Every holiday season publishers hurry to release their finest products almost all at once. Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, not to mention the launch of the Wii U, all took place within weeks of each other in November. It's easy for games released in December to get overlooked. Hopefully that is not the case with Far Cry 3 since it is a worthy contender for Game of the Year.
You play as Jason Brody, an American vacationer who visits an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They go skydiving and everything goes wrong when they reach solid ground. Jason along with the other main characters in Far Cry 3 are abducted by pirates who seek a ransom. Needless to say, Jason escapes. The whole point of the game is to rescue your friends and get off the island.
Much like its predecessors, Far Cry 3 is a first-person shooter set in a remote part of the world where security isn't part of the lexicon. The pirates control large swaths of the habitable land. Jason comes into contact with a rebel group who agree to help him save his friends in exchange for doing missions for them.
Most of the missions have you driving around to different parts of the different islands in Far Cry 3. You will be asked to assassinate specific characters, collect intelligence and place explosives at enemy weapons depots. The missions get more interesting as you progress along and are complemented by a variety of side missions and objectives.
An integral part of the game, though not really a part of the story arc, is eliminating rival headquarters to expand your landholdings. Each new base you acquire gives you experience points, a safe house, fast travel point and a store for purchasing weapons, ammo and upgrades. Radio towers need to be activated to unlock previously blocked out sections of your world map. They also unlock free guns for you to pick up from the shops.
Aside from the main plot, there are a ton of side missions on the islands. Many of these are posters hanging on bulletin boards or doors seeking you to assassinate someone or hunt down a specific animal. There are also so-called supply drop quests, which basically become a race to deliver medical supplies in a limited amount of time following a designated path. The Trial of the Rakyat has you kill as many enemies as possible in the time limit to beat a high score and win a reward.
The action in Far Cry 3 is really divided into three main components: action, stealth and hunting. Hunt (or be hunted by) multiple animals including wild boars, leopards, rabid dogs, sharks, crocodiles and more. Once you skin them, which isn't nearly as gruesome of an animation as say Red Dead Redemption, you can use it for crafting different objects such as larger wallets, ammo storage and arrow quivers. Plants can be harvested to restore health, repel animals, eliminate burn damage and other uses.
Stealth is one way to approach a mission. Sneak up using the crouch ability and do a silent takedown. Some missions will even require you to kill a specific person with a knife. Using a variety of weapons, such as sniper rifles, can also be an effective way to eliminate enemies in a quiet and efficient way. If you take down a rival base you earn bonus XP for not setting off alarms or being detected.
The other option is run-and-gun. This will alert all of the enemies in a certain area of the map of your presence and can be a pretty difficult situation to fight your way out of unless you can lure them into a trap and toss a well-placed grenade. The AI in Far Cry 3 is pretty good about flanking, though, so choking them all in one place is not always going to work.
The game reminds me a lot of Just Cause 2 except it is less expansive and they reward you for stealth instead of non-stop action. It becomes a bit formulaic capturing enemy compounds, scaling radio towers and hunting down animals, but there's enough variety here, including mini-games like knife throwing and poker, to keep you interested for a long time.
Money can be collected in boxes, on tables and by looting dead bodies, as well as by completing side missions. You can also sell little trinkets that you find around the island. Cash is needed to purchase from the stores. Purchase new guns, ammo and health items at the store, as well as gun upgrades. You should really never be hankering for cash since weapons are free if you activate the towers and equipment such as health potions are collected through crafting rather than purchasing them from stores.
Traveling is a big part of Far Cry 3. There are tons of vehicles to choose from including Jeeps, Humvees and other military vehicles, old washed up sedans, a hang glider, boats and even jet skis. Thankfully they are dotted generously throughout the world to make getting from Point A to Point B rather uncomplicated. Fast travel makes it even easier since you can teleport to different parts of the map if you unlock the rival compounds.
Graphically, Far Cry 3 shines about as well as a third party title published across multiple platforms can. Character models, the environment and the water effects are all above average in quality. The textures are not that great when you get up close, but the developers have to sacrifice some detail when you have a game with the amount of scale that Far Cry 3 achieves with very few load times. Likewise, the sound is topnotch with good voice-acting and tropical-sounding music playing on the radio stations.
Aside from single-player, Far Cry 3 offers co-op and online multi-player. The co-op is designed more with four people in mind than two. It is different from the single-player story and instead follows a linear progression rather than the open-world design. It's functional but not great. The same can be said of the multi-player which has your typical leveling system that we've grown accustomed to with weapons and attachments to unlock, but it never is a very satisfying experience.
Far Cry 3 is the full package. It's an open-world shooter with hours of enjoyable entertainment, action sequences that rival the best in the industry and unquestionable production value. The few flaws that the game has, including some repetitious aspects and relatively weak online multi-player, are more than compensated for by the game's strengths. Add Far Cry 3 to your holiday wish list. It's more deserving than the other first-person shooters on the market this year.