Third time’s a charm. Always threading on the cusp of remarkable, Far Cry’s previous instalments have always been beautiful if somewhat uneven experiences. Far Cry 3 is the robust monster that part 2 should have been – a callous, unforgiving and brutally beautiful open world shooter that reinvigorates a first person shooter zeitgeist defined by brown brand linear military shooters. Welcome to the world of Far Cry 3.

When a group of fun loving trust fund college kids unknowingly parachute their way onto an island inhabited by any number of insane trigger happy pirates, Jason Brody quickly realises that the best way out of this hell is to man up and figure out the delicate and deadly intricacies of your common run of the mill AK-47.  What you have here is a seemingly whimp-ish spring break beer-bong playing undergraduate type come relentless killer. His transformation from the former extreme seems altogether total and unanimously far-fetched, but given the omnipresent atmosphere of cut throat tension and organic fear that this world creates, Jason has to adapt or he will almost certainly die.

The tropical island setting defines the experience and Ubisoft Montreal has created an open world with almost infinite layers of interaction and discovery. Like all good open world experiences, you are not tethered to a single objective solution to a problem as such. You approach everything in this world as you see fit. So if it’s a fire fight, a race or a stealth sequence, how you choose to approach and execute each one and in what order is essentially entirely up to you. There is so much organic endeavour to discover and dozens of solutions to problems that most games would only give you a machine gun with infinite ammo to solve. For example, instead of merely unleashing chaos on a pirate camp with your firearm, why not scramble around and capture some wildlife first, say a tiger or a half dozen Komodo dragons. Then let them loose on the camp and watch them wreak havoc. You can then come in from the side and finish of the unknowing distracted pirates. While pirates almost certainly represent the island’s most ominous threat to Jason, its wildlife, be it tigers in the long grass or sharks in the water, won’t be afraid to spill your blood either. Of course there are distinct advantages to interacting with the wildlife, namely in fashioning new pouches for carrying additional ammo, weapons and money, but either way, the wildlife, much like the greater scenery, should always be approached with caution.

The freedom granted by Far Cry 3’s world is gloriously refreshing, not least because the game retains that core FPS feeling without ever really flirting with any other sub genre. It’s an incredible accessible world. You can drive vehicles, mount jet skis, whisk through the air on hand gliders or simply trudge through the overgrowth on foot. If you can see it in the distance, then you can almost certainly reach it. As Jason progresses through the main campaign, his ever growing worth as a killer and warrior is chronicled on his arm by a tribal tattoo. As you wade through the world, you’ll collect XP which can in turn be “spent” to unlock new abilities and perks. For the most part, you’ll probably do enough in the single-player to get most of these added abilities, but it’s certainly worth playing through the side missions to pick up that extra bit of XP and to explore extra areas of the island expanse. Again, there are so many options and an impressive array of extras that will always keep the killing and the exploration refreshing and varied.

The presentation is immense, from the rich and luscious Uncharted style visuals to the stylish urban meets jungle audio cues. It’s one of the best looking games this year. In addition, the storyline coupled with some truly unique and memorable characters, really makes this a world worth sticking with for the duration of the campaign. It also resolves itself quite nicely too. It’s a suitably satisfying plot, avoiding taboo clichés and taking narrative risks that really enhance the grittiness of the island experience.

In addition to the impressive single-player campaign, Far Cry 3 also comes bundled with a standalone four player co-op mode complete with its very own story. You and three others will be tasked with hunting down a cruise ship now overrun by pirates. It’s not as freeform or as open world as the single player, but it’s a satisfying distraction from the solo campaign and certainly worthy of a couple of playthroughs. There’s also a more traditional multiplayer mode, but it only manages to undermine itself with its questionable hit detection and staggered movement. It feels and plays just fine, but it’s tangibly sluggish by comparison to the single-player. It offers the usual deathmatch and team play modes and allows for player progression but as it is, it’s not nearly robust enough to compete with the other more refined online experiences that you’re already probably playing online. If the map editor mode can take off, then the multiplayer might retain some sort of value, but as it is, it’s an underwhelming experience.

Far Cry 3 provides a compelling single-player open world shooter experience akin to nothing else released this year. The experience compels the player to explore and interact with its every layer, and with so much to discover and endeavour, there’s almost certainly hundreds of hours of game time to experience. Far Cry 3 is a must for shooter fans, a brutal adrenaline fuelled kill-ride through the depths of tropical insanity. Avoid is at your peril.

TGL SCORE 9/10

Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: Out Now