Attacking an enemy encampment, of which there are dozens, showcases the phenomenal amount of detail that Ubisoft has put into Rook Island. From our lofty vantage point, we’ve clocked it even before we check for the red flag on our map: the plume of black smoke is unmissable for miles around. We sprint a few hundred metres cross-country partly because Jason Brody has the stamina of gazelle and, hell, Hoyt’s guards are pretty stupid, so we could be doing the YMCA at the end of this road and they wouldn’t notice. Close that distance, though, and things change dramatically.
We hit crouch to engage stealth and make use of a large group of ferns in the shade on top of a small knoll that overlooks the corrugated metal camp fence. We’ve already seen the sniper intently focused on a 90-degree field of view immediately ahead of the main entrance, plus the two guards on the gate itself, but judging by the size of the camp there could be anything up to a dozen others there and a caged wild animal, by the sounds of things. So, we pop out our digital camera that intelligently highlights baddies and allows us to track them through walls, even when we’ve put it away – never really explained but blithely accepted – then wait.
Sure enough, two normal guards armed with AKs patrol into view and, by zooming in, we’ve highlighted two of those Molotov-wielding nutjob chargers. They’re busy welding with their backs to any potential threat, and we know from experience that they won’t pay a blind bit of notice to us unless we put a knife in their neck or the alarm sounds. Speaking of which, we’ve just spotted that too: a big and conspicuously red box attached to a post. Fab. We’re not going to shoot it with our silenced M-700 sniper rifle, though. We’re going to kill the entire camp system by creeping in there and cutting the wires, preventing anyone from calling reinforcements. Then we’re going to slaughter the lot of them with our machete before they even realise they’re dead. Having taken out over a dozen camps by means subtle and otherwise, it’s the stealthy approach that offers the most satisfaction and the biggest experience rewards too. Three times that of kicking down the door and asking if anyone’s home with our 12-gauge shotgun, in fact.
We creep down to a conveniently placed hole in the fence at the back of the camp, slip through and shimmy up to the wall of a shack. There’s that wild animal, a tiger in a cage a few feet away, growling in agitation, but none of the guards seem bothered, despite it climbing the walls in an effort to get to us. We could let it out to play, which is always fun to watch, but right now we fancy getting our hands dirty and the two welders are easy targets. We watch the patrolling guards pass, edge towards the nearest one and then execute a takedown, crossing several metres in a fraction of a second and sticking our machete through his torso in one swift motion. Takedowns are a learned ability in the Far Cry 3 skill system, understandably, but for some reason so is catching the corpse as it falls and dragging it away to a more secluded spot where it’s less likely to be noticed. Annoyingly, moving bodies once they’ve fallen is impossible, as if Brody is so fastidious about the three-second floor-food rule that he applies it to assassinations, too.
The second welder goes the same way: he’s halfway through muttering something about it being too hot and that somebody should ‘just shoot him’, when we interrupt him with a knife in his throat – sorry, mate. We wait for the patrol to do their rounds again before we slip up to the alarm and disable it, just in case, then up the steps to finish off the short-sighted sniper who still has his back to us. We’ve slightly different tactics for the remaining guards, though.
Keeping our sniper’s perch, we approach the brow of the roof and wait for the first, then the second of the patrolmen to pass, before executing another technique in our arsenal of stealth skills: the ‘death from above’ takedown. It’s even easier than the standard one; we just wait until enemy number two is directly beneath us, blissfully unaware of our deadly presence hovering above him, machete poised, then jump on top of him and let the game do the rest. We’ve done this from one of the many zip lines attached to cliff sides and radio towers and, as long as you’re somewhere in the ball park above an enemy, Brody has the unerring ability to swerve midair and hit his mark. This is just a few feet, so a cinch really. Then, before the dead guard’s partner can walk full circle and discover the body – it’s on the ground, remember, so we can’t touch it – we swiftly pace halfway around his beat and drop him, too.
The final two we have a little fun with. They’re both still intently focused on the area of jungle outside the camp, talking to themselves about burning pee and wishing they wore a ‘rubber’. Apparently, the clap is doing the rounds on Rook Island, because all the bad guys can be heard to curse the local whores at one point or another, a little like the pandemic of crippled veterans whining about taking arrows to the knee in Skyrim, though we can’t imagine this one being quite as meme-tastic as that.
The guards are fairly close to each other, which would pose a problem for a standard takedown if we wanted to remain unseen and still get a triple XP score for taking the camp without alerting anyone. Chained takedowns allow us to swiftly follow one kills with another by tapping in the direction of the next closest guard, and a very satisfying manoeuvre it is too. We’ve sufficiently developed that particularly tree of skills so that we can lob an enemy’s knife at the next if he’s just out of range. Either way, the camp is taken silently and the blue flag of the Rakyat people is hoisted up the mast as, to our relief, the good guys roll in to secure the camp.
There it is: a snapshot of your Far Cry 3 gaming experience, assuming you take the stealthy option at all – and you will, for a lot of the time, given that you’re vastly outnumbered. More importantly for us, once you’ve secured that encampment it remains in the hands of the good guys who can more capably defend it than its previous owners. There’s no magical baddy respawn seconds after you’ve crossed the other side of an invisible boundary, unlike Far Cry 3’s predecessor, so no sense of utter futility as you criss-cross your way back and forth across the enormous map.
It is a truly gigantic map too, absolutely rammed with the kind of activities you’d expect in a first-person sandbox world like this: exploring via dune buggies, Jet Skis, hang gliders, hunting local wildlife, chatting to locals, discovering myriad rare artefacts and, of course, shooting the bad guys and blowing their shit up. The world is so big that, with a single-minded intent to complete it during our relatively short review period, we spent most of our time playing the story missions. Turns out that what we thought was the end of the game is, in fact, just the end of the first act. Remember Far Cry 2, when you open up the whole of the map only to discover it’s actually only half of the map? Well, that.
Far Cry 3’s plot is a bit silly and inconsistent, its AI a bit dumb and predictable, and the world works in a suspiciously similar way to Assassins Creed, but it’s great fun. And perhaps even more importantly, these days, when as gamers we’re so often left feeling short-changed, it’s also overwhelmingly fantastic value for money.