Exploring the beautifully lush islands is a jaw-dropping experience in and of itself. Booting up rivers on a motorboat often rewards you with astonishing waterfall views, or hidden caves where loot is stashed. Flying overhead on a hang glider, meanwhile, yields astonishing vistas of the entire archipelago, while the sound of wind soothingly rushes by. It’s serene moments like these that you never want to end.
Eventually, Brody must come back down to earth and get his hands dirty. The main story has him searching for his friends, who have been captured by Vaas and are being kept in various locations. Discovering new sections of the islands also unlocks fast-travel options; while trekking around in vehicles is often breath-taking, it is sometimes nice to skip all that and get right down to business.
The main missions offer a wealth of variety, with Brody sometimes surreptitiously tailing Vaas’ men, sometimes charging into their encampments all guns blazing, and on one occasion, torching drug fields with a flame thrower.
It’s the rest of the open world, however, that is so excellent. Far Cry 3 takes some definite cues from Ubisoft Montreal’s other big franchise, Assassin’s Creed, in that it requires its protagonist to scale tall heights – in this case, creaky old radio towers – to open up new parts of the map. Doing so unveils enemy encampments, treasures and other hidden locations and items.
Climbing the towers is thrilling. No two are alike, aside from all being impossibly tall and, thanks to some amazingly realistic sound design, feel like they can fall over at any time. Once Brody has made it to the top, he can zipline down. Finding and scaling the towers also unlocks new weapons, which can be picked up at gun shops in the various villages.
The two islands are littered with fortified enemy camps patrolled by a number of armed guards. Before liberating any of these for the Rakyat, their immediate areas are relatively dangerous. With groups of goons patrolling around on jeeps, Brody must often dive into the bushes to avoid being spotted and gunned down.
Liberating the camps is easily the most fun part of the game. After scouting each out from a distance, the player must then decide how to proceed. Going in all guns blazing usually results in someone raising the alarm, at which point heavily armed backup arrives from another nearby outpost.
The smarter route, then, is to proceed quietly. Taking out guards in watchtowers with a silenced sniper rifle or bow before coming in close. Once Brody is in the camp, he can stalk guards individually, ideally taking them out one at a time. If stealth isn’t your style, you can hop into a jeep, drive right into the middle of the camp and blast away with its gun turret. It’s noisier, but it gets the job done just as well.
Perhaps the best way for to overtake these outposts is to let someone else – or more accurately, some thing else – do it for you. Vaas’s men are just as sadistic as their leader, so many of them keep caged animals in their camps. Shooting the lock off one of these cages from a distance can instantly unleash an enraged tiger or bear into their midst. It’s truly a hoot to watch them get mauled through your sniper scope.
Needless to say, not one of these camp liberations went the same as another for me, which was thrilling in its unpredictability.
Brody’s transition from hunted to hunter, meanwhile, is both literal and figurative. While he starts with virtually no gear, his inventory is improved by hunting the islands’ various animal inhabitants for their skins and pelts, which are then fashioned into ammo belts, wallets and backpacks. The improved goods allow him to carry more looted money, items and ammunition, all of which contribute to him becoming a better hunter – not just of animals, but of men.