As I mentioned in my last blog, retail offerings haven’t impressed me too much this year. Luckily one swooped in late in the year and I finally had a Game of the Year-worthy candidate in this category. My Game of the Year goes to:
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3‘s rook islands are just an absolute blast to play around in. Ubisoft Montreal made a fantastic sandbox world here and gave you so many ways to approach its various activities. If you are anything like me, most of your time with this game will be spent messing around in its open-world and taking on various side quests. Climbing up radio towers will reveal various stuff on the map similar to the Assassin’s Creed games. So with each radio tower climbed, you will have more stuff to distract you from the story. But it is so fun, you won’t care.
Hunting in Far Cry 3 is as fun as its ever been in a game for me. Getting various skins from animals allows you to craft all kinds of new stuff. It all pretty much deals with your capacity to carry more items, but that is a fun enough reward. I’m not sure exactly why I need a bunch of shark skins to hold more money, but hey, it is a good enough reason to take my grenade launcher down to the beach and hunt some sharks. Other side missions include taking out certain enemies with just your knife or various timed challenges within a certain area filled with enemies.
My favorite of the side content and really the game as a whole are the outposts though. Taking out enemy outposts rids areas of their presence as well as opening up new missions and stores for you to use. But the fun here comes in the myriad of ways that you can go about taking over the outposts. Early on I was sneaking in and going the stealth route. I was underpowered and my best weapon was a silenced pistol, so it was the way to go. But as you open up new weapons and abilities, you will start trying out all kinds of other options. You can go in guns blazing. You can strap C4 to a jeep and ride it into a base (hopping out along the way) to create a big explosion. Each base has an alarm that can be set off to call in more guards. You can sneak in and turn it off or you can perch high above and shoot the alarms out with a sniper rifle, so when you do start dropping guards they are surprised to find out the alarms aren’t going to save them. At one point I just started letting them fire up the alarms because it was fun to take on all the extra enemies. Later in the game that includes helicopters which is perfect excuse to whip out your bow and craft some explosive arrows to send that thing careening down on top of some other baddies (also the bow is awesome… seriously it’s great).
Animals also play into these encounters as well and highlight another great aspect of this game: the element of randomness that pervades it all. Some outposts will have animals caged up which you can unleash on your foes. But the real fun comes from the unexpected wildlife that chooses to intervene whether you like it or not. One time I found a nice ridge overlooking one of the outposts. I am up top marking enemies with my camera and planning my attack when in runs a tiger from the jungle who starts mauling the guards. One well placed arrow later and the base was mine. Of course, things can go the opposite way as well. I once spent a bit too much time scouting an enemy base when I was attacked by a pack of animals (I think it was dingoes). Not only did I have to fight them off, but it alerted the guards of my presence. Random stuff like this happens a lot which is why its kind of shame taking over outposts rids so much of the world of enemies. It is a clear reaction to complaints about how this worked in Far Cry 2. It is certainly a better alternative than the constantly respawning guards in FC2, but I still wish it was somewhere in the middle. You do still have all animals at least.
Exploring the islands is a lot of fun too. The game is quite the looker and beyond the hunting there are plenty of cool locations and collectibles hidden way that act as a nice excuse to travel around which you can do by foot, jeep, jetski, glider and one particularly cool travel option that opens up in the second half of the game. Another thing worth mentioning is just how cool the melee takedown system is. Through experience and upgrades you will gain access to so many different ways to take down enemies. Pulling them down from below or hopping on top of two from above are cool enough, but stuff liked chained takedowns (dashing from one melee takedown to the next) or one that allows you to take an enemy who you are stabbing’s knife and hurl it at one of his buddies.
I haven’t even touched on the actual story missions. Probably because they are best looked at as a change of pace from all the fun you can have in the sandbox. They have a much more linear feel to them, but I still had a blast with a lot of them. Some of these were used to pepper in the setpiece type events that have become all the rage in games lately. But I felt they do it in a better way here than most games if for no other reason than that they are used in moderation. Another set of story quests in the middle have you doing some exploring in ancient temples and caves which I got a kick out of too.
The story itself has some issues, but I did love the villains. Vaas is the star and really fantastic. My only complaint about him is that he needed to be in the game more. Despite being on the game’s cover and featuring in so much of the game’s promotional material, he shares time with a few other villains. Because of this, he just isn’t on-screen as much as I’d like.
Whether you are taking a glider high through the skies above the islands just taking in the sights, sneaking through the brush on some unsuspecting guards or stalking that black panther that was dogging you earlier in the game, Far Cry 3 is just so much fun. It handles the sandbox in a fantastic way giving you plenty of stuff to do and toys to play with. With fantastic core shooting and movement abilities to build it all around, Far Cry 3 has become one of my favorite shooters this gen and my Game of the Year for 2012.
Feel free to tell me your Game of the Year picks or any thoughts you had on Far Cry 3 in the comments below. I think I will end my look back at 2012 here. Next week I will be taking a look at the games I am looking forward to most this year. Thanks for reading!