The FPS masters return, with a world beating bit of FPS gameplay.

Far Cry 3 slipped a little under the radar for many people – nestled at the thick end of the release calendar, and tucked behind the final Assassins Creed episode (itself from Ubisoft too, no less) and the mighty CODBLOPS2, the Crytek roam-em-up didn’t seem to tick the right boxes for many gamers I know. The excuses were the same, usually Halo or COD related, and despite a really good ad campaign splattering the airwaves and printed press, all the buzz seems to be around other titles. Which is a huge mistake; simply put, Far Cry 3 is easily the greatest game I have played this year.

Quick catch-up for the newcomers – Far Cry 3 is a first person shooter, and a loose sequel to (duh) Far Cry 1 and 2, both distinguished mainly for open world shooter gameplay – you can view objectives, scoot about looking for routes and emplacements, and then get on your merry way making hell to complete objectives. And, not for the first time, Crytek has managed something no other developer in memory has, in blending genuinely good gunplay with a true sense of choice. Not choice in the storyline sense – the main quest, despite being brilliant, is as linear as they come. No, instead the open nature is in the approach – come closer, snipers, sneakers and tanks, one and all, and let me tell you that you’ll all get as much out of this game as one another.

You see, too often titles profess to an open gameplay without delivering – Deus Ex, for example, was clearly designed for stealth, whereas Fallout’s shooter mechanics were a little marred by the fact that it only really worked as an RPG. Where FC3 nails it is that, by choosing the loadout, skillset and planning that suits your gamestyle, you can truly have a blast. Whether stocking up on assault rifles, bows, or simply stealthy sneaking skills and traps, you really can play this bad boy how you want.

And the game then proceeds to throw the veritable kitchen sink at you in terms of objectives – the main quest alone has you hunting around the island for comrades and friends, taking in the weird and the wonderful along the way. But, the sidequests are where the sense of open gameplay really comes to the fore – hunting people and animals, unlocking the map by liberating radio towers (a nifty little climbing puzzle of itself) attacking and claiming outposts (which thankfully don’t respawn this time around), or simply tooling about getting into scrapes and hunting treasure, this really feels like an islands which is both alive and kicking.

The main quest, for me, was the meat though – the side quests allowed me to grow my character and develop better equipment and weapons sets, but in truth, I can’t remember the last time a shooter grabbed me by the brain and dragged out a need to see what happens next. From the freaky and unusual characters to the fantastic acting and expression, it’s incredibly easy to buy into the world and what happens there. The antagonist is brilliant, and there’s real depth to the journey of the main character – as a game where the storyline is best served as cold as possible, I’ll leave it at that, but it’s easy to recommend this title (played in easy if needed to) to gamers who don’t even find shooters that much fun.

And a lot of this is down to the presentation being completely nailed – the art design seems to be near realistic with a hint of the cartoon about it, and this match seems to work really well. As usual, Crytek have added a host of tweaks for the desktop enthusiast to tinker with, ranging for the pretty excellent to the damn-near godlike – I’m not certain, but I’d drop a few quid that this outstrips Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 as the shiniest title I have seen on my PC thus far; 3D is a no-go for now though, as the image separates and the frame rate goes through the floor. But the depth of detail is staggering, and the liberal shake of lighting and shading effects really make the world breathe – not everything is immaculate at the closest range, but the lack of tiling effects and the simple beauty of water reflections and the light through the trees really takes the breath away.

Add in vehicles, upgrade and medication crafting, a world that breathes and never makes you feel too isolated from events, a quick travel system that just works, the unpredictability of the local wildlife, and ideas that would be unheard of in other shooters, and you realise just how special Far Cry 3 is. An example – while spying on an outpost from afar to plan my assault, I got attacked by Komodo dragons. Running away from them towards the outpost lead to the pirates encamped there to help in a pitched man-vs-nature battle, and the explosion of a nearby barrel set the grass on fire. Suddenly everyone was hemmed in by a moving wall of flame, and tactics went out the window – like a pro, I rode out the fire to one side and picked off the stragglers as they ran from the flames. There’s no comparison to it in recent memory (except perhaps Far Cry 2), and because of the nature of the game, it didn’t feel scripted – simply an outcome obtained by reacting to the game itself and what it was throwing at me.Looking good, sounding good, but above all playing fantastically, this title should be on almost any gamers Christmas list

Multiplayer is split between a co-op (4 player) mode and classic deathmatches and their variants, including a really funky Firestorm mode that has teams trying to burn each others assets down. Both are fun, if not really up to the challenge of the big multiplayer blockbusters – although in truth I found the co-op to be a little slog-tastic for my liking, dragging out enemy waves to a point starting to approach tedium. I haven’t burned a whole lot of time in them, if I’m honest, but they seemed adequate for what I saw. There’s also an impressive map editor mode bundled in too, which seems a lot deeper than my twenty minute tinker would suggest, so I’m sure the community is going to create some belters in the near future.

Negatives? None really, although don’t try it without the day 1 update. Further to that point, those with Nvidia cards will appreciate the benefits of installing the latest Beta drivers too. And on a personal note, fixing the 3D would be greatly appreciated too.

Far Cry 3, for me, is clearly the front runner for my game of the year – I’m looking forward to more tinkering about with the sidequests and hunting options than I have had so far, and for me to say it’s keeping me off of Assassins Creed 3 is no mean feat. By creating a realistic world, handing the game engine keys to the player and allowing a much more diverse approach, Far Cry 3 has ironed out the bugs of the second title to create something massively engrossing. Looking good, sounding good, but above all playing fantastically, this title should be on almost any gamers Christmas list – especially those of you a little jaded with the shooter market of recent times. Bravo, Crytek. Bravo.

The Good: Huge; brilliant gameplay allows the gamer to really play how they want to; graphics and sound are incredible, even on the lower settings; dynamic world is not only believable and immersive, but prone to change the game on the fly; storyline is great, and drags that player in; huge amount of other stuff to do, from sidequests and resource gathering to exploration and conquests; good 40+ of single player gaming, as well as a decent multiplayer suite, co-op mission set and a map editor to boot; good crafting, weapon customisations, and skill trees; Europe release date before the US one!The Bad: Overshadowed a little due to a crowded release window; 3D doesn’t work yet; Day 1 patch is essential; co-op can be a bit of a grind at times

Gameplay: Gameplay - 10 out of 10 10
Graphics:   Graphics - 10 out of 10 10
Sound:      Sound - 9 out of 10 9
Overall:     Overall - 10 out of 10 10

Diamond Y Award

Diamond Y Award