A scene from Far Cry 3
I'm hiding in a lush, humid jungle somewhere in the South Pacific, a machete and a pistol at my side. Not two metres away, at least 10 armed militiamen patrol a camp I plan to take. They're better equipped and I'm thoroughly outnumbered.
As I make my way towards the first man, raising my machete, a shout comes from the other side of the camp. Somebody screams, "Tiger!" Instantly the militiamen fly into a panic, running towards the threat and firing wildly.
The tiger has them off guard and all I need to do is watch from my hiding spot while the wild animal attacks them. As the tiger rips into the last man, I get all the experience needed for taking the camp.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 specialises in random encounters like this, making the sandbox presented to you feel alive and dangerous. The ways you could tackle that situation are too numerous to count, and it wasn't even a story mission.
Harking back to the tropical island setting of the first Far Cry, you take the role of Jason Brody. Brody is a man out of his element, stranded on a chain of unnamed islands with a variety of highly unstable characters.
The broad story elements ask you to find your travelling companions, who have been taken by a man called Vaas, and escape your tropical prison. The fun of Far Cry 3 though, is that you are going to get distracted. While traversing the environment to find a mission, any number of interesting situations might play out depending on how far off the beaten track you want to get.
Far Cry 3
A major theme in the game is insanity. Something about the islands seems to send their inhabitants mad over time, and Vaas in particular is impressively unhinged. I'm interested to see how the story plays out as Vaas is hugely entertaining as an antagonist and already more memorable than any previous Far Cry character. The developers have also hinted that, over time, Brody too will be changed by his experiences, which could lead to some interesting moments later in the game.
This already looks fantastic. Though I played early code, and there were some visual difficulties as the game tried to process the impressive vistas, for the most part the visual design is fantastic.
One particular highlight was a mission in which a doctor asks you to find a particular mushroom in a nearby cave. The mission is mainly some mild platforming (which is handled well, even considering the first-person perspective) until Brody gets dosed with a hallucinogen of some sort. What follows is a visual treat of morphing buildings and natural formations as he tries to deal with his new state of mind.
I'm unsure if these sections will reoccur or affect the gameplay, but the first one was a visual delight.
The island chain on Far Cry 3 is easily the most exciting character in the game. Being 10 times the size of previous Far Cry games doesn't hurt either.
Wild animals roam the landscape and armed soldiers patrol the roads. At first you'll find yourself having to flee a good portion of the conflicts as you are ill equipped to deal with the island you are on, but as Brody becomes more experienced and obtains better equipment you'll feel much more predatory.
Approaching an enemy camp, you could easily run in guns blazing. A revamped cover system that feels natural even considering it's first-person, means there's an element of tactics even if you aren't one for subtlety.
There are many other options available to you, too. Unleashing an animal from a cage in the camp could mean doom and gloom for the soldiers. Luring a group of komodo dragons from the jungle nearby is certainly going to ruin somebody's day. You could take the soldiers out one by one as you hide in the bushes and strike when nobody expects it.
In my playthrough, I found the stealth option to be the most satisfying, but the fun of Far Cry 3 is that it doesn't limit you to any one style at any point.
A feature that goes hand in hand with the sheer size of the island setting is the number of vehicles available to you. At first rusty sedans are all you'll find, but later in the game a good variety of cars, boats, ATVs and even a hang-glider are at your disposal. Finding the hang-glider and soaring over the landscape is especially fun considering how nice the view looks and the fact that you can jump down to execute enemies if you're skilled enough.
I don't have enough time to recount all the varieties of enemies, weapons, vehicles, animals, locations and unlockables that dot the landscape of this game, but players are going to find themselves addicted to exploring the environment if my playthrough was anything to go by.
For the first time in a Far Cry, there's also a levelling-up system. As you complete tasks and overcome challenges, you can assign skill points into different areas depending on how you prefer to play Brody. The skill trees can make you a stealthy predator or an offensive powerhouse. The skills won't alter your character too much early in the game, but later on players will find their Brody plays very differently to their friends.
If the sheer size of the single player wasn't enough, Far Cry 3 features a multiplayer element too. I didn't get to play it, but it seems to be a sizeable addition. There's a straight-up head-to-head multiplayer that focuses on death matches and capture-the-flag-style modes.
More excitingly though, the game comes with a co-op campaign set before the events of the single player campaign. Co-op features are often neglected in modern games, but if the co-op is anything like the single player's level of mayhem, then gamers will have lots of fun scouring the jungle with their friends.
Far Cry 2 introduced a sandbox editor that gave users the ability to create their own smaller sections of African savannah to share with their friends. This feature is reportedly returning for Far Cry 3 but little details have been released, save that it's been updated.
Regardless of the fact that Far Cry 3 takes us back to the well-trodden jungle setting of the first game, the whole experience is larger and more impressive than ever before. Just as much as the storyline, the game does its best to distract you as you play, and the feeling of freedom is fantastic. This is a surprisingly huge game, and considering it has multiplayer (both co-op and head to head) gamers are going to find themselves inundated with shenanigans to explore come the end of November.
Far Cry 3 is released on November 29.