This article originally appeared in issue 246 of PC Gamer UK. Article by Rob Zacny.
You play Jason Brody, a child of wealth and privilege. You meet him through home movies of his latest vacation. Beautiful, vapid young people drink, dance, jet ski and sky dive in a tropical paradise somewhere. Then the camera pulls back, and you're watching the videos through Jason's eyes as he sits inside a wooden cage in a pirate camp.
His kidnapper, Vaas, holds Jason's phone through the bars of the cage, enjoying this opportunity to mock an American princeling. Vaas's mohawk sits above a pair of unnaturally wide eyes. You and Jason belong to him now.
By the end of the intro, you and Jason have watched someone bleed out through your fingers as you try to staunch a fatal gunshot wound. You have killed a man: a pirate loomed out of the darkness, and suddenly there was a knife and you were shoving it into his chest and neck. You are lost. Your friends are gone.
He's been to college, but Far Cry 3 is unequivocal in its statement: Jason Brody's education has finally begun.
Far Cry 3 combines ideas you've seen in other games and other genres. It has Crysis's sense of stealth, and the open-world chaos of its predecessor, Far Cry 2. You'll find a bit of Assassin's Creed in the way it reveals the map and side-missions, while the hunting, crafting, and character progression smack of Elder Scrolls. From these very good parts, Far Cry 3 creates something new.
My guide to this world is a middle-aged man named Dennis. After Jason's escape, Dennis welcomes Jason to his small village. He recognizes him as a fellow warrior, and will teach him the ways of warfare on this island.
I might as well get this out in the open: the racial politics in Far Cry 3 look troubling. Dennis and the villagers border on 'noble savage' stereotypes. They live together in harmony while women perform sensuous dances to the sound of drums. Dennis himself is a mystic, explaining that Jason's new tattoos mark his progress on the path of the warrior. It all raises some troubling red flags.
Dennis shows me the basics of surviving on the island. I can reveal the map by climbing radio towers and disabling the jammers the pirates have placed there. Once the jammers are down, not only is nearby territory revealed, but so are new mission locations and hunting grounds.
My first hunting quest involves killing wild boar and gathering a variety of local flowers. Boar, in addition to making delicious sausages, are also good for fine leather goods. If you want to increase your carrying capacity for basic items such as cash and ammunition, you've got to craft gear using animal skins, which means things aren't looking so good for Piglet, Tigger and Owl.
Plants, on the other hand, are primarily useful for crafting syrettes. Like all homemade drugs, the injections you make from plants enhance your skills and even grant various forms of second sight [For God's sake don't listen to this man – Safety Ed]. One type of injection, the 'combat instincts' syrette, reveals all nearby enemies, so that I can see their outlines even through solid obstacles.
All my flower-gathering and hunting left me feeling that Far Cry 3's tropical island is sometimes too much like a theme park. The colours are heavily saturated, the jungle almost painfully verdant, and the weather sunny and clear. Far Cry 3 seems like the sort of place where you might find Prospero and Caliban hanging out while Ralph and Piggy squabble over the conch and Sawyer takes his shirt off. It places itself somewhere between reality and dream.
Once I have the basics down, Dennis drives me to a pirate outpost. This is my final exam before being turned loose on the island, and I'll be using my stealth, shooting and recon skills to tackle it.
Outposts provide fast-travel nodes, weapons lockers and hubs for side-missions. But first you have to take them from the pirates' warm, still-twitching hands. To help me with my first battle, Dennis brings along a posse of indigenous warriors, the last hold-outs of the native population that has been driven into the heart of the island by pirate attacks.
My battered machine pistol doesn't inspire confidence in my ability to shoot it out, so I circle through the trees to come up behind the outpost. Thanks to the dense jungle and poor visibility, I easily slip into the outpost. Three guards are doing lazy turns around the courtyard while spouting some amusing, if repetitive, dialogue.
By bringing each of the enemies into focus in Jason's camera viewfinder, they're marked on your minimap and in your first-person view. As with the 'combat instincts' injection, a marked enemy is visible at all times, even through solid obstacles. It pays to take a few minutes to conduct a proper recon in this game.
After marking about five guards and their attack dog, I'm ready to begin. I put the camera away, pull out my pistol, and start creeping up on a nearby pirate. He's oblivious to my presence, too busy complaining about an STD he picked up at his last port of call. His day is about to get worse.