Far Cry 3 Review
While this is enough to give Far Cry 3 a pleasant Bear Grylls overtone though, it's still a long way from being a Ray Mears simulator. Like the zany uncle who'll boast his limitless drinking only to then pass out after two pints, Far Cry 3 makes animal skinning a crucial part of the game but ensures that supposedly skinned corpses remain as they were before.
Where Ubisoft regains ground though is in the missions themselves, which - whether you're in the huge story campaign or the shorter co-op prelude for up to four players - offer a decent mix of empowerment, choice and linearity. There are a glut of sidequests and racing missions blanketing the Rook Islands, but the best missions are universally those which essentially boil down to 'Assault X' or 'Assassinate Y'.
These are the best missions because they offer opportunity. You can choose to just wade into heavy combat with an assault rifle and a rocket launcher and you can have a fine time doing that. Or you can handle it a different way - strap a mine to the front of your car and let it roll through the front gates or stand on a hilltop, tagging enemies with your camera until you're ready to take them out with your bow. Or you could throw molotovs over the fence and burn it down. Or you sneak throw silently, knifing enemies at point blank range.
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(Irrelevant boast: One time I even managed to coax a pack of tigers into chasing me, then sprinted straight through the base and left them inside. It was glorious.)
This is exactly what Far Cry 2 did so well; it's just that Far Cry 3 does it better and in an arena that's far more interesting and colourful. You wouldn't believe how much difference the colours make when it comes to making you want to explore, even if that is made trickier for the fact that you can no longer drive with a full map held on your lap.
In fact, the user interface in general ends up being one of the weaker portions of Far Cry 3. The crafting menus are built from dozens of sub-sub-menus which barely fill the screen, while your inventory is laid out as a central grid with the buttons on the periphery - so you can't right-click to summon a context-menu.
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Worst of all is that the Escape button is
context sensitive to any of the floating help boxes littering the screen at any time. Press it is as likely to throw up a tutorial in movement or a bit of Vaas' backstory as it is to dump you on the main menu.
These are things you can quickly adapt to, but should you have to? These are systems you'll use constantly throughout the game, so it's a pain they aren't designed more for efficiency and less for flashiness.
At the same time though, it's hard to hate these elements too much in light of the sheer size of Far Cry 3 - and, more importantly, the amount of stuff to do inside it. There are tonnes of big games out now, but Far Cry 3 is one of the few which offers both a huge sandbox and a lot of toys to play with it in. This, as much as the quality of the individual components and the sheer demented fun of ploughing through rainforest in a mine-laden jeep, is what makes Far Cry 3 worth a look.
Even if it does remind me of my weird uncle.