Content of the article: "Far Cry 3 is a product of its time"
I was 15 back when the first gameplay trailers for Far Cry 3 dropped, and I distinctly remember thinking that I'd never be able to afford a rig good enough to run it. Just look at those lighting effects, all the enemies, the overabundance of foliage — and it's flammable too, with realistic physics? It felt unachievable on my $100 bucks, refurbished laptop.
Now, at 23 years old and with a fairly decent computer (GTX 1650, i5, 12GB RAM) I was able to boot up Far Cry 3, turn all the settings up to ultra, go out into the wilds and see with my own eyes, in all of its full glory-
Man, this game looks like shit.
So the graphics haven't aged so gracefully. The human models all look stiff and uncanny, the foliage I'd raved about years prior seemed like it was cut out of cardboard, there's so much pop in I was certain there was a problem with my drivers and sometimes, Dennis' golden tooth will appear green, seemingly completely at random. Still, a lot of the landscapes look quite beautiful when you don't stop to scrutinize the details and during intense combat it's easy to get lost enough that you can overlook some of the smaller mistakes.
The story is… Ambitious. Having a plot that contemplates the morality of killing in the way this one does was certainly bold back in the early 2010s. However, it's handled with little grace, and because of the way the game is structured (you're most likely killing hundreds of nameless mooks in between each section where Jason contemplates "what he's become") its ambitions end up mostly falling flat. Still, it was interesting enough to make me want to see what happened next and never so cheesy that it made me absolutely lose immersion.
(As an aside, the oversexualization of Citra is extremely uncomfortable and hits very different seven years after release, when her model looks less like an attractive human lady and more like a Barbie doll with a grimy, sweaty sheen slathered on top.)
The core gameplay loop is still really solid, and mainly what kept me coming back to the game. FC3 gives me a serious case of "one more": I always wanna do one more outpost, one more mission, one more upgrade, etc.. There are some problems, such as the archetypical Ubisoft-sandbox conundrum where your character spends quite a few hours feeling clumsy and awkward before you upgrade him enough to feel like an actual FPS protagonist, or how some weapons are clearly just inferior to their alternatives in 99% of situations, but for the most part it achieves its goal of feeling like a dynamic and fairly open ended combat-oriented shooter.
I guess if there's one major weakness to the game, it's that it feels a bit too easy. I know difficulty is a sort of hot-button issue with games nowadays, but I don't consider myself a great FPS player and even in the hardest difficulty, once I got my hands on some of the core weapons and abilities, I found myself more or less walking down enemy outposts with little in the way of strategy or mechanical strain. In time I had to challenge myself to take these over with stealth only, because relying just on brute force proved to be too little of a challenge.
The open-endedness of the game is partly to blame for this, I suppose, because it allows the player to set himself up in advantageous situations the enemies just have no hope of actually countering. I've always said sniper rifles are the bane of good FPS level design anywhere, but it's specially prevalent here. Want to really break FC3? Buy the Z93, then find yourself a nice high-perch above an enemy outpost where you can watch both alarm switches, hover your mouse over them and pick enemies off as they peek out to try and trigger them. If you have the patience and lack the self respect, it's a super easy way to grind XP with very little effort.
In spite of my complaints, I'd still say Far Cry 3 is one of the most entertaining sandbox FPS games I've played in a long time, even seven years after release. The exploration is fun, the combat is entertaining enough and while a lot of the dynamics the game goes for don't quite work, it's interesting that it at least tries. At 24 hours in, I can see myself investing quite a bit more time into it, and having grabbed it for a little over 5 dollars, it was definitively worth the investment. Strong recommend for anyone who's looking to get into the genera.
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