Touted as an open-world shooter Far Cry 3 is a pretty long way from that. It is a sprawling environment that has little change. Mountainous tropical Pacific island with ruined Japanese fortifications from World War 2 and thoroughly despicable antagonists (slavers and drug dealers who are exterminating the natives) has little variety. It is really an updated Far Cry 2 with many of the same play elements but beefed up for the latest console players’ expectations.
Your character, Jason Brody, is a fantastically tough and mobile “natural with a gun” who is seeking to rescue his enslave friends before they can be ransomed, but sold off into slavery after the money is collected.
The writing of plot attempts edginess with quotes about sanity and the lack thereof from Alice in Wonderland: a favourite of shallow-writers attempting to be deep. Nietzsche would be a better source than the opiate riddled classic by an English diletante. All the writing really conveys is the shallow understanding that psychopaths/sociopaths cannot be reasoned with and attempting to is the definition of insanity; attempting the same thing expecting different results.
Some tribal magic loosely inspired by the Maori as Rakyat has a classic Serious Sam like monster encounter complete with closed arena and sprawling mass area attacks being put out whilst the monster must be struck in only one area. This kind of tired arcade trope should have died last century. For a game that claims originality it only manages to do a tried formula in fiction of having thoroughly hate-able antagonists, with a protagonist that has the abyss he stares into, look deeply back into him.
Still, the killing and jingoistic patriotism not so subtly veneered behind laconic humor is apropos for the USA audience and the thinly veiled un-PC snappy lines attempt an edginess that would be successful on all the minors who ought not be playing this game.
Game-play is polished to simplicity. There is a lack of leaning, replaced by context based “peek-a-boo” shooting conveyed to the played by the gun being lifted when close to an object – no slicing the pie and using lean in this game. Far Cry 3 successfully captures the kinetic fear of combat with an AI that will flank you well but it fails to suspend disbelief with spawn-behinds and impossible reinforcements, just like its predecessor.
Open-world is often only while you are not on a mission. It’s for this reason I have to say the game promoters are lying when they say it is open-world. It simply is not. If you are mid-mission you cannot leave the mission area without the mission auto-failing. Also if you stray to far from the islands you are locked into you will die auto-magically. This is like playing D&D with a 12 year old who can’t ad-lib, or a philosophy lecturer who gets upset with you not buying into her false dichotomies presented as moral paradox.
Morality is loosely touched on but there is no ramifications for actions in this game apart from auto-magical results. Ultimately it is a hint of a flavour but never really brought to the forefront. Many sequences intended to shock the player are better off left as a scripted cut-scene, in particular the torture of the younger brother, and the vanishing antagonists whom you are forced to work with become tiresome very quickly.
Far Cry 3 has many failings mostly with what the promoters claim it is meant to be. If presented as a frenetic shooter with visceral elements to build tension and a plot that has despicable enemies you will really want to take-out, then that would be accurate. Its open-world elements are limited to in-between missions and ought to be taken with a grain of salt.
Ultimately, though, it is an addictive experience because the AI is smart enough to be a challenge, the exploration rewarding enough to pursue, and the combat frenetic enough to be engaging. The main missions are a let down and if Far Cry 3 had a “non-story mode” it’d be a far better offering.