Far Cry 3 Review: The Island of Dr. More-Bro
There must have been people working on Far Cry 3 who planted virtual shrubs for a living, full time, for however many months it was in development. No digital biome has ever looked so lush, so real. As a technical accomplishment, the game surely ranks among the most impressive ever. Ubisoft Montreal expanded Far Cry 2′s land area by a factor of ten, summoning another island into the Southeast Asian archipelago like some kind of Quebecois volcano.
Far Cry 3
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), XBOX 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Released: November 29th, 2012
A pity, then, that this godlike feat wasn’t performed in the service of a better game. While open-world developers have become exponentially better at creating massive, photorealistic environments for players to run around in, their ability to populate these worlds with variegated gameplay and compelling narrative has remained static. Each sublime improvement in the quality of the sandbox is undercut by the familiar plastic bucket sitting in the middle of the sand.
Gameplay just doesn’t benefit from the same economy of scale. Far Cry 3, like other recent open-world titles, simply settles on a limited handful of activities and repeats them, with only slight variation. Ten times more land area is great, but not when it comes at the expense of doing the same number of things ten times more often. Collecting 120 fetish statues is not twelves times more fun than finding ten of them.
The activities on offer are also disappointingly unoriginal, compounding the problem. In most cases — the racing leagues, the hunting challenges, Ubisoft’s beloved “scale the tower to reveal the map” challenge — you’ve played it all before. Same goes for the obligatory multiplayer and co-op modes that the developers insist on trumpeting, in the off chance that mass amnesia causes everyone to forget that Halo 4 and Black Ops 2 are less than a month old.
Far Cry 3′s publishers have made much of an early review that described their game as “Skyrim With Guns,” a comparison that is only partially apt. At its best moments — careening down a jungle road in a stolen jeep while listening to some obscure reggae song, or watching a leopard chase a deer from the majestic silence of your hang-glider — the game does evoke Bethesda’s fantasy blockbuster. Their achievements in open-world design are comparable; this is high praise indeed.
But while Skyrim’s unapologetically fantastical music deepened immersion, Far Cry 3′s obnoxious dubstep soundtrack constantly reminds you that you’re playing a video game. The game’s physical environs can also be as repetitive as its gameplay. In contrast to Skyrim’s varied regions and climates, it offers green, green, and more teeming green. Climbing an unconquered radio tower provides a sweeping camera shot of the local area, revealing the same rusted, corrugated huts, the same overgrown Japanese bunkers, the same elaborately mysterious caverns, over and over again.
Nor is there much to find in these places. No swords of unspeakable power here. Instead, Ubisoft offers loot that seems almost symbolic: empty icons to be hawked for cash. Imagine my excitement when I braved shark-infested waters to dive to the bottom of a sunken temple, only to surface with — literally — a “Half-crumpled Pack of Cigarettes.”