Combining the best parts of the original Far Cry and its sequel, Far Cry 3 is a near-perfect realization of an open-world shooter, offering plenty of thrills, chills, and kills in a tropical island setting. The world is suitably exotic, with treacherous cliffs, lush jungles, lonely shantytowns, shark-infested waters, ancient ruins, and mysterious caves. Danger seemingly lurks past every tree, bush, and boulder. Hostile pirates patrol the region on foot, in jeeps, and on boats, and the island is also home to a surprisingly diverse number of deadly animals.
The game's design borrows elements from Red Dead Redemption, Assassin's Creed, and of course, the two previous installments in the Far Cry series. Instead of being a "pure" first-person shooter, Far Cry 3 lets you hunt, kill, and skin animals such as komodo dragons, dingoes, leopards, and bears. The hides can be sold for extra cash, but the primary reason to hunt is for crafting gear. Everything from rucksacks and wallets to ammo pouches and quivers are crafted from the hides and pelts of your prey, and hunting expeditions are memorable thanks to the realistic behavior of the island wildlife.
Animals actually behave like animals, so you'll see predators such as tigers running after weaker animals, such as tapir or pigs. The best part is that creatures will also sink their teeth and claws into nearby humans as well, leading to unpredictable and darkly comical moments. The realistic behavior is not just limited to the animals, either. Pirates will open fire on tigers, march civilians to the beach for executions, create roadblocks near bridges, and investigate any loud sounds. If they spot you, you can run down a hill or crouch in some bushes, and they will often lose their bead on you. Your enemies aren't expert marksmen or ruthless assassins; they will retreat when necessary, flank you when they have an advantage, or run to sound the nearest alarm.
The story casts you in the role of Jason Brody, a young and wealthy thrill-seeker whose girlfriend and siblings are captured after skydiving over the fictitious Rook's Island. You'll soon learn this is a nasty, nasty place, home to drug trafficking, slave traders, and death squads, but there is hope. Brody is apparently part of a mythical legend, a member of an ancient tribe of warriors that draw power from a tattoo. The people you encounter are either paranoid, delusional, or a little bit of both, which makes you question if what is happening is actually happening, or if it's part of some hallucinogenic trip.
In addition to the main storyline, which spans 38 missions, you'll be able to infiltrate and eliminate hostiles at 34 different outposts. Clearing these outposts will transform them into safe houses and open up activities such as hunting missions, assassination contracts, courier jobs, and more. In a nod to Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed series, you'll also be able to carefully climb tall radio towers that will remove the fog of war from the nearby region so you can reveal hidden areas of the map. Everything you do earns you experience points, which unlock skill points to spend on improving your character's abilities. Also scattered about the island are numerous collectibles and loot chests, whose contents can be sold for money. Cash can then be used to purchase weapons, weapon upgrades, body armor, and ammo.
While there are loads of things to do on the island, fans of the open-world genre might feel the structure is a bit too familiar, as you are basically doing the same types of things you've already done in other open world games. There's also a slight problem with its open structure: the game actually becomes easier the more you play, as activating radio towers and clearing outposts makes parts of the island safer. Money is also not much of an incentive to explore the island and its many, many loot boxes, because you'll automatically unlock weapons for free as you progress, and you'll be able to craft health-restoring syringes simply by looting green-colored plants. The only reason to spend cash is to replenish ammo and purchase body armor.
Yet it's the freedom to go about your objectives, the emergent gameplay that develops from the AI of both animals and enemies, and the variety of destructive weapons at your disposal that makes Far Cry 3 so exhilarating to play. You can be a sneaky, silent type that uses a bow to take out enemies from afar, or you can trigger explosions, set the ground ablaze, and mow down everything in your path with heavy artillery. You can soar across the island in a hang glider, venture out into the ocean on a speedboat or a jet ski, and bounce up and down the terrain on an ATV. Rook's Island is far from a tropical paradise, but you'll be so immersed in the action and setting, you won't want to leave.
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