Whereas the original Far Cry was an exercise in playing the role of an action movie star, gunning down mercenaries lush, tropical paradise, Far Cry 3 keeps the setting, but actively questions your enjoyment in the proceedings.
Jason Brody starts off as a member of a generically privileged group of white people, who are immediately captured and sent off to different sites around the vaguely South Pacific island. Jason initially starts off meek and tremulous in the face of death, but is forced into action to save his friends. He surprises himself and everyone else, rising up to join with the native Rakyat to embrace the path of the warrior. The story brings him into contact with several colorful and decently voice-acted characters, Citra being the most compelling.
The enemy types show a great deal variety, and work wonderfully in teams. The first half of the game is largely ruled over by pirate slave traders lead by Vaas, an extremely charismatic antagonist, who is continually held up against the player, like Tyler Durden from Fight Club, in order to question the player's development. Later, player's journey to a second island to take on Vaas' boss Hoyt, and his team of commandos.
Over the course of the game, the player will unlock a number of upgrades, in the form of tattoos on his arm, many of which directly help in turning Jason into a stone-cold badass, or a genocidal maniac, depending on how you want to look at things. Several of these are useful for playing the game in a stealthier fashions, pulling enemies off ledges and using gruesome silent finishing moves to pick enemies off one by one. Fire makes a big return from Far Cry 2, naturally kindling from grass to brush.
Unlike Far Cry 2, there is a returned focus to the single-player campaign, instead of the previous, more anarchic design. It is always clear where the player is meant to go next and how to continue engaging in the plot, and a lower chance for player fatigue. Missions are well designed and put Jason through his paces, challenging him to explore every nook and cranny of the islands. Themes of insanity, the slave trade, rape, and drugs are major driving points of this narrative, continually sending Jason down rabbit holes where he must travel through trippy, drug-fueled sequences.
There is an astonishing amount to do in Far Cry 3, and the sheer exploration aspect of the experience places it up there with the best the genre has to offer, casting Jason as Indiana Jones creeping through lush temples and awe-inspiring vistas. Carrying capacity upgrades are ingeniously tied to the hunting mini-game, pitting Jason against Tapirs, Cassowary, Tigers, Bears, Komodo Dragons, and much more. Other challenges include assassination missions, Path of the Rakyat trials, and various relics, letters, and memory cards hidden around the island. Players are encouraged to find loot hidden around the world, as well as take advantage of the natural flora and fauna.
There are several efficient ways to navigate the island, including speedboats, jetskis (useable in Waverace style challenges), cars, and a well implemented fast travel system. Add to that the incredible ability to use hangliders, and later a full-on wingsuit, and you have a game that wants you to get around. Jason himself can navigate the world using what amount to parkour movements, to climb, slide, and leap through enemy strongholds. Outposts and radio tours can be liberated from enemy presence and create new safe zones for Jason. Buildings and enemy cover is destructible and can be modified in various ways.
Load times between in-door and outdoor environments are seamless, and the game looks gorgeous on PC. Controls are excellent on both controller, and keyboard/mouse, utilizing a weapon wheel, and various ways to access equipment. For whatever reason, the UI for the menus seem clumsily designed, although they function well, and feature a Handbook full of factoids, written in strangely similar tone to the entries in Assassin's Creed 3.
The bow, when equipped with fire or explosive tipped arrows, is one of the more versatile weapons, and perfectly silent. Other weapons include an assortment of pistols, SMGs, machine guns, sniper rifles, and explosives, the typical fare of first-person shooters, as well as the devastating flamethrower. Weapons can be modded in similar ways to the Call of Duty series, specialized for maximum damage or stealth with the addition of silencers. Jason also carries a camera he can use to highlight enemies. The game smartly awards new upgrade paths and weapons as more of the story missions are completed.
Far Cry 3 is a perfectly tuned shooter, one that lets the player loose straight into a more adult version of The Lord of the Flies, and watches how you respond to threats both external, and internal. It follows up the promise of the original Far Cry, while molding in elements of Far Cry 2. It is a unique and visually stunning journey into a land with no consequences. One of the better deals in gaming, Far Cry 3 offers up hours and hours of gameplay, including multiplayer and co-op options, that gradually scales in complexity, and overall delivers in almost flawless spectacle.