It's probably quite fitting for a game that's all about man's descent into insanity that Far Cry 3's probably the nuttiest thing you'll play all year. It's a hedonistic mix of guns, sun and madness - as well as a cavalcade of wildlife that takes this above and beyond your normal shooting experience. Here's a game where the balance of a gunfight can be tipped by an errant bear.
If that's not enough to convince you - and really, it should be - then there's more. There's much, much more.
Far Cry's always been a series about freedom. When Crytek's breathtaking original made its debut - a game that's still handsome today, some eight years on from its release - the tropical backdrop was a dizzying first. You could go anywhere, and explore any tactical option.
The sequel carried on it that vein, although it may have been a bit too smart for its own good: Ubisoft Montreal's follow-up was an essay on the fallibility of man when faced against the wilderness, which is all well and good but, as your character's arm seized up through some strange illness and your gun jammed for the umpteenth time, wasn't actually that much fun.
Sun, Sea And Sandbox
Far Cry 3's still about freedom, but it couldn't be further removed from the strictness of its predecessor - this is a game that's been engineered at almost every level for fun, and one that's desperate to fix a big dumb grin on your face at all times. It pretty much succeeds at that, too.
Ubisoft Montreal's case is no doubt helped by the fact that it's been taking notes from the king of open world games. Far Cry 3's biggest debt, and its biggest influence, isn't really the two entries that came before it. Instead, it's Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series.
Yes, this is Skyrim with guns. If that sounds like an incongruous mix, well to be honest at first it is. When you're first scouring the jungle, looking for a goat to skin so you can craft a new pouch that'll allow you to carry more ammo, you may wonder what on earth is going on, but slowly Far Cry 3's madcap philosophy comes into focus.
Every Rook And Cranny
With the crafting joined by far-reaching and thoughtful skill trees, it turns out that this is a much deeper experience than you'd ever really expect of a first-person shooter. And like Skyrim, it's one that slowly sucks you in, until you find yourself spending more time in its fantasy world than you do your own.
It helps that Far Cry 3's Rook Island has taken another leaf from Bethesda's book and filled its every nook and cranny with things to do. There are optional quest-lines, or even good old-fashioned rampages, and they're all unlocked in a pleasingly methodical way. The world's open from the off, but it's only really decipherable once you scale one of the many radio towers that grant access to a portion of the map, allowing you to see the dizzying selection of activities on offer.
So brilliant is the experience of traipsing around Rook Island - something that can be done on foot, by boat or car or, most pleasingly, by soaring across it in a hang-glider - that the actual story missions pale a little in comparison. They're tightly scripted and fairly effective, and they also deliver a story that while trashy is certainly compelling - but they're never quite as brilliant as the open-ended madness that defines the rest of Far Cry 3.
It's a dizzying freedom that's typical of the best open world games. Oh, and let's not forget that it's a shooter too, and a pretty satisfying one. The guns are meaty - and all upgradeable, of course - and the enemy puts up a tough fight, often ensuring that you're forced down a more stealthy route in pursuit of victory. And if that doesn't work, you can always just hope and pray that a passing bear will help you out of your trouble.
- Incredible, packed open world
- Fantastic open-ended stealth gunplay
- Story missions aren't the measure of the off-script game