I don’t usually do video game reviews, most games that I play just don’t warrant the time, they’re fun while they last and when I’m done, I uninstall them, put them away and probably won’t even think about them for a year or so when I’m bored. Very few games have any longevity for me, most games are a linear adventure, you get to the end and that’s it, they have virtually no replay value whatsoever.
The story is pretty simple. A group of rich kids go on a series of extreme sports adventures, culminating in a skydiving expedition in Bangkok. When things go wrong, they land on a small pirate island and are captured by the local pirate warlord Vaas, who takes them prisoner and plans to ransom them and then sell them into slavery anyhow. One of them, Jason manages to escape and meets up with some of the local villagers, Rakyat warriors, who adopt him into their order and start tattooing things all over his body. Seriously, you get knocked out a lot in this game and half the time when you come to, there’s someone tattooing something on your arm. Made me want to punch someone. Jason wants to escape from the island and sets about rescuing all of his friends from their pirate captivity with the help of the local villagers, a washed up FBI agent and a questionable moral sense.
Probably my biggest problem with this game is that the main character, Jason Brody, is just a complete fucking dick. He is, without a doubt, a douchebag. Yes, he gets thrown into a dangerous situation, he has to fight for his life and learn to kill, but he’s really a very unlikeable character through and through. He starts off as an obnoxious rich shit. He rescues his friends but he really doesn’t treat them like friends. In fact, his emotional attachment to his girlfriend is minimal at best, he rescues her and there is no emotion, there is no tenderness, he finds her and sticks her in a cave like a trophy. Then he goes off and screws the high priestess of an island cult and the next time he sees his girlfriend, all he can say is bye and walk away. What a fucking asshole. Granted, the game designers intended him to be that way, it was an ethical quandary of some sort, but I’ll say the same thing about this as I do with all morally ambiguous or even morally reprehensible characters in movies, TV and games: you have to have some reason to care if these characters survive beyond getting your money’s worth out of the game. You still have to have characters that you care about and there is no one in this game that I gave a shit about. It’s the same reason I hated the Battlestar Galactica reboot from a couple of years ago. Those characters were not just morally ambiguous, they were downright evil. I’d much rather see a storyline where essentially good, moral characters are put into situations where they have to act against their natures. There is nothing admirable about Jason Brody or any of his friends. There is nothing noble about Citra, the warrior queen, nor Denis, the guy who keeps tattooing shit on your arm. They’re all assholes. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings in the least if everyone in this game got killed.
I’m not a stealth guy. I’m more of a stand-up-and-fight guy. Lots of games give multiple paths through and let you pick which path you prefer. Take Crysis 2, for example, which I replayed while waiting for Crysis 3. In a combat situation, it almost always gave you a number of well-defined options, go around by stealth, go in guns-blazing, take the high ground and snipe away, etc. Far Cry 3 has none of that. There is only one way to do anything. You are going to be stealthy. You are going to have a stand-up fight. You are going to go here or go there, no matter what. This becomes a massive problem during one sneak mission near the end of the game, you have no weapons, you have to sneak past a dozen or so guards until you can steal a uniform. I tried it about 25 times and couldn’t do it, throwing rocks to distract guards, but they wouldn’t go where I wanted them to go and turned around again at the most inopportune times. It was stupid that I couldn’t sneak up behind them and gut them, which would have made the section much more palatable. After all, corpses don’t set off alarms. Anyhow, I got frustrated so I figured I’d go back to the main island and screw around for a while, take out some enemy camps, etc. But no… now I have no goddamn weapons and can’t pick any up! Until I finished that section of the game, there was literally nothing I could do in the entire game because I was locked out of all weapons, with the exception of my knife which I could use to stealth kill, but most camps don’t offer the ability to reasonably use that. Bad design, very bad design.
Speaking of going here or going there, it presents you with a large map, but you are really pretty limited, especially on a mission. In fact, there was one point near the end of the game where you get to the final boss’ island and have to go to a bar. I’m walking along and, maybe 500 feet away is a radio tower that if you climb it, it will give you a portion of the map. Hell, it’s really on the way to where I was going so I tried going up and getting the map, the game tells me I’m out of the mission parameters and if I don’t return immediately, I lose. Um… thanks. If you’re going to present a sandbox layout for your game, stop limiting the player’s movement!
Another annoying element, and this is a long-time problem in other Ubisoft games, is the wallet. You can only carry so much cash around and need to keep building larger and larger wallets. Unfortunately, once you get into the game, money begins to be pointless, you unlock weapons and once unlocked, you can get them for free from any safehouse or gun shop, there is tons of ammo laying around so you don’t have to buy that, so you fill up your wallet and your loot sack gets choked with tons of useless garbage that you’d normally sell, but now you can’t sell because you can’t hold any more money. You spend a considerable amount of time emptying crap out of your rucksack and their removal system is not quick, it’s click on the object, click on discard, verify the discard, lather, rinse, repeat. You ought to be able to grab a group of objects and delete them, especially considering how often you have to do this. You can’t just stop searching bodies and boxes, there are things in there that you need, but you can’t pick and choose what things to take, you take whatever is there.
I don’t know, maybe my expectations were bad, but coming from a game like Crysis or Halo or just about any other first-person shooter, this was a serious letdown. What’s worse, it had all the elements to make it great, the actual gameplay was good, there were lots of weapons, there were lots of different things to do, but the story was just crap. There’s something about a storyline where, even if you do everything right, you spend a lot of time getting the shit kicked out of you, getting drugged, getting captured, getting tied up, getting things cut off, etc. I hate games where you know that if you walk through that door, something bad is going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. That, I think, is the biggest failure of this game, that you’re dragged kicking and screaming through a horrible story and even when you can see the pitfalls, you know you’re going to be shoved off the brink anyhow, no matter what you do.
I will say that once I finished the storyline, once Citra died since I chose to go back with my “friends”, it wasn’t too bad to run around the island and finish the things I hadn’t done. That was fun. Speaking of finishing the storyline though, seriously, do you guys need to list the entire population of Bangladesh in your credits? I sat through the entire credits, which seems like it took a half hour, hoping for something at the end and got nothing. Zero payoff. At least Halo has a scene at the end as a reward for wasting your time. This… nothing.
Oh well, it’s not like there aren’t lots of other games out there, just waiting on Bioshock Infinite next.