Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Far Cry 3 review (Revised)


    It's been over a year since my original Far Cry 3 review. I wasn't very flattering to the game and considered it to be nihilistic, racist, and exploitative. I had the nagging question in the back of my head whether I was missing something, though. Ubisoft was not a developer known for making racist or stupid games. They also weren't a developer known for putting out garbage and while I didn't enjoy playing Far Cry 3 the first time around, I had the nagging sensation I was missing something.

    The second time around, I attempted to take the story at a slower pace. While the premise of the game was that my friends were in danger and I needed to rescue them, I decided to take time exploring the island and dealing with the many myriad problems facing it. This allowed the story's speed to slow down to a more reasonable pace than my original playthrough. I also realized I'd been doing stealth wrong and correcting this made missions significantly easier.



The action is excellent. Violent but excellent.
    As mentioned in the previous review, Far Cry 3 is the story of Jason Brody and his transformation from a over-privileged California slacker into a ruthless survival-orientated killer. Marooned on a tropical island with his college buddies, he's forced to learn the ways of war as well as how to live off the island's many plants and animals. Jason intends to rescue his friends but he's torn between a number of factions who want to use him for his own ends, as well as those who simply don't care about his plight.

    When I originally reviewed this game, I was uncomfortable with what I perceived to be an insensitive portrayal of Pacific islanders as savages with Jason Brody being a "Mighty Whitey" who learns their ways before saving them from an outside threat. It's an overused Hollywood cliche which has been seen in everything from Avatar to Dances with Wolves.

    I may owe the writers an apology because exploration of the island indicates the 'savage' elements of the islanders have been long abandoned. Jason's adoption of their warrior ways is specifically an anachronism in modern times, brought about by the encouragement of a semi-sane NPC. Likewise, Jason's role as the "White Savior" is actually questionable as it's clear the islanders never really warm up to him all that well. He's an outsider and his attempts to integrate himself fail miserably.



Rook Island is gorgeous.
    The storyline is still problematic in areas, both because of the underdevelopment of the Rook Islanders and several places where they could have developed the heroes better but chose not to. I found myself entranced by Rook Island's history once I started exploring and was irritated to find out the developers didn't put nearly as much effort into realizing its setting potential as, say, the writers of Tombraider (2013) did their location.

    Far Cry 3's NPCs, however, are very memorable. There's not many of them, at least with speaking roles, but they're a delightfully despicable bunch of rogues with the occasional decent one mixed in. This makes sense, since the game is another variant on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Unlike Spec Ops: The Line, however, the game has a semi-satirical take on the story which prevents it from being completely depressing. I will say, however, the ending doesn't feel entirely earned and could have been better done.

    The story isn't where the chief appeal of Far Cry 3 lies, however. No, the best part is the gameplay. While the kill animations are a bit too violent for my tastes, the actual mechanics are quite fun. Far Cry 3 manages to combine animal hunting, gun play, stealth, and exploration to create a multilayered gaming experience. With 34 pirate outposts to liberate and miles of jungle to explore, I had an excellent time just wandering around. Indeed, Far Cry 3 reminds me strongly of Fallout 3.

Slowly, Jason Brody transforms from a scared kid to a man who can kill without remorse.
    Sadly, Far Cry 3 lacks the deep character interaction of Fallout 3 and the tattoo interface isn't a very fun experience mechanic. I also found the map to be difficult to understand at first and it took me several hours to master it. Worse, the save system in the game is completely broken. There's only one quick-save slot and the automatic saves often do so at very bizarre times. I managed to kill a pirate chief as part of a mission, only to get gunned down seconds later, which the game qualified as successfully completing the mission.

    Really, you could play Far Cry 3 over and over again without ever really dealing with the main plot. I argue, in fact, that might actually be a more fun way to play it. It's not the story is bad but it's inferior to the gameplay. I feel bad about this because I know Ubisoft can do so much better. A little more attention to detail would have made things much better.

    In conclusion, Far Cry 3 is a much better game the second time around but it's still not perfect. Play it for the exploration and shooting, rather than the story.

8/10

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