Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Many (Major) Missteps of Far Cry 3

I've been having a blast with Far Cry 3, but no game is perfect and neither is this one. I already covered the game's more annoying minor issues, the ones that pop up frequently but aren't that bad, really. They don't significantly detract from the quality of the game, but they're there. You can work around them, but you can't avoid them. You deal with them. They're the kind of flaws you can love the game in spite of.

But Far Cry 3 has major issues too, and they're much harder to deal with.

These are the ones that threaten to destroy all the goodwill the game builds up by being so awesome in so many other ways. These are the ones that don't just annoy; they infuriate. These are the ones that keep it from being the best game of the year.

No New Game +

Last time, I told you that I was considering starting the game over because "there's no one left to kill." I'm not going to do that anymore. Why? Because I don't want to give up all my upgraded skills from a dozen hours of earning experience points. I don't want to give up all my upgraded gear and weapons from a dozen hours of skinning the right animals and earning enough money. I don't want all the collectables to repopulate after a dozen hours of methodically hunting each down.

I don't want to start over from scratch; I just want to start over.

This might actually be the game's biggest flaw because it's literally the only thing stopping me from playing it right now. I'm out of guys to kill but I'll be damned if I'm giving up my wingsuit.

The Co-op Missions

In theory, co-op in Far Cry 3 should be a no-brainer. Just drop a few of my buddies into my world and unleash us to do whatever dumb, demented stuff comes to mind. But that would make too much sense, wouldn't it? Instead, Far Cry 3 delivers a series of claustrophobically linear, poorly designed missions that abandon literally everything good about the single-player campaign.

If you liked all the deranged, well-written characters of the story mode, that's gone. If you liked the freedom of exploring an entire island, that's gone. If you liked using all that space to pull off crazy strategies, that's gone. If you liked the interplay between nature and humanity as rampaging animals interjected into your fights, that's gone. If you liked enemies that take a realistic amount of damage, that's gone. If you liked having a mostly glitch-free and responsive experience, that's gone.

There is nothing good about Far Cry 3's co-op. It was a complete and total waste of resources.

Competitive Multiplayer

If I were to tell you to design the most cynical, creatively bankrupt multiplayer mode possible for Far Cry 3, a game otherwise brimming with imagination, what would you come up with? A progression-based Call of Duty ripoff with customizable weapons, perks, and kill streaks? Hey, what do you know? Ubisoft did too! Coincidence!

This is less offensive than the pile of filth that is the co-op mode because at least it works, but it's no less boring. There's just nothing special about it at all and I don't know why I'm supposed to play it over any of the other dozen Call of Duty clones.

I'm going to have to talk about the story in detail now, so if you haven't beaten the game yet and
don't want it spoiled, stop reading now.

The Second Half of the Game

Far Cry 3's early hours are defined by Vaas, that guy with a penchant for talking about the definition of insanity. Once he's gone, though, the game loses its magic. Hoyt, the next big bad on the roster, just can't hack it on his own and the story ends up puttering across the finish line instead of roaring. There are still a few really good moments post-Vaas, but by and large, the game gets pretty boring.

But it gets frustrating too. Even though the mechanics only get stronger the further into the game you go, the mission design gets uncharacteristically restrictive. "Here, have a scripted turret sequence," the game says dismissively. "Or I don't know, some instant-fail linear stealth missions. The kids like those, right?"

Not even a little bit, Far Cry 3. Not even a little bit.

Killing Vaas Too Early

I wasn't kidding about this one. Far Cry 3 lives and dies by Vaas. Michael Mando absolutely crushes it with his performance as Vaas with the kind of hard emotional swings at the drop of the hat that make a person truly scary. Every scene with Vaas is arresting and unsettling and terrifying in all the right ways. He's the kind of character that sticks with you for years, like Andrew Ryan or the G-Man.

Then the game tosses it all away halfway through. And for what? For Hoyt? Please. In most games, Hoyt would shine as a fun, dynamic villain more interesting than most, but next to Vaas, he's like a plank of wood with a face drawn on it.

I'm not even saying that I needed to have been Vaas the whole time or whatever. I just wanted more Vaas.

And that's it — between this article and the last one, that's everything I don't like about Far Cry 3. I wouldn't care enough to list it all out like this if I didn't love the game so much. It does so much right that the things it does wrong stick out that much more, and this is just a way to process it all.

Seriously, Far Cry 3 is a wonderful game. Go play it if you haven't already.