#2. The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad User Interfaces
Ubisoft are both the developers and publishers of Far Cry 3.
If you have any experience with PC gaming, that's enough for you. You are out of this bitch. This whole thing should have been one sentence long: "Ubisoft made it." Then I could drop the metaphorical mic and leave the house reeling, and you could all go about your business. If you're a console gamer, this doesn't affect you at all, but I'm going to give everybody this warning anyway, on the off chance that there's somebody else in the world like me: an impulsive asshole that throws three wadded up $20s at my screen at the first hint that I might be able to ride a Cassowary. (Sad note: You can't. You can only stab them; stab them with tears in your eyes.)
I'm sorry. In another world, I could have called you ... friend.
Ubisoft makes this game, and they have fucked up the back-end like they always do. Their own brand of always-on DRM, Uplay, permeates Far Cry 3. Which means that, if you buy the game through a service that is, itself, essentially pure DRM -- like, oh, say, the largest digital game delivery system in existence -- you get to eat an entire layer-cake of frustration every time you boot up the game. Starting up Far Cry 3 through Steam is like throwing an Inception-themed orgy: Everybody's not only fucking you, but also each other, and themselves, locked forever in an eternal cycle of meta-boning.
I'm not very fond of the DRM they've implemented, is what I'm saying.
And once you do get into the game, you have to deal with another wholly-botched user interface: the heads-up display in Far Cry 3 looks like your grandpa tried to open a porn site. Just pop-up after inexplicable pop-up, cluttering the screen so badly that you literally didn't see the tiger that just ate you, because the game thought it was more important that you saw how many plants you have left to collect while simultaneously reminding you about the crafting tutorial for the 50th time.
"Hey! Looks like you're getting shot! Press 'start' to view the 'getting shot' tutorial! In a nutshell, it goes like this: try not to get shot so much!"
But all of those problems pale in comparison to the big one: Far Cry 3 is an open-world action RPG with a linear save system. Open-world games are about freedom and exploration. Role-playing games are about immersion. Both of those things are irrevocably broken by a checkpoint-only save system. Speaking generally, the inability to save on the fly does nothing to affect difficulty, unless the entire point of the game is the challenge of repetition, like in Mirror's Edge or Dark Souls. But if repetition isn't the point -- if the point is the aforementioned exploration or immersion -- then being thrown back to an arbitrary save-point every time you die, abandon a quest, or shut the game off only serves to discourage good ol'-fashioned fuckin' around. This, combined with your extremely limited save slots, creates an atmosphere that greatly discourages experimentation in a game where the single strongest point is the excellent freestyle murder system.
I'm telling you, Olympics 2014...
An example: you're in the middle of taking over a pirate fortress. You've got a man in your scopes, but don't think you can take them all on, once you pull that trigger. Suddenly, you notice movement in the bushes. A tiger! He doesn't see the pirates. Maybe you could snipe the tiger -- just graze him a little, piss him off -- and he would storm in and start wrecking some pirate booty. Wouldn't that be awesome? It would! But man, when was the last time you saw that tiny white "Save" icon flash up? Could've been a minute ago. Could've been two hours. There's no telling when your last checkpoint was. Better play it safe this time. So you end up ignoring the tiger to snipe and hide, snipe and hide, as usual. Hey, it works.
And somewhere, that tiger is sulking off into the jungle with a broken heart; somewhere, a monster truck just got a flat tire; somewhere in the world, Slash just forgot a guitar solo -- all because you took a little bit of awesome out of this world with your bullshit back-end, Ubisoft.
#1. And One Very Good Reason You Should
It's a crazy amount of fun.
That's it. That's all the good I have to say about Far Cry 3. But isn't that why you buy games? If you can look past the shortcomings, and there are many, Far Cry 3 is a goddamn riot. Here, look at this sample gif of some game play:
Holy shit, that's like everything you wanted to do in a video game, isn't it? Ah, but it's probably bullshit. It's a Quicktime Event or something. They always turn out to be, don't they? It never feels as cool, while you're doing it, as it looks in the promos. We've all been burned by games promising that we can use our skills to go full Die-Hard on a motherfucker, only to find the reality is just "press A to Die-Hard for a minute."
That's not to say FC3 lacks the industry-mandated quota of bullshit QTEs...
But Far Cry 3 uses a great immersion trick, in that it makes you "earn" and "unlock" the ability to use petty skills that would be available from the start in any other combat game. The ability to "cook" grenades, for example -- to hold them for a second so they detonate earlier -- is one of the first skills you have to earn. The ability to slide a little bit is another one. The ability to kill from above, or below. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but in practice, it really works to slowly familiarize yourself with your chosen brand of awesomeness, so that you actually pull off stuff in-game that rivals that gif up there. They may all be actions you could accomplish in other games, but you were never slowly trained to put them all together in the coolest possible configuration, like you are here. When Far Cry 3 pulls that trick off, it makes you feel like you developed into the biggest badass in gaming, rather than starting out as one and failing hilariously to live up to the reputation.
So, yes, the intellectual part of me can be found just a few paragraphs up, bitching about racial sensitivity. But you know what? Fuck that guy. The crazy drunken murderer in me is way more fun and likable, and he's down here saying this one and simple truth: in Far Cry 3, you can hang-glide from a distant cliff-face out into the jungle, drop from 50 feet up in the air, and knife a bear in the face as you land on him.
I don't know about you, but to me, that's right up there with whiskey-and-a-python night.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.