Far Cry 3 Review: The Island of Dr. More-Bro
Still, the game has moments of sheer excellence. The single-player campaign manages some exciting, gleefully over-the-top set pieces. Horde-mode-style hubs offer idiosyncratic challenges, like handing players a shotgun and asking them to blow away as many charging enemies as possible within the time limit. Red rocks that mark these areas will display the name of the current Leaderboard king, a welcome sop to insatiable digital egos.
Liberating enemy encampments — achievable by stealth, sabotage, or sanguinary violence — stubbornly refuses to get old, despite being repeated unvaryingly 34 times. This is in part due to an ingenious system for marking targets; using the crosshairs or a handy digital camera, players can quickly identify threats, causing red icons to appear above enemy heads as well as on the minimap.
These encounters showcase the game’s slick, satisfying gunplay. The series’ trademark fire-spreading mechanic returns, sowing chaos in its wake. The option to unleash caged animals on unwitting guards is worth taking every time, though I advise caution: Far Cry 3′s animals can sometimes seem practically bulletproof. When in doubt, use a full clip.
But for every clever touch, there is a perplexing blunder. Why is there a loading screen tip that explains what a flamethrower is? Why bother creating a “Handbook” explaining every person, place, animal, and object in the game, only to fill it with sophomoric jokes? What’s with the Alice in Wonderland quotes? Why is the game constantly flashing words like “lick,” “f*ck,” “father,” and “girlfriend” at me, like some undergrad-level psych experiment? Why am I hearing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” except for the fact that it once appeared in another entertainment product that involved killing people in Southeast Asia? Why does the game make so many casual drug references, except as a hollow, exploitative way to seem “edgy?” Why bother including manual saves, if you can’t load them when you die?
Nothing, however, rankles like the game’s story, which is aggressively stupid. Far Cry 3 is about a character named Jason Brody, an immensely unlikable 20-something who is busy bro-ing his way through a vacation when he and his friends are captured by a band of psychotic pirates, who intend to sell them into slavery. After witnessing the death of his brother, Brody makes a miraculous escape, only to wake in the care of a character named Dennis, who is in the process of tattooing him.
Dennis is effectively a “magical negro” who dispenses supernatural power and super-silly exposition before compounding the game’s offenses against taste by introducing Brody to Citra, a hyper-sexualized priestess of the island’s hyperbolically primitive religion. Drinking in the white man’s burden like a chilled shot of Patron, Brody resolves to find his friends and, eventually, rid the island of its pirate scourge.
The experience that ensues is like spending 25 hours on a killing spree with Shia LaBeouf. Brody has only three emotions: unnecessary petulance, unearned bravado, and unconvincing rage. This is a man who shouts “You’re about to have zero bars!” when he blows up an enemy’s satellite dish.
His companions aren’t much better. When Brody commits mass-murder to save one buffoon from a lifetime of white slavery, all the friend can muster is a “hey dude, sweet tats!” as the pair escape in a speedboat. Perhaps it’s wrong to expect more from a grown man with the brand logo stickers still attached to his flat-brimmed ballcap. Brody’s girlfriend Liza (pronounced, infuriatingly, “lee-za”), is a hard-bodied vehicle for common sense and compassion, which of course makes her an inconvenient nag.
Much of Far Cry 3′s marketing is dominated by the villain Vaas, a demented pirate with bad hair and worse clothes. Actor Michael Mando is given free reign to overact, and his energetic voice and motion-capture performance certainly rise above the wooden standard in most video games. Indeed, the voice acting is generally very good, thanks in part to the game’s bizarre rogue’s gallery of characters, which give the actors plenty to work with. Most are simply weird, with the exception of Buck, a homosexual rapist whose penchant for sexual torture is treated with far too little gravity and far too much black humor.