by Matthew Thompson (Images-Ubisoft)
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
Options, Options, Options. Far Cry 3 wasn’t the first game to allow me to take a multitude of different approaches in combat scenarios. Far from it in fact, but I think it really made me realize how important this was to me. The varied ways in which you could take on baddies was shown off the best in my favorite feature in the game: outpost takeovers. Enemy outposts were littered throughout Far Cry 3’s island paradise. By defeating all the enemies in these spots you would gain access to new missions and the like in the surrounding environments. But the real reward wasn’t what you got for controlling the outpost, but the fun you could have taking them over. You want to go in stealthy, sneaking up on enemies and slowly thinning them out, you can do that. Maybe even turning off the alarms on your way through, so if things go awry there won’t be any reinforcements coming your way. Or you could perch up above the spot with a sniper rifle shooting out the alarm triggers before knocking off all the guards as they scramble to try to stop you. And you haven’t really lived until you’ve strapped C4 to a jeep, drove it towards the gates and hopped out before you blew it to smithereens inside the enemy encampment. Efficient? Not really. Fun? Hell yes.
All the various outposts had unique setups which would encourage trying different approaches. Some had animals locked up inside which you could free and set against your enemies provided you could stay clear of their wrath yourself. The animals added a lovely element of randomness to these wonderful combat encounters. I recall scouting things out from a cliff that hung over one location. Just as I was finalizing my plan of attack a tiger came in and did most of the work for me. One sniper shot later and the outpost was mine. Another time as I snuck up in the dark to one post’s outer fence a pack of dogs came across me. Of course in fighting them off, I alerted the enemy. The result was a mess and I loved every second of it as I tried to fend off human and animal alike in an effort to rid the area of the opposition’s presence.
This brings me directly to another aspect that made Far Cry 3 shine: it was full of memorable moments. Animals were a big part of that. It could be random run-ins like the ones I described above or when you were seeking them out. I’ll always remember finally conquering the Black Panther in one of the game’s wild hunts as well as taking out sharks with a grenade launcher (only suckers take them on in the water) to get that shark skin I needed to create a new holster or wallet or whatever it was that Far Cry 3’s silly video game logic was asking of me.
Its open-world nature and the kind of unexpected events it can bring on are part of the appeal of this series since Ubisoft has taken it over. It really helps it stand out from some of its more linear contemporaries in the genre. But it also provided plenty of unforgettable moments during its more scripted sequences. While the narrative itself wasn’t anything worthwhile, it provided some excellent missions. There was burning down the marijuana fields with your flamethrower and feeling the effects if you got too close. There was getting to use your sweet new wingsuit for the very first time as you made your way to the second island. And while taking to the air in a helicopter for a rail shooter in an FPS isn’t remotely original, setting it to “Ride of the Valkyries” helped the one towards the end of FC3’s campaign stick with me. Even the side missions where you explored ancient ruins were a nice change of pace. And any time Vaas was on-screen was entertaining. I wish he had a bigger presence in the game, but he made the most of the time he got and remains one of my favorite video game villains.
Of course, all this wouldn’t be good for much if the mechanics weren’t so rock solid. Shooting feels great and I love all the various ways you can perform melee takedowns by jumping from above or throwing one guy’s knife at another. It was also one of the games that made me fall in love with the bow during its recent resurgence across the gaming landscape. Sprint slides, driving, fast travel… it all worked well.
Sneaky stealth kills while creeping through its lush jungle environments. Engaging in explosive firefights in old abandoned barracks. Dashing across its clear blue oceans in a jet ski taking in the sights. Soaring through the sky with the aid of your wingsuit. They all came together to create a lovely gaming experience filled with memorable moments and made Far Cry 3 my favorite first-person shooter of the seventh console generation.
A few more things:
- Far Cry 3 was a fairly easy choice for me as far as best game in the series last-gen. Blood Dragon is great though and has an amazing sense of humor, but I felt 3’s combat scenarios and core gameplay generally worked better. Far Cry 2 is a good game too. It has some things I wish would have made it into 3, but in general is too flawed of an experience to compete with its sequel overall.
- I feel like I gave Vaas short shrift here, but I plan to do a top five villains of seventh gen list as a supplement to the continuing top 25, so I’ll delve in more then.
- I tried with all my might to enjoy FC3’s co-op mode, but it was kind of a mess. Unpolished and lacking many of the things that made the singleplayer campaign special to me.
- Clue for #18: The only sports game on this list.