7 November 2013 | MoeSnodgrass
The best of the best -- but buggy (PC), perverse
I'm an old man who's new to video gaming. I wanted to see what the state of the art and all the hype is about. It ends up that I purchase 3 or 4 games for every one that I truly enjoy. I have abandoned many very popular, highly-rated games after less than an hour of play.
The Very Good: The main story is set in the present. That means: no stretches into unrealistic Sci-Fi worlds. I can enjoy Sci-Fi games, Deus Ex Human Revolution is one example, but the interminable popularity of the "Star Wars" series seems to dictate that we must endure comically-voiced robots in every futuristic game. Please.
With a very good story and superb voice acting, this game comes the closest I've found to dramatic realism -- like a good movie -- only interactive. It's still a "first person, shoot 'em up" game and requires a very high level of suspension of disbelief -- more than I would like and greater than most cinema requires -- but this is getting closer to a quality of dramatic storytelling in a game.
There exist fewer gaming clichés here. Gamers seem to hold past clichés as icons, dearly, with expectation, and here I think the developers felt a need to satisfy expectations. Fantasy/Sci-Fi seems the rule in gaming. However the very good aspects of this game demonstrate that the writers/developers were not limited by imagination or expertise. BTW, when I say the voice acting is superb I really do mean superb, at least in the main story line and among the primary and most supporting characters. Allow me repeat: Superb.
The Mediocre: The original, incidental music is mostly percussion and synth, is often repetitive and droning and is just fair overall. The licensed songs (real pre-existing songs used in the game) are generally better. That licensed music plays over certain quests or sequences and whenever you are driving a vehicle. The game takes place on a tropical island and so the licensed music gave a very good sense of location. In that vein however, I, for one, kept wanting to hear "Israelites," the 1968 Top 40 reggae hit by Desmond Dekker. One particular licensed song that makes its way into the game is a truly inspired placement though.
The Bad: For such a good game, the thought put into the side quests seems lazy, like an afterthought. Even the superb voice acting is diminished in the side quests, as though the main quest and the side quests were written by different teams or were hurried. I know, the development time and budget would have cost xx% more to integrate them more closely and realistically into the main quest. Even among all the video games I truly enjoy the lazy side quests are always apparent and sadly there is little exception here.
With that said, there is an ongoing public debate concerning "can a video game be art?" It is these things like the worn-out clichés and poor integration of side quests that will continue to make the skeptics say "No." I very much want that answer to deserve to be "yes." Soon graphics technology will advance to permit a true confluence of games and movies allowing a new and true interactive cinema. Will the game writers and developers be up to the story task? Based on the evidence so far the answer is "no" but Far Cry 3 is as good as it gets. The best motion pictures, throughout the history of cinema for example, never compromised at all but video games compromise too easily and too frequently. That is the difference between games and art and is something I wish game producers would learn.
The Bugs: Even on my 4 core, 16GB, Win7x64 PC with 1GB graphics there exist too many bugs and glitches to list. Outright crashes occur occasionally. Numerous glitches occur that require a restart from the beginning of a quest or at the most recent checkpoint. The system of one saving one's own progress is the worst I have yet encountered, nonsensical, nonexistent. The game auto saves checkpoints well enough and the game is enjoyable enough so that, although annoying, I can dismiss them. It's worth it.
Perversion: so, so many video games, especially FPSs are violent but I have trouble gauging whether the more perverse aspects of Far Cry 3 are gratuitous or not. For the most part they advance the story and create a heightened sense of dread so I'm inclined to say 'no' but this is very definitely adult material. I was somewhat taken aback at a few points and so I felt it is worth mentioning: Adult Material.
Conclusion: The cliché-ridden "Half-Life 2" is often held up as the contemporary milestone in good game development. Yes it is almost a decade older and the technological eras they were created in are vastly different but Far Cry 3 leaves Half Life and most all other games in the dust on the basis of story and voice acting alone.
As of this writing Far Cry 3 as a whole is the state-of-the-art, the best of the best. Given the long time period the Valve company has been taking in the development of Half-life 3, one holds hope for it to be another new milestone, if only Valve can escape its C3PO/R2D2 mentality to somehow find a mature story. Fingers crossed.