What you won’t like
Some online modes feel more like an obligation than a serious attempt. Put Far Cry 3′s multiplayer firmly in that category. It just doesn’t try very hard. When we look back in three years, gamers won’t vilify or praise it so much as entirely forget it.
Nothing’s particularly broken, but it’s all terribly standard. The mechanics that work fine in the campaign don’t always lend well to the run-and-gun shenanigans of multiplayer, leaving you with shooting that can feel shaky and unpredictable when scrambling around hunting people instead of taking out bots. Loadouts aren’t horrible, but the perks seem underdeveloped. Nothing stops cheap tactics like sprint/knife-kill spamming and spawn-camping. I do like the kill-cam, a 3D-wireframe panorama of the fatal moment complete with a few handy stats so you’ll know exactly how close you came to scratching your opponent. You can revive teammates after they’ve been “killed” — while they’re watching their kill-cam, in fact — so really, you’re downed. Far Cry 3 just treats it like you’re KIA for some reason. The maps won’t stick in your memory, either.
A 4-player co-op game works a bit better. It’s less a mad scramble and more a linear progression through six 30-minute chapters with maps and challenges that feel better suited to the game’s natural rhythms. But running against this year’s top-notch multiplayer games — Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, for example — nothing recommends Far Cry 3′s deathmatches. They are by far the weakest part of the entire package.
Right around the time I had to escort Rango, The Man with No Sense of Self Preservation, I started wondering if the A.I. ever made it out of high school. Later on, you’re hitched up to a lunatic German who’s personality traits include suicidal charges. Endearing, but counter-productive.
No lie, pirates take cover, discover bodies, flank positions, and raise alarms with the best of them. They also throw grenades into a wall they’re standing in front of and blow themselves up. They occasionally run out into the open, hoping I’ll shoot them to preserve some sense of natural selection. They hide behind cover when I’m in a vantage point looking straight down at them.
Their routines, like a lot of the gameplay, tends to work best in concert with Far Cry 3′s stealthy sensibilities, where they respond to (intentionally or accidentally created) disturbances with worrying speed and competence. A few fairly tomb-raiding missions, however, call out a few flaws in their combat tactics. It never descends to the “paint by numbers” level of first-person shooters, and they still push you hard to stay alive, particularly when you’ve got multiple attackers converging from multiple directions. It’s just a little unfortunate that I laughed at the bad guys as much as I did, particularly given the overall grim tone of the story.
Sure, villains often get the showy roles, but I was perfectly willing to let the jungle swallow all Jason’s friends and lovers whole. I assume we’re supposed to care about these brats and dudebros since we jump through many a hoop to rescue them, but when my reward for completing a multimission arc is an idiot stoner who’d rather get high than get off the island, my first instinct shouldn’t be to sell him back to the pirates. Jason’s girlfriend (an actress, of course) keeps moping around, trying to talk Jason out of going all Rambo. Makes sense — except I want to go all Rambo, and she’s in my way.
More than anything, they remind me of those expendable, movie-made teenagers who insist on spending a weekend at the woodsy, broken-down summer camp known for its high rate of machete-related deaths. As portrayed by a noted thespian like Paris Hilton. And I mean they’re all Paris Hilton.
Jason doesn’t rate much higher, but he gets the more interesting arc. He starts off virtually helpless and freaking out at every hint of violence, then slowly changes into a complete tool who decides killing people is the coolest thing ever…and then he becomes something just a little worse. I always felt anyone who gave him a mission was playing him for a chump — true, in some cases. Either way, Jason’s story doesn’t really take off until he starts going native, blowing off his friends to go blow away some pirates. And while I found his gawky transformation into a badass interesting, it didn’t erase a slightly distasteful air of entitlement, particularly when the American whiteboy becomes the warrior/savior to a tribe of noble savages.
Far Cry 3 executes beautifully on its promises, rolling together a massive open world, excellent stealth, smartly designed RPG elements, and tense gunfights into one smooth whole. The multiplayer fails to distinguish itself in any meaningful way, and a slightly smarter A.I. would’ve been nice, but those are the only things robbing Ubisoft of an uncontested victory. Ignore the online modes, and you’ll still get a wonderfully sneaky and superior gun game with Vaas — an instant inductee into gaming’s Hall of Infamy — as its twisted centerpiece. This is a dark ride well worth taking.
Far Cry 3 releases Dec. 4 in the U.S. for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with an Xbox 360 copy of the game for the purpose of this review.