In my Far Cry 5 review, I said I needed to replay Far Cry 3 to compare the two and see which was better. Thankfully, Ubisoft has rereleased the game, giving PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners another chance to return to this gem. Redefining the franchise and serving as a model for all Far Cry games to follow, does this classic still hold up or should we finally move on?
You'll play as Jason Brody, a young rich college dropout who has probably never worked a day in his life. When Jason takes his brothers and friends skydiving on Rook Island, pirates capture them and hold them prisoner. Jason manages to break free and begins to help the natives fight back, saving his friends along the way. Naturally, things don't stay that simple. The FBI and a mysterious gang leader get involved, tons of drugs are had, and there's a healthy dose of insanity. Of course.
This may seem like a simple story, but it's actually impressive how much mileage Far Cry 3 gets out of it. Jason's tale works thanks to strong character development. Much of the narrative focuses on Jason growing up and its neat to see him going from a prissy rich boy to someone who can take care of business. More impressively, the story hasn't aged much and the writing is free from awkward diversions. Much of this is thanks to the absolutely fantastic voice acting. Michael Mando plays Vaas, and his performance is still top tier. Every line has perfect delivery, every word is believable, and every speech evokes terrifying chills. Mando's performance captivates in a way that few others can match.
That said, there are some problems with the story. Namely, the first two-thirds of it are super interesting, but the last third falls apart. You spend most of it on a second island, and uninteresting new characters replace most of the main cast. The game manages to recover for its finale, but there's an unfortunate slog to clear before you get there.
As you quest towards saving your friends, you take part in a variety of story missions all around Rook Island. Sniper missions, vehicles, stealth, and more factor into your journey. I found plenty of content that I was able to pick up and enjoy, and at no point did I feel like any level was a detriment to the experience. Each mission felt unique enough to keep me engaged, and I had plenty of fun thanks to the game's solid mechanics.
Some of the scenarios are absolutely fantastic. One of my personal favorites involves Jason burning down a marijuana farm with a flamethrower. During this level, he has to sneak through initial defenses, blowing his cover once he begins burning things down. It leads to a fantastic rolling firefight, as you move forward through enemies and burn the crops all around you. The level hits its climax as you run out onto a pier, grab an RPG, and take out a boat before it can get away. The whole thing is a fantastic example of how to change things up in small ways that stay massively fun.
Far Cry 3's level design especially shined when it came to missions that involved drugs. You often find yourself hallucinating, wandering through weird environments that literally create themselves before your eyes. It's visually impressive and often left to fun levels as well. Sure they often didn't have much to do other than walking around, but I was still engrossed by every drug trip.
There's only one exception to the fun levels, and that's boss fights. They're rather rare, but for some reason, nearly every boss fight in the game is just a series of quick time events. There's one that isn't, a fantastic fight against a giant monster during a drug trip, but this is the exception rather than the norm. The rest are just QTEs and it's a shame that the mechanics I spent my time learning weren't being utilized in more creative ways.
There's a reason that when many people think of "Ubisoft Games", Far Cry 3 is one of the first to pop into their heads. It's one of the first non-Assassin's Creed game to reuse Ubisoft's open world formula, and it ushered in many games to follow. It was one of the better examples at the time, though it's a bit generic now. When you're not playing one of the game's story missions, there's plenty to do outside of it. You can climb towers to reveal parts of the map or take over outposts to give yourself new fast travel points and slow down enemy spawns. You can also hunt animals and then use their skins to craft upgrades.
Generic side quests come in three general flavors. Wanted: Dead requires you to find and kill a specific enemy using a knife or takedown, giving you a stealth challenge. Supply Runs require you to get in vehicles and drive through checkpoints as fast as possible to beat a time limit. Finally, Path of the Hunter has you hunting animals using specific weapons. None of these are particularly challenging after the first few, and I found myself more and more tempted to skip them by the end. Still, they work well enough to pad the game with fun content. Rarely, there's a unique side quest with some story, but many of them are extremely short and have you do little more than walk between a couple of locations.
Graphically, Far Cry 3 holds up way better than I thought it would have. It's not fantastic, but it manages to look good enough to keep my attention. The real star here is the soundtrack, mostly thanks to fantastic original songs that help set the mood. Themes featuring ticking clocks, choirs, and strings really help place you at the moment. In addition to this, the game also has a wonderful licensed soundtrack. M.I.A.'s Paper Planes, Die Antwood's I Fink U Freeky, and Skrillex & Damian "Jr Gong" Marley's Make it Bun Dem are all used in clever ways that really enhance gameplay moments.
The only major difference from the original release is the removal of Far Cry 3's multiplayer. Both the four-player cooperative campaign and the competitive modes are missing from this console reissue. Is it a huge loss? To be totally honest, not really. The multiplayer was tacked on at best, and there's a reason most people forget it even existed. The loss of the map editor is probably the only real disappointment. Thankfully, Far Cry 5 already has a fantastic one so I wouldn't worry about that much. The Classic Edition also comes with all of the single-player DLC levels, but these are basically glorified side quests. One of them involves Hurk, who is still by far and away the worst character in the franchise, so they're better avoided.
So now that I've basically played them back-to-back, is Far Cry 3 Classic Edition better than Far Cry 5? Gameplay wise, no. The third game in the series still holds up and it's honestly a lot of fun. Still, nearly everything (with the odd exception of the leveling system) is done much better in 5. When it comes to the story? 3 simply blows 5 out of the water. Ubisoft's weird tale of insanity, self-discovery, and drugs is still one of their best. It's totally worth playing again today, especially if you've never done so before. Just be ready to relearn some old tricks.
Far Cry 3 Classic Edition was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a season pass provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One.
Far Cry 3 Classic Edition does a good job reminding me both why Far Cry 3 was so loved, and how some things needed to be changed for the better. Still, it's a great game even today.
- Most of the Story is Wonderful
- Fantastic Story Levels
- Amazing Soundtrack
- Great Voice Acting
- Last Third of the Story Falls Apart
- Boring Boss Fights
- Repetitive Side Content