Forget Online Play, Achievements and DLC… while some may believe that those are the most notable contributions that the current generation of consoles have given to gaming, I would argue that there is another, far more prominent and influential facet that future gaming historians will attribute to this era: Hunting.
Seriously, there must have been a memo that was distributed to game developers sometime around 2008 that stated that every single AAA video game to be released from then on must have a mini-game that involves shooting, stabbing or exploding helpless wildlife, standing over their corpses and pressing X to harvest their organs and hides that can then be spent on upgrades for your character. It made sense in RDR. I suppose I got it in Skyrim. But I’m beginning to feel like every single game I’ve played since has featured this mechanic, and it’s starting to feel like déjà vu. Dead animals are the new Coins, and I’m over it.
Speaking of déjà vu, I will now make an impressive segue into stating my opinion on Far Cry 3, and that is: much like its hunting mechanic, there’s nothing here I haven’t done before.
Several friends whose opinions I trust hold the previous installment, Far Cry 2, in extreme high regard. I never got around to playing it; the game held a perpetual spot on my extensive backlog, but once I heard that a sequel was announced and that it was supposed to simultaneously fix all of the issues of FC2 and usher in some kind of open-world gaming nirvana, while introducing an instant-classic villain in the process, I moved it to the tippity-top of my must play list.
And I have to admit, the game starts off with all cylinders firing. You’re introduced to an opening cutscene of your idiot white-bread frat-boy character (full disclosure: it was like looking into a mirror from about ten years ago) and his douchebag Extreme X-Games Code Red Mountain Dew Crew of skydivers ( …not so much) as they and M.I.A. jump out of a plane over the creepy Pacific island from Lost – only to be immediately kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom by a group of scary pirates in a juxtoposition straight out of The Deer Hunter. Your ex-Marine older brother helps you escape, teaches you a few combat survival techniques before getting himself killed like a good mentor should (he had one day until retirement!), leaving you to join up with a ragtag group of native rebels, find your friends and extract your bloody revenge.
Despite the Last Samurai levels of “White Man Joins a Group of Ethnic Warriors and Becomes the Best of Them” mild racism, the intro is done well and is pretty compelling. It’s the rest of the game that is not.
Now, let me clarify, it’s not that the game is made poorly. Quite the contrary, the graphics are beautiful and the first-person exploring and shooting gameplay is smooth and very playable. It’s the sandbox into which you are dropped that is samey and boring. The island you are given to explore is quite large in square footage, but feels small because of the lack of variety in environments – its all jungle, roads and ramshackle little towns that house quest-givers, who all ask you to go to another ramshackle town down the jungle road and kill some generic bad guy or evil dog.
There are a few temples and caves, but they are all disappointingly limited to one or two small rooms, and hold shitty loot like broken necklaces or crumpled packs of cigarettes that are automatically sorted into your Quick Sell stash.
Why would anyone go out of their way to find that kind of useless stuff? Even the weapons are limited. There are two or three types of each of the usual fare – pistol, shotgun, machine gun, sniper rifle – whose customization levels are limited to a scope or extended mag. Yes, you can craft items – from about four different kinds of colored leaves. Compare that to the hundred or so crafting elements in Skyrim.
And then, of course, is the Hunting. Much has been made of the Wild Animals that roam the island, who attack you and your enemies with equal ferocity. Admittedly, it is pretty cool – the first time a crocodile jumped me from a riverbank where I was gathering and sorting plants like a sissy, I laughed in delight. The twentieth time, I yawned and blasted it with a shotgun. It gets old.
Once I realized how limited the scope of exploration and looting really was, especially compared to other recent open-world looting gems like Borderlands 2, I lost a lot of interest real fast. I tried sitting down to it ten or twelve times in an attempt to gather enough gameplay experience for this review, but each time, I got bored after about forty minutes and turned it off. And then I realized… that is my review. If I can’t even make myself play through enough of a game in an attempt to force myself to like it, then that’s saying plenty.
I apologize to my Far Cry enthusiast friends who may want to feed me to a river croc for saying this, but FC3 is, well, kind of a slog. It’s like Skyrim without the scope and Borderlands without the wit. It’s not terrible, but it’s been done better elsewhere.