Has anyone seen a goat?
Spending a vacation on an island paradise is something that many people would find desirable, especially given the current weather here in the UK. Relaxing on beaches, exploring the jungle for hidden delights, ordering exotic food from room service. It is the stuff of dreams. But for the average gamer, there would likely be second thoughts. Paradise very rarely stays as paradise in the world of videogames.
Let’s take Rook Island, the setting for Ubisoft’s open-world shooter Far Cry 3, as an example. It really does look like a gorgeous island, and it even comes across so when the game begins and we are introduced to a group of young American students who seem to be having the time of their life on the island. But we all know where this leads, and before long this dream vacation is completely turned on its head as the group are captured by one of the most realistic psychopaths ever seen in a videogame, Vaas.
Separated from the rest of the group and under close guard by Vaas’ group of pirates, Jason Brody, the character controlled by the player, and his brother attempt to escape their confinement. It is now that the player is introduced to the basic mechanics of the game, as the pair make their escape. After some sneaking, distracting and throat-slitting, the brother is killed and the player is left with an incredibly exciting, high-speed run through the jungle and potential safety. The effect of haphazardly pushing through the jungle at such a pace is one of many amazing experiences that comes out of Far Cry 3.
But that is the real draw of the game. Far Cry 3 is filled with amazing experiences in an open-world set on a beautiful island, and also manages to pack in the kind of story with believable and eccentric characters that would make Hollywood jealous. It is a story of growth in the most horrifying of situations, of becoming the man that you need to be to survive.
Or maybe I am just getting carried away with it. Maybe it is just a story about rescuing your friends and shooting some bad guys. Either way, the game is paced in such a way that following the story will challenge players, but never overwhelm them. The nature of the open-world game ensures that if a particular section becomes too tough, the player can go off and do something else in an effort to tip the scales and get an advantage. There is always something to do on the island.
But back to the story. Brody is rescued after fleeing from Vaas’ men by Dennis Rogers, a man leading his village to fight back against the pirates and reclaim their island. With his help, the player begins their journey to become a warrior and find their missing friends. Along the way, the player will come across other characters who are willing to help in the fight against Vaas, including the trippy botanist Dr Earnhardt, who seems to have taken one too many of his herbal concoctions, and the leader of the island’s native tribe.
It is with the help of these characters that Brody will become strong enough to take on Vaas and save his friends. But this is an open-world game and there is so much more to do than just follow the story missions.
There is no sight-seeing on Rook Island, although it does look splendid. Everything has a purpose to it, from taking on pirate strongholds to capture them for the islanders and gain experience, to hunting the island’s wild animals. The crafting system is very well done and makes sense, in a round about way. Players hunt animals and gather plant life from the island, and then use what they gather to improve their character. This can range from collecting plants to use as health potions of sorts, to finding the correct animal skins for making a pouch to increase the number of potions that the player can carry. If they want to carry more than one gun, the player will have to find and kill the correct animals to make a holster. If running through fire is something that the player plans to do, gather the plants and create a fire-resistance potion. The plants come in a small number of categories, but there is a wide-range of different animals to find and skin which are spread throughout the island.
In a move that reminds me of Assassin’s Creed, an on-going side mission in Far Cry 3 has the player climbing to the top of radio towers around the island to reveal the map for that area. Once this has been done, players are able to see other missions on the map, as well as places of interest. Activating these radio towers also brings the possibility of new weapons at the village shops, of which there is a really nice selection.
The gunplay is tricky within the game, obviously favouring the more stealthy approach rather than run and gunning. However, once the stealth kills have run dry and it is time for the bullets to fly, the shooting mechanic works really well and players can switch between weapons with relative ease when they run out of ammo, something which will happen quite a lot for the less accurate shooters.
There is an abundance of side missions to keep the player occupied, and secrets to be found. Players can pick up missions from a bulletin board and as they progress, they unlock new skills that bring even more options to the game. There are even vehicles to play around with on the island, such as jeeps, jet skis and even hang gliders for the adrenaline junkies. And that is before moving on to the competitive multiplayer mode, which is good fun but nothing new, and the co-op mode, which offers a separate storyline for up to four players. The developers have even thrown in a map editor for players to make their own version of paradise.
But the real stand-out feature of the game is the way that the story, the open-world setting and the gameplay combine to make Far Cry 3 a game to experience. Brody’s journey is an interesting one which will raise questions amongst the more thoughtful gamers.
Veterans of the earlier Far Cry games should be aware that Far Cry 3 is something completely new, both in story and scope. It is filled with action, exploration and, perhaps most importantly, meaning. Far Cry 3 is a trippy journey, but one you will be glad you remember on the morning after.