Far Cry 3 provides an open-world first person shooter (FPS) experience that compels players to explore. The lush tropical landscape serves as an intriguing backdrop while the continuous web of quests and tasks incentivizes players to extend towards each corner of the map. Beautifully dense and teeming with wildlife and hostile enemies the environment is unpredictable and unrelenting. Reveling in its random nature Far Cry 3 goads players to extend into the unknown, but every time the game presents a new unforeseen challenge it also reveals a plethora of solutions. This results in an experience that is visceral and dynamic. Formulated strategies fall to the wayside as players are pushed to experiment, react, and inevitability adapt to their surroundings.
Set in the fictitious Rook Isles, Far Cry 3 presents an interesting contrast between its scenic ambiance and dark underlying tones. The FarCry series is no stranger to tackling serious issues; the third installment attempts to do more of the same, with a plot revolving around slave-trading, murder, drug trafficking, and misogyny. While the narrative is admittedly not as ambitious as the politically driven tale woven in its predecessor, the game still attempts to take on far more than most modern-day shooters.
Wasting no time, Far Cry 3 injects you into the world as Jason Brody, a young American twenty-something year old who finds himself at the mercy of slave-trading pirates. Jason – at least at the beginning of the game – is no killer. Attempting to escape, he quivers as his battle-hardened brother mechanically kills the first guard. Not long after, Jason finds himself in a struggle for his own life – in which he inadvertently murders his fist victim in a bout of self-defense. Having taken his first life, his hands tremor and he slowly backs away from the corpse before him. It is there that the bonds of his sanity are broken.
Bent on revenge, Far Cry 3 revolves around the degrading mental state of Jason Brody. As Jason continues to kill in the name of his friends, he begins to lose himself. Each death gradually begins to hold less of an impact, and Jason starts to revel in the violence. If nothing else, Far Cry 3 should be commended for shedding light on Jason’s detachment. Too often games present this alternate reality where the protagonist is able to murder hundreds of people and walk away like nothing has happened. Far Cry doesn’t let you do that; Jason’s actions have repercussions.
Unfortunately, while Jason’s metamorphosis is ambitious, it is ultimately diluted by the inconsistencies within the narrative. At one moment Jason will savagely plunge his machete into a man’s chest cavity and the next he’ll start talking about how much fun he’s having with a flame thrower. Jason enters these primitive carnal mindsets, but he’s always brought back to normalcy with stupid one-liners. The developers attempt to use Jason’s narration as a tool to further explain what is going on in the story, but it isn’t needed and it only serves to make his evolution unbelievable.
Even more problematic is the game’s unabashed use of old racial cliches. The Rakyat (the native faction within Far Cry 3) ultimately serve as the catalyst for Jason’s transformation. It is through their customs and culture that Jason learns how to survive the wild and become a fearsome warrior. While the idea of delving into cultural ancestry to find inner strength is an interesting concept, the tone that it presents is troubling.
With Jason (a white American male) as the lens in which this culture is viewed, it depicts the Rakyat culture in a negative light. Jason’s demise is ultimately reflective of the savage nature of the Rakyat, and even worse is how Jason’s influence on the culture alludes to the idea of the white man civilizing the native world.
To be fair, Fry Cry 3 is not alone in this; unfortunately many shooters today (i.e. Call of Duty and Counter Strike) often take a white-centric view and settle for the lazy premise of kill the foreigners. It’s unfortunate that we continue to see this perpetuated in games, especially in Far Cry 3, where the initial premise was so promising.
Far Cry 3’s story may have its faults, but it has its high points as well. While the writing can be shoddy at times, there are also instances where it is exceptional. Easily the best of example of this is the game’s main antagonist Vaas. Voiced masterfully by Michael Mando, Vaas comes to life as the sociopathic leader of the pirates. Vaas reveals his complexity through a series of chillingly gripping monologues. Methodical, intelligent, and alarmingly volatile, Vaas takes players on a series of highs and lows that will leave them on the edge of their seats. Even after the first encounter with Vaas, it’s easy to see how he could command respect from his blood thirsty pack of slave-traders.