Far Cry 3: A Confession

I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like Far Cry 3. At first it started growing on me like some sort unasked-for fungus and then unexpectedly, one day I began to LOVE it. At some point, I will probably write up a more detailed analysis of the plot (it will be extremely spoiler-ific), because much as I disliked the way the writer Jeffrey Yohalem explained his perspective on and intentions with the game and much as I felt that he didn’t make his point as well as he’d thought, personally I do think Far Cry 3 has meaning beyond what a lot of people give it credit for. It at least got me thinking and it seems there are other people out there who feel the same way. If you haven’t heard about all the controversy surrounding the game, there were a lot of gamers out there who felt that the plot was stupid, full of holes and blatantly racist. Taken at face value, that’s certainly what it seems like. There were others who saw what Yohalem says he was trying to do in creating a meta-commentary on the games industry and its use of certain tropes in games. Then there were the critics who were like me and really believe in the vision he was trying to create and saw the over-exaggerated or nonsensical elements of the plot as largely intended and were there to get you to think and to not take things at face-value. Don’t get me wrong, I was in the second camp before, so I completely see where people are coming from in their criticisms and I’m not denying that there is a feeling of Ubisoft Montreal wanting to have their cake and eat it too. However, many elements of the plot really spoke to me on a personal level and from my perspective, it was clear it was intended to. One thing that critics have often agreed on, however, with this game is that as open world first-person shooters go, this one is pretty damn fun. To be honest, fun doesn’t even really cover it. For me, this game was exhilarating, heart-pumping, trippy and explosion-filled. Also, it was certainly insane in more ways than one. I wouldn’t recommend anyone touch my Xbox controller, because I’m pretty sure my palms sweated through the whole game. I pretty much gave up trying to wipe it off after a while. There’s an unneeded disgusting fact for you. You’re welcome.

FC5

Weeee! Ziplines are an awesome way to get back down to ground level.

 

FC3’s main protagonist is Jason Brody, a young man from LA with no job (unless you count travelling and extreme sports, which I don’t) or direction in life and a cast of slightly douchey friends are on holiday ‘doing the Asian thing’ when they fall foul of their own doucheyness. On a skydiving trip gone wrong (well, the strange man in the club did say it would be incredibly dangerous), they end up stranded on a tropical island where they are kidnapped by pirates. Jason manages to escape, no thanks to himself and is now on a mission to rescue his friends, despite the fact that he doesn’t know how to fight and is absolutely terrified. The Rakyat, a mysterious tribe of people native to Rook Island take him under their wing in an attempt to make him more of a warrior and less of a douche.

The first thing I noticed when I started up a game was that the graphics were incredible in a very Uncharted kind of way, except to me, this was even more mesmerizing  It really looks and feels like you’re on a beautiful tropical island, the kind of place you dream of going to. This creates an interesting tension that lasts throughout the game. On the one hand it does sort of feel like a holiday and on the other hand, there are deadly animals and pirates patrolling the roads looking to kill you and I don’t know about you, but most of my holidays aren’t that exciting. You also see that contrast in all that natural beauty with the poverty that most of the natives live in, which is true to many of the tropical islands I’ve been to that have little of their own industry outside of tourism or have been oppressed by other countries for a long time. That contrast really helps it hit home. It may feel like a holiday for you at times, but for many people life is still a struggle in this dangerous and often unforgiving environment. Also, it feels truly open world, with every bit of the jungle created with care and not just existing as large open spaces, but are actually rich with detail.

Another thing I love about FC3 is the variety you get. There are many different ways of taking out enemy outposts to make them yours. You could take a long-range approach – release the tiger or bear in their cage and take out the remaining enemies with a sniper rifle in the confusion. You could sneak in and take out enemies quietly from behind or above or below. Or you could just go in and wreak havoc (who cares about reinforcements? You can take them!) It’s all up to you and how you want to play it and let me tell you however you do it, it’s a lot of fun. When it come to travelling you have 12 different vehicles for land, air and sea including jet-skis and get this – hang-gliders. Hang-gliding is no doubt my favourite method of travelling, but the crazy thing is not by much. Each vehicle handles very differently and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Driving is an incredible experience in FC3. It’s not just about getting from one point to another. You’ve got to read the road, because you really feel every bump in the road and if you’re  not careful Rook Island’s treacherous terrain will throw you right off a cliff to your death.

I also like how many of the fun RPG elements that are worked into the story, for instance, with the crafting system and your skill trees. It really feels like there’s a progression. At the beginning, Jason is undoubtedly quite weak. All he can do is run away, hide and occasionally knife someone. You can only carry one gun at the beginning and you have to watch when you fire that thing, because when all the enemies descend on you things can get a little sticky. Narratively, this is unsurprising as he’s never even fired a gun before. The more you upgrade his skills, the more of an efficient murderous killer he becomes.  Also, as time goes on, you’re able to craft bigger ammunition pouches and other useful items, along with a wide variety of syringes to enhance your abilities. Pirates? No  problem, just shoot them in the head with a super-powered sniper rifle or drop from a ledge above to perform a takedown (i.e. knifing them in the chest). Sharks? No problem. Punch them in the face. Bears? No problem. Use a flamethrower and burn them to a crisp. You can get really inventive with the ways you can kill people and the game encourages you to do it. You get caught up in the whirlwind of slaughter and it’s exhilarating. Sounds psychotic? It’s meant to. Moments like when I had to burn 12 rabid dogs alive with a flamethrower were so over-the-top and gruesome that it suddenly took the wind out of my sails and made me reflect a bit on how horrific some of Jason’s action or rather your actions really are. Just like Jason, it’s a progression. You become the killer.

The controls were fine, nothing particularly innovative there, which is probably a good thing considering how many skills you have to juggle in FC3. The crafting system was excellent and encourages you to really roam the island as you go around the cheerful business of skinning animals and harvesting plants . I also found the side-quests fairly enjoyable, which provided little interludes in the action, as well as the free-form exploration and relic hunting. I know there are some people who thought FC3 was too short, but that’s certainly not what my experience was. Just counting the main missions and side-quests  there was actually a lot of content. Throw in all the extra stuff and a few mini-games (I didn’t play all of them) and all the outposts and radio towers and it’s a long game. Throw in some exploration and hunting and random encounters and you’re set for at least 20 hours.

FC1

Bear vs. flamethrower. Any guesses which one won?

Now, on to my two favourite elements of the game – the voice acting and the plot. The main voice actors were all excellent and I really mean that. My two favourites were probably Vaas (who was nominated for an award – the voice actor obviously, not the character) and perhaps a little more surprisingly, the main character, Jason Brody. The voice actor for Vaas really out-did himself. I’ve seen this sentiment all over the internet and I whole-heartedly agree with it – Vaas has become one of the best video game villains of all time. For me personally, I think he actually might now rank number one. His portrayal was so unique  and so nuanced that it’s hard to fault it any way. Vaas isn’t just some lunatic or some typical tough-guy villain. He’s crazy yes, but in an incredibly human and vulnerable way, which makes him all the more unpredictable and terrifying. As for Jason, I really loved the voice acting for him. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I thought it was also a very subtle performance. As you don’t really see his face much, since everything takes place from a first-person perspective, you really have to read his emotions in his voice. To me, I loved the transition you hear from him being weak and frightened to becoming angry, bitter, confused and in many ways, more mature. I also like how you’re kept wondering, from the dialogue and just from the way Jason sounds sometimes about whether he’s still completely sane. As Vaas points out, maybe they aren’t really that different, if you get down to it.

I won’t discuss too much of the plot now because I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys and as I mentioned before, I’m planning to write a much longer piece on it, but basically I loved the plot. I thought it was a beautiful and subtle work of art. I understand why people think it may have bordered on racist and sexist, but to me, what was actually put across was the exact opposite. To me, the whole point of presenting these stereotypes was so they could rip them  down later. The ways in which they did this I thought were incredibly subtle – in showing a strong woman that was at odds with the expectations that the game set up, in various plot twists that were sometimes deliberately unsatisfying and in many other little moments and bits of dialogue that could easily be missed. In so many games these days, the views or morals that the game is trying to explore are often spelled out with obvious and clear-cut conclusions that can leave no doubt. Characters are either moral or immoral and endings are either good or bad. To me, it seems this game expects you to look beyond the surface yourself, to dig a little deeper to find the meaning.Personally, I didn’t find this to be a problem. I think it’s about time that more games tried to find deeper meaning. Books and movies can have subtext and so should video games. My only complaint is that I do feel they were a little too subtle with it at the times. As Yohalem said, they didn’t want to force you to interpret it one way or the other and that really showed through. They were content with dropping hints like the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quotations. However, I feel that if you’re trying to send a message or to create a thought-provoking piece then you should commit to it, to some extent. Otherwise you’re not just satirising video game tropes, you’re also pandering to them. As others have said, there are lots of crappy video games out there that do fulfill all these stereotypes, so if you don’t want people to just expect this to be the same, you have to be a bit more obvious with it, exaggerate it a bit more. I personally thought it was fairly clear that satire was what they were going for, but I can understand why many people don’t see it that way. To me though, the plot was the most beautiful and compelling part of this game.

FC3

Pirate vs. sniper rifle shot to the head. You be the judge.

To be honest, I’m struggling to find things to criticise about FC3, not because it didn’t have flaws, but because they were so insignificant to me that I don’t really feel they affected my experience in any major way. However, I will try to be nit-picky for your sake!  Other than the issues with the plot that I mentioned before, there were a few problems that caught my eye. It was quite slow to start and the first few hours may not be as fun as the rest of the game as you’re trying to work out how to do everything (it’s the downside of having all that variety), but it does pick up and eventually the controls and game mechanics begin to feel fluid. Another problem was that it could get a bit repetitive sometimes, especially after a few hours of outpost clearing or collecting ingredients, but then again I didn’t think it was that bad considering you can stop doing that any time and get on with the main missions or play a mini-game. I noticed a few glitches and the game crashed for me very occasionally, but these issues were generally fixed by restarting, although sometimes a quest that I was on completed itself or disappeared, but it never caused any major problems.

FC3 felt like a really well-rounded game that has a little something for everyone and that for better or worse, is not afraid to take things too far. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s now one of my favourite games (yup, another new entry to the list) and if developers continue trying to make games like this that are fun, thought-provoking and not afraid to be different, they’ll always have one fan reaching for the controller. Like Jason, I started playing with certain preconceptions about the island, but I came out the other side a little different and that, to me, is the mark of an excellent game.

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12 responses to “Far Cry 3: A Confession

    • It’s definitely worth your time I think, if you like open world shooters! It just feels huge in scope without sacrificing story (at least in my opinion)! I’d definitely recommend it if you get the chance to play it sometime. 🙂

  1. I loved this game. It and Mark of the Ninja were my favorite games last year. I don’t feel as strongly as you do about the story though the villains were great… particularly Vaas who does feel like an all-time great video game villain. I do wish we had gotten more of him, but what we got was great.

    Where the game shined for me most though were in the various options you had in approaching the combat which showed through the best in taking over outposts. Not much to mention in that regard that you didn’t already do, but there were so many ways to take them out: long range, short range, stealth, melee, animals, using the alarms… just so many options. If you haven’t yet, I advise putting some C4 on a jeep driving it towards an outpost hopping out and then blowing the thing up once it has rolled into the outpost. Always fun!

    Anyway, glad you dug this game so much. It really was an excellent one.

    • Hmm, never tried Mark of the Ninja. Looks like I have another game to add to my list! Yeah, it would have been nice to see more of Vaas, but it was short and sweet and what we got out of him was quality. I’d totally play another game that featured Vaas, maybe from the time he joined up with Hoyt. It won’t happen I know, but I can dream! Have you checked out the video they made with the voice actor for Vaas? If not, you can see it here http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/fip30y/far-cry-3-developer-diary–voice-of-vaas It’s awesome, but also incredibly creepy.
      Yeah, the number of ways you could approach combat in any particular situation I thought was incredible. I’m still finding out new ways to take out outposts, which is kind of amazing. Also, no I haven’t tried that tactic with the C4 on a jeep. I definitely want to try that out! It sounds awesome. 🙂

  2. I wasn’t sure about this game when it first came out, I didn’t like number 2. But after hearing that it really was like ‘Skyrim with guns’ I tried it out and loved it

    • Yeah, FC3 really is a lot of fun to play. I wasn’t that interested in playing it when it came out either and it really wasn’t what I expected at all, but like you I’m really glad I tried it! I’ve never played Skyrim (I’ve kind of been avoiding it to be honest, because I can already see myself getting sucked into it), but now you’ve give me another reason to try it. 🙂

  3. *SPOILER ALERT*

    Well written Sam, pretty much had the same experience as you when I played FC3. I did get incredibly disturbed at how fast Jason turned into a merciless killer. Now perhaps the gravity of his situation called for such extreme metamorphosis, but from being scared after stabbing a guy in the neck (just after his brother gets killed) and suddenly turning into a gun-totting revenger seemed a little too unrealistic and a bit too action-movie for me.

    The more I played though, the more I became aware of my own blood-lust. The thing was, like Jason, I had started loving the hunt and relished every kill. It was a shock to me, seeing the extreme violent imagery and the pirates’ viciousness as the game began. Yet the more of them I killed, the more I became like them. In my opionion, Jason’s journey is a great case study about discovering one’s darkness and how far one can go to protect himself and the people he loves.

    • That’s definitely one of the things that put me off at first too – the swiftness of that transition. I also thought ‘oh right, it’s going to be one of THOSE games that pretend to have depth and meaning, but is really just about guns and blowing stuff up.’ It’s interesting to hear that other people felt the same about this as well – that it was a progression both for the player and the character and you can’t help but get sucked into it!
      Even though it’s not the goriest game I’ve ever played, the way the animal skinning and stealth kills were done, for instance, were done with realistic brutality. As you said, you start feeling that conflict between what you’re seeing, which is often horrific and the enjoyment that you get out of it. I totally agree with you that it’s great as a case study on the limits people will go when pushed by and in exploring that darkness that all of us have to some extent. It really makes you wonder what you would do or if you really would be that different from Jason in the circumstances.

    • I think it’s an excellent game and a lot of fun, even if you’re not fond of the story. It’s definitely in my top 3 games of 2012, so personally I think it’s worth a try. 🙂

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