Come, says the cassowary, turn my hide into a wallet. Come, says the tiger, carve a knapsack from my flanks. Come, says the bear, blow me up with semtex even though you’ve already maxed-out the size of your grenade pouch. You are a hunter. I am your prey. This is Nature.
Assassin's Creed 3 may have had a button which let you tickle sheep under the chin and Black Ops 2 may have single-handedly devalued the price of glue with its laissez-faire attitude to horse welfare, but it is undoubtedly Far Cry 3 which has most profoundly changed my relationship with the animal kingdom. Not only did Ubisoft’s open world shooter prove tapirs to be little more than snuffling jam-bombs, begging to be burst beneath the wheels of a hurtling jeep, but its crafting mechanic has made me view the entire natural world with a newly utilitarian avarice.
Once, I was afraid of sharks. Now I realise that their primary role on this planet is not as ferocious, pitiless predators of the deep, but as floating hand-bag farms, eager to be stuffed full of trombones, saucy photographs of dwarves, traffic cones and other assorted beachcomber tat.
As I stand on the back of my boat, machine-gunning the crystal blue waters, I like to imagine I am Ernest Hemingway.
The downside is that I now can’t help but look at someone’s pet shih tzu and calculate the number of gas canisters it could feasibly hold.
If I have to endure another level in which I must escape from a burning building on the verge of collapse, I'll set fire to my house. I'll collapse through the floor, tumble twelve feet onto my back, crawl at tedious pace through a low section, traverse a room that's entirely on fire apart from a narrow path of miraculously not-on-fire floorspace and then climb a series of conveniently collapsed roof beams to safety.
"Phew!" I'll think, "I'd have been in a spot of bother there if I hadn't played through pretty much the same section in Black Ops 2, Max Payne 3, Far Cry 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter and twice in Assassin's Creed 3 this year."
It's not the fire that's annoying. Things tend to catch fire a lot in videogames. No, it's the feeling that there are mission designers worldwide calling their set-pieces from the same playbook. You could tear out the pages, laminate them and resell the package as an Action Adventure Videogame Construction Kit. Shuffle the cards and lay them out in a row for an instant framework.
Let's have a go with the modern military shooter edition: escape a burning building - sniper section - flee a helicopter - warehouse section - fire at pursuers from the back of a truck - breach and clear - press X to kill prominent antagonist.
This section felt particularly incongruous when it interrupted the terrific free-roaming violence of Far Cry 3, especially considering the fact that Far Cry 3 has a fantastic dynamic fire effects built into the engine. The "escape from burning building" sequences that emerge naturally from Far Cry 3's systems are much, much better than the scripted sequence written into their early story mission.
But not all games aspire to create a dynamic open world, and nor should they. But in a dedicated, scripted action game there's an even greater need for new set-pieces and fresh settings.
Take Bulletstorm, whose opening sections dramatically undersold its capacity for bonkers theatrics. Sure, it had a "fire at pursuers from the back of a truck" bit, but in Bulletstorm's case the pursuer was a colossal red doom-wheel that careered about the landscape blowing up pipelines and threatening to stomp the player into a smear at any moment. If action games are determined to be rollercoasters, we're sorely in need of some new twists.
Ever wonder what the PC games of 2012 would be like if they were text adventures? Of course not, no one in their right mind would ever wonder that. In related news: I wondered that! So, rip out your GeForce GTX 680, plug in your dusty 10" CRT monitor, and stuff your programmable eight-button mouse in a stocking, because this week we're going to imagine five of this year's games the way all PC games used to be: as text adventures.
If you're looking at leafy tropical jungles, shimmering oceans, impressive motion-capture performances, and more off-mission activities than you can throw a knife at during a knife-throwing contest, you must be playing open-world shooter Far Cry 3. But wait... that tattoo that suddenly appeared on your arm... it looks like it says... Far Cry 3: The Text Adventure!
It’s a busy and varied field this year: exquisitely picked soundtracks tussle for our affection with gorgeous bespoke scores, covering every genre from bustling chiptune beats to orchestral epics. Dishonored's sparse but potent use of the sea-shanty was fittingly iconic, while Jesper Kyd’s Darksiders 2 score swept from Celtic pipes to Mongolian throat singing, and Spec Ops: The Line’s astutely selected records patched both Deep Purple and Verdi into its eclectic, psychedelic ambience.
A hat tip is certainly due to Jessica Curry for her intensely unsettling Dear Esther score, managing to create a bleak, lonesome space for your neuroses to fill, without ever overtly forcing emotion upon the player. At the other end of the scale, Far Cry 3’s weapons-grade dubstep was hardly subtle, but a delirious, irresistible indulgence nonetheless.
However, the final battle here is to be fought by just two contenders - Hotline Miami and Super Hexagon, both offering a line in pounding electronica. Super Hexagon’s is chirpy, hypnotic and deployed with the level of craft witnessed in every area of the game: the way failure skips the track to another section avoids grating repetition without ever shattering the game’s sense of pace. But it’s Hotline Miami that triumphs, if not for the skill with which the tracks are woven into the game, then for the air of illness, caustic unease and pitiless violence that they collectively conjure. I can think of few games, or few anything, which have been able to sonically construct such a powerful sense of psychosis. An achievement, albeit a dark one.
Apart from a map editor (check out one mapper's impressive efforts), Far Cry 3 doesn't contain in-depth modding tools. It's a shame, but that hasn't stopped the ambitious members of the official forums from snooping around data files and jungles of code, unearthing tons of tweakable content in the process.
Though Far Cry 3 already includes darn near everything—leopards, sharks, pirates, and at least one really crazy person—the mods we've gathered here can significantly change your island vacation for an altogether different experience. Want to turn off target tracking? Or slap attachments onto more of your guns? Perhaps removing the minimap entirely will finally give you that deep immersion you've wanted. It's all here.
A few cautionary notes: The majority of these mods and tweaks involve replacing and changing Far Cry 3's core files (located in the FarCry 3/data_win32 folder), so always make backups of the files you're asked to change if you're unsure of what to do. Also, some mods require a hex editor for changing values in certain DLL files (located in the FarCry 3/bin folder). The HxD editor is available as a free download if you need one.
Second, Far Cry 3's file configuration recognizes only one mod installation at a time (as opposed to, say, Skyrim's multi-mod support), so unless you're sticking with a single mod for, you'll need to install one of the various compilations assembled by the generous technical wizards on the Ubi forums.
Lastly, follow installation instructions carefully so everything works smoothly—we PC gamers know the pain of agonizing over uncooperative data files more than anyone else. As Ubisoft rolls out additional patches, these mods will surely break, so make sure supported versions of your mods matches that of the latest update. Obviously, downloading the most recent releases from the mods' authors should keep things purring like that tiger sneaking up behind you. Either way, we'll update this story as we discover new mods or as old ones are phased out.
All set? Read on for the mods.
Screenshot from Far Cry 3 forum user "khenaz"
We expect this to be become a popular one. Far Cry 3's weapon scopes certainly give you an edge while hunting in the brush, but some of the crosshairs blast our eyeballs with an exaggerated brightness like a tiny supernova. This mod makes optics less bold, and it works for the reflex, tactical, red-dot, and other unlockable scopes. The author's forum thread has a few more comparison screenshots.
Screenshot from Far Cry 3 forum user "Leechmonger"
The starting 1911 pistol and AK47 rifle handles the job of delivering swift bulletdeath in a pinch, but they lack the bling of the utilitarian attachments you'll buy for later weapons. No longer: The Attachments Mod adds customizable slots for the 1911, AK47, SVD, and other early-game guns. You'll also find more of your repertoire supporting extended magazines and additional scopes.
Hereticus Weapons Mod
If you're leery of teetering atop rusted radio towers to unlock more guns at the store (the things we do to get some customer satisfaction), then Hereticus has the answer. All available weapons in the game—including the premium privateer guns from the second island—are unlocked for purchase from the start, eliminating the need to scale towers besides map uncovers. Choose from three flavors: radio tower-dependent, one tower only, or no towers at all.
Improved Weapon Ballistics
(Download the author's fixed version here.)
Oh, waiter? I think there's a little Arma in my Far Cry 3. Author Fnx's tweak compilation changes gun behavior for higher recoil, more realistic ranges, and slower reload times. Sniper rifles and shotguns receive appropriate damage boosts—check out that 25 percent increase to shotgun damage at close range. Be aware: these changes affect enemy weapons as well!
Screenshot from Far Cry 3 forum user "BreckR"
Scope Viewmodel Edit
Some of Far Cry 3's scopes allow you to peek at your peripherals while zoomed in, while others take up your entire view. This quick fix piles all zoomable scopes into the former category, keeping the edges of your vision clear while you draw a bead on your target.
Screenshot from Far Cry 3 forum user "R.Sporkington"
When it's time for an au naturel jungle excursion/mushroom trip/killing spree, turn to this mod. It does exactly what its title proclaims, yanking the minimap entirely and fading out health bars and medkit counts for a more minimalist interface.
More UI mods should slowly appear further on, and we'll definitely update this section as we spot them. The current dearth is probably the result of the latest patch (1.04 as of this writing) adding toggles for objective reminders, crafting tips, and other interface elements.
A collection of tinier mods for changing your Far Cry 3 experience.
Though an impressive accomplishment, scaling a sheer cliff face while holding a 30-pound sniper rifle isn't exactly reflective of the real world. Luckily, the Enhanced Weapon Holster automatically shoulders your weapon after performing an action such as exiting a safehouse or vehicle, because if you're going to sprint clear across a tropical island without breaking a sweat, you'll need both hands free to high-five everyone along the way.
Screenshot from Far Cry 3 forum user "razorfinnish"
Ultra-Low Configuration Mod
Far Cry 3's heavily modified Dunia engine touts great visuals across a wide spectrum of hardware setups, but the pursuit of ever-higher framerates is a PC gaming mainstay. If you have no problems with trading quality for an overall boost to your FPS, the Ultra-Low Configuration Mod lowers shadows, viewing distances, and detail levels for a smoother performance.
The golden glow of ammo, fallen enemies, and plants can remove one from of the experience being a tattooed survivor, but a simple fix only involves a couple of snips using a hex editor. Objects will no longer Midas at you when you get close, a boon for realism junkies.
Oddly absent from Far Cry 3's default difficulty levels, Hardcore Mode (the actual download link might be hard to spot, so grab it here) disables nearly every map icon, tracking symbol, and resource location mark. Couple it with the Minimap Removal mod, and you'll make exploration a serious task..
Not as severe as Hardcore Mode, Mixmod instead focuses on breaking your wallet. Lowered loot off bodies, a tripled resource cost on syringes, and changes to when weapons become available in the shop strains your cashflow and "makes you feel not so rich, boy." We're scared.
New Crafting and Economy
You'll really need to become a master botanist if you install the New Crafting and Economy mod. Practically every item needing plants climbs in crafting requirements, and plants are now needed in addition to animal skins to fashion bags, holsters, and ammo pouches.
The 1.04 update for Far Cry 3 has the usual collection of bug fixes and tweaks. Removing the "reloading" shout after shooting the bow in multiplayer? Makes sense. Fixing a bug that made weapon models stick to the character's arm? Totally useful. Adding support for downloadable content? Inevitable.
But forget all that, because there's something far more useful hidden in those patch notes.
Did you spot it? Exactly!
A new selection of options allow you much greater control over the seemingly constant bombardment of HUD messages. You can turn off crafting tips, tutorial messages and those goddamn objective reminders, among others.
The patch is out now through Uplay or from the Far Cry 3 website. Here's the full list:
GENERAL FIXES FOR THE PATCH Fixed several issues with customize controls
Improve stability on multiplayer maps. Fixed the crash when the player was planting explosives. Fixed several crashes. Fixed bug where user was unable to jump on certain surfaces. Fixed bug where players could become invisible. Fixed bug with 3D weapon images in Decoding menu. Fixed bug where weapons could disappear after completing objectives in Co-op. Fixed bug where users could get stuck in Loadout screen in Co-op. Removed “Reloading” shout after user shoots the bow. Parties will no longer be allowed to numerically unbalance games. Improved and fixed several issues with host migration. Connection degradation will now properly trigger a host migration. Fixed several bugs with Loadout menu. Fixed bug that could display a profile restriction message when trying to join a lobby. Fixed bug where users could get stuck in 3rd person in Custom games. Fixed bug with Flamethrower not doing any damage in certain circumstances. Fixed bug where “Player is on the way” tag could stick to downed players. Fixed bug where clients could remain on black screen if host left the game. Fixed bug where Fire Arrows did not do fire damage. Fixed bug where Long Distance Kill was not awarded. Fixed bug where Tag Assist was not awarded. Fixed bug where Killcam wasn’t shown in certain circumstances. Fixed bug where Survival Instinct was not cancelled properly. Fixed bug where Psych gas could get dropped in the wrong place. Fixed bug where Psych gas could affect players outside of the deployment area. Fixed bug where users could get stuck when killed by Poison gas. Fixed bug where other player’s footstep sounds sometimes did not play behind you. Fixed bug where sound could get muffled when being revived. Fixed bug where user could get de-synced if killed in mid-air
Added information for Player Map playlists. Improved available space for Player map names in lobby. Fixed bug where User made maps wasn’t downloaded properly in lobby. Fixed bug that made the user stuck when igniting Firestom nodes on certain maps.
Fixed the accessing bug for the camera and the throwing rocks. Users that have miss the Relic located in Dr. Earnhardt cave will have the relic recover. Fixed the bug with the weapon models staying on screen / stuck on the charatcer arm. The leaderboard is now updating correctly even after if the user is disconnecting/reconnecting the ethernet cable. The objective is now properly updated after Jason burns the weed fields. New options the hide the HUD are now available in the option menu. Add support for downloadable content. Fixed the issue when the user was becoming invincible after failing mission 'Black Gold' several times. The Phonecall from Hurk (ULC missions) is no longer overlapping the brief of the 'Piece of the past' mission. Fixed the issue when Sam was no longer in the jeep's turret after placing two bomb and being kill several time in 'Black Gold' mission. Sam is no longer getting stuck when the user destroy an enemy car.
Chris, Tom Senior and Martin discover headphones and subsequently blow their own minds. Also featuring discussion of Company of Heroes 2, Warface, and Far Cry 3 co-op - plus your questions from Twitter.
This weeks episode was recorded while a record number of podcast-contradicting news stories occurred, such as THQ's bankruptcy and the Dota 2 Christmas switcheroo. Also, the world does not appear to have ended.
Oh well. Merry Christmas anyway, I suppose.
Show notes The Penny Arcade Report's interview with Far Cry 3 writer Jeffrey Yohalem. Craig Lager's preview of Company of Heroes 2. Nasa's Mayan apocalypse video (via The Guardian).
It might be a good idea to check that you're running the latest batch of Nvidia drivers. The full version of the GeForce 310.70 WHQL set are available now, and it sounds like they'll add a fair few extra frames per second to some of this year's biggest games. Nvidia say they'll boost Far Cry 3 by 37%, Black Ops 2 by 26% at max settings, add an extra 17% to Assassin's Creed 3 performance (compared to a pre-release version, mind) and deliver smaller increases to Battlefield 3 and Skyrim.
"In October's GeForce 310.33 beta driver we improved performance by up to 15% in nine games, and this time we’re improving performance by up to 37% in twenty-one games," they say.
If you're running a GTX6 series you can experiment with TXAA antialiasing, which promises to do a better job of de-jaggifying edges than traditional anti-aliasing techniques. Also, because there are some letters of the alphabet we haven't capitalised yet, there's a new SGSSAA tool that'll make it easier to implement this top-tier form of luxury line-smoothing on high-end systems more easily.
The new drivers are a nice follow up on the recent release of the GeForce Experience system, designed to recommend optimal game settings based on your system requirements. Does it work? Dave gave it a try, find out what he thinks here. For more on the latest driver release, read all about it at the Nvidia site.
Far Cry 3's included level editor provides all the tools and textures necessary for crafting unique multiplayer maps, but one tinkerer has instead taken to recreating some very familiar locales with uncanny accuracy. As reported by MP1st, user ShadowZack has shared a series of maps fashioned after popular arenas from Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike.
You can nab ShadowZack's works through Far Cry 3's in-game multiplayer map search simply by typing his name. You'll find Battlefield 3's Noshahr Canals and Wake Island, Counter-Strike's Dust and Aztec, and Call of Duty's Nuketown all carefully recreated right down to the placement of crates and convenient slabs of concrete cover. ShadowZack also released some flyby and progress videos for the maps as they were constructed, which you can watch below.
Far Cry 3 itself has two gigantic jungle island environments. We got lost. We shot animals. We drank weird potions. We wrote a review, so have a look.
Speaking to The PA Report, Far Cry 3's lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem has talked about his frustration at the critical and public reaction to the game's story. In fairness to his position, my own reaction was "oh yeah, there's a story." I've been distracted by all the outpost clearing and tiger bothering.
One of the key areas Yohalem highlighted as a misunderstood criticism was the game's apparent following of a white colonialism trope (careful: TV Tropes link). He said that not only was its inclusion intentional, but also meant to be a subversive comment on other games and pop culture.
"It’s a first-person game and Jason is a 25-year old white guy from Los Angeles. From Hollywood," Yohalem said. "So his view of what’s going on on this island is his own view, and you happen to be looking through his eyes, so you’re seeing his view."
"It’s set on an island in the South Pacific, so immediately the thing that comes to mind is the white colonial trope, the Avatar trope. I started with that, and it’s like, ‘Here’s what pop culture thinks about traveling to a new place,’ and the funny thing is, that’s an exaggeration of most games, they just don’t expose it."
He points to games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed as colonisation games, and says that, "to take that to its extreme, exaggerating those tropes is how you reveal them. The exaggeration of that trope is what happens in Far Cry 3."
The full interview explores the ways Yohalem was commenting on these genre tropes, referencing events at the game's ending that, he says, reveal the game's true intention.
So, does the subversion work? Is it problematic that the majority of players won't ever see the wool-over-the-eyes reveal, especially if it's not made explicit until the end of a large game? Does one of pop-culture's most persistent and obvious tropes really need highlighting, and if most people miss the point is that not a sign that this particular approach has failed? I'll leave these questions for you to ponder. As I said earlier, I've been too busy mucking about with tigers.