Far Cry 3’s competitive multiplayer mode is, when it works as it should, pretty enjoyable; There’s some seriously weighty gun-play, customisable loadouts, and numerous large, varied and well designed pre-built maps, each with plenty of opportunities for long range or close quarter combat; There’s even a fully featured, if slightly perplexing, map editor, which has led the community to create some rather impressive home-grown battlefields.
There’s no groundbreaking game modes on display, but there doesn’t need to be – you get exactly what you’d expect from a FPS multiplayer – variations on the ever-present Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and King Of The Hill modes, albeit those then loosely themed around a pirate-heavy island setting.
Nonetheless, a few little additions here-and-there show Ubisoft Montreal have really tried to make Far Cry’s multiplayer feel like it belongs amongst the ranks of other shooters. It’s certainly not going to pull any hardcore frag-fans away from the latest Call Of Duty, but the weapon progression, team support and perks system are all well implemented and there’s even support for a nifty mobile app which allows you to edit your loadout on-the-fly and ‘decode’ enemy USB sticks you rather bizarrely seem to earn with each win.
Unfortunately, for all it’s plus points, Far Cry 3’s online component has it’s negatives;
The single player campaign featured a rich and rewarding story, as much about Jason Brody’s survival and adaptation to the environment as anything else;
Each mission gave the player choice – the choice to go in gung-ho, fighting tooth and nail, or to be the little-boy-lost, trying desperately to sneak past unseen.
Far Cry 3’s competitive multiplayer forgoes all choice.
It’s all about gunplay, regardless of how you actually want to play.The RPG crafting and levelling system, the wilderness, the slowly-slowly stealth approach building to an explosive crescendo – all but invisible behind a now overwhelming barrage of muzzle-flash and poison gas.
Like I said, at times it’s a really tidy, well designed, and brilliantly fun online component, which had it been alongside a different campaign, would complement the single player perfectly. It just doesn’t feel right when coupled with the Far Cry 3 I played. Not at all.
The co-operative missions are, again, a veritable romp to play, and there’s a bare-bones story which features the contractual pirates and an island, but it’s a Far Cry from what I wanted, having devoted over 25 hours to the single player.
Regardless of which multiplayer mode you’re attempting, the maps and assets found within them are obviously from the same pool as the main game, and they look great – the closed environments actually help alleviate visual discrepancies such as the open-world “clipping” and questionable draw distances found offline, and yet, regardless of this, if you jump from single player into an online mode, for all the glaring similarities, something just feels, for want of a better word, wrong.
It’s like not only an entirely different game, but an entirely different world – the atmosphere, pace, open world freedom and style you’ve come to expect and enjoy are completely gone.
I really, really wanted to love Far Cry’s multiplayer aspect – I wanted it to enhance and expand upon the experience and excitement thrust upon me by the main game – but the harder I try, the
harder this becomes. For all intents and purposes, multiplayer is broken.
Arguably the game’s biggest stumbling block is the stupidly long loading times – In researching this piece I’ve repeatedly spent 20+ minutes sitting in a matchmaking lobby. There’s absolutely no indication why, or even that the game’s not entirely frozen. Am I waiting for the current round to end, before I join? No idea. Seems unlikely though, given the 57 minute wait at one point yesterday. Nearly an hour for the servers to find me a “quick game”. And no, going via a particular game mode isn’t any swifter.
Perhaps the load time and the subsequent lag in-game go someway to explaining the astonishingly low number of players online, too? Maybe it’s because the game’s still relatively new and everyone is, as I did, choosing to run through the campaign first; Who knows? I’d like to think that’s the case however, because at peak times, there’s repeatedly fewer than 500 people online.
One of the game modes I tried to play last night, a variant on the usually popular Capture The Flag mode, had only 16 players. Sixteen. That’s 2 available public lobbies, a month and a half since the game launched; That’s worrying.
As to be expected, the majority of players were found playing Team Deathmatch, although with room sizes reaching 14 players, that still only leaves 30 or so matches, and when you factor in connection rates, gamers are presented with a suprisingly low number of playable options.
(For comparison, Call Of Duty Black Ops, a game released almost exactly two years prior to Far Cry 3 had, at the time of my test, 500 times as many players on it’s PS3 servers.)
Purchasing Far Cry 3 around the Christmas period, as I suspect many people did, may have been this game’s undoing. Having read the pre-release hype, and given the gameplay a tinkle back at the Eurogamer Expo, I was now ridiculously excited to see how the story behind Rook Island tied in to it’s spectacular gameplay.
I purposely left the game unplayed until the middle of January, knowing I would have a few hours to sit and sink my teeth into the island and it’s characters undisturbed, and now after perhaps ten lenghty sittings, with near 100% completion, I’m so very glad I did.
There’s a conundrum ricocheting around my head though – should I have played the multiplayer first?
If the linear level design and basic storyline had been my first impression, I cannot comprehend how amazed I would have felt after being let loose on Rook Island and Vaas. The difference is mind-boggling. Everything I’d seen and felt thus far would have expanded, rather than retracted, and a mediocre shooter would have grown in scope to a GOTY contender.
Or, perhaps I’d have just felt a bit underwhelmed by it all – and turned my console off?
Herein lies a quandary. I honestly believe had I not left the game on my shelf, and instead chosen to load up multiplayer, it may have been another month or even more before I found the enthusiasm to start the single player campaign.
Far Cry 3’s multiplayer really is a Catch-22; If the server issues are addressed, with regards to load times and lag, then you’ll be facing a good solid online action game, pirates and tattooed tribespeople included. Conversely, the single player campaign is so much more than that, and for me, it’s just a shame the two-halves have to share a disc and form a rather juxtaposed whole.
Multiplayer has, for all it’s joys, been detrimental to my Far Cry experience; It’s tainted my impressions of the title, and had these been my first impressions, I certainly wouldn’t be calling Jason Brody’s adventure one of my games of the generation.