Set entirely in the first person of Jason Brody, a party animal on vacation with his friends and siblings. Whilst visiting Rooke Islands they are captured by pirates, with the aim of being ransomed. The story progresses (never breaking from Brody’s view-point) starting out as a scared young man, who’s been through a horrific ordeal. He’s then mentored in the ways of the local Tribe. The Rakyat are trying to rid the island of these barbaric pirates led by the insane Vaas.
I can’t over emphasise how beautiful this game looks. From lush green jungles and grass. Varying shades of blue in the sky, sea and rivers. The vibrant reds and yellows of the enemy’s outfits. The allies and enemies tend to be very generic but considering how many there are, I’m not surprised.
There are a few instances of textures popping in to view, but this can be overlooked. Especially when you realise you can go from one end of the island to the other without having to wait for a section to load. Unless you are using the fast travel which requires each area to be loaded in, bizarrely.
The animals in the world can be hunted, skinned and either used to upgrade your ability to carry more stuff or sold for cash. There a some truly beautiful moments staring this managery of creatures. My stand out moment was heading to a location, when I spotted a group of grazing deer. Suddenly there could be heard a growl of a big cat. The deer scattered and a tiger went energetically bounding after them. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t scripted as I saw similar occasions with various creatures. It really makes the world feel alive.
The cut scenes look excellent and being all from Brody’s perspective is unusual but functional, keeping you focused on being the person you’re playing. Especially when it comes to the more esoteric scenes.
The game plays as an entirely first person shooter, with stealth game play an advantage but not a prerequisite. You can play it as a head on shooter, but sneaky is fun and more rewarding. This is made fairly obvious in the opening scenes of the game, which are brilliantly tense and don’t feel like the forced tutorial that they are.
You need to be aware of the skills of the AI for detecting and killing you. The AI will get in to cover if attacked, draw your fire whilst squad mates flank you. This is where the RPG elements come in allowing for allocating Skills or Perks (awarded through an XP system), upgrading of weapons and equipment. This turns you into a bad ass hunter / killer.
The collection of islands cover a humongous area. Thankfully, you don’t need to explore it all on foot. There are various boats, jeeps and quad bikes dotted around. These handle fairly well, but driving from 1st person can lead to misjudgment and sliding off a cliff or driving into a river. The best way to see the island is by hanglider and these are fairly easy to control, thankfully.
The game doesn’t restrict you down the main story missions. You can (like I did) ignore the story and just explore. This is the best way (in my opinion) to enjoy this amazing world. It’s also a total time vampire with hundreds of collectables and side missions.
I must just draw a few similarities to another Ubisoft franchise, Assassin’s Creed. There are a lot of points where it felt like a rebadging of AC. The climbing felt like it has been taken from the 1st person sequences in the Animus of AC:R. The hunting & skinning and exploration felt very similar that of AC:3. This could just the nature of Sandbox games at the moment. Also the dynamic weather engine seems very similar too and works well.
The opening track by MIA sets the games aural tone. The music through the game tends to be incidental, except for at key points in the story. There are also audio cues that kick in to raise tension. These usually indicate that a predator or enemy is close by. No spoilers but dub step & flamethrowers is all I’m gonna say. Generally the music & sound effects work really well. The guns sound accurate, the surround sound works well for judging locality of enemies or predators. My only issue is a strange lag in the lipsync during cut scenes. The voice acting is superb, which really sells the insanity of this place and it’s inhabitants. I do have a gripe about some of the dialogue. Generally from NPCs, that can be incredibly irritating poorly voiced and repetitive.
The ambient acoustic nuances of the jungle, really make this game for me. The rustling of leaves, the creatures moving around and the distant sound of gun battles all sold this world to me.
Fun with friends
This game also has an online component. There’s a co-op story based on a different island which allows you and up to 3 other people to play as a team. It can also be played in 2 player split screen too. I can safely say, I wasn’t expecting much from this but I’ve been really impressed. It has an actual story with 4 very individual characters, all with very distinct personalities. There are 6 story levels to play through all clocking in at about 1 hour a piece to complete. You also have the ability to rank up your characters weapons and customise load outs. I have to thank Fraser & Mark for their help, as I didn’t fancy co-op with randoms. I haven’t been this engaged by co-op since Uncharted 2 and Resistance 2
There’s also a competitive multiplayer. Which isn’t bad but kinda standard.
“Who have I become?”
This game surely is the ultimate experience of going native. The journey you take as Brody is really well thought out. The story progresses at a lovely pace, but it’s the distractions that made this game for me. I think I easily spent 25 hours just exploring and being rewarded for this by gaining xp. Thankfully you don’t need to collect everything or finish every side mission to get the platinum. That’s not to downplay the story, it has some exquisitely well executed moments. Some of the set pieces are the usual first person adventure faire but they are still really enjoyable. What I would say though is, be prepared or prepare to die, lots. As value for money goes there’s easily 35 hours of single player and a minimum of 6 hours co-op. I wouldn’t have felt short-changed paying full price but I paid £25 and it’s worth every penny. Not sure I’ll go back to it, due to the lack of trophy incentive. This may change if there’s some DLC.
Screenshots courtesy of Ubisoft