One of our forum regulars explains why Far Cry 3 is such a potent mix of good mechanics.
By PinothyJ on December 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Welcome back to another Community Soapbox article! If you’ve got something you’d like to say to our community, check here for more information about how to get your thoughts up in lights.
Everyone I have seen dive into Far Cry 3 (both on YouTube and my real life — with a pulse — friends) picks it up so quickly. The familiarity of the entire experience has been realised perfectly by the Ubisoft team — in fact, as I delved deeper into the ‘insanity’ of Far Cry 3 I started to feel a little too familiar with the game mechanics, to the point of of déjà vu. Far Cry 3 does not feel like its own game. It feels like a Greatest Hits collection of the mechanics from other games, and not a lot of its own IP.
Guard outposts are a big element of the (mostly) optional side of FC3 that has seen massive overhaul from its predecessor. You capture an area by killing all the humans and animals and it becomes yours forever and, in addition to clearing an outpost, the enemies in the surrounding area are replaced by allies (sans rare random encounters and a few static placements).
This feels like a little of Red Faction: Guerilla but mostly like inFAMOUS. They have nailed the inFAMOUS take on the mechanic so flawlessly, that it then becomes damn hard work to find enemies that are not animals, with the exception of story-related missions, in which the NPCs act as if no outposts have been taken in the first place. Unfortunately for FC3, inFAMOUS made it more interesting by varying the requirements to clear and hold an outpost. Luckily for us, that is not all that has changed with guard posts in FC3.
Okay, so you have shot some people at the outpost from afar and achieved bonus experience — now, welcome to Borderlands. Did anyone else exclaim: “Really?! A weapon vending machine?!” when they set foot in that first mission-captured guard house? What about the bounty board with obligatory NPC next to it, who exists for the sole purpose of telling you about the bounty board instead of actually assigning missions himself? Despite what I type on these forums, I actually do appreciate human contact, and it boggles my mind when games go out of their way to minimise even the simulated variety.
Hell: even the achievement system that unlocks bonuses, the random loot in loot containers, the enemy classes (normal, sniper, charger and heavy — or should I say bandit thug, bandit killer, psycho and bruiser) and the psychic knowledge of your foe’s class from a distance feels a touch Borderlandian. It is a good thing this title is more than just an outpost-clearing simulator, otherwise it would be pretty boring. Let’s go see the world!
Wait. Digital map? With fast travel points? That I can only see 20 km2 of? Where did my Far Cry 2 paper map and GPS go? I know I have a physical map, as Dennis stood beside me to look at it when I pressed ‘M’. So, for some reason (voodoo, clearly), my physical map is illegible until I climb a radio tower to ‘synchronise’ the foreseeable surroundings. Oh, Ubisoft even include leaps-of-faith and GPS way-pointing. Hopefully I don’t even need to mention what franchise that is yanked straight out of (with not the same effect, I might add).
And speaking of new map features, if the fast-travel points in this game do not reek of Skyrim I do not know what does. Oh! Wait, I do know what does: the optional side quests.
“Hey, buddy: so you are terrified and what to know if the only people in this world that you care about are alive? And want to get off this hell hole as soon as humanly possible, aye? Then surely you would not mind doing this mindless task number fifty-seven for me so I can rest a little easier, even if time is of the essence and every second you delay could mean their death? Thanks, bud!”
It seems that NPCs (those that are not scripted, anyway) are as useless as their Tamrelian counterparts. Although, to give them some credit, it appears they are not altogether useless as each and every human enemy with a gun has seemingly had access to Kojima’s top secret Metal Gear Solid AI (not the La-li-lu-le-lo’s: the other kind). I would put money down that beta builds of FC3 even had miniature exclamation points appear above their heads.
But jokes aside, one very disappointing element of this title is occasionally you are met with the kind of immature and inane writing you would expect to find from the facepalm-inducing Postal developers at Running with Scissors than the pure and noble Ubisoft. A juvenile in-game handbook that you are directed to every time you come across something new is saturated with descriptions so jejune they are pointless in their inclusion — where it is not vague and/or unhelpful, it is sarcastic and/or facetious. Not to mention, anyone lucky enough to pick up the shiny and yet rugged Insane Edition will be greeted by some grade-ten kid’s social science project, poorly passed off as a survival manual. It is from you: Jason (from the future), to you, Jason (in the present, I think). The ‘Face Your Insanity Guide’ even starts off with this literary gem: “Who I am isn’t important. You can call me Jason.”
It is hard to describe to someone what Far Cry is now without being too generic. The first game did not have anything that was terribly innovate, but it was a straight-up action game and a very decent one at that. The trip to Africa in the sequel made the title more gritty, and introduced the dirty elements of combat with a hint of survival. To me, the third instalment feels like both of these games and yet neither, all in the one breath. A good deal of game reviewers brought the point forward that FC2 had all the elements to be a classic title but failed to put all the pieces in the right order — especially in regards to a few choice mechanics.
It is a shame, then, that Ubisoft have opted to take us down a nostalgic route of tried and true mechanics, instead of building on what they had to begin with.
I have always felt that the real hook of Far Cry as a series is that it is an FPS in a remote and unforgiving location — but all this game gives us is arcade FPS sensibilities in a beautiful island paradise (and a tiny one at that, coming in at about 25 km2, which is disappointing). Bus terminals are replaced by instant, everywhere fast-travel; buddy death-saves are replaced with a rinse-and-repeat death/save cycle; hand-held map and GPS where you could, mentally, plot your course by landmarks are replaced with a digital, pausing, way-point enabling map; weapons durability and jamming are replaced with Crysis-grade perfecto-guns (on an island where you are unable to acquire clean undies); and realistic animal distribution is replaced with “OH GOD, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!” to name a few I have noticed along the way.
Above all, what really gets my goat and grinds its gears is the fact that, despite all I’ve written above (plus the 1,000 words of rant I cut out)… Far Cry 3 is fun. It’s so much fun, that I have not spent a good deal of time playing any other video games since I first opened the shrink wrap on the Insane Edition.
And really, at the end of the day, regardless of whatever we think is right or wrong about this game, there will always be mods to change it all and make us all happy.
Editor’s Note: Yes, PinothyJ did originally submit his Soapbox article in entirely blue text.