Top critical review
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immersive, but some catastrophic design decisions
on September 26, 2011
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I got completely absorbed in this game for a few days, but there are serious issues with it which heavily affected its replayability. If it weren't for those issues, I'd probably still be playing it. Forget a sequel: all UbiSoft would need to do to make one of the greatest video games of all time is not issue a "Far Cry 3," but simply repair this disaster, something that could be easily done with a few tweaks.
Here's a list of things I didn't like:
1. First, I have heard this game praised for its realism. Please! What a silly view of Africa. Do war-torn African nations really have a problem with people leaving cases of diamonds on the top of rusted-out buses? And I hope the game's programmers are not congratulating themselves on having made a coherent contribution to the discussion of conflict diamonds: they certainly have not. And who's this loser endlessly driving back and forth in a Ford Pinto? I thought you guys said gas was scarce! And am I the one who has to point out that equatorial Africa is not overrun by white mercenaries? This was preposterous. Maybe one or two I could believe. But hundreds and hundreds? (I imagine, though, that they did this for a reason: if they hadn't the game would basically be you going around shooting a bunch of black people, something they couldn't have. But I think they went too far the wrong way: you're in Africa, and black people are actually kinda scarce?!
2. At first I found this game extremely confusing. Virtually everybody you see wants to kill you. Why? Am I trespassing? I had mistakenly thought it was a game that involved role-playing. Er, no. My mistake. It's just you versus everybody that moves, for the most part. What was the point of having you select your character? All you get to see of him is his arm. HINT: Don't choose the character you like. That way, you'll at least get to get to interact with the one you like once in a while, whereas if you choose the one you like, you'll never get to see him.
3. Another thing I didn't understand was that, in this game, cars are communal property. If you see one, you can simply drive off without anybody's batting an eyelid. I thought people owned cars. Not in this game. I walked many a tedious mile before it dawned on me how the car thing worked. Some clarification on that would have reduced a lot of the initial frustration.
4. You can't finish the main mission you're given, the one regarding the Jackal. I can't give away the ending, but this was beyond belief. The game -- for the most part -- lets you roam around the world seeking your own adventures, but then railroads you in an unforgivable way at the end, resulting in a completely unsatisfying video game experience. A real disappointing, French-style ending.
5. The missions are repetitive and lack variety. Actually some people might view this as a positive: if you like this kind of mission, you don't mind its being repeated. But all of the encounters along the road ended the same way. You say you came across a checkpoint and had a shoot-out? Lemme see if I can guess how it went: you shot absolutely everybody but then there was one guy who was sniping you from way off and there was no way to locate him? That's how virtually every encounter went.
6. Which leads me to another thing: this game sorely needs a radar. Don't tell me that's not realistic: I have a magical map and can miraculously heal from gunshot wounds. I can't count how many times enemy encounters became infuriating affairs because there was no way to tell where the last guy was. Meanwhile he can see you perfectly clearly the whole time.
7. This is possibly because this game has a problem with the brightness, or rather the gamma. It's bright day, and it's too dark. Only this game has this problem: other PS3 games don't have me getting into my monitor's brightness controls to figure out why I can't see anything.
8. One of the most frustrating things about this game is the long drives you'll have to get from one place to the other. It's true, there's something of a fast-travel system, but there aren't enough bus stops in the world, so you end up doing a lot of walking, driving, or swimming.
9. The villains at the checkpoints respawn (even their jeeps) if you wander about 50 feet away. This was the single worst thing about this game. No enemy operation is that efficient. If this country were that efficient, it wouldn't be so poor! I can't count how many times this sent me into a rage. You take all this trouble to clear out a section, and as soon as you wander away, all the villains are back at full strength. You should have been able to set this somewhere in the options. It made the whole game absurd. It would have been more tolerable if you were actually getting something for killing all these infinitely respawning enemies (money, points--something), but since the fights are completely meaningless, the maddening respawning will send you into a rage before long. Imagine a dungeon that was filled with nothing but wandering monsters that you weren't being given XP for. Not fun.
10. All the enemies, if they know where you are (i.e. most of the time), can snipe at you and often hit you even if they don't have line of sight to you! It's amazing. Don't ever hide in the grass in this game: enemies can see you just fine. In a way, this is the most unforgivable problem with this game. Stealth: it's presumably the key mechnaic of this game, and it doesn't work right. Unforgiveable. Many, many times I found myself getting plugged by some distant enemy. I hid behind this, I hid behind that--he still got me. Finally when I figured out where it was, I caught him dead-to-rights shooting through solid rock, metal, or a mound of earth!
11. There's no way to tell how much health you have left. This is one of those games that think's it's cool to make the screen go gray and blood-besplattered when you're dying instead of giving you a health bar. The result is that you don't know how much certain weapons damage you or whether it would be wise to use a syrette.
12. There's no way to tell what weapon you're using--or what weapon you've just picked up.
13. The enemies can use guns when they're driving but you can't (e.g., the guy in the Ford Pinto).
14. The map is not reliable. You'll have clear sailing ahead of you based on the map, but when you get there, you find a bunch of impassible mountains in the way.
15. There are times when the game deals with the player in bad faith. It tells you to complete this certain challenge, knowing full well there's no way it can get done, and that basically, you're supposed to die. Think of the shootout at Mike's Bar just previous to the second map opening up. The result of this is that players stop trusting the video game.
16. Your guy is not given a compass. Why not? It's very easy to get lost and get headed the wrong way.
17. The player is prevented from looking at the entire map. Why can't I? I need it to plan the least dangeous routes. It seems like one is always just on the edge of the map, but there's no way of clicking over to the next quadrant to see what lies just ahead.
18. There is a bug where the enemies are facing the other way, shooting, but you're still getting the damage.
19. There is a bug where your best buddy mysteriously persists in dying even though you've given him five straight syrettes.
20. There is a bug where you can kill all the enemies at a safehouse but not unlock it.
21. On the PS3 at least, there's no way to save when you want. You have to make it past several enemy checkpoints to get to a point where you can save. Why?!? What an aggravating hassle!
22. The game's interface when it comes to hopping in boats is intolerably poorly programmed. You're right there in front of it, wiggling around, and you still don't get the enter prompt?!
23. Your world-class hero can't climb up 2 feet's worth of rocks. To see what I'm talking about, try to approach the aiport in the second map from the south. This was absurd.
24. Not all the guard shacks are marked on the map.
25. There's no way to fast-click through all the dialogue is you're just replaying.
26. Why can't you have endless assassination, passport delivery, and convoy missions? Would that have been too hard to program?
27. The game's draw distance is too short, and there's no way to adjust it. You can see the world being created as you run up on it (e.g., the waterfall as you're coming up to the Marina bar by swamp boat).
28. There is no way to mass delete all your saves, or many of them at once.
29. Vehicles can kill you if they hit you with just one blow. Unfair. Meanwhile, if you hit your enemies the same way, they can get right up.
30. The save and load times are murder.
31. Your buddies all turning on you regardless of what you do really pollutes the game's replay value.
32. The big explosions you've earned at the end of your missions are ruined by the "Save and Continue" screen.
33. The enemies' jeeps can catch up with you and outrun you, even though you are driving the exact same vehicle.
34. They overplayed the gun jamming. That was .preposterous. People would have stopped doing business with the Jackal if he had been unloading weapons of such unreliable quality.
35. The battlefield surgery thing was silly. You've been swiss-cheesed by a MAC-10 and it'll have you pulling a twig out of your abdomen.
36. It's never clear what's causing your malaria. Nor is there any way to get rid of it. This just produces a downer video game experience overall. In fact I found the malaria thing in general a cop-out way of controlling the player's actions. You spend the entire game with it, by the way.
37. There are no benefits to having a high reputation. Instead, this will mean that many enemies attempt to simply hide from you, making it much more difficult to flush them out and kill them.
38. There's no way for your guy to drop prone, but the enemies can.
39. It takes way too many bullets to kill someone. Like I'm so sure.
40. There's no way to check your remaining ammo unless you fire a shot, which gives away your position.
41. Once I happened upon a diamond box on top of a shack. I thought of many ways of knocking it down: ramming a jeep into the corrugated shed to knock the entire shed down; hopping up on the trunk of the jeep and thence to the roof; shooting the box down with a gun. No, no. None of those will work. God knows how the designers wanted me to solve that puzzle, but that's what's so idiotic about this game, and very typical. You have to solve its puzzles on its terms, not yours. My guy's like an ex-Marine green beret. He can't hop up two feet? You can use all the logic you want to come up with a solution to the game's puzzles, but no. It must be Ubisoft's particular logic.
42. Warning: the PC version of this installs some rather invasive DRM. See the other reviews for details.
43. There is no way to interrupt your repairing your car or boat unless you take damage from a bullet.
44. The game is practically over before you're allowed to purchase the weapons you really want.
45. The camo suit is a crock. It's the most expensive item in the game, yet the enemies continue to be able to see you just fine.
46. Rain makes the game framey. I could understand on a PC: but on a Playstation? On a PC, the programmers can simply claim the user had other apps running, but what's their excuse on a Playstation?
47. The sound effects are horrible. For example, you should be able to hear the enemy's footsteps when he outflanks you (just like they can hear yours), but you can't. Additionally, the sounds your feet makes over the terrain are often wrong. You're moving over grass, and you won't hear anything. Or what you hear will be delayed, spooking you out. Or you run through a puddle and there isn't any splashy sound effect. Most seriously, the sound effects in the game are not done in stereo. What I mean is that in other games, if you were standing next to some noise source and turned your character around in circles, the noise should go through your left ear, your right, your left, etc., so you can tell where the sound is coming from. Not in this game. If you hear the sound of footsteps coming up on you, there's no way to tell, from the sound alone, the direction from which the footsteps are coming. This strikes me as a serious drawback to the believability of the game.
48. You are forced to have buddies and to rescue them before you can continue with the game's main mission. You're not allowed to opt out having buddies: they're an annoyance and a liability for the duration of the game.
49. As if it's not enough of an insult to have your guy befriending the Jackal in the face of your protestations, the game at one point actually forces you to help him deliver a ship of weapons. Who's writing this stuff?
50. On the PC version of this, there's no way to alt-tab back to Windows.
51. You can't set a waypoint on the map. Why not? The map is magical!
52. And the most unforgivable transgression, the real reason for my one star: the game's "Easy" mode is murderously difficult. When I choose Easy, I want an easy game, dangnabit!