Though I’m a jaded and cynical electronic connoisseur now, there was once a time in the days of yore when I sat wide-eyed and full of hope, excitedly rushing to the shops to pick up those new game releases I had so patiently waited for. I still remember my first time playing Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 back in 2012, my first true enjoyable open sandbox experience that didn’t fall under the abbreviation of a certain three initials. Upon escaping incarceration from that brutal pirate camp in the introduction before getting to experience the lush open world with its varied missions, enemy types, wild fauna and collectibles, I was enamored with what I was experiencing. Of course in the years since then, we’ve been inundated with open-world sandboxes featuring towers to climb, camps to scope out and clear and skill trees to level up, but to me, there was always something pure about Far Cry 3.
Maybe it was because it felt like something fresh after the poor, malaria-ridden taste that Far Cry 2 left me, but Far Cry 3 managed to hook me with its talons and even now, on a revisit to Rook Island 8 years later I’m still finding enjoyment, though there are some noticeably worse aspects of the game that knock it down a bit. This isn’t so much a review as it is my general thoughts on how the game holds up today, as somebody who enjoyed it back then.
The environment of Rook Island still looks nice, even though there some dodgy textures spotted here and there. The ancient ruins of both the Chinese 15th century and Word War 2 variety provide a welcome change of scenery from the trees and mountains, and as a history fan myself, it was interesting to explore the old bunkers and find relics of the past. Of course, graphically it’s not as impressive as what we have become used to today but it is still pleasant on the eyes. Seeing the island’s inhabitants just milling about, minding their own business whilst performing tasks like fixing their car did a good job at making Rook Island feeling lie a living, breathing world and in a similar vein, the roaming NPCs both human and predator alike would sometimes wander right into an enemy base I was attempting to infiltrate and throw a wrench into the plan of action I had formulated. This result could often flow both ways, sometimes leading to the base’s contingency of guards all running off after the perpetrator and leaving the place unguarded for easy mop-up kills, or having a beast sneak up on my unsuspecting behind for a quick and unpleasant death. It can be frustrating when that happens, so paying attention to one’s own surroundings is vital.
It would take some mental gymnastics to call Jason Brody a relatable character, I mean I can’t exactly relate to well-built, reality show-esque bro with a model girlfriend but I enjoyed how the game portrayed his journey to being a hardened killer who openly expresses his glee at the carnage he is creating, even being called out on his antics by his friends as the game progresses. I didn’t care about Jason’s friends as much as I’d like, but they serve well enough as a motivation for his story of rescuing them from the vicious pirates and the optional flashbacks set before the ordeal do a fine job of establishing who they are and how they ended up in this mess. Vaas is still as enjoyable as a villain as ever, and his quirky dialogue and undeniable charisma make it easy to see why Ubisoft basically copied his character for the sequels. It’s up for debate whether Vaas or Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min is a better character, but regardless it’s obvious where the archetype started. Hoyt on the other hand, whilst moderately menacing in his own right isn’t anywhere near as memorable as his second in command. Stealth is fun, getting to take out camps in different ways. Vaas is the most compelling and charismatic character and it’s telling that Ubisoft basically redid that character for both of its sequels.
Enemy AI can be frustratingly spotty, especially if you’re aiming to perfectly take out an outpost with no alerts. A single missed shot can spell doom for your attempt and bring down the might of the entire base with each and every enemy knowing your exact location. I’ve been spoiled by modern games with their fancy enemies having their own patterns and suspicions, which made returning to the somewhat archaic stealth of Far Cry 3 pretty jarring. Still, it’s highly a satisfying feeling of accomplishment when you manage to take down the outpost with no alerts as if you were ever there, though the sensation is somewhat undermined if it was achieved with the use of a silenced sniper rifle which is, to be honest, far too easy. Random animal attacks can be annoying when they cause an infiltration to go wrong. Driving controls can be a bit annoying especially when you go off track and spin down a mountain into a tree. If you hate the open-world formula with climbing towers to open up the map this won’t do anything to change your mind. There’s a joke in here somewhere regarding the definition of insanity being repeating the same action over and over again.
The game’s boss fights, which is a term I use loosely, aren’t offensively dull but I didn’t find them particularly engaging either and a few of them did outstay their welcome. Quick-time events do not a good fight make, and this rings true for the confrontations with the games’ two primary antagonists. The confrontation of a giant blazing demon whilst under the influence of hallucinogenics was more enjoyable, even if it did drag on a bit.
The second half of the game takes place on a separate island which is unfortunately not as engaging or interesting as the first. The forests and wooded areas of the first one are replaced with rolling hills and sheer cliffs which all begin to blend in with one another after a while, resembling that one famous Windows screensaver we all know and love.
Far Cry 3 is still an enjoyable game today, one that is worth picking up if the desire or curiosity to play it ever crops up in your mind. Enjoyable gameplay, a comforting soundtrack, reasonably likable characters, and a simple yet effective story all come together to keep Far Cry 3 engaging 8 years later but certain features that have only been improved since then may make it frustrating to get through at some points. A port for current generation consoles titled Far Cry 3: Classic Edition was released in 2018, originally as part of an exclusive deal when purchasing the special edition or season pass of Far Cry 5, but later received its own standalone release.