Far Cry 3 Hands-on Preview -- We Can't Stop Here, It's Insanity CountryBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 04, 2012
Tropical vacations are supposed to be fun, but for Far Cry 3 protagonist Jason Brody, a dream vacation to an island paradise goes very wrong, very quickly. The section of the open-world game we checked out at E3 2012 starts pleasantly enough. Brody is getting down with a beautiful island native in front of a campfire. As if to highlight the adult nature of the title, she is nude and shown from the waist up, and is quite, uh, enthusiastic, about the coupling.
But the good times end quickly. Was the tryst with the beautiful island girl a vision? A chemically induced mistake? It doesn't matter. Before long, Brody is by himself on the isle, a long way from home, without even Ginger or Mary Ann to keep him company. Instead of heading to a convenient beach-bar and knocking back a couple dozen mai-tais or inventing a coconut radio, he goes in search of his girlfriend. She has been abducted by a charming local, a mohawked lunatic named Vaas. Vaas, a pirate and sadist, is holding Brody's girl in some god forsaken tin-roofed shanty. He's clearly crazy, but everyone on the island seems nuts, either that or they just really hate tourists.
Ubisoft is clearly going for an different kind of story here. Where most open-world games drop players somewhere around the juncture of crack street and urban decay blvd., Far Cry has always been about putting players somewhere they might actually want to visit in real life. In this case, a series of tropical islands that would be lush and beautiful if everyone there wasn't on drugs and out to murder you.
The islands are designed to reward exploration, and to contain many hidden and interesting details for those willing to seek them out. It's a pity that's not what I'm here for. I would have loved to have just hung out a bit, but there's a girl to save!
Another interesting hook for Far Cry 3's story: Brody is not a highly trained survivalist or a genetically perfect super-marine. He's just a regular guy, a bro on vacation, and that means, as you progress in the story, Brody's skills progress too, but at first, he needs to learn to shoot and kill. Ubisoft's goal is that Brody's character is so fundamentally changed by his experience on the island, he comes back a different man....if he makes it back at all. Think of Tom Hanks in Castaway--the island changes you, man.
Regular guy or not, Brody is in an extraordinary situation. He has to find his girl or she might not return for a post-vacation bubble bath, so I take a quick trip down an overgrown jungle path that leads to a river. I'm keeping very quiet here, as alerting Vaas's men to my presence would be a very bad idea. I slip into the water and swim across fluidly underwater, and here I get my first kill.
A guard stationed on the dock is sloppy. He's looking away, and with the push of a controller button, Brody rises from the water and slits the throat of the man with one fluid animation. The assassination looks and feels exactly right.
I walk through the jungle quietly, but then the HUD lights up--three enemies, just chilling under some trees. I could easily rush in and fire my guns like the Terminator, but given the natural setting and how outnumbered I am, I choose a more elegant weapons, a bow and arrow. In keeping with the open-world scheme, Far Cry 3 gives you plenty of options for taking out enemies, so you can play as a silent assassin or a loud, commando type. I silently flank my adversaries, and from a safe spot under the brush, manage to kill them all with no one raising the alarm.
The same choice in style goes for my attack on Vaas's encampment. With the bow and occasional knife assassination, it's possible to enter the fortress-like jumble of corrugated tin shanties and barbed wire silently, but here I go for a half-and-half approach, meaning I start out in stealth, but when I accidentally break it, I just say, "eff this" and pull out the machine guns and start firing.
As a shooter, Far Cry 3 is dialed in. Having two full other games and an active fan community to provide feedback tends to result in a very well done FPS. The controls work. The AI is spot-on, and the "red barrels" explode correctly.
After taking out a ton of mook guards outside the tumble-down shanty fort, I finally draw closer to Vaas...and here's where things get strange. Vaas is definitely a looney, but he's a stylish one. I walk through a door into an amateur zoo. Exotic animals are caged up like PETA's worst nightmare. I accidentally back into a cage where a lion lives, and get a couple of claws across the back. One cage contains a dreaded Kimodo Dragon, and I kill it dead just for being a horrible abomination that should not exist…and to spite the evil Vaas.
The zoo was weird enough, but as I get closer to Vaas, Far Cry 3 goes totally off the rails. The hallway I'm walking down morphs into a surreal landscape of detuned televisions and haunting visions. A stripper gyrates, then turns into a man. It's like Hunter Thompson threw up all over a video game. Is this a dream? Did someone slip something in my drink? Is it island voodoo? All that remains to be seen.
Sadly, the too brief demo ends, and leaves me to wait to finish Brody's vacation from hell when Far Cry 3 drops for the PS3, 360 and PC on September 4, 2012.