Far Cry 3 PS3 review and gameplay video – first-person open-worlders: you wish you were here

It may not be as life-sapping and epic as Skyrim, but it’s also not broken. It may not have the atmosphere of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it has far greater variety and more accomplished gameplay. And it may not have the compelling co-op-based looting of Borderlands 2, but the story blows Gearbox’s four-way out of the crystal-clear water. And, as such, Far Cry 3 is the best open-world first-person shooter on PS3.

Update: Read our Far Cry 3 interview for insight into what goes into making a AAA shooter masterpiece.

Far Cry 3 PS3 review

It’s a triple threat of polished mechanics, a compelling story that actually drives your actions forward, and a remarkable variety of activities to undertake. Throughout all of this you play Jason Brody, privileged fratboy and extreme sports fan, on a totally bodacious vacation with your equally privileged friends, brothers and girlfriend.

However things swiftly go from awesome to gnarly as you’re captured by sinister mohawked nutbar Vaas and his vicious band of pirates, who want to extort a ransom from your parents and then sell you on the black market anyway. The better news – unless you have a thing for being ransomed and class that as a positive – is that everything you do during your adventure is underpinned by gameplay systems that interact with one another in a freeform manner that results in both moments of off-the-cuff hilarity and the ability to approach objectives – core and optional – in a huge variety of ways.

My time with the game – and you’re looking at around 15-20 hours, even if you don’t hammer the side activities – threw up a huge number of the former, some of which were amusing asides, and others that genuinely changed my approaches to missions. In the ‘amusing aside’ camp: I saw a pig commit suicide. Happily grazing with his mates chewing some roadside cud, the rumble of a jeep engine became audible. His ears pricked, and he started tottering towards the dirt track it was driving down. As the car got nearer his little legs sped up, until he reached the middle of the road just in time to be introduced to a fast-moving bumper. Spoiled bacon everywhere.

More meaningfully, at one point I was sneaking up on a group of pirates guarding a cave that contained some precious loot I needed to get hold of. Tip-toeing through the undergrowth with longbow in hand, I switched to my red-dot sight and was lining up a nice, meaty headshot. Just before I unleashed hell, a herd of boar burst into view from a nearby forest, charging into the pirates’ midst. Turns out they were fleeing from a tiger, and between them the animals took down the handful of bandits. The tiger then tucked into any remaining boar, wandering off when he’d had his fill. I popped my arrow back into its quiver and grabbed the treasure with no resistance, silently thanking ol’ stripy for a job well done.

It is, to lapse into nauseating developer-speak, emergent – and in a way that few games since Red Dead Redemption have managed. This is the kind of game you’ll come into work/uni/the prison yard of a morning and swap stories about: Alex regaling you with tales of how he blew three sharks out the water with one carefully placed rocket, Tom telling of how he tumbled 100 feet down a hill while wrestling with a panther, and Cuthbert whinging about how he never gets invited to poker night any more. Shut up, Cuthbert.

But all of this is more than just water cooler window-dressing: this level of freedom means that any gameplay task can be accomplished in as many ways as there are deranged imaginations to concoct them. When taking down an enemy camp, you can drive a lorry hell for leather towards the gate, bailing at the last minute as the runaway truck does its damage. Or you can take up a vantage point and use a high-powered sniper rifle to pick men off one by one. Or you can jump off a mountain a kilometre in the distance, wingsuit your way towards the camp and parachute in, tearing everyone to shreds with your customised LMG. Or you can free the caged cassowary and watch it peck everyone to death. Or… you get the idea.

It’s crazy and creative in the way so few shooters today are (we’re looking at you, Black Ops 2, even with your new Strike Force missions), and it means that boredom or repetitiveness never come close to setting in. Even after completing the main game I dove straight back in to keep on doing the optional objectives, such were the untapped possibilities I wanted to explore.

It helps that these objectives are, almost without exception, extremely enjoyable. There’s also, to use a technical term, a bloody ton of them. Some you’ll naturally do during the course of the story, as they’re somewhat integral to progression – for instance, climbing radio towers to remove the fog of war from areas of the map (a process which, in a transparent Assassin’s Creed homage, results in the camera panning and spinning around the tower in question).

On the other hand, there are quests such as Wanted Dead, which tasks you with killing a certain crew leader using just a knife – something you’ll only do for the XP (or to be a completist), but which forces some enjoyable stealth on to even the most ardent run-and-gun merchant.