Your captured outposts become hubs for two types of missions: assassinations and hunting quests. Both are fun, but assassinations are the highlight: you've got to take out an enemy commander with only your knife.
I've been putting it off, but I should probably talk about the story missions. The pirates have captured - no kidding - you, your brother, your brother's girlfriend, your girlfriend, your friend, your other brother, and your other friend. By the end of it I was surprised we didn't also find my mother, niece and high-school English teacher somewhere in the compound.
It's not all bad. About half of the Jesus Christ
missions give you enough freedom to have fun with the predatory combat systems that make the outpost fights so great. The other half... erk. They're like a guided tour of all the clumsiest ways to mash story and videogames together until both of them break.
You left the mission area! Restart! You lost the target! Restart! You failed the quicktime event! Restart! A plot character got themselves killed! Restart! We spawned some enemies in a spot you knew was empty! Restart!
I don't feel like you have to be that smart to predict this stuff won't work. You don't have to play a lot of games to see how it backfires. And you don't have to talk to a lot of gamers to find out how much we hate it when you cheat or punish us to make a scene play out the way the story needs it to. It's so painful to see clumsiness like that in a game that's otherwise so elegantly designed.
The island itself is so rich and interesting to explore that it'd be a fantastic game even without any main story missions. So the question is, does the presence of a half-rubbish campaign hurt it? A bit, thanks to one unwelcome quirk of the level-up system: most of those neat perks, including the knife-throwing one, are locked off until you reach certain points in the plot. That pretty much forces you to play it, though thankfully not for long. Most of the good ones unlock at the same time as knife-throwing, a few hours in. You can safely stop there and get back to the good stuff.
Elsewhere in Far Cry 3's efforts to be all things to all people, it somehow has four competitive multiplayer modes and a separate co-op campaign. Playing this pre-release, it's too soon to review the competitive stuff. The co-op missions are a lot of fun, though: brisk, ridiculous shooting galleries about helping each other plant explosives and repair vehicles. There's no server browser, unfortunately, but they're best played with friends where possible. My favourite moment was taking a stealthy loadout and playing scout for a heavy-gunner friend in a dark cave: I'd 'spot' targets in the dark to highlight them on his HUD, he'd gun them down and draw all their fire.
Another caution about online stuff: Far Cry 3 uses Ubisoft's Steam-like service uPlay, and if you play online, your game can get interrupted temporarily if your connection or their servers go down. It's just a brief pause, though, and you can always start the game in offline mode to avoid it entirely. You miss out on uPlay achievements and a few lame unlockable rewards that way - I didn't particularly care.
Other than that, it's a nice PC version: responsive mouse movement, specific graphics and FoV options, tutorials reflect your custom controls, and it runs decently on Ultra-everything on a modest 3GHz dual core machine with a Radeon HD 5800. The engine doesn't quite suit the jungle as beautifully as it did the African desert in Far Cry 2, but it has some beautiful views.
The original Far Cry's developers Crytek used to describe that game's philosophy as 'veni, vidi, vici': you show up, you scout out the situation, and you decide how to conquer it. Ubisoft kept the Far Cry name, and Crytek tried to stay true to its spirit in the Crysis games. But only Far Cry 3 really feels focused on doing that concept justice. You've got a huge island to explore, ridiculously effective tools for scouting every hostile situation, and so many clever intersecting systems to inspire creative ways to conquer them. It's a better stealth game than Far Cry 1, set in an open world that feels richer than Far Cry 2's. That's an amazing thing to play.