Far Cry from Bad… If You Can Play It

This week’s entry is a bitter-sweet tale. After an entire day of extolling the virtues of Far Cry 3, I get home to start it up and show my friend and it says, “Far Cry 3 has stopped working…” “Windows will look for a solution…” in that way that inevitably leads to nothing positive happening. That’s when I remembered that my game had blue-screened the night before in the middle of a gaming session, but I’d had lots of writing to get done that night so I wasn’t really that put off by it. Now, though, I’ve checked the forums and realized that this is a pretty common problem. Apparently, Far Cry 3 has a habit of just not working for lots of players for many reasons. Having tried everything on the forums and all the suggestions I can get through Google, I’m currently in the process of requesting a refund or a solution through the Steam support and ubisoft support services. Fingers crossed. There are other work-arounds, but given that I’m working through Steam and uPlay, the DRM they’ve written into the game prevents them from working. Steam hasn’t really failed me yet, but I may suggest that you avoid buying things through uPlay in the future. Again, though, if they handle it well, I’ll post an up-date on here, and sing about their willingness to put up the service behind their DRM strategies. Maybe try a physical copy. Any ways, let’s get down to Far Cry 3: a game that’s well put-together, despite occasionally being totally unplayable.

BUT, before we do that, let’s get some light on GID Radio. I’ve been going on about how games, the internet and technology are going to impact… well… pretty much everything we do as humans, and this is a nice little aside on that topic. I was going to post an article about the Microsoft boondoggle and a little opinion piece on constant internet connections in consoles, but I don’t feel like I have to. You know it’s stupid. I know it’s stupid, and it hasn’t been fully substantiated, despite the Twitter remarks of that one micro, soft bloke. I know for a fact that some of my family in the boonies don’t have the available infrastructure to support that kind of connection, and they like gaming, too. We can’t exactly pull them out of there, either, because someone has to grow our food, amiright? How many connections am I supposed to have in a house? I live with 5 other gamers with two consoles each. Do you really think we want to work around having them constantly connected? We are your customer base, Microsoft. We are the people that buy one copy of a game each to make sure we’ve got it in our libraries. Each of us currently owns at least one 360. That’s right, we bought new 360s after you messed up with the RRD problem. Please, respect those people.

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Enough whinging! Far Cry 3 is an excellent game. Speaking of, you may have noticed the 3 on the end of this bastard child of a threesome between Assassin’s Creed, Just Cause and Borderlands, but don’t be fooled! The Far Cry series doesn’t really do continuity. Okay, you’re in an exotic locale shooting at guys in specifically coloured shirts (It is always Red versus Blue), but that’s about the extent of the similarities, besides inexplicable regeneration and a complete disregard for nutrition or malaria. The graphics are, as always, amazing, but, besides that, it’s everything a sequel should be. It builds on the original world and its concepts, improving them in many ways. It’s not afraid to gets its hands dirty and eke out an original blend of material, even if some of it’s from Assassin’s Creed.

The story, though, is all its own. It’s the  journey of Jason Brody: a rich, daredevil douche-bag that’s captured by slavers on a world-tour vacation. From there, he goes on a personal sojourn of growth and accomplishment as he adapts to the slightly racist ways of the jungle by hunting, killing, tattoing, crafting and skinning his way through an island of pirates and hapless wild life.  There’s even a little Disney-esque magic involved. That would be good enough for a slap-dash first-person shooter, but the mechanics weave into the narrative well enough to give Far Cry 3 a unified aesthetic that rivals anything I’ve played this year.

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Like Silent Hill 2, much of what you get of the story is delivered through symbolism. Okay, so maybe they explain a lot of the symbols, but there’s a solid foundation of art and drug-induced hallucination for them to work from. I don’t want to spoil too much, but, at one point, you come back from the dead in one of the most effective contextual button-press cut-scenes I’ve seen in a while. Of course, this game is full of those scenes, but they’re supported by the game’s insistence on doing everything in first-person. You rarely leave Jason Brody’s perspective, so everything that happens to you in the game is delivered through the same lens, lending a continuity to the proceedings that brings the events home to the player.

I said that everything was connected and I meant it. Far Cry 3 is a sand-box, but it’s a sand-box done right. You start the game with a pistol and a prayer, but you can unlock free guns (weapon mods sold separately) by climbing radio towers and destroying the signal dampeners that keep the island shrouded in darkness. That shows you where the enemy bases are. By clearing the bases, you get more fast-travel points to work with and quests to do. Doing the quests brings you out into the wilderness and exposes you to new weapons and tactics. Quests and base clearing provide you with experience that gives you skill points that give you new abilities. They’re not totally new, though. For the most part, they’re improvements on existing abilities. However, they’re substantial improvements that let you use old abilities in new ways, so the core of the game remains intact. For instance, you have a silent take-down move that makes it easier to clean out camps without being detected. Through the use of skill-points, you can gain the ability to drag a body away, use the enemy’s knife to kill another enemy at range, kill one after another in a rush like a vicious machete-samurai and drop down on enemies from above to kill them from different directions, which opens up whole new ways of assaulting bases. That’s not all of them, but you get the idea.

While you’re poodling around doing all this, the jungle is busy teeming with animals, some deadly, some not so much. Hunting, killing and skinning those animals lets you craft new and better item pouches and weapon holsters. There’s more to the crafting than that, though. As you do missions and quests, you unlock new, exciting drugs to improve your performance. While the Olympics might frown on the practice, these help ensure your survival, especially the medical ones. It’s not hard to get the resources to craft them, either. Plants are lying around everywhere, just waiting to be plucked. So, it’s not a frustrating crafting system, but it does have the effect of encouraging exploration. While you’re running around following quest objectives and hunting game, you’ll run into ancient ruins (That I encourage you to explore for experience and items) and impromptu wars.

The residents of the island have had it up to …here?… with the pirates, so they’re behind you 100%. In your journey, you’ll run into fire-fights and pitched battles between animals, pirates and the native population. Sometimes, all at once. However, most of the time, you’ll run into them in their designated zones. The native residence take the compounds you clear… appearing out of nowhere the minute you’re done succeeding (nice timing, guys) and sit around in temples and hovels asking for assistance. Animals have zones they prefer, although, they show up in cages and from out of nowhere, occasionally. Pirates travel the roads and water-ways, squat in compounds and patrol… places. Just like… a small stretch of sand. So, they’re everywhere. As everywhere as the animals, actually. Before we get to a comparison between combating animals and pirates, I just realized that you hardly see any women on the island. I mean, there are a few, but the population is so ridiculously skewed that I’m a little glad you can’t choose to be a female protagonist. (Huuuungry eyes… ooh oooh oooooh)

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The difference between hunting and fighting is a perfect example of the way the game’s flexible mechanics are organized to produce different experiences based on the way they’re employed. I haven’t made any mention of the audio, but there’s nothing quite like listening to the roar of gunfire to help you find a nearby fire-fight. However, once you’re in the thick of the foliage, the only thing that will help you stalk and counter-stalk the jungle’s deadly predators is what you can hear. You’ll definitely spend more than a couple seconds carefully listening to your headphones to make sure that the next splash of crimson the jungle gets didn’t recently belong to you. Besides admirable differences in enemy AI, most of the time, you’ll be hunting animals in the claustrophobic jungle, which makes the balls-to way they run after you that much more terrifying, but, at range, they’re pretty harmless. The opposite is true of the pirates, though. At range, they can actually be a problem once the game ramps up to RPGs and grenades, but they’re cannon fodder up close, especially with the best take-downs available.

In the beginning, you have to make a couple choices between stealth-based game-play and over-powering your enemies in the skills tree and with the limited weapons available, but, by the end, you get enough resources to make effective use of either set of tactics. Even the experience system reinforces this. Most of the avenues to gaining experience come through quests and events that most players will have to go through, or can go through with very little effort, during course of regular game-play. So, by around the middle of the journey, you should be about as bad-ass as you’re going to get. This ensures that you’ve actually got time to enjoy it all. There are tiers of bad-ass, though. Many of the higher-level upgrades require you to be at a certain point in the campaign before they become available. At that point, the enemies have stepped up their game, as well. You’ve become so much more through the course of the narrative, but your challenge is equal to you.

In a staggering lack of segue, movement in Far Cry 3 is both varied and fun! As I said earlier, the first-person perspective improves many of the more engaging aspects of the game, and there’s nothing quite like cliff-diving off a waterfall or out of an air-plane in a wing-suit. One of the last upgrades you get access to lets you sprint around forever, and, I have to say, moving around the world itself is fun, even though, or possibly because, you end up parking most of your cars in lakes or on fire.

Spoilers!!

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There are problems, though, aside from the aforementioned refusing to start issues. Vass, the most well-developed antagonist, is killed off half-way through the game, and it’s kind of a downer. You don’t really get to kill him, either. It all happens through a hallucination that doesn’t make much sense and in a situation where you’ve already been heartily stabbed.  The guy they replace him with isn’t nearly as interesting or engaging. The accents are schizophrenic and, at times, jarring. Many of the climactic encounters in the game are taken care of by quick-time events, which do make the encounters more personal, but robs the game of some of its epic quality when they’re put next to the warpath you had to carve to get to them. The parkour moves they include in the game to ease your movement work effectively most of the time, but, when they fuck up, they’ll send you careening off the tops of cliffs and towers.

Bugs aside, it’s well unified. It manages to marry a ridiculous sand-box with an intense, personal story-line that follows an interesting narrative arc, even if it gets a little pulpy at times. Get a hard-copy of this game, load it up and enjoy. I’m giving it A well-thumbed copy of your favourite book out of Having too much chocolate and having to share it with that hot girl from accounting for the game itself, but a Morose man covered in slightly scabby skin out of Too many spiders to squish with one foot for its frankly disappointing number of crashes.

Memorable moments: Shooting the driver of a vehicle and watching the war-wagon careen off a cliff. Doing a quest for a ghost. Dive-bombing face-first into a jaguar.

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One Response to “Far Cry from Bad… If You Can Play It”

  1. Addendum: So, I finally got Far Cry 3 working….. much, much later. Yes, this game can be buggy as all hell, and, yes, Steam wasn’t much help in sorting out the problem, because it was being sold through a 3rd party system (uPlay. Incidentally, watch out, because not all 3rd party systems are going to be good), but Ubisoft didn’t stop suggesting solutions until I was up and running the game again. And, I think that says something, don’t you?

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