Lord of the Cries: A retrospective on Far Cry 3

Image owned by Ubisoft

 

Far Cry 3 recently celebrated its re-release through the “Classic Edition”, which finally allows PS4 and Xbox One players to enjoy the first person/open world shooter that redefined its series in 2012, after two earlier and disparately structured entries. In all fairness, I got a chance to play it early thanks to getting Far Cry 5′s season pass, which also unlocked another DLC  expansion for the most recent entry, the Vietnam war themed Hours of Darkness. Everyone else can finally revisit the Rook islands on June 29th this year.

Far Cry 3 is considered by many to be the best in the series, even if later installments did add meaningful tweaks and improvements, which feel notably missing upon returning to 3. Perhaps its the formula and how creatively executed it was in 2012 that makes it feel like the best of the current line of games. Personally, I feel that Far Cry 5 of this year, despite deep complaint with its narrative and characters, is the best in terms of making a world worth exploring and remembering. In terms of quality narrative, the rather disliked, in that it was too similar to 3 Far Cry 4 is perhaps the most well thought out and meaningful tale. So we return to 3, which has a good story with some uncomfortable social and allegorical layers complimenting a truly large and well thought out violent playground. It really is subjective when it comes to which flavor of Ubisoft’s best franchise suits you most.

 

When it comes to nailing down Far Cry 3 as a work of satire, which has been frequently defended despite complaint from its lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem, that remains a puzzle to me. The story is that a group of early 20s’ trust fund tourists decide to go parachuting onto an archipelago for the last stretch of their expensive Summer holiday. Turns out, there is a violent band of pirates in control of the archipelago, themselves under the control of an utterly amoral private military company. The group is captured and split up by the pirates for ransom, and the whitebread protagonist, Jason Brody (creative surname), manages to escape from the main pirate camp, losing his big brother Grant in the process. Vaas, the much beloved but sadly secondary antagonist of the game, actually allows Jason a chance to escape to the jungle, just for fun. Vaas’ enjoyable yet psychopathic insanity draws comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker or GTA V‘s Trevor Phillips.

Jason is rescued by the island natives, the Rakyat, and is thus thrust into the controversial role of the “white savior”. Through mystical power coming from some tattoos put on him, he gradually becomes a truly lethal predator in his journey to rescue his younger brother, girlfriend and remaining friends, to “walk the path”, as the locals call it. Eventually, he becomes the only person who can get anything done to liberate the archipelago. This is where people label Far Cry 3 with the unfortunate stigma of relying on racist, colonial storytelling tenets to justify the pretty awesome open-world to conquer. There’s even a hot island warrior priestess for Jason to win over through his actions. It’s all here and I can’t deny it. Perhaps I’m not the best judge of how right or wrong this framework is as I can certainly bitch about James Cameron’s Avatar doing the same thing too, while being sorta fine when Indiana Jones does it in Temple of Doom.

What perhaps personally saves the narrative for me is despite a generally straight face take on the “white savior arc, the game does suggest that for all the glory and fun Jason and you gain from this arc, there is a dark and disagreeable side to it all that mitigates the problem. Due to Jason’s increasing prowess and confidence in reclaiming the islands, he starts to enjoy the mayhem and butchery he partakes in, much to the apprehension of the friends he gradually frees. His aspiring actress of a girlfriend, Liza, despite being a stereotype of a millennial self absorbed love interest, is the one to see Jason’s decay in empathy for life clearest. It’s not just people that Jason cuts down, there’s also a large menagerie of animals for Jason either out of necessity or pleasure to kill and skin. Ironically, the clingy girlfriend becomes more selfless in helping her friends escape the island while Jason, the once caring, perhaps hen-pecked boyfriend becomes selfish and revenge focused. Despite how paper thin all of Jason’s group are, their struggle to survive and cope makes them more interesting and sympathetic than before.

Jason is a good, albeit entitled kid whose uses his bloody quest as a way to find purpose he didn’t believe he yet had. His desire for affirmed masculinity are more important than his understandable motivation to stop evil men like Vaas and his handler, the true antagonist Afrikaner Hoyt Volker. All you do, you do for fun and satisfaction, not unlike the motivation of the average gamer. Under this lens, Far Cry 3 is perhaps indeed satire if not the best handled. Spec Ops the Line of the same year tackled the same issues and more in much bleaker yet better fashion. Perhaps The Line not being as much fun as Far Cry 3 on purpose is what made one’s meta-commentary better than the other. In the end literally speaking, the two diverging ways in which Jason’s story concludes do fit in with the “just desserts” manner in which it should conclude. Either he succumbs to the primal temptations of the islands or he breaks away to leave with his friends with self loathing and PTSD as his true reward, along with survival. The difference being the player may or may not empathize but they can still and based on the game’s favorable standing  walk away impressed and satisfied.

In terms of the merits of the “classic edition” port to the PS4, in which I played, it is a more well defined mixed bag. On the one hand, the addition of DLC content such as introducing lovable moron Hurk, new animals and the like is a nice bonus considering I never played that content back in the day. The basic setup and systems of play are still great and balanced even after succeeding titles improved on it. Take down enemy outposts, accomplish side quests, do racing, timed challenges, play poker and gradually discover what lies ahead. It’s all still great over five years later and feels enough like its own thing, at least for its sun baked tropical setting, which never removes a cloak of primal uncertainty lying in wait for you.

As for the cons, it is pretty unfortunate that a game five years old doesn’t run as well as its newer installments, especially 5. The analog stick used for camera navigation still moves too jarringly and not smoothly enough to really feel immersive in an experience meant for immersion. The frame rate is also all over the place going from decent to slow and back way too often. There are still bugs that were noteworthy back in 2012 that are still present, like audio cutting out and missions completely restarting without your approval. It would be expected that Far Cry 3 should run the best on consoles more than ever before. That is not the case, and it is rather sad though not at all a deal-breaker for the long haul.

Go in or return to Far Cry 3 with an open mind. If you despise the story’s outdated implications, then drink deeply of everything else. If you enjoy both, all the better. You may feel that many things were not properly addressed to make the ultimate in insane virtual tourism. That Vaas, the guy on the cover and a fun foil for you to face is under-utilized is perhaps the most insane thing about the game. Rather than review on what could have been, remark on what is waiting for you in the jungle and take the plunge. If you can come back smiling for any reason, than you have walked the path indeed.

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