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

Others, such as the Path Of The Hunter missions, fall somewhere in between. At the start of the game you have only a small backpack in which to store your loot, and a wallet capacity of just $1,000 (which, for me, would be more than enough). This is almost immediately problematic, as collecting animal skins, plant life for crafting, relics and so on fills your pack swiftly, and your wallet starts straining with the cash from selling these.

In order to expand the capacity of your various pouches you need to obtain a certain number of animal hides, taken by skinning the island’s fauna in Red Dead style. Then you can craft bigger receptacles (nothing fancy, just hit X) enabling you to carry more weapons, syringes – also made via the crafting system, using plants to gain short-term boosts such as resistance to fire or enhanced perception of enemies – and cash, all of which increase your abilities as the game wears on.

Far Cry 3 screensAnd it’s here that Far Cry 3 excels itself in a way which so few games manage: almost no other open-world game has ever nailed how it paces your empowerment quite so perfectly. After you manage to make your escape from Vaas’ compound in the opening mission, the lion’s share of the game involves rescuing each of your friends from his clutches once you’ve discovered where they are. And it’s through a winning combination of both excellent characterisation and the development of your in-game abilities that this process is so enjoyable and impeccably judged.

At first you have a slightly weedy selection of guns, no money to customise them with, few impressive abilities, and a general feeling of being way out of your depth. But bit by bit, as your arsenal improves and you spend your skill points (more in a moment), your confidence to tackle the various scenarios you’re faced with palpably improves. And it’s steady, too: there’s no one moment where everything ‘clicks’, it’s just a natural progression and gradual increase that seems to naturally reflect the change that Jason is undergoing.

Part of this is down to the skilltrees, reflected in the ever-changing tattoo that snakes down Jason’s arm. Each skill point earned (through XP given for pretty much everything) can be spent in one of three areas: the Heron (long-range takedowns and mobility), the Shark (assault takedowns and healing), and the Spider (stealth takedowns and survival). Meaning that while at first you can carefully sneak up on a guy and stab him in the neck, by the end you can jump off a building and take out two guys at once, slit another’s throat before instantly killing one more with a throwing knife, and then sprint tirelessly towards the sea before diving in and holding your breath for an inhuman amount of time.

This feeling of connecting with and growing alongside your character is aided by the game’s excellent script, and a certain believability that accompanies Jason’s journey from chucking back sambuca shots to chucking grenades at pirates. He’s absolutely not the irritating college douche he so easily could have been, and while his actions seem extreme at times, they never push the boundaries of credulity too far.

He’s also supported by a truly stellar cast of NPCs. Vaas is genuinely chilling and gloriously off his rocker, and the fact that interactions with him are so limited for so long only serves to make his threat more ominous. Then there’s Dr Earnhardt, the island’s healer who looks after your friends and, who has clearly been getting high off his own supply for way too long. And Willis, the CIA operative who seems to have been so deep undercover for so long that you can’t quite tell if he’s finally lost his grip on reality, or if in fact he was ever an actual spy in the first place.

It may not sound like the compliment it’s intended to be, but another thing that elevates Far Cry 3 is its ability to minimise annoyances. At risk of sounding like an iPhone salesman: it just works. All the mechanics play out as you’d want them to, and there are almost none of the niggles that so frequently plague open-world games, such as badly implemented fast-travel systems or an overly strong emphasis on totally meaningless collectibles.

Far Cry 3 screensIn fact, the only thing that doesn’t work quite perfectly is that on occasion it’s a little bit tricky to get into the right position to skin an animal that you’ve just killed. And, of the dozens of core missions in the game, only one struck me as being badly designed – a hit rate very few games of any genre can match. It also contains both competitive and co-operative multiplayer, which we’ll be providing a full verdict on next issue when we’ve had a chance to try out the modes once the servers have gone live.

Far Cry 3’s real triumph is blending so many elements into a cohesive whole without any feeling extraneous or tacked-on. Every element works and has its place, and contributes to a narrative that may not be class-leading but certainly exceeds expectations. It also possesses the perfect balance between steadily empowering you, yet never allowing you to feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what’s on offer – something even a game as great as Arkham City couldn’t manage. And what’s on offer is a hang-gliding, parachuting, quad-biking, shark-punching rebellion that satisfies on just about every level. It may not be reinventing the wheel, but it’s refining it, smoothing out the imperfections and sticking a ‘Wish You Were Here’ sticker on the hubcap.

Our Score

Score: 9