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When details about Far Cry 3 were revealed, many people were justifiably a bit nervous. The blend of sandbox environment, first-person shooter gameplay and RPG-style skill trees, along with a gathering and crafting system, could have ended up being a mishmash of poorly integrated gaming styles.
But it's not. Instead, Far Cry 3 is a compelling open-world gaming experience that almost seamlessly mixes its gameplay elements into something bordering on the excellent.
The main plotline sees you take on the role of Jason Brody, a mostly unlikeable frat-boy figure with a penchant for expensive adventure sports. While holidaying with family and friends on a tropical island paradise, they're taken by slavers and everything goes pear shaped. Which it would have to, or the game would mostly comprise you going "woooo" while doing shots and hang gliding.
The idea is to take the gameplay away from the world of soldiers and professionals, and into the hands of an inexperienced kid, who slowly develops into something more deadly (hence the skill trees). It mostly works quite well.
Main plotline aside, exploration is the real name of the game in Far Cry 3. Finding radio towers and disabling the signal blockers opens up new areas of the map for you. There are bounty challenges, hunting challenges, animal parts to collect for crafting, vehicle-based mini-games, hang gliding, collectibles and challenges that you'll need to discover on your own.
More importantly, all of this happens in a game with very solid core mechanics. From combat and cover to health, skill points and more, the game is remarkably polished, with maybe one or two exceptions.