Friday, August 2, 2013

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Far Cry 3"
There are some gaming experiences that you enjoy simply because of the story.  I’ve done several myself.  Sometimes I’ve been rewarded for my efforts, and sometimes there have been games that have been disappointing after having promised me the moon.  And now that I’m back to at least semi-regularly reviewing games that people actually give a crap about, I took a look at a release from last year that I missed, and sadly so.  Far Cry 3.  And where did it land on the scale of one to THIS GAME SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS?!

Well, let’s take that little journey together, shall we?

I took on the role of Jason Brody, the third-place winner of a Zach Braff look-alike contest, who is vacationing with his friends in the Pacific when he ends up getting captured by a comically overblown and possibly racist pirate and his band of pirates who plan to sell him and all his friends into slavery.  However, timid Jason breaks out with the help of one of his friends (who gets a bullet to the neck for his trouble) and runs off into the jungles of the Rook Islands to avoid dying…

After reenacting the climactic bridge scene from Temple of Doom, Jason wakes up in a village where a (possibly) magic tattoo has been scrawled onto his arm that marks him as a warrior.  Thus begins an epic tale of revenge, flipping switches, several drug-induced hallucinations, and lots and lots of bodies scattered all around the island.

The best part is that I’m really not kidding, that could basically have been the blurb on the box art for as accurate as it is.  Jason journeys across the island learning how to make medicines from the herbs (the Richard and Tommy method of healing) and to skin the animals of the island in order to make holsters, packs, and ammo pouches of all sorts.  And by skin animals, I really do mean skin all of them.  Almost every animal you run into in the game has a skin to serve one of the aforementioned purposes, the highest tiers of which require taking special missions to hunt specific creatures and skin their pelts…which is easier said than done in many cases.

Not even getting into dealing with sharks, which have frightened me from a young age.
The game is open world, though the second island isn’t open until about halfway through the campaign.  However, there is more than enough space and enough on the first island to keep you occupied for quite a while.  The hunting of creatures for pelts alone can literally take up hours of time.  Plot-wise, a main objective is to clear out enemy outposts across the island to secure more territory from the pirates and re-activate radio towers in order for merchants to bring in new equipment.
"Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord, Jesus Christ?"

A neat bit about the merchants is that while the game does have a commerce system (a barter system accompanied by whatever loose change you find in the pockets of people you kill) you’re not actually required to purchase any other weapons but the starting gun.  Activating radio towers unlocks certain weapons for free, so after a handful of them you’ll have enough guns that you can access to blow a small crater into the moon. The game very much allows you to be self-sufficient in this regard, just a quick trip through a nearby glade getting you enough leaves to fill your medicine cabinet and thus making the only real need for money being ammo.

The game encourages stealth combat to a strong degree, largely in the second half of the game.  During the first half, taking out enemy outposts is rather easy.  A few well-placed shots, they’re all dead, no fuss no muss.  But as time progresses, new factors are added that make a direct assault possible but rather impractical.  Bases get alarms that bring wave after wave of reinforcements along, enemies get better weapons and stronger defenses, and so on.  So there is a strong emphasis on sneaking around and taking out enemies from the shadows whenever possible.  Unless you just have a death wish…particularly, again, on the second island where enemies tend to be more resilient than not to weapon fire and you have to look for weak points.

This focus on stealth is particularly irritating when you have escort missions, as you do have a couple of them throughout the game and they are really exactly what you’ve come to expect out of escort missions – very, very irritating.  The death of the piece of meat you’re guarding means, of course, that you have to start the section all over again.  And it is very, very frustrating when you complete your mission objectives and then have your escort taken out by a single bullet fired from a man you couldn’t see before.

That all being said, I won’t say that the game is unfair by any stretch.  If you’re observant of your surroundings and manage to have just enough manual dexterity to act, you’ll come out alright…nine times out of ten, anyway. 

The storyline itself is very interesting, certain text screens quoting bits from Alice in Wonderland as we see Jason’s descent into becoming what Rook Island will make of him.  And I have to admit, seeing that descent is rather chilling as he goes from being offended at the very thought of killing in cut scenes to doing it off-handedly and not giving it the least bit of thought.  

It’s a little harder to swallow all of the carnage in the very beginning, naturally, due to his attitude.  But once the narrative picks up, we start to see him slipping as he realizes what he has to do and then starts doing it.  Very well, in fact.  Enough so for the local native tribe to want him to stay and be one of their warriors, their priestess in particular wanting Jason to stick around after killing the two main Big Bads so she can have his uber-warrior children (more on that later).

That being said, both of the boss fights against the Big Bads, Vaas and Hoyt, are pretty underwhelming for what I was expecting.  Hoyt in particular, though considering the one with Vaas is a massive drug trip if I weren’t told that I’d actually killed Vaas I would have never known.  Also, for as much as knives are considered a sacred weapon by the Rakyat – in fact, certain people can only be killed by knives in certain side missions – you only get into two knife fights over the course of the story.  These boil down to quick time events that you have to memorize and that really just are irritating when they’re brought up right out of nowhere.

Even in the aforementioned side missions, you don’t fight with your knife anywhere else in the game, so it is rather jarring to only have the two sections of it right out of nowhere.

Beyond all that, you get a flightsuit/parachute combo during the second half of the game from a C.I.A. agent, so I really can’t complain too much (though hey, Ubisoft, couldn’t you have gone the extra mile and gotten me a jetpack?) as far as that goes.

What I could complain about but won’t is the endings.  Spoiler alert:  There is no good ending.  I’d normally complain, but it’s actually really nice to see an inversion like this in gaming what with so many games doing alternate endings or special ones you only get for achieving certain objectives or getting certain items.  Cut and dried, playing through the entire game, you only get two and it gets based from a literally last minute decision.
Vaas really steals the show...until he's killed off halfway through...
In the end, Jason can decide to join up with the Rakyat, kill off his friends and have some crazy hot sex with the priestess leader of the tribe…who promptly stabs him in the chest after conceiving (it’s implied, anyway, your guess is as good as mine as to how in the hell she knows that) and promises that he will die the warrior he has become.

Or, as his second option, he frees his friends and elects to leave.  The priestess tries to stop him and is immediately killed by one of her followers who tries to attack Jason for being a traitor.  Then Jason and his friends leave, and he lives out the rest of his days as the monster he has become.  Not to mention what is probably the complete demolishment of the Rakyat tribe and very possibly the beginning of the end for their civilization.

So, yeah, it’s the Kobayashi Maru.
There is no right answer.

But y’know what? That works.  That’s actually a really welcome change for me.  Again, this isn’t something I’ve seen that often, maybe I just need to diversify what I play, but…really, for a game to take a bold step like this and really just give no light at the end of the tunnel is pretty astounding.  Of course, it fits the overall feel as well.  The jungle is not a nice, inviting place.  It is foreign, it is hostile, and it will consume you given the chance.

Just as it does to Jason Brody, one way or another.

So as for a recommendation…yeah, I say go for it.  It’s pretty good beyond a few minor irritants here and there.

Far Cry 3 is available for Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 from Ubisoft and Ubisoft Montreal.