Far Cry 3 (2012): Kick the Hornet’s Nest
Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter/adventure game and the third in the series, though not connected to previous installments. A critical and financial success, the game was a huge hit with gamers, praised for its creative gameplay and deep story. That all just means it’s wickedly fun to play.
Ubisoft’s Far Cry series has evolved greatly over the years from its early sci-fi horror themes of mutagens and monsters to more grounded stories of despots and maniacs. After Far Cry introduced its concept of a lone man entering a strange and foreboding environment, typically to rescue someone, the character comes to learn more about the nefarious goings on of the land and the evil-doers who inhabit it.
With Far Cry 3, the story returns to an island setting after Far Cry 2 had players exploring parts of a fictional African state. While on vacation in Bangkok, Jason Brody, his two brothers, and some girlfriends go skydiving near some islands and land on one that is overrun by pirates who take them prisoner. The vicious clan is led by an insane, homicidal ruler named Vaas who kills one of Brody’s brothers but is unable to stop Jason from escaping into the jungle. Devastated by the loss and his seemingly futile situation, he luckily stumbles upon an islander named Dennis Rogers who is aiding the local Rakyat tribe to retake the island. Rogers sees great potential in Brody and thinks he can follow the Rakyat “path of the warrior” and defeat the pirates, free his friends, and reclaim the land. Working as a one-man army, Brody learns hunting, stealth and fighting skills that prepare him to crush the seemingly superior dictatorship.
Expanding with the central theme of the long-running series, this third story installment continues its focus on freedom as the player is able to move about anywhere on the island (though some sections are locked until story requirements are met). The map remains ‘fogged’ until Brody finds communication towers spaced sporadicly around the game world. Once the radios on these towers (accessed by some simple platforming) are destroyed, sections of the map become ‘cleared’ and allow Brody to better see and plan his next move. The game also features an extensive role-playing element where Brody is able to upgrade weapons and tactics, plus various skills to improve combat and stealth abilities. Tasked with a variety of challenges including defeating and retaking outposts, hunting specific animals and discovering various locations, the player is wholly free to play as they wish using any strategy they desire from stealth and silent kills to run and gun explosive combat. That all translates to one basic premise: a playground of destruction. Thing can and will go boom. A lot.
This freedom is the very core the game’s fun as the myriad weapons and scenarios provide a near limitless number of options of approaching a problem. While there are some issues with some unfortunate uses of quick time events, especially during a moment when it seems frustratingly least appropriate (hint: when all you want to do is shoot the bejeezum out of an important character, you instead have to press a bunch of buttons to defeat him), the overall experience is tremendously satisfying and players are hard-pressed to stay on mission when there are so many adventurous and explody distractions at every corner. This is a must-play open world adventure and like every game, has one great moment.
Mission 13: Kick the Hornet’s Nest
In a previous mission in a place called Citra’s Temple, Jason experienced a hallucination of a man in white at a bar in a small jungle-like town. It turns out he’s actually real, and Jason finds himself tracking down the mysterious figure. He ends up in a shack on the outskirts of Badtown, and once he’s confident Brody is loyal, allows Jason access to his location in the basement of the small building.
He explains that his name is Willis and that he is a U.S. government spy. He is supporting Jason’s efforts to defeat Vaas, and tasks Brody with a special mission. After providing him with a flamethrower (tingles!), he tells Jason to head southeast and destroy Vaas’ massive marijuana crop and his nearby smuggling boat. But that doesn’t matter because we stopped listening after “flamethrower”.
Brody accepts the mission and travels east to the site (however the player chooses, though the hang glider is best) and stands upon a crest overlooking the five major crop fields. The place is huge and intimidating (crawling with soon to be immolated guards) and already looks a lot different from the usual gameplay. With the nozzle of the flamethrower leading the way, the player enters the first field ready for a fight.
And that’s when things get kicked several notches up on the “Oh, HELL YES” (or whatever kids these days are saying) meter. Just as Jason moves in, on the soundtrack pumps Make it Bun Dem by Skrillex and Damian Marley, a reggae tune that so utterly defines this moment and the game, it changes one entire perspective of the experience. Yeah, it’s that good.
Thing about this moment is that the joy of most of these action-adventure games is the sense of empowerment; we can do and be someone we can’t in real life. Games challenge us and test our abilities, reaction time and decision-making skills, but they sometimes forgo all that and just let the player feel like a hero. With this mission, after hours of combat and stealth that has pushed the player to a familiar routine, things take a decidedly awesome shift to straight up gamer fun and it’s the right thing to do. Many games dole out weapons with specific powers and then restrict the time or place where it can be used, often forcing the player to wait for the right time to use it. Here, immediately after earning the flamethrower, Brody not only gets to use it, but simply wallow in its raw power. Certainly, the player can use any weapon that creates fire to set the map ablaze, but the flamethrower is the most satisfying and with five fields and a number of shacks (and bad guys for that matter) to burn, the player can spend a significant time playing with their new toy. The addition of the looped Skrillex is only the icing. As the songs says:
We mash up the place
Turn up the bass
And mek dem all have fun
A-we ablaze the fire
Make it bun dem
This is a thrilling gameplay section and invigorates the player like nothing else in the game. And the developers understand that, giving us the time and targets to really get the most out of it. This ‘high’ the weed mission provides is unlike anything else in the game (also, if you linger too long in the smoke, Brody loses his aiming skills). It’s great when a studio recognizes that we appreciate all the features and environments and while gamers want to face hurdles and overcome odds, we also want to stop for a while and simply play in the sandbox.