Far Cry 3 is the story of a transformation. At least, that’s what the game wants you to believe. But do you really end up any different than when you went in? And is it a journey worth taking?
Editor’s note:This review will contain some spoilers. I’m going to completely ruin the ending, because it needs to be talked about, but I’ll warn you again when I do that later in the review.
Your character in this first-person game is Jason Brody, a selfish, spoiled brat who’s vacationing in the South Pacific with some of your other rich, hedonistic friends—including your girlfriend and your brothers. Unfortunately, someone talks your group into skydiving onto a remote island, where you’re captured by pirates and destined to be sold into slavery.
When the actual game starts out, you’re in the pirates’ camp, and you manage to escape. Now you have to break out your friends and family, but you have zero skills. So one of the members of the island’s indigenous tribe befriends you and teaches you the ropes.
At the start of the game you would lose in a fight with Liza Minnelli. By the end you’re a one-man killing machine.
The game is ingenious in the way it gets you to explore and increase your skills. First, everything on the island is hidden to your “radar” until you activate radio towers that are scattered throughout the island. So you have to sneak/run/hide until you find these radio towers, find a way to the top, and activate them. Then a portion of the island is visible on the radar—along with some interesting things for you to explore and discover. I immediately wanted to open all of these towers, and I had a great time doing that.
Another cool thing is hunting. In order to craft better holsters, wallets, bags, and so forth, you have to hunt some of the island’s creatures. These range from the docile deer and pigs to the predatory tigers, bears, komodo dragons, and bull sharks. It’s thrilling to find yourself sneaking through the brush, think you hear a noise behind you, and get ambushed by a tiger you never saw.
In most games, these extraneous things are a slog—things you feel like you have to do before you hop back into the main storyline. In FC3, I wanted to do these things, and found them more interesting than the main story. That’s one of the game’s problems: I didn’t care about Jason or his friends, so why am I trying so hard to rescue them? You learn a little more of the days just before capture through periodic flashbacks, and you see that they’re all just spoiled jerks—rich, entitled, druggies who treat everyone like dirt and live for the moment.
As you complete missions, and hunt, and explore, you gain experience, which lets you increase your skills. So you eventually learn to load a gun faster, or steady your aim when using a sniper rifle, or kill two enemies from dropping down on them from above, or how to create medicine from the numerous useful plants dotted about the island. You really do feel like you’re slowly (well, relatively slowly) learning how to survive in this harsh environment. These skills move you through the main mission of finding and rescuing your friends. There are some epic, movie-like sequences in the main missions, where you’re escaping an ancient temple that’s on fire and crumbling, or manning a huge gun on a jeep while your friend drives and you blow up jeeps full of baddies that are chasing you. The last mission even has Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” blaring in the background!
One of the best things about this game is that there are many unscripted moments. The game will still get you from here to there, but you’re not on a railroad. There was one example where I’d spent five minutes silently creeping around an enemy camp, trying to tag the baddies and track their movements so I could silently take them out one by one. I crawled to the top of a building when I noticed a tiger wander into camp and just start wrecking the joint. That tiger killed every person in camp, and it was completely organic—just one of the things that can happen in the game, but isn’t programmed to happen at this time if you’re doing this thing. That’s not the sort of surprise you’ll find in a Call Of Duty game… And despite the sandbox nature of the game, I didn’t run across a single noteworthy bug or glitch. That’s remarkable in a game of this scope.
Now, before you think that I’m recommending this game, let’s talk about the insane ending…
Over the course of the game you eventually meet the leader of the island’s native tribe—a woman named Citra. She becomes key to pushing you in the direction of vengeance—which will, in turn, help the tribe by throwing off their oppressors. The push becomes stronger and stronger, and it’s obvious she thinks you’re some kind of messiah for the tribe.
Big Giant Spoiler For the End of the Game:
Once you’ve killed the main antagonist, rescued you brother, and fought your way through the epic last mission, you find out your brother, your girlfriend, and your friends have been taken by Citra. When you get to her temple, she blows some kind of hallucinogenic drug into your face and you stumble forward until you find yourself holding a knife to your girlfriend’s throat. Citra tells you how these people are the only things holding you back and that you must kill them to come into your true self. You now choose whether to save your friends or kill them.
· If you save them, Citra goes nuts and eventually is accidentally killed by another tribe member. Cue shot of a boat leaving the island and Jason’s voiceover about believing that, despite all of the killing he’s done, there’s still a part of him that’s good.
· If you decide to kill them, you pull the knife across your girlfriend’s throat and she gushes blood all over you. Then you find yourself having sex with a fully topless Citra. At the moment you…uh…finish, she plunges a knife into your heart, and as you’re dying she tells you how the child you’ve put in her belly will be a great leader of her people. Game over.
Everything about that was shocking, and upsetting, and just…awful.
End of Spoilers
I wouldn’t recommend this game even if that craziness at the end wasn’t there, but combine the rest of the disturbing undertones with the ending and this is certainly a game to avoid.
Stuff to consider:
- Alcohol—None, really. Some of the enemies are visibly drunk—staggering around, and so forth. But they sober up quickly when they spot you, and then use the bottles they’re holding to create Molotov cocktails.
- Drugs—You use some of the plants in the game to create syringes that heal you or make you a better hunter. But there are two characters in the game who use “real” drugs—mushrooms and so forth—recreationally and as an “escape.”
- Violence—Death, death, everywhere. It’s bloody and visceral.
- Language—Lots. As you’re wandering the island, pirates curse in the conversations you overhear. And the cut-scenes are full of strong language.
- Sex/Nudity—Absolutely. There’s full-frontal nudity of the native tribe’s leader, along with simulated sex with your character. And there’s a series of missions where a terrible man has captured one of your male friends, and you’re forced to work with him in order to save your friend’s life. It’s strongly implied, more than once, that this creep has been raping your friend.
I think the game wants you to believe that Jason has had some sort of revelation over the course of the game—that he sees the life he had before was shallow and foolish. But he’s just as impulse-driven as before—it’s just in new directions. Once he has rescued his friends, now Jason wants to get revenge—he chooses to stay on the island. And it doesn’t matter who has to die…he will get his revenge. He even tortures his own brother in order to get close to the man responsible for this madness.
So, is Jason changed by the end? Or are we?
Scott Firestone is an editor for Group Magazine, Unfiltered Magazine, and youthministry.com. He also runs a board game blog: Theology Of Games. If he's ever attacked by a komodo dragon, he now knows just what to do... Follow him on Twitter: @firestone.