It’s safe to say that Ubisoft have had an absolutely fantastic year in terms of their 2012 releases. With Assassin’s Creed III making itself known as one of the big hitters of the year, and Watch Dogs set to kick off 2013, Far Cry 3 has proved itself to be not only a fantastic fix to tide us over, but also a strong contender for game of the year.

The games opening cinematic introduces Californian Jason Brody and his jet-setting friends and family on their extreme sports trip around the world. After a sky-diving escapade gone wrong, Jason and his friends end up separated on the pirate infested Rook Island and he and his brother Grant awake in a wooden cage at a pirate camp led by Far Cry 3′s main villain and cover star, Vaas.

The duos escape from the camp introduces the player to some of the many, many gameplay features to be found in Far Cry 3 and the fantastic dialogue and presentation really emphasises the sense of panic and emergency the player feels as they attempt to stealthily escape and find their friends. Once Jason is free of Vaas and his pirate pals, he is taken in by Dennis Rogers who will act as the players guide throughout Far Cry 3.

It’s at this point in the game that you are introduced to the Rakyat tribe and the skill tree and levelling system found in the game. Players earn skill points as they progress throughout the game which they are able to spend in three separate skill trees – Heron, Shark and Spider. Skills include stealth tactics to improve your silent takedown abilities, weapon perks and health bonuses – each new skill unlocking a part of the Rakyat tattoo on Jasons arm.

Stealth is the highly recommended route for players to take in Far Cry 3, with lots of awesome takedowns skills to unlock, such as drop down attacks and using an enemies weapon to take down another. Players will also get big XP boosts for clearing enemy camps undetected or without setting off any reinforcement alarms. However Ubisoft don’t force you to go full on ninja if you much prefer to blasting the ever-living hell out of the bad guys with the wide arsenal on offer.

Weapons range from handguns all the way up to RPG’s, and there’s even this years hot weapon of choice from developers, the bow, to unlock if you fancy feeling ike Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Jason can unlock weapons for free by disabling the many radio towers around the island, which will also open up a huge section of the in-game map for you to see listings for, however earning cash on the island isn’t a challenge so there’s no need to wait until the traders will offer up a freebie.

Whilst cash, ammo and medical ingredients are prominent around the isle, Jason is limited to what he can carry until he goes big game hunting to craft some upgraded gear to carry all his treasures in. Unless you like being limited to only having one weapon and frequently having to make trips to get rid of excess trinkets, it’s highly recommended that you spend the first part of the game working on pimping Brody out in the latest animal skins to carry his wares.

It’s additional mechanics like the crafting and the Rakyat Trials, small set pieces which challenge you to complete an objective with awards up for grabs, that make Far Cry 3 such an amazing open world game to play. After leaving the Rakyat camp for the first time, I managed to play for around six hours simply exploring the island, upgrading my gear and taking part in the big game hunts, hit list posters and collectable hunting without progressing through the main storyline. The island is absolutely massive and Ubisoft have ensured that there’s plenty of reason for you to explore it as much as you can without dragging you kicking and screaming through the main story.

Unlike a lot of FPS or action adventure games over the past few years, your protagonist doesn’t start the game like he’s already been spending years in some secret military training where he can tackle even the biggest of baddies. Jason is a slightly above average guy and his abilities progress naturally throughout the game on his quest to save his friends and become an ultimate Rakyat warrior.

If I have one niggling complaint about Far Cry 3 it’s that Jason appears to have some sort of super-human stamina that allows him to seemingly run forever without getting exhausted. Players can choose to upgrade his ability to hold his breathe for longer underwater but there’s no thought given to that he could beat anyone in a cross country race. Gameplay wise, it’s awesome that you can outrun anything without fear of having to take a breath but it does detract from some of the realistic elements of the game.

In summary, Far Cry 3 really is the jewel in Ubisoft’s crown of releases for 2012. The world you are given to explore is vast and full of life and surprises – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve planned a stealthy attack only to have it scuppered by a random tiger attack. Jason is a character you can relate to and grow with as both of you progress throughout the game, doing whatever it takes to rescue your friends from the clutches of pirates.

Score: 5/5

With the many dangers to be found on Rook Island – from pirates to tigers – here’s a list of 10 essential hints and tips to surviving your Far Cry 3 experience.

Far Cry 3 is out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Categories: Reviews
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