Random Notes on Far Cry 3: Part 2

By Chris Posted Thursday Dec 13, 2012

Filed under: Game Reviews 47 comments

Link (YouTube)

So last time I spent most of the article whining that Far Cry 3 wasn’t Far Cry 2. And while that’s true, it’s not like the game is without merit. So I figured I’d spend part of this miniseries talking about what the game does well. To that end, I’ve attached the gameplay video above. What I love about this clip is that it’s 100% genuine – this wasn’t me setting up a planned event; this wasn’t take 43 of a series of attacks on this same base; this isn’t a highly edited and cobbled together “best of” compilation. It’s just me recording the taking of one random outpost (and a few humorous bits shortly thereafter).

And yet, aside from its stop-and-go pacing, it feels a bit like a promo video, doesn’t it? It highlights a variety of weapons and deployables, shows off unpredictable animal AI and the fact that enemy AI will call for reinforcements, and demonstrates several of the “we’re sticking to the first person perspective” tricks like the roll out of the car… it feels like a trailer trying to show off features. It’s a testament to the utility of the tools they’ve provided the player – every one of them useful in some capacity, and every one of them is interesting in some capacity.

The game may not care for memorable, accidental emergence like Far Cry 2 but it does so in the service of giving players the ability to express themselves in the game space however they want without interference from the game itself. Far Cry 2 is like Kid Pix – it gives you tools that are intentionally imprecise and faulty and the result is normally a beautiful mess that’s a compromise between the artist and the system. Far Cry 3 is more akin to Photoshop – a tool of precision and exacting specification where skilled players can take on a task however they see fit and make it work. Short of maybe Dishonored it’s the best game of this kind I’ve played all year.

Ubisoft Montreal has taken pretty much the entire library of weapons from Far Cry 2 and refined them down to instruments of the player’s will rather than implements of chaos. (The only notable exception I’ve found so far was the Fortune Pack’s double barreled shotgun, which is sorely missed for its heft and power but not so much for its utility.) The result is markedly more engaging for all play types than Far Cry 2 could ever be. To get anything of substance out of Far Cry 2 you needed to be willing to experiment with goofy loadouts and intentionally handicap yourself to trigger the most interesting mechanics or see some of the design’s hidden beauty. Far Cry 3 has no such restrictions – the game is as engaging and joyful to play with a genre-standard pistol and a sub-machine gun as it is to play with a flare gun and a bow. This (along with getting rid of the respawning checkpoints) is the lynchpin of what makes Far Cry 3 more approachable than Far Cry 2. There’s no “making your own fun” here – the entire system is littered with engaging play styles and activities. Indeed, it’s hard not to enjoy one’s self even in the most pedestrian of loadouts.

Of course, the vibrant tropical location helps.

I take it as a hopeful sign that we’ve reached the end of the grimdark gunmetal aesthetic that has plagued the medium for so long when even recent shooters have begun to eschew drab industrial desaturation. See: Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Dishonored, Tribes: Ascend, Planetside 2. And thankfully you can count Far Cry 3 among the ranks of 2012 shooters with brilliant (and in this game, I dare say bold) color palettes. The colors are almost super saturated – I suspect to give the whole game a surreal (and distinctly video game like) sense about them. Far Cry 2 was a little on the brown-and-grey side: ramshackle huts and adobe houses made of mud set against a savannah in the midst of the dry season’s drought. It wasn’t colorless, but it was aimed at being drab and dreary. Far Cry 3 takes the tropical settings of the first Far Cry and pumps them up with colors that pop off the screen as if to say, “You want a green forest? You can go to outside and get a green forest. How about an emerald encrusted veridian paradise etched from the jade heart of an envious lime treefrog dipped in guacamole?” The same could be said of the crystalline water, NPC clothing, or radio tower status lights.

Really, it feels like it takes a lot of its cues from Burnout Paradise’s attempts at using color as iconography for differentiating game objects. Where Team Fortress 2 used shapes and silhouettes, these games use RGB values – harsh reds and yellows to signify enemies that stand out from the crowd, green to inform the player of vegetation they can hide in, crystal blue water to dive away from enemies or to use as a stealthy approach, baby blue wife beaters to indicate allies. Even the flora is divvied up not by plant species but by color. The game uses color as a language to describe mechanics to the player, and it works quite well – offering players a way of immediately identifying what an object is and how they need to interact with it even from a distance.

And really, that’s what makes the game look so darned good. Color aside the main characters are sort of boring looking – especially the friends you have to save. Arguably this is intentional (but we’ll get back to that later), but the result is a bunch of boring pseudo realistic looking characters dressed in rote standard pirate/mercenary/tribal/’civilian’ outfits. But each of them tends to have one or more items that glows with a color that reveals their true purpose, and in that way the game paints not a picture of a jungle in chaos but of a game and its state. It’s utilitarian art design, but it also looks gorgeous.

Finally, as long as we’re bringing up the best the game has to offer, I can’t avoid talking about Vaas. Here’s a clip from the very beginning of the game:

Link (YouTube)

There’s a reason Vaas is constantly discussed by players and marketing alike while, say, Hoyt or Buck aren’t mentioned much. He’s the clear standout character, performed with a detached menace and emotional instability that work wonders for the subject matter of the game. As people have said in the comments here and elsewhere: he feels like people you’ve known – or at least an exaggeration of people you’ve known. Self esteem issues that manifest in a short temper and an inability to not take things personally coupled with family drama and hint of meglomaniacal entitlement. People have compared him to Ledger’s turn as The Joker – but while there’s a lot of the manic mood shifts and impulsive violence that made Ledger’s Joker so threatening, Vaas doesn’t have the air of mystery Joker does. While you only interact with him a few times throughout the game you get enough hints to piece together most of his backstory – or at least enough to infer it. Interestingly he’s set up not to mirror the player but to mirror Jason, the player character. The game makes a pretty big deal out of separating the two – but thematic stuff can wait for the next part of the series. Suffice it to say that by linking Jason’s story with Vaas’ story in a number of ways it allows even a sociopathic murderer to come off as somewhat sympathetic by the end (especially once you’ve beaten the game).

But regardless of whether you think he skews too far towards the Joker or is a mirror image of Jason there’s no denying that he’s a character that excels at eliciting responses from players. He is in turns horrifying, tragic, antagonistic, sadistic, and cautionary. The player may be given adequate reason to hate Hoyt and Buck, but the emotional stakes simply aren’t there the way they are with Vaas. Which speaks volumes about the power inherent in motion and voice acting given that the character was created out of the blue pretty much on the basis of Michael Mando’s audition alone and none of the “planned” characters come anywhere close to feeling as real or as threatening. He was so successful they not only made box art based on the character but an entire series of live action shorts where Michael Mando tortures Christopher “McLovin from Superbad” Mintz-Plasse.

And it’s not every day I can say I’ve played a gorgeous game with memorable and emotionally affecting characters in a game that’s perhaps the second best at allowing for player expression this year. So it’s not like the game’s an unplayable mess – in fact, it’s pretty gosh darn fun for whatever goodwill that word buys you. But we’ve already established what thematic elements it’s removed from Far Cry 2 – so what, if anything, has the game replaced them with, and how successful were they? We’ll tackle that in the third and final segment.


From The Archives:

47 thoughts on “Random Notes on Far Cry 3: Part 2

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Similar thing happened to me while raiding a camp,only with a tiger:I let it go,and then snipe the enemy,while the tiger mills around.Then it goes on to kill my allies.Hilarious.

    Man,that rock is deadly.

    “And yet, aside from its stop-and-go pacing, it feels a bit like a promo video, doesn't it?”

    So basically just like far cry 1.

    Also,I liked buck as well.And not only because he likes to f-… with you.

    1. MrGuy says:

      My name is Buck. And I like to …. PARTY.

    2. Loonyyy says:

      Buck was hilarious. The antagonism Jason had towards him got annoying for me. A bit of self-awareness would have gone a long way with Jason.

      And, like any other interesting character in the game, you stab him in the chest with a machete.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    An interesting thought occurred to me recently:How awesome would it be if we could get fallout new vegas,but with this engine?Cars,like obsidian wanted,very nice stealth,fast weapons,very limited carrying capacity for those who like survival mode.I sure hope that if fallout gets another sequel,it will be something like that.

    1. AyeGill says:

      IIRC Fallout 4 is in the works. But at Bethesda, sadly.

      EDIT: Checked and confirmed(well, that they will eventually make it. Not that they’re working on it presently. source

      1. Dragomok says:

        Your link is broken.

    2. Thomas says:

      How do you mean? Do you want this sort of combat with natural stealth instead of numbers stealth but with the dialogue and world interacting etc?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The combat,the vehicles,stealth,fires,etc from far cry.

        The story,companions,perks,numbers influencing things(higher stealth means enemies spot you slower and from smaller distances),etc from new vegas.

        1. Prof Goldfish says:

          And imagine the possible color palette, I know the apocalypse is grimdark but you could do so much more with crytek. I would buy that Fallout game

          1. Merkel says:

            This is one of the things that really bothered me about Fallout 3. A drab Mad Maxish desert makes sense when you’re talking about the south-west; both LA and Las Vegas are built on more-or-less artificial watersheds, and it makes sense that they would revert to deserts. But DC and the surrounding areas were forests and swamps, the Capitol wilderness would make more sense than the Capitol wasteland. If they do set the next Fallout game on the east coast (or the pacific north-west, or basically any forested part of the country) I would love to see the last bastions of “civilization” holding off the dark, encroaching woods. Think tribals similar to eastern woodlands American-Indians or classical/dark ages Germanic or Celtic tribes. The growls of Yao-Guai and other predators (mutated mountain lions?) breaking the silence of the primeval forest. You could have a lot of fun with a much greener palette (although probably a darker green than Far Cry).

    3. Zukhramm says:

      I’d rather we stop getting action games in our RPGs altogether.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Action rpgs were always a thing.Dont get me wrong,I still love the tactical ones,and am enjoying bgee immensely,but I love some of the action rpgs as well.

  3. Robyrt says:

    Yeah, Vaas is a real standout villain, with actual motivations and great acting and a good role to play in the story. It’s a shame they follow him up with Hoyt, who is one of the most boring villains.

    Also I hope part 3 discusses the game’s weird fixation with Texas Hold-em Poker. You play several games in the story missions, but they’re all cleverly disguised QTEs. There’s also a side mission that makes you play the fully implemented poker mini-game, like you’ve suddenly stepped into Liberty City. It feels rather out of place, except as Something Millennials Like.

  4. Jonathan says:

    How did you not die much earlier in the camp? You got shot at least 6-10 times.

    1. evileeyore says:

      His primary weapon is drugs. Drugs and bravado.

      Errr, okay, his primary weapons are drugs and bravado… and a tremendous amount of luck.

      Sigh. Amongst his primary weapons are drugs, bravado, luck, and almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        …but not bright red uniforms, apparently.

      2. swenson says:

        Sounds like Josh… at least the drugs.

  5. Entropy says:

    It’s not like the game IS without merit. Unless you mean to say it is meritless.

    1. Chris says:

      Fixed. This prose thing is basically impossible.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Well, it’s easier to nitpick prose. When it’s spoken there’s always the chance that we heard it wrong. When it’s written down… you’re out of luck.

      2. Lazlo says:

        You’ve also mixed up queues and cues.

        My wife’s an English teacher, it’s rubbing off on me, I’m proofreading and I can’t stop myself!

        1. MrGuy says:

          So…..run-on sentences would be out, then?

  6. Nyctef says:

    > I take it as a hopeful sign that we've reached the end of the grimdark gunmetal aesthetic that has plagued the medium for so long when even recent shooters have begun to eschew drab industrial desaturation. See: Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Dishonored, Tribes: Ascend, Planetside 2.

    Actually, all but one of these games are sequels where the entire series has been bright and colourful, so I’m not sure where you’re going with this sentence.

    Apart from that, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said and have also been enjoying FC3 (apart from the brief time it wasn’t available for Steam UK). More prose please! :)

    1. Supahewok says:

      Yeah, Halo’s been the only consistent standout in the aesthetic department for FPS’s for something like 6 years. (They’ve been colorful for over 10 years, but 6 years ago is when CoD4 hit the market and gritty&colorless became the new norm) I think what Chris is trying to say is that he “takes it as a hopeful sign that we've reached the end of the grimdark gunmetal aesthetic that has plagued the medium for so long when even recent shooters have begun to eschew drab industrial desaturation and were commercially successful in doing so.” Showing that, you know, colorless and drab aren’t what people play FPS’s for.

    2. Aldowyn says:

      Dishonored wasn’t particularly colorful, either. Also do most people call it a shooter? I spent way more time stabbing people than shooting them :/

      I can think of an upcoming shooter that IS colorful where previous entries aren’t particularly, though. Bioshock: Infinite. I mean, SOME parts of Bioshock are colorful, but the general aesthetic? Dark and gray. Very dark. (Not that they didn’t have reason)

      1. evileeyore says:

        I’m pretty sure Dishonored was a FPStealthHugger game. I spent 99% of the time in stealth or hugging people.

      2. anaphysik says:

        Hey, Bioshock’s not a shooter either. It’s a wrencher ;D

  7. Bix Beiderbecke says:

    So, excited for the next article. (I hope Spoiler Warning never comes back)

    EDIT: Indeed. It appears I has a monocle.

  8. StashAugustine says:

    Are those white markers showing enemy near misses?

    Unfortunately for this game, I’ve been unable to properly enjoy any fire-based weaponry since Spec Ops. My roomate was playing Blops 2 the other day, I was wincing every time he chucked a molotov.

    1. KremlinLaptop says:

      The white markers are showing the general direction the enemy is at and their awareness of you. Grey bar filling with white means you’re about to get found out while sneaking. White bar means an enemy that is aware of you. Red bar is an enemy firing on you.

      Even with the helpful arrows and radar telling me where enemies are I did sometimes just lose track of them in the jungle. Then I burned down everything around me. That solved that problem.

    2. thebigJ_A says:

      Don’t worry, fire’s fine. It’s the white phosphorous that’s bad, and it isn’t fire. It’s way worse than fire.

      So you don’t need to associate the two. I could never play a game with white phosphorous in it because of Spec Ops, but fire weapons are no prob.

      PS: Shamus, update your spambot plugin. this happened to me

  9. On a related note, I just re-watched your Errant Signal about Far Cry 2. The irony was that ads for Zales Diamonds bookended your video.

    I think they hired that marketing guy from Jeep to write up their keyword associations for YouTube. :)

  10. Ravens Cry says:

    I must say, it is very nice to see actual colour again in a video game.
    I’m damn, damn tired of the dull grey and brown monochrome colour schemes that have far too long predominated the more ‘hardcore’ offerings of the medium. Not every game has to be like this; a gritty film noir would probably be suited with a drizzly grey and stark shadows.
    But in such a lush, verdant environment as this?
    Anything less than this explosion of riotous saturation would be a terrible waste.

  11. Mormegil says:

    There’s a lot to like about the game.

    But on the other hand…

    Cutscene gotcha me once and I lose all my weapons, that’s part of the story.

    Cutscene gotcha me twice and I lose all my weapons, that’s kind of irritating.

    Cutscene gotcha me three times and I lose all my weapons, and it’s uninstalled never to be played again.

  12. Solf says:

    Is it just me who found the gameplay movie ridiculous? An invincible hero gunning down mocks.

    Or is it *supposed* to feel like Borderlands?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You actually die pretty easy,since your health is miniscule and a strong breeze will remove half of it.However,theres a short respite when you are next to death,and drugs are really REALLY potent,so you can jump from near death to full power in a second.

      Oddly enough,while you can go through a shower of bullets by chewing on drugs,the thing that will instakill you even when on full health is a slightly bigger fall.

      1. AyeGill says:

        Also, crouching behind cover and using the free first aid will have you back to full health really fast.

        I actually liked the self-healing in this game way better than normal regenerating health. Dunno why.

        1. KremlinLaptop says:

          I’ve gotten so used to Elmo Face and hiding behind a big enough rock to make the RPG-7 shaped hole in my gut feel better that I was at first confused by this game.

          No regenerating health!? Madness.

          I like what it does to the flow of gameplay, though. Hiding behind a big enough rock with a dozen enemies around isn’t going to help you. Your one bar of health won’t become six no matter how long you spend back there.

    2. KremlinLaptop says:

      Yeah, Chris very nearly dies in the first 30 seconds of that gameplay clip and it’s one of many points where he’s very close to death. Two things that will without fail mess up your day: enemy knockdowns and hostile animals. If Chris hadn’t noticed the Leopard starting to come after the enemies instead of him? He woulda been toast.

      Also there aren’t any higher level enemies around there. No heavy-armour dudes or guys with RPG launchers; they’ll mess up your day badly. Also the dudes wielding molotovs can make your life pain all around.

      The game isn’t easy but it does reward all different ways of playing. My short gameplay clip would have involved scouting out the base, meticulously tagging enemies, figuring out patrol routes and then starting to take them down one by one without alarms being triggered, them discovering their dead buddies, and me not being discovered.

      1. Solf says:

        Quite possibly you’re right about him nearly dying multiple times (I haven’t played, so can’t really know).

        However, if this is supposed to be a modern military shooter (is it?), he should’ve died within seconds. Being in the open with multiple enemies firing should be a death sentence.

        Unless this is supposed to be something akin to Borderlands?

        1. KremlinLaptop says:

          I’m not willing to lump it in either category. I’d say this is more of a ‘classic’ shooter? It feels more like playing Half-Life 2, Doom 3, etc than it feels like CodBlops3000.

          Definitely not a modern military shooter, though. You managed to remind me of why I dislike the genre so much; play in any way other than the one the developers intended and your reward is a death-screen and possibly some historical quote about the horrors of war.

  13. anaphysik says:

    Damn, I could really use that multi-shot, fast-loading grenade launcher in L4D2 >;)

  14. Vass is pretty much messed up, my theory on the scar etc is that… his sister drugged him, raped him, then tried to kill him (hence the scar), and who knows what the hell their parents (or mother rather, the previous “queen”) was up to?

    This could date back generations (the mating of the strongest on the island and then killing him), that island is really messed man.

    I also suspect that “Dr. High” screwed Daisy when she was semi-conscious (intentionally or due to delusions I have no idea).

    Also the brothers and their friends seem to be major asshole as well. (eat a lot of mushrooms in the cave under the house, from that tray/basket and you’ll see some flashbacks).

    And Jason’s GF was weird as well, she seems very controlling over Jason.

    I think this is why Vaas sticks out so much, he does not feel “created” he feels evolved instead, natural.

    They should let (voice-)actors “create” their own characters more often like that, it breaks down the stereotypical characters.
    The more you see/hear of the “actor” in the character, the more believable they seem.

    And I believe that Far Cry 3 managed to make a new “meme” that is way cooler than the arrow to the knee thing…

    Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

    That line pops up as the 2nd suggestion on Google, and then at least the 3 first pages are references to Vaas’ line. 3.38 million hits, and more impressive is that the exact quote (surround it with ” in google search) are a whooping 646000 (646 thousand) hits. How long has Far Cry 3 been out?

    What numbers did Skyrim’s arrow in the knee have after the same amount time passed? Crunch some number there and you should be able to make a projection and comparison with Skyrim now. I suspect Far Cry 3’s line is way more popular.

    Are we going to see a trend in “cool” lines where each future game will just HAVE to have a mega quotable line? I don’t mind that actually as long as they have a character half as good as Vaas in them instead of paper cutouts.

    Oh and did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

    I’m kinda hoping they’ll do a Far Cry “3” movie, just so we can see the same actor do Vaas on the big screen.

    Question, did anyone see Vaas body after they killed him? (I can’t recall if that was the case) Also, killing Vaas seemed weird, Jason was high as a kite when going after Vaas.

    Hmm, did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

    1. anaphysik says:

      “did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?” Since that same thought/answer has been around for quite a while, I’m highly surprised that it’s being seen as “a Far Cry 3 thing.”

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I was told the definition of insanity once,but then I took an arrow to the knee.

      1. Dragomok says:

        And then you tried to eat the cake, but it was burned down with lemons after Wrex (Shepard.) got infuriated that Gandhi used


        wisely to destroy all your niccccccce everything.

  15. Kdansky says:

    Player character murders 20 guys, shooting five of them with a gun, exploding 10 with a grenade launcher or just a thrown grenade, stabs a guy in the neck and doesn’t even say a word.

    Then he cuts open an animal and goes “EW, DISGUSTING!” Aaaaand there goes my immersion.

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