takes place on is vast, and is peppered with a myriad of side quests and supplementary badassery; you can hunt game, pursue treasure, piece together the story of a group of Japanese soldiers stationed there during WW2, and liberate the island in increments. There's poker, racing and loads of moreish challenges to be had. In short, this is open world done right.
But this is all just dressing on what is an ambitious act of conceptual storytelling. You see, in Far Cry 3 (and there might be some very very light spoilers here, though presumably nothing that the trailers didn't already reveal), you control Jason Brody. Jason and his friends are swiftly trapped and scattered around an island by Vaas, a grade A psychopath. Jason manages to escape, and to help his friends, he falls in with the indigenous locals, whose shamanistic, warlike culture promises to elevate him to the status of warrior-god, allowing him to smite his enemies and liberate his companions.
Jason and his friends are assholes. They don't deserve captivity and torture, obviously, but we're shown via flashbacks that they're basically white, entitled jocks who headed on a jaunt through Asia in the most obnoxious, prototypically American and drug-fuelled manner possible. But it's genuinely hard to tell whether this is a commentary on society, or a fumbling attempt to appeal to that very demographic, in which case the commentary being provided is less stingingly apt and more cloyingly dull.
Jason's surrendering of himself to his inner warrior, however, is far better fleshed out. Early on in the game, he heads to a marijuana plantation and is told to burn it to cinders with a flamethrower. As the smoke rises, dubstep begins to blare (a rare instance of standalone tracks; most of the game is scored with some pretty gorgeous ambient music), and Jason begins to childishly yell 'this is awesome!', to which the gamer will very likely have two responses. Firstly, 'no it isn't, you cretin, people are dying here', and then, gradually, '…this IS kind of awesome'.
Perhaps the game oversells the uber-masculine degree to which Jason succumbs to his inner bloodlust, but that's what happens when you inhabit a character on rails; you're locked down on a pre-defined path, and you're forced, as the consumer of the narrative, to deal with the journey. In Half Life 2, for example, Gordon Freeman is voiceless, so you're never confronted with the jarring, fourth-wall-breaking moments of 'i'd never say that'. But in Far Cry 3, you ARE Jason Brody. This might be why i'm having so much trouble coming to terms with some of the events that transpire in the game.
Which might be Far Cry 3's greatest achievement. As Jason succumbs to events and is carried along on the currents, the player is similarly compelled to ride along and deal with the fallout. The day after finishing Far Cry 3, I'm still chewing on whether or not it hit the mark with me, and whether I'm happy with the conclusion. But I think I am. Which is to say, I think Jason is. Mostly. It's sort of hard to tell. We both went through so much.
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