Far Cry 3 – Vertigo and dangerous chickens

Far Cry 3 is turning out to be a really interesting gaming experience, and I know having talked on Twitter and Facebook, many of us are sharing the same joy and pain of this massive free roaming jungle shoot/drive/fly/hunt/swear/avengeathon.
Like most free roamers it starts with some training, in this case it involves sneaking around and escaping to try and induce a little bit of tension and panic. This is interesting in that you start off panicked and wanting to avenge the death of your brother by the bad guys. He seemingly was a soldier, and you as a main character are not. However within minutes of the starting scenes you are armed and off dealing with things and attempting to rescue your friends who are now hostages. Of course at this point you are no longer so restricted by the tutorial as this is a free roaming environment you can do what you want to your own level of competence.
The game doesn’t let you do quite everything straight away though. You are restricted in some of your skills, which you have to earn skill points from mission and challenges to unlock the usual extra powers, swimming for longer, running more, being able to steal a bad guys knife and throw it at another for a double take down… the usual stuff 🙂
You also have to be a maker, gathering the flora and fauna to craft new holsters to carry more weapons, and a bigger satchel to carry more… flora and fauna and even have to make yourself a bigger wallet to carry all the cash you are making from the various trinkets.
The map of the massive tropical island is locked, though unlike some free roamers that does not stop you moving around anywhere. To unlock the map view of a sector you have to scale a massive radio tower and flick a switch. Yes this is a little like Assassin’s Creed eagle points and yes this game is published by the same people :). The climbing is a little bit clunky and difficult as this is a first person view but there is something fascinating about ascending these towers. It manages to induce a wonderful sense of vertigo once you get to the top.
Far cry 3
The still pictures just don’t do the effect justice. There is a great sense of height both from the visuals and the fact that you have struggled up quite a few platforms to get to the top so you know you are up in the air. However it is the alteration of the camera, your eyeline view that gives the most wobbly feelings. The camera makes you sway, your hands move a little as if balancing and it all tips a little. It is also combined with a wind effect that seems to tie in nicely. The whole tower feels and sounds as if it is fragile and flexing in the wind and taking you with it. I have not really experience that sort of gaming vertigo even in the massive heights of Just Cause 2 and Crackdown (probably due to those being 3rd person views). The last time I played a game and felt that tingle in my legs from height was in the original Tomb Raider on the Sega Saturn. Climbing up and and some very wobbly platforms feeling on the brink of falling all the time (even though that was 3rd person too).
One of the great joys of Far Cry 3 is the ability to really choose how you are going to take down an enemy outpost. Outposts make the map glow red and mean enemy patrols will find you wandering around as picking flowers and shoot at you. Taking an outpost makes it rebel territory and a bit safer. It gives you a locker to refresh all your ammo and a fast travel point in case you don’t want to drive around for hours.
An outpost has alarms, if they get triggered you will find you get a stack of pirates descending on you. So you have a choice. You can sneak in and disable the alarm before then dealing with the occupants, or you try and deal with them all really quickly before they can sound the alarm. Other options do present themselves. Sometimes the guards are more gung ho and if you create a disturbance outside they will come charging out at you rather than hitting and alarm. This makes for some great “rambo’ moments as you set traps and mines whilst picking off each aggressor. (Yes this is an 18 rated game BTW!) However it is not so much the violence that marks it 18 but the plot and the language. Even the loading screen occasionally pops up the F word (not Flora or Fauna!). As you sneak up on guards they are usually telling their mates of their displeasure with their lot in no uncertain terms. There is also an air of malice in the air, which you often forget if you are doing the side tasks and exploring, but as with all free roamers you have to get involved in the main missions to progress properly.
If the pirates and brigands were not enough of a threat though the island is teaming with wildlife they are very wild and seem to want to take your life. Tigers, panthers and bears are an obvious danger. You hear a roar and then get ready, but the ones that were the most surprisingly aggressive and have ripped me apart the most are the chickens. Technically they are not chickens they are in fact Cassowary big ostrich/emu like things. There you are sneaking quietly through the undergrowth to an outpost and squawk, squawk, rip, rip…dead. Luckily the same doesn’t happen with the giant tortoise though which seems to be the only thing that doesn’t was to kill you. You can craft things to make wildlife leave you alone for a bit but the tension of suddenly getting attacked, or having to keep an eye out for such things makes the jungle feel more random and dangerous. So it is annoying, but in a good way.
I still have quite a way to go on this game, but as its a free roamer the joy of just going for a drive or a stroll, picking a mini task to complete makes it very playable. Sometimes starting a mission can be a worry in case it sidelines you away into a must do piece of not so free roaming action, but that is again part of the fun. You get to appreciate the freedom more when it is taken away occasionally.

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