The Far Cry series is one that’s been through some unusual settings over the years. From fairly normal shooter, to dropping the player into the role of a caveman, to 80’s action movie pastiche, it’s done a little bit of everything. But during its early entries it still seemed to be trying to figure out what it wanted to be. The first game put players in the role of a former soldier who gets caught up in a mad scientist’s experiments on a remote island (with the remake having you become one of the experiments), and the first of the sequels putting you in the role of a mercenary in an unnamed African nation in the middle of a civil war, seemingly taking some inspiration from Heart of Darkness.
Despite the tonal differences between the first two games, there was one thing that they had in common: you were playing a character with a history of violence and killing. This seemed to be something that the team behind the new game, Far Cry 3, wanted to explore, as you were no longer put in control of a trained killer, but an ordinary man.
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The story of Far Cry 3 places players in control of Jason Brody (Gianpaolo Venuta), who’s on vacation in Bangkok. You get a cut scene that shows Jason and his friends partying, drinking, and having fun, reinforcing that these are just your regular holidaying young adults. When the group go on a skydiving trip they accidentally land on the Rook Islands, a number of tropical islands that are home to a group of pirates led by the vicious Vaas Montenegro (Michael Mando). The group is captured and told that they’re going to be sold into slavery. When they attempt to escape Jason’s brother is apparently killed, forcing Jason to turn to violence to defend himself and escape.
Jason is later rescued by a member of the island’s native tribe, the Rakyat, who sees something in Jason. He gives Jason the Tatau, the tattoos worn by the Rakyat warriors, and encourages him to try and free his friends and stop Vaas. From here players are able to travel across the Rook Islands, taking on Vaas’ men in any way they want, in a journey that will see Jason go from a frightened party boy who fears violence, to a blood-soaked killer.
The story of Far Cry 3 was a big focus for the development team, and they wanted to create an experience that felt different to the previous entries in the franchise. Part of this was done by making the setting much brighter and more vibrant than the second game, more closely resembling the first. The brightness and beauty of the Rook Islands was an intentional decision that they hoped would contrast with the darkness of the story that they were crafting. The team wanted a story that would test the players’ sense of morals, and as such didn’t include a morality system in the game that would chart the players progress, instead wanting this to be something that the player didn’t think about until Jason himself was confronted with it.
There are several times during the game when Jason, who by then will have killed dozens of pirates and killers in order to help save his friends, is confronted by the reality of what he’s doing. His friends will see the transformation in him as he slowly becomes more tolerant of killing, and is even accused of enjoying it. These moments were designed to make the player question the morality of what Jason is doing, and if killing to be a hero makes you any better than the people that you yourself are killing. This story was praised when the game was released, and critics seemed to enjoy the fact that this wasn’t just another shooter that put you in control of a soldier who doesn’t even think about the consequences of their actions, but is directly challenged about them.
To help balance out the questions of morality, the game introduced an incredibly memorable villain in the form of Vaas. Originally designed as a huge, hulking figure, the entire character was redesigned when actor Michael Mando auditioned for the part. Mando delivered such a unique performance that the creative team remade the character to better accommodate him, and his acting. The decision seemed to be a good one, as Vaas quickly became one of the most memorable video game antagonists in history. Not long after the game was released he became instantly recognisable, becoming something of a face of the franchise. A four-part web series starring Mando as Vaas was also released, which only helped to cement his character and performance in audience’s minds.
Far Cry 3 received rave reviews upon release, and had high scores from the majority of publications that praised the story, game design, and experience, saying that it was a huge improvement over the last entry in the series. The game sold well at launch, though Ubisoft would claim that it did not perform as well as they were hoping. Despite this, it sold more than ten million copies, and sat comfortably in the top ten selling games around its release and Christmas.
Thanks to the success of Far Cry 3 the franchise became a hugely popular series, and many of the features that were introduced in this entry would go on to become staples of the series that have been used in almost every game that has come since. Whilst the other entries in the series have done well both commercially and critically, none have really received the recognition and acclaim that this game did, and even a decade later it remains the most memorable entry in the franchise.
Far Cry 3 was released in the UK on 4th December 2012.