This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Far Cry 3.
I am a banana. I say that partly because I like taking all my clothes off and hiding in bowls of muesli and partly because like a banana, I feel I’m going soft as I get older. I’ve been liking more games lately, and I know saying that has just made someone who likes modern warfare shooters spit-take a mouthful of inexpensive supermarket whisky, but the games that exist outside that particular cum-bubble have been going from strength to strength. That could just be because absolutely fucking anything looks good alongside a cum-bubble, or perhaps it means I actually do have the power to make things improve as long as I unceasingly bully and insult it for half a decade. Although that seems unlikely because as has already been established, I am a banana, and the only influence I have is over one’s potassium intake.
But whatever the case, a few years ago I did Far Cry 2 and though it would have been alright if it weren’t for a couple of rather glaring issues, and now Far Cry 3 has pretty much sorted out those glaring issues and therefore is alright. It’s fine. It fills the space; what do you want from me, I am a banana.
The glaringist of the glaring issues in Far Cry 2 was characters, as in, there didn’t seem to be any. Just a whole load of people doing stuff. Far Cry 3, meanwhile, has a strong character focus, meaning there are still a load of people doing stuff, but now they wonder aloud if the stuff they’re doing is the right stuff after all. You are Jason Brody, an American tourist and member of small group of preening self-centred rich gobshites, who to the immense relief of the entire known universe, fall foul of a slavery ring on a tropical island run by a psychopath named Vaas, who’s name one can remember with a simple mnemonic: “Watch out for Vaas, he’ll enslave your arse.” Over the course of rescuing his surviving friends, Jason must shed his idle doughy Wonder Bread carapace and build himself anew from the steel and bear-skins of the jungle. But by the time he’s reunited with his friends, and they’re all sitting around winging about torture, enslavement and the lack of mobile reception, Jason must face the fact that he probably doesn’t have much to talk about with them anymore since none of them like Belgian takedowns or flamethrower bear hunting.
It is nice to see a shooter protagonist who doesn’t start out with years of off-camera special forces training and instead must gradually grow into that role through nonstop violence and taking massive amounts of drugs, to the point that his toenail clippings alert sniffer dogs. It’s a character arc: the character has to change and adapt rather than start off as a big meathead in power armor and end as the exact same meathead in power armor with maybe a slightly sorer throat. And I’m fond of how the game retains its focus on Jason’s internal journey by never leaving his first-person perspective, which is great for dream sequences but not so much for vehicle sections. I kept sliding off the roads 'cause the cars are always a few feet wider than you think they are. It’s a lot like online dating.
But I digress. The character arc brings to mind the one in Spec Ops: The Line, as in both cases, a hostile environment strips the comfortable hypocrisies of civilization from an everyman protagonist, until only a monster remains. Except in Far Cry 3’s case, you start thinking that he actually quite likes being a monster. And while you can never go back to your old life now that you have an itch that can only be scratched by adding to your necklace of testicles, at least you don’t have to queue up at the DMV now.
So what we have here is a truly organic sandbox shooter. It’s a free-trade parsnip where something like BLOPS 2 is a discarded KFC chicken wing on a dog turd. A typical combat mission involves scouting the area from a vantage point, marking targets, picking the optimal angle of approach and taking down the baddies one by one. It’s quite relaxing really, like pruning a rosebush where the roses can get freaked out and call another rosebush to come and back it up. And it’s always very satisfying to pull it off without being spotted, although the nature of an organic sandbox can lead to some odd results.
One time I was carefully scouting an enemy base and had just about decided on the best angle of attack when a fucking tiger lolloped into the base and fucking cleared it out with strategic maulings. What a right wally Mister Pussycat has made me look like, but it’s the sort of thing that’d never fucking happen in Call of Duty, isn’t it? Not unless Mister Pussycat was a programmed setpiece with ties to Al Qaeda. Anyway, animal hunting is a big part of upgrading your equipment so after that I resolved to up my tiger quota in case the rebel army started thinking tigers might make better insurgents than random pasty holiday makers.
The funny thing was, after I’d murdered enough the animals to craft all the inventory upgrades and earn the title of parallel universe Noah, as well as gotten most of the upgrades I needed from the experience track, there was still about half the game to go. And this is without obsessive side questing. I did a few, but I spent more time flying randomly around on the hang glider imagining that I was pooing on enemy installations. It’s like the first half of the game is for upgrading into a badass mofo, and the second half is for pootiling around being a badass mofo, which I actually kinda like if that was intended. There are too many games where you only get the ultra-pussycat death beam surprise that rips off the enemies cock and writes their obituary with it right at the end of the game so you only get to use it on the end boss and maybe his goldfish. Giving us plenty of time to make the most of all the best toys is remaining true to the sandbox; no joining the dots from checkpoint to checkpoint, just set of tools and a target. You want to hang glide over an assassination mission and jump on the dude like he’s a fucking Koopa Troopa, then godspeed, you mad bastard.
Having said that though, the story missions can be a bit more checkpoint Charley and a bit less roaming Rambo. What’s most disappointing is that the major villains are all defeated with horrible quick-time-event cutscenes that aren’t so much boss fights as middle management disagreements. I appreciate that given the setting, you can’t exactly have them piloting giant robots, but still. Come to think of it, the story aspect is generally weaker in the second half, especially after Vaas the arse - the character who is the fucking face of the game, mind you - disappears and is replaced by someone less interesting, and now that I’m on the complain train, stealthing it is fun, but intense firefighting gets annoying ‘cause your health drops like a fat dog from a hot air balloon and wresting with the weapon selector and health syringes under pressure is like rearranging the HDMI cables at gunpoint.
But this is nitpicking. As we established at the start, I am a banana and Far Cry 3's fine. It’s alright. There is one last disappointment in the story ending though. I opted to stay on the island rather than go home, but without wishing to spoil, that ending is shit. Don’t tell me the good ending entails a guy who machetes bears while high going back to civilization, ‘cause I’d give him a week before he’s making bootleg wallets out of fat people's ears.
Occasionally drinks tiger blood: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw
You know what the first sign of madness is? Rubbing animal giblets on your reproductive organs
It's not really a holiday until you've napalmed a cassowary