Hits all but two of the right notes for its genre, but still ranks up there with the best of them.

User Rating: 9 | Far Cry 3 PS3
Don't read this review if you don't want any spoilers before you play. Fair warning to you.

I love Far Cry 3. I've been rather disappointed with mainstream gaming for the past couple of years and I needed something to break that disappointment. Well, thankfully Far Cry 3 did just that. I tire of banality and trend-setting/following, and worse of all, hyping for games that turn out to be a slap in the face when you get to play them. For the first-person shooter genre, true sandbox-style gameplay and distinct storytelling are needed to reignite the fury of the market that it once had. Far Cry 3, as I have said, manages this feat.

Have I ever told you the definition of...

Nevermind. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty here: Far Cry 3 has probably the best single-player experience this year. You're given a dynamic, huge open world where you play at your own pace and manipulate the environment to your will. Far Cry 2 could have been all of this, but somehow the developers ditched some of these ideas which they had wanted at one point, or they missed them completely. So Far Cry 3 improves on practically everything set before it in its predecessor. There's truly an ecosystem at work in the game and you play a role in how it plays out. You get freedom of movement in 99% of the nooks and crannies provided to you. Choices really do matter. Characters have soul this time around.

Gun-play has been improved quite a bit. You can customize your weapons visually and technically and suit them to your style at any time you are given the chance. Speaking of style of play, you can actually play stealthily now, unlike last time where even a concealed shot from a suppressed weapon was apt to set everyone in an enemy position on your ass in a heartbeat. You can distract people with rocks. You can sit back and let predatorial animals take out as many grunts as possible. You can, like last time, set the foliage ablaze and put the guys in a panic. And now, you can take over outposts completely, converting them into safe houses for fast travel, re-stocking ammunition, shopping for new armaments, and providing a safe haven for your allies who in turn provide you with cover here and there in the immediate region. This is just one element that has been improved thoroughly from the previous attempt.

Also, the AI puts up a decent fight this time around. There are guys who will rush you with the intent of either spreading your viscera around the jungle floor or nicking chunks out of your neck. There are also guys who love to pop holes in your head with precision rifles, or guys who keep the distance with assault rifles pummeling you with round after round. What about the fearless ones who don heavy armor making light of your situation (get it?) with flamethrowers, or irridating the immediate landscape you stand on with lead. And in the meantime, what about the wildlife that is sometimes present? A Sumatran tiger might just maul a guy to death while you're busying yourself with your opponents or watching nature take its course from a safe perch; an Asian black bear may display his power against everyone in a camp. Even a komodo dragon might infect someone with its deadly bite in the fury. There's plenty of things possible in combat scenarios this time around.

A new feature element is hunting. Since there's a wide variety of wildlife to be encountered throughout the two major islands, each behaving in their own way, it would be a pity to make them simply props for immersion into the surroundings. Well, they now play a major role. Hunt an aggressive cassowary for its skin, put down rabid dogs and make use of their bodies for your purposes, pummel a mighty black bear into submission and make use of its hide, or even take on the elusive bull sharks patrolling the harbors. If you don't do anything with the wildlife, they may just interact with one another in their own ways. A tiger may be hungry for a pork sirloin, or a pack of dogs might try to tear out the juggulars of whom should be their masters. This all takes place with or without your input.

Mission variety is wider this time around. You're not longer exclusively set on blowing up an object of importance, killing a major player in the conflict, or taking an object of importance. You have a wider array of tasks to accomplish, like photographing scenes that could change the tide of the narrative conflict, racing to a supply drop location marked by flares, nabbing diamonds, looting important documents or key items from dead bodies, and hunting distinguishable animals for their reputable hides or for the closure of the victims of their rampages. There's few times where monotony plagues your progress through this huge game, and that's something Ubi heavily improved on from its disappointing second outing.

Plus, characters in the game are all unique in their own ways. Your character is not a voiceless drone, but a driven young man determined to right the wrongs inflicted on him and his band of merry men & women. Your character, Jason Brody, has a voice and a real presence. He speaks to those around him. He's actually acknowledged and not lampooned accidentally for role-playing purposes (so to speak). Major faction leaders have their own personalities and storylines you'd like to explore, and you do. The two villains in the game, Vaas and Hoyt, are intimidating and memorable against the swarm of poorly-written and cliche characters unfortunately conceived in other shooters.

Did I ever get to tell you the definition of...

Oh wait. Did I mention the play-time, at least the average anyway? You're looking at clocking more than 20 hours of gameplay here, and that's if you play in a focused way. For me, none of that felt longer than it should have been. This game is brimming with content and you will want to experience it all. And then the wingsuit comes into play. Let's just say that players will be having a total blast firing it up every time they gain modest airtime from cliffs, the tops of buildings, or even the steepest of hills. Don't forget the parachute on the way down, though!

Anyway, as mentioned in the so-called "review deck", this game hits all but two of the right notes needed for this genre to really bounce back. Let's get on them quickly, because they're important. They're arguably, in my opinion, the only things setting this game from being absolutely memorable, even borderline perfect.

The first sour note is the storyline. Sure, there are characters who really stand out, the game has some experimental plot points such as the Ink Monster or the hallucinogenic drugs you receive visions (that tell of future events) from. The mascot of the game, Vaas, grows on you through the game with his insane (literally) tirades on insanity, family, your being a weakling and a coward, and doing what feels right for the moment. However, the story is inconsistent, and a major plot point actually kills most of the enjoyment that could have been had otherwise from the plot alone.

That plot-killer is in how you kill Vaas. Yeah, you kill Vaas. But the way you do it is a massive disappointment. That's not hyperbole either. Here's the process: Jason sets upon Vaas' compound after an important run-in with his newfound Rakyat tribe, intent on ending Vaas' reign of terror for good. He breaks in, and while it seemed too easy at first, Vaas knew you were coming. He broadcasts his desperate but menacing reactions to your encroachment on his position on television screens strewn about as if by a madman. You're closing in on him and he comes out of the corner of your eye to stab you in the chest. You should be dead, right?

Wrong, instead, you have a vision. You are walking along TV screens as a path, and Vaas, or several ghostly copies of him are running towards you with machetes in hand. You fell these visions easily as you move forward. Eventually, you run into Vaas. Though it is a vision, you can't tell if this is really him or not, since visions like these are not reliable measures of reality. Anyway, you reach him and he tries to slit your throat. You engage in a short QT battle with him and you shank him with your blade. Turns out that you killed Vaas, the real Vaas. Just like that, from a couple of timed button prompts appearing on screen. No measure of actual skill for the player, just over-used anachronisms introduced by a survival horror game. There are no plot twists revealing that you were Vaas, or that you're becoming just like him, or anything like that (the writers could have definitely played with the insanity bit Vaas kept yammering about through the game's plot, but no...). A villain right up there with the most threatening of them, and he's wasted in a boring QT event masquerading as a boss fight. And then the second half of the game with Hoyt Volker as the villain is short and tacked on, which also breaks the potential of the game's storyline genius. Hoyt himself is a memorable villain as well, if not a bit cliche (and outright evil at that), but he's wasted in almost every way possible. Just like Vaas was.

What the hell, Ubisoft?

Then we get to the second bad note: multiplayer. It's been mentioned before, but Ubisoft dropped the ball with this set of modes. First of all, you don't get the freedom of choosing which game to play, anymore. Instead, ala Call Of Duty lobby matchmaking, you are dropped into a map that was chosen by Ubisoft. The game is plagued with lag, and people are kicked out because of it, so you often have to wait a long time before getting to play. And then you start to notice even more problems. One of them being that the gameplay is strikingly similar to the aforementioned series' style, but the problem is how it doesn't fit in this series. And you notice something glaring, if you're a Far Cry fan like I am: vehicles are gone. A gameplay element that made the real-time battlefield dynamic and often more fun than usual has been removed. To top all of this off, you don't get to choose to play user-created maps, and there's no vehicles to be found in those, either. The creative community with this game series has been slapped in the face. Bugs are omnipresent as well.

What the hell, Ubisoft?

If those two wrongs were righted somehow, before or even after this game's release, then those two alone would skyrocket this game into the acclaim it deserves. Effort was made to cement this as the best in this highly-capable series, and it shows in all ways but just two. Those two wrongs I describe hold this game back, and nothing more. Sure, framerate problems crop up from time to time, the QT boss-fights are unwelcome, and some bugs are to be found here and there, but they're minor quibbles in what is a truly content-heavy, exhilirating experience. I know patches and even DLC packs are imminent, but still, this is a game that is mighty close to the pantheon of modern-day FPS gaming.

By the way, have I ever told you the definition of insanity?