I flipping hate Secret Santa. As if the concept of a questionably bearded old man, often seen in photographs grasping horrified young children and chortling maniacally, breaking into a residential dwelling and sneaking into the occupying children’s room in the dead of night isn’t straight out of a Daily Mail columnist’s wet dream enough, they have to go and throw in the word SECRET. I can’t stand it. It makes me want to aggressively lick a pavement. I hate it more than I hate my own eyes, which, after numerous attempts to forcibly remove them with a bookend over the years, are more than aware of not only the deep and perpetual disdain I hold for them, but also my resounding, laughable incompetence. So I’ve spent the last couple of days racking my poor, inefficient brain in an attempt to come up with something somebody I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT will appreciate and not think me a moron or any more weird than they inevitably already do for purchasing them such a gift. The streets of Leamington Spa are far less interesting than the beautiful tropical world of Far Cry 3; however, I’m getting about as much done in one as the other; the difference is, in the digital world, that is a very, very good thing.
Aversions to seasonal tradition aside, when I do finally get time to escape the bustling, bleeting population of Leamington that seem to be outside solely to barge around like a disoriented herd of brain damaged cows and get in my way, the third instalment of Far Cry has been my sole, undulated focus, and its had my unhampered, unwavering attention since the day it hit the shelves. I have not been able to get away from it. It’s tugging at my sleeve right now. Stop that.
I’ve only done a handful of missions and thus progressed the storyline no further than David Cameron has progressed his Not a Twat campaign, despite splattering hours and hours down the game’s insatiable throat. Ahem.
Far Cry 3 utilizes what can only be described as The Shiny Things Feedback Loop, wherein the player skips, holding his own hand close to his or her face, mouth agape in a blinkedly doe-eyed fashion from tiny interesting environment mechanic to tiny interesting environment mechanic until everything in that square foot of game world has been thoroughly and scrupulously plowed to death, before moving onto the next quaking square foot of game world. Like some sort methodical serial environment rapist. Or something.
If you played Red Dead Redemption a couple of years back (and if you didn’t what the hell is wrong with you you inexcusable cad) you’ll likely be nodding along, eyes wide in a state of perpetual agreement, desperately overjoyed that someone understands. Red Dead was my game of the year, and whilst it ran beautifully on a gorgeous engine and its narrative was captivating through-out, it really held my attention because of the Shiny Things Feedback Loop it kept elbowing at me with such joyous enthusiasm.
Picking up the controller for an evening in cowboy land, crouch chasing pigs around and screaming in a hick accent I was going to, um, do things with them, and also with the expressed intention of, you know, completing some missions and cantering toward the endgame, often resulted in hours and hours spent picking bloody flowers. Heading purposefully West in a concerted effort to see any aspect of the story would often be diverted by an Eastward bounding animal, that you’d then wildly hurtle after with the relentless tenacity of Ian Watkins chasing a school bus, only to wind up hours away from where you were handing once you’d finally caught and skinned the thing. And don’t think you can simply head back that same way, because every local wants you to go find and kill their assailant, rescue their mother from a burning tree, wrangle their horse, iron their shirts, digest their food etc. etc. It was great fun because the world feels like it’s living, and the instances that hold your attention are totally dynamic.
Far Cry 3 is much the same, with its hunting and crafting elements, the tumultuous amount of SHINY NEW THINGS there is to find; the method by which areas of the map are revealed, the execution of the side missions that ensures they’re not dull or monotonous hand-holding fetch excursions three thousand miles to the other side of the game world… If I run out of things to do, I genuinely drive off toward my next mission marker, fully aware that I’ll run into something I need to do before I get to it.
I bought Hitman at the same time, and the wimpering mess that is Agent 47 hasn’t seen the dark of my disc tray yet. Hard luck 47, I’m busy punching sharks, pulling leaves off plants and setting the locals on fire. Playing games the Respawn way. As in not properly. Maybe next week eh 47.