Far Cry 3 Hands-on Preview -- Unfortunate Tourist, Lethal SurvivorBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Oct 10, 2012
There's a harsh sense of relatability in Far Cry 3 that’s hard to find in the series’ previous games. Unlike the soldiers for hire from Far Cry 2 or the series’ original protagonist, Jack Carver, Far Cry 3 puts you in the shoes of a tourist named Jason who has no formal firearms training, let alone any form combat training. While unknowingly visiting an island that is steeped in local violent conflict, Jason and his friends are kidnapped by a gang, run by their remorseless and unstable leader, Vaas Montenegro.
Jason’s eventual escape plays out as the game's stealth tutorial. In a camp of remorseless armed guards, this makes for one of the more fittingly tense training missions in recent years. Staying crouched was essential and so were the diversionary tactics. Small rocks are your friends in Far Cry 3, particularly when you throw them one direction so you can sneak in another. Even after following the tutorial to the letter, the escape doesn't turn out as smooth as one would hope.
In fact, Jason gets more than a taste of Vaas' sadism as this antagonist torments Jason further by giving him a 30 second head start to complete his escape. The scenes leading up to this were emotionally charged enough that it was easy to oblige with this life-or-death sprint through the jungle, and with no time to swing the camera around and look back.
Bona fide salvation wasn't waiting at the other end, but finding Jason's first native ally was a good start; although I, as a player, am not convinced that anyone in this island is to be trusted. Acquainting me with the island and teaching me how to be optimally resourceful was a good start in earning my trust though.
One of my first missions involved collecting plants of various colors which in turn led to the tutorial on how to combine plants to make healing items; so there’s a touch of Resident Evil in this game. Even the game’s animals have a role to play in the item crafting. Slain boars yield tough hides, which then can be used to craft inventory-expanding knapsacks.
Exposing Far Cry 3’s open world isn't all that different from another Ubisoft-published series, Assassin's Creed. It is only by ascending and activating comm towers that you can view the immediate surroundings on the map. This also helps your merchant allies, who benefit from this expanded communication with a larger list of goods to sell you.
Jason soon gets a lead on the potential whereabouts of his girlfriend, which takes him to a small encampment with half a dozen or so guards. Discretely parked nearby, my allies remind me of the multiple ways I can take on the guards. Of my several attempts, I often went with a loud introduction, throwing one of my remote detonation bombs, often killing two to three guards in one fell swoop. This was also my first opportunity to experiment with Far Cry 3's enemy combat AI and to learn how to use my surroundings to my advantage.
The last time I enjoyed this kind of FPS improvisation was with Crysis 2 where I seldom got frustrated from dying since each retry meant an opportunity at a new approach. And there's more at stake in Far Cry 3, because unlike Crysis 2, you don't have any optic camouflage or armor to rely on. It was also through these initial experiments that I all but gave up on out-in-the-open melee kills, something that I occasionally get away with in other shooters and adversarial multiplayer. The enemies in Far Cry 3 mean business, and the sooner you forget about the direct approach, the better. Worse yet, you should assume that every group of soldiers has at least one hostile guard dog.
Playing something like Far Cry 3 is an effective reminder on how the Metal Gear Solid model has run its course, particularly in regards to enemy and patrol behavior. Maybe it’s because Dishonored is still fresh in my mind, but aggressive guard AI in 2012 feels much more organic and natural. I got to play around with this a bit more during a side mission where I had to take out a squad commander with a knife.
It can feel overwhelming when foes are on full alert while you're in plain sight, especially when this mission was set in a part of the map with few cover spots. I had a blast playing around with the AI’s last-known-position behavior. Backpedaling near a small body of water, I shot off a few rounds to get everyone’s attention, after which I dove underwater to sneak past my enemies.
I eventually proceeded to another story mission, which was yet another lead on Jason’s missing friends. This trek included an uphill climb--further accentuating the game’s verticality--leading to the home of the eccentric Dr. Earnhardt. Without spoiling what I found at the doctor’s home, Jason did get ample motivation to go out for a life-saving fetch quest.
High-tailing it to the objective marker, it didn't take long to get to a cave. In fact, it was practically under the large hill where Earnhardt's house was. Props to the studio for constructing a cave that looks complex, but was surprisingly easy to navigate through. Both winding and vertical, there were ledges and vegetation to climb and misty paths where you could practically sense the humidity.
There may not have been any human or animal threats in this cave, but there was certainly a hazard that took me out of my element, namely a batch of hallucinogenic mushrooms that Jason accidentally steps on. It was ultimately a harmless episode, but it was nonetheless a trip. Let's just say that Silent Hill developer Vatra Games could learn a lot from this Ubisoft studio about otherworldly scenes.
Having reviewed last year’s Dead Island, I certainly would love another open-world tropical setting, just without all the visual and gameplay bugs. It’s all the more reason why I’m excited for Fry Cry 3; for a game that’s still not due out in December, the game is performing pretty darn well. And when the vegetation doesn’t merely look like a collection of green 2D sheets, you can’t help but feel optimistic.