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Game Of The Year Runner-Up: Far Cry 3

David Lynch

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David Lynch's Game Of The Year Runner-Up is Far Cry 3. Who doesn't like tropical islands and a load of mercenaries to kill?

Published on Dec 20, 2012

In a year dominated by games with the number 3 after their titles, Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 stands out as one of the few that dared to try something a little bit different.

Perhaps it’s because the Far Cry series has managed to reinvent itself with each game or maybe it’s down to those all-important lessons that were learned from the troubled (yet highly ambitious) second game, but there’s something rather definitive about Far Cry 3.

At a time when gamers have begun looking ahead to the next generation and all the wonderful new experiences we’ll no doubt be enthralled by, Far Cry 3 is offering perhaps the most complete version of an open-world sandbox shooter in the here and now.

Since the last generation pushed the open-world genre into the mainstream we’ve seen hundreds of games developed all giving players a sandbox and the tools to do whatever they want.

But, few have ever managed to merge good storytelling, character and the will of the player into a cohesive experience. A prime example of this is how odd it felt for GTA 4’s Nico Bellic to run over pedestrians as the player made their way from A to B and then a few seconds later here him lamenting past acts of violence in a cutscene – it made for a very inconsistent experience.

Rockstar eventually broached this issue in Red Dead Redemption, but for Ubisoft, designing how Far Cry 3 would work with its open-world and story right from the off became a central pillar of design.

“We knew from the start that openness was something we wanted to embrace,” explains Far Cry 3’s lead design director Mark Thompson. “For three years we pushed the technology hard, to the point that we could create a truly open world experience with no restrictions on where you can go or what you can see: now the mountains aren’t just backdrop, they’re part of the world.”

It’s something that’s immediately noticeable, too. Far Cry 3’s story begins with Jason Brody and friends on the holiday of a lifetime. It turns into a holiday from hell as the tropical island’s mercenaries step into view, lead by the clearly insane, but beautifully performed, Vass.

What’s important is the ways in which Far Cry 3 establishes this world and its rules. For Jason, and by extent the player, killing people and animals, surviving the jungle and becoming the hunter has to make logical sense. And it does; Far Cry 3’s world is populated with people (friends and foes) and an entire ecosystem.

Brody is given tons to see and do and just in the same way that Bethesda’s Skyrim drops players into the world and asks you to get on with things, so too does Far Cry 3.     

“Far Cry has always been about freedom and exploration and the way you are able to explore the living islands while completing missions with your own style of approach is something that we absolutely continue in Far Cry 3,” explains Thompson.

“Where we expand from previous games in the series is in the powerful narrative and the cast of memorable characters. We wanted to take players on a real emotional journey as you learn to survive these islands of insanity as Jason Brody."

"As the narrative unfolds, as Jason explores the dark heart of the islands, he’s pushed to his limits, both physically and psychologically and we take players along the same journey.”

Part of what makes Far Cry 3’s world such a fascinating place to explore, apart from its obvious visual and technical beauty, is the character Ubisoft has managed to instil in locations and the people around you.

There’s a real sense that Ubisoft is creating a game for the modern gamer. A twenty something male, perhaps disillusioned, perhaps aware that there’s something more to life; in Brody these players get a chance to explore their limits, all in a world that has more in common with the Lord Of The Flies than it does with Black Hawk Down, as many of today's modern shooters do.



The gameplay supports this world-view, often presenting the player with missions that explore how Brody’s morality and sanity are holding up. His overall goal might be to save his friends, but he turns freedom fighter/saviour the deeper up the river he travels and that’s an interesting parallel journey for many players to take with him.

“We have a lot of respect for our subject matter, explains Thompson. “We approach it with maturity and honesty. Moreover we respect gamers, and we know that they will treat the material with the same respect.”

“After all we are adults making a game for adults. It’s not about cheap thrills and titillation, it’s about exploring mature themes in ways that other entertainment media have being doing for years."

"We aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been seen on post-watershed television, but the reaction has been that we are taking a risk, or being bold, because those areas of life are often left unexplored in games, especially in the FPS genre, where Far Cry 3 will really stand out as a different experience.”

For me personally, and one of the reasons why Far Cry 3 makes it as my runner-up Game Of The Year, is because in a year that has been inundated with ‘me too’ FPSs, brainless sequels and increasingly dull shooting galleries, Far Cry 3 is a genuine surprise.

I won’t disagree that there have been better games out this year, but it’s what Ubisoft is attempting with Far Cry 3 that excites me and gives me hope for the next generation of consoles.

Its combination of compelling storytelling, excellent combat and RPG character evolution, the ways in which Ubisoft empowers players and even the quality of the performance capture come together to make something special.

Ubisoft has produced one of the most thought provoking shooters of the year and an experience many developers should look to if they want to create a game that puts verisimilitude before gung-ho theatrics and pointless shooting. And that's something we should all want.

 

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