Far Cry 3 Review (PC)

Far Cry 2 got a bit of a negative backlash from players. Respawning guard posts, constant driving attacks, characters without any personality, and an environment that never felt alive sullied what should have been a great open-world FPS. Now Ubisoft are trying again by addressing all these faults and sending the series home to a tropical island. In that vein, during this review we’ll also be checking out how Far Cry 3 plays in its equally natural home: the PC.

Far Cry 3 puts you in the shoes of Jason Brody, a spoilt thrill-seeker thrown headlong into hell in paradise. After a narrow escape from the clutches of the demented Vaas and his army of pirates Jason is rescued by a group of rebels called the Rakyat. In return for Jason’s help liberating the Rook Islands from the pirates they promise to help him find his brother, his girlfriend, and his other kidnapped friends. However, the rabbit hole goes far deeper than Jason will ever suspect (yes, there are Alice In Wonderland parallels and quotes too).

Welcome to Far Cry

What follows is an adventure similar in many respects to Far Cry 2 but vastly improved in almost every way. It’s an open-world FPS with Skyrim-esque RPG elements, plenty of side-missions and an exciting series of story missions. The Rook Islands are a little smaller than Bethesda’s epic but are still massive, and walking from one corner to another would take hours. Luckily there are cars and Fast Travel points, although these have to be unlocked by clearing Outposts. The hated guard posts from FC2 have now been turned into a major (and enjoyable) gameplay element, as clearing them also unlocks new missions, shops, and safe areas. To uncover areas of the map you have to climb radio towers (in a manner similar to Assassin’s Creed right down to the swirling camera at the end), and there are also side-quests, mini-games (racing, poker, knife-throwing), challenges (with online leaderboards), and hunting to fill your time between the game’s main missions.

I’ll focus on hunting now if I may since it’s a major part of the game. Far Cry 3 has a full ecosystem with various animals roaming the islands, and if you want to get anywhere you have to go out and hunt them. That is, if you want to upgrade how many weapons, syringes and how much ammo and loot you can carry. You start the game only being able to carry one weapon, get a second through the hunting tutorial, then to have three you have to track down, kill, and skin several appropriate rarer animals (general areas for them are marked on the map), and for the final fourth weapon holster you’ll need to go on a ‘Path of the Hunter’ quest to hunt a particular elusive or powerful animal.

Hunting is kind of fun and just tracking down animals can be a challenge, which is always good. It’s also something you can keep on doing, regardless of whether you’ve got all the upgrades or not. Oh, and you take on sharks by punching them in the face, which never gets old. Many players will want to get a lot of hunting done right at the start and get it over with, as all the capacity upgrades will make your life easier - although that’s only in terms of carrying stuff. Gun upgrades are simply bought, and Skill upgrades are earned through XP.

The two most important states in Far Cry 3 are gunplay and stealth, and either of which can be used to overcome any enemy encampment. The Far Cry series has always had both, but I’m very pleased to say that this time both work just perfectly. I loved Dishonored but I preferred it as a stealth game, and if I screwed up my sneaking I often reloaded and tried again – that never happened with Far Cry 3. I’d try and overcome every enemy silently without alerting anyone, but if I messed up I’d enjoy fighting off the pirates equally as much. Enemy AI works pretty well, alternating between relaxed, alarmed and combative believably and offering a real challenge in every scenario. The guns are meaty, the flamethrower awesome, and this year’s “weapon of the moment” the Bow is my killing machine of choice.

There is, very roughly, 30+ hours of game here, and it’s amazing how necessary the “side” stuff is. If you want to get across the island quickly you’ll need Fast Travel points, which you can only get by retaking Outposts. To retake Outposts you’ll probably need a few capacity upgrades, so you’ll have to go hunting and subsequently crafting. To know where the animals are though you’ll need the map, so you’ll have to climb Radio Towers (the only things marked on the map before you activate them). It’s cool how Ubisoft have been able to link all these optional encounters into the main game without just using the simple rewards of XP and cash, although these are there as well. The ‘Trials of the Rakyat’ challenges having online leaderboards is a neat touch too, especially as the current leader gets displayed on a big ceremonial stone in-game. I’m the current leader of most incidentally, which will probably change rapidly once the game actually gets released.

It’s unlikely you’ll only want to do just the story, but that alone will still probably clock you 15-20 hours. This is a big game and it’s fun for the vast majority of play time, so I feel utterly wretched saying I wish there was more to do. The sad fact is, the bigger the world the more there has to be to fill it up. Far Cry 3 has a lot, but the two things there should be more of are proper side missions and a reason not to Fast Travel all the time. There are only a handful of side missions and they never last very long, although at least there are Outposts, Path of the Hunter missions, pirate hunts (kill a specific guy), races etc to keep things interesting between story stuff.

Insert action movie hero quote here, e.g. “you’re fired”, “hot enough for you” etc...

Worse though, as you conquer Outposts the threat level in the surrounding area completely disappears. Early drives around the island have you encountering road blocks or firefights between rebels and pirates, but these get rarer as you go on. There aren’t enough random encounters to make journeys interesting, and there’s no sense of constant threat like you might get in Skyrim or even Far Cry 2. This is more an area to improve on than a negative, but you will Fast Travel between locations more often than you’ll drive. There’s a lot of loot and various relics to discover scattered around the island, but the rewards for all of these are so pathetic it’s hardly worth bothering.

Another area to improve on to keep up with the best open-world games is in interactions with people. Main characters only interact with you in cutscenes, and although occasionally you’ll get a chat by pressing Use on them most of the time they’ll stare right through you and won’t even react when you’re gurgling in the corner undergoing a drug experience. Villages are entirely comprised by dolls who ignore you completely, aside from the nice lady who runs the gun shop. This is a real shame.

Nevertheless though, the main story and the characters are all interesting and the Rakyat’s plight is one you want to fight for. The highlight is of course Vaas, the insane pirate who stole the show at E3 and is like a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Captain Jack Sparrow. I loved every moment he was shown and extra kudos to the guy who motion-captured him complete with bizarre quirky ticks. He even livens up the worst mission in the game, the Uncharted ripping-off burning building Ubisoft ill-advisedly showed off a few months ago, your escape from which is followed by a terrible on-rails shooting section accompanied by your whiny girlfriend Liza. Luckily she’s not in it that much and one of the game’s themes is Jason’s move away from his loser friends and into the heart of madness. The story, complete with a few twists and drug-addled “is this real?” moments, certainly pulled me in and kept me pushing onwards to see how f***ed-up things could possibly get.

I’m going to talk about the PC version now. I was only running it on Medium settings with a few Highs and it looked gorgeous, but there was a bit of pop-up as sadly the one thing that isn’t in the otherwise-comprehensive graphics settings is Draw Distance. Everything else the committed PC gamer wants though is featured, even an FOV slider and map editor. The controls are generally fine despite some resistance to changing weapons occasionally, with even number keys 1-4 corresponding to weapons properly (hooray), but the big D-pad the game keeps popping up to indicate your inventory isn’t really helpful, as is making the Left and Down buttons on that D-pad correspond to keys 7 and 8 under the title “Craft Items” – without telling you which is which. I’ve wasted many a syringe pressing those buttons.

Generally though the PC version of Far Cry 3 holds up well and the abundance of long-range shooting and quick accurate reactions favours the mouse over gamepad in my opinion. However there are a range of technical quirks that I suppose are endemic to open world games, and while I don’t know how many of these are PC-only I’ll still mention them for patching posterity. The worst affected is the Save system. Far Cry 2 was better on PC because it allowed you to save anywhere. Far Cry 3 does kind of, just with no quicksaving, not on missions, and it has an annoying habit of either restarting missions or dumping you miles away if you quit the game, whether you saved or not. There are occasional crashes, a number of bugs, and Jason has the annoying habit of getting stuck on objects two inches high. Hopefully all this will get patched out, but I somehow suspect the saving problem won’t. Fortunately Ubisoft seem to have almost entirely backed down from their DRM, with the game only requiring a one-time activation on their Uplay system. You have to run the game through Uplay afterwards, but you don't have to be online and you can still use things like the Steam overlay. It's some DRM, but it seems to work easily and smoothly - which is all we really want isn't it?

What? Oh I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of all the awesome

The one thing I haven’t mentioned so far is the multiplayer, and that’s because I haven’t played it yet as the game’s not out until next week. There are Left 4 Dead-style four player Co-op missions with a narrative separate from the single-player, and I like the way you can still use stealth in these. There are objectives which require more than one player, various perks (such as the team-boosting Battle Cry) and your own choice of loadouts. There are six chapters and while I can’t tell how long each are I’m looking forward to giving them a try. A general range of versus multiplayer modes round up the package, including Team Deathmatch and Domination alongside ten maps to play them on. There’s a map editor remember though, so hopefully there should be plenty of new content coming out from the community.

There’s plenty I haven’t had space to talk about, like the drug experiences or the Indiana Jones temple moments, but if you have any questions just leave a comment below and I’ll endeavour to answer – as this is a particular game where I’m sure you’ll have plenty. Suffice to say Far Cry 3 is definitely the game its predecessor should’ve been, a constantly enjoyable open-world FPS that cleverly weaves in “optional” objectives with a compelling main narrative. Huge open area battles make way for smaller linear missions that are no less fun, with stealth and shooting equally strong. Despite a few technical quirks (seriously Ubisoft, patch the save system), a slight shortage of non-cutscene NPC interactions and the occasional lack of constant threat Far Cry 3 is a triumph that stands out from every other shooter released this year. It’ll frustrate sometimes, but hey, you can punch a shark in the face. In the face!

Top Game Moment: Hunting boars I was spotted by a gang of pirates. Armed with only a bow I snuck around and tried to pick them off Rambo-style, but as they closed in they were ambushed from the back by a tiger that mauled them to death. Hilarious.

Platform Played: PC

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By nocutius (SI Elite) on Nov 21, 2012
Fantastic, the game seemed good in the trailers but you can't really trust those so it's great to see it confirmed in a proper review.

Good to see that it's also lengthy and great news regarding the DRM. The saving issues can be seen as an annoyance but on the other the unintended effect is that you become more careful when you know that you might not load nearby, it kinda adds a bit of the punishment aspect to failing so a fanboy could even see that as a bonus :).
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Nov 21, 2012
The problem about the saving that I might not have made totally clear is that there ARE checkpoints during missions, and outside missions you CAN save anywhere, but if you specifically EXIT THE GAME, start the game again and reload your save it might dump you back at a safe outpost or right at the beginning of a mission. If you simply die you respawn at a checkpoint or where you saved last. Usually.

It's very rarely more than an irritation however, especially as replaying sections gives you an incentive to play a completely different way - which is often just as fun.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 21, 2012
Damn, one more game to play...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 22, 2012
Well, looks like Ubisoft have partially redeemed themselves for the PC platform, though the "save" feature appears to be problematic. I enjoyed much of "FC 2", though there were two 'features' I didn't much like, aside from what you've already mentioned Chris. They were the gunsmith (got so tired of weapons breaking down and having to make trips to the smithy to buy more) and the drug-affected missions which made gunplay nigh-on impossible. Add to that the useless map directions for town missions and it became quite a chore.
I like the fact that the island area is smaller than "Skyrim" as the African expanse in "FC 2" was just too big for me.
Is there anything akin to those frustrating diamond searches in this one? Most times they were as hard to obtain as holocrons in "TOR".
I'll await a price drop, and the inevitable patches, but it looks like I might be drawn back into island jungle warfare, after tiring of it after "Crysis" and "Crysis Warhead".
Thanks Chris.
By Hammerjinx (SI Core) on Nov 22, 2012
I quite liked FarCry2 actually. Guardpost respawns could be annoying, esp when you had to double back and clean out a post that you only scoured a few mins prior. This was easily outweighed by things like setting the savannah on fire to stop badguys flanking you.

...or finding a wounded guard, saying "Sorry, TIA Bru", and pulling out your machette.
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Nov 22, 2012
@herodotus: Let's see...
1. Gunsmiths like they were in FC2 don't exist now. There are gun shops, but mostly you just buy from lockers in safe areas. Guns don't break down anymore, and you simply buy ammo, upgrades and different guns now. Vast improvement. There are drug-affected bits, but you never really have to do hard shooting during these. They're mostly for fun, apart from a slightly-annoying part during the Vaas showdown where for some reason you're given the worst SMG in the game.
2. Map directions are fine now, and there aren't any large towns in FC3. Small villages only, and you rarely have to do much in them. They're a bit wooden really, which is one of my few complaints about the game.
3. It definitely feels the right size now, and the "second half" of the game is actually part of the whole map now, unlike in FC3 where you suddenly get thrown into a new area.
4. No diamond searches, just loot boxes everywhere. Currency is straight dollars this time (and selling junk). The only difficult searches come from finding Relics, and they're entirely optional.
5. It feels entirely different from Crysis, in a very good way. I loved Crysis but I never felt the shooting was as fun as the stealth, here I'm happy with the balance. Oh, and they've added having to highlight enemies on your map with an item (camera here) back in - don't think that was in FC2.

I generally also liked Far Cry 2, but I had to look past all the massive flaws. Far Cry 3 fixes all of them and really makes a compelling shooter out of them.

Oh, and if you're waiting for a price drop I think SimplyGames has it for £19.85. Well worth that, will last you ages.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 22, 2012
Thanks for those bits of info, Chris. I might just bite the proverbial and get into this island picnic. The many reasons I DID actually enjoy "FC 2" (loved the MP) might return to me once I do.
By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Nov 23, 2012
Can't wait!
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Nov 23, 2012
Really doesn't sound like my game. I have read a few other reviews and judging from them - much of the feeling is too disrupted by the new plague of gaming: pop-ups of scores, and new un-locks and progresses etc.

The MP part, which seems to be ahuge part of the main development of the game doesn't have dedicated servers - nah I still don't trust Ubi enough to get into FarCry 3...
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Nov 26, 2012
I haven't yet played multiplayer as there's obviously no-one around, so consider this a single-player only review. However, other reviews have criticised it extremely. The main campaign was definitely the focus.

Pop-up messages reminding you about the main quest (or worse, telling you how to do basic moves like Sprint or Crouch about 15 hours into the campaign) are certainly a pain in the arse, but they don't ruin the game in any way. Score pop-ups only occur in the optional 'Trials of the Rakyat' challenges.

As for new unlocks and progresses, a few of the higher skills are blocked until you've got a certain way through the main missions, literally only a few weapons are made available later (and you'll probably not use them), and there's another island that's unlocked later on, but otherwise that's it. The main island is massive and barring a bit of hunting to get capacity upgrades you can explore it without worrying about anything like that. It's undoubtedly a little less "real" and tiny bit more "gamey" than Far Cry 2, but after the complaints about FC2 I can understand why they changed some things. I hope you won't dismiss it based on those very small grounds. No complaints I can think of stop it from being a very great shooter.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Nov 28, 2012
The only thing I can say is that the comments popping up is unfortunately a stigma of gaming in general - they all have it so no, that doesn't deter me.

It is that I really DIDN'T like FarCry2 - at all. And also I just don't like the setup and the entire story and and game play videos doesn't entice me one bit - on top of that - I can of course link you to the Swedish site I read on - but to little awail for many of you the gripes of the game. They still gave the game good scores so if you can se passed the problems and are enticed - the game might very well be quite enjoyable - for me - I don't simply think so. Perhaps I'll pick it up later on but I hardly think so. My disslike of UbiSoft as a company and of their service is another incentive for me to stay away. Oh and I have plenty of games still to finsih ;)
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Nov 30, 2012
That's fair enough FoolWolf, but I do assure you that FC3 is a far, far better game than FC2 in every single possible way. Hopefully there will be a demo.

However, I can't help you with disliking Ubisoft - who aren't doing themselves any favours by (what I've just found out) having the servers crash on the launch day.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 01, 2012
Just bought it and played for an hour, definitely enjoying it. The guns in general are fun to use, could do with some recoil and such but otherwise least they don't break down anymore! And you can mod them a bit which is always nice.

And I love the open world, really well done without comprimising the actual story.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Dec 03, 2012
Wellpapp, I am thankful for the input guys. My love for Ubi seems to stay at zero though, they haven't learned enough with dealing with PC players imo. Still, could be worth checking out some sale in the future.
By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on Dec 04, 2012
I love the graphics. And I wish to say 'hi' to my old mates here on SI :) Haven't been around in ages.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 04, 2012
Hey Bosnian, good to see you! :)

And the game certainly is a looker, I can stare at the in-game fires almost as long as a real one :P
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 04, 2012
Hey Bosnian, good to see the dragon avatar rising on the forums once more:)
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Dec 04, 2012
Exactly, we need all the targets we can get :).
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 05, 2012
*brings the AA guns back online*

Just in case you go on a rampage, you understand :P
By the_fourth_horseman (SI Veteran Member) on Dec 05, 2012
Im playing it now, and enjoying it for all reasons mentioned above.

annoying stuff tho:
- Bullets are WEAK. You have to empty a hole clip on a tiger to whack one.
- Enemies are DUMB. Stealth relies heavily on your enemies not seeing you when your standing 3 ft. away. And why are they dressed in red, as this make them visible from miles?
- sidequests. You run across characters with `problems´ that need fixing, but the problems are silly and the characters are plainly uninteresting.
- There is hardly dialogue, so as to engage you in the story.

It´s the good vibe, the good action, the nice scenery, and an okay story that make this a good game. But it´s not as immersive as it could have been. I mean, it can´t light candle to skyrim or dishonored, or Read Dead Redemption even.

In the end I gave it an 8.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 05, 2012
Bullets, actually, are pretty damn lethal...on human enemies. The animals seem artificially tough, but one or two assault rifle shots will down your standard pirate easily.

Also disagree on the AI. The spotting mechanics are a little wacky sometimes, but the enemy AI is some of the best in any game. They really go for you in a non-suicidal way, employ cover and try to get around yours.

Sidequests, I agree on that, bit boring

I feel there's plenty of story elements playing around though, you can hardly expect them to flood the open world experience with constant attempts to drag you back to the story.

I personally think it's more immersive than skyrim! Different opinions eh? ^^
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 07, 2012
Poor PC port? Whaaa? Have you SEEN the options menu on this thing? A poor PC port does not have that sort of menu. Also, at least with the patch, I haven't had any problems outside of a single CTD.

Might be lucky mind you, but it doesn't seem so buggy to me.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 08, 2012
Just suppose for a minute that consoles weren't in existence....just suppose. Imagine how fantastic games for PC would be by now and just how powerful and further developed our rigs would be.
It's a dream that I have.....
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 08, 2012
Good point there, ze hardware she has stagnated because there's no reason to outrun the consoles any more, the games need to work on their years old systems :/
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Dec 08, 2012
Exactly, on the flip side you don't need to upgrade you PC for years now :).

I'd still prefer the incredible progress of the 90's. Just think of the progress from Wolfenstein3D to Quake (1992-1996), 4 friggin years. I can't even imagine that kind of progress anymore.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Dec 08, 2012
Compare a few pics form Wolfenstein3D and Quake and then make the same comparison between FarCry and Crysis.

The difference in tech advancement between both cases should be very obvious.

In the first case it's basically a revolution in the second is more of an evolution.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Dec 08, 2012
You have a point there, perhaps things only seem to have been progressing much faster at that time.
An illusion or not, things felt like they're changing much faster in the 90's.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 08, 2012
Well the process is basically this:

1. Games is developed on the PC
2. Game is then streamlined and cut-down to configure to console hardware
3. Game is then console "ready"
4. Game is then ported to PC

Cut out steps "2" and "3" and you have a real game.

"Dream on white boy,
Dream on black girl,
And wake up to a brand new day,
To find your fears have washed away"

...just woke up guys, sorry:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Dec 08, 2012
Just played a few hour's worth of Farcry co-op with a buddy.

THE WORST menus I4ve had to deal with just to look at my loadouts and stuff, but the missions are decently fun, the company is much more important of course :)
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Jan 06, 2013
I'm sorry Herodotus, all I saw was a 30 second advert, thought "eff this" and turned it off immediately. That's why I don't go to Zero Punctuation anymore...
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jan 06, 2013
You must hate youtube :P