When most people think of a tropical island vacation, you tend to think of relaxing on the beach, drinking cocktails, watersports and perhaps a bit of wild partying.
You don't tend to think of being captured by pirates and having to learn the ways of being a tribal hunter in order to prevent your friends from being sold into slavery.
Somehow, if the world of Far Cry 3 was an accurate portrayal of life I doubt that many people would be signing up for that holiday package.
But nevertheless, in Far Cry 3 that is exactly the situation you find yourself in, filling the generic shoes of American Tourist Jason Brody, who manages to escape by the skin of his teeth from the pirate kidnappers and who must learn the skills to rescue his friends and family before their time runs out.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Far Cry games to date - have no fear, other then the base concept of an open world adventure game, there is no storyline or character continuation here.
You won't be disadvantaged by not having played the previous games. Far Cry games have always been about trying to provide the player choice as to how to achieve their particular objective and Far Cry 3 is no exception.
The islands are large, varied with different landscapes and home to unique animal species, many of whom would love to make lunch out of you if you give them the opportunity.
Other than following the story missions, players can also take over pirate outposts to unlock bases for fast travel and resupply, climb radio towers to unveil portions of the map (like another famous Ubisoft franchise) and complete special hunting or assassination quests for extra rewards.
The key thing that lifts the world to such an amazing level though is the independence of the inhabitants of it.
Once you start taking down pirate outposts, your rebel allies will start launching patrols around the area, and when they encounter pirate forces, spontaneous firefights will ensure.
If you find a pack of herbivorous animals like pigs or goats, don't be surprised if you nearby find a pack of wild dogs, or even a Tiger stalking them - and possibly you.
The wildlife in Far Cry 3 almost makes up a third faction in the war in itself, and there were countless times that I utilised the surprise of an animal attack to silently take out some pirate guards or disable an alarm post on an outpost.
Occasionally Pirates even keep caged animals inside their outposts, who are just waiting to be set free by a cage shattering bullet to take some vengeance on their captors.
The open world is also leveraged in the games upgrade system, where you will need to hunt and skin a certain number of a specific animals to acquire the larger version of each type of bag/holster or wallet you use.
While on paper this sounds ridiculous and arbitrary, (Why did I need four pigs skins for a small bag, and now four dingo skins for a slightly bigger bag - why can't I just use six pigs?) in game it forces you to explore hunting areas to find the animals you are after, and to collect and ration skins that you think might be valuable for a future upgrade down the road.
Likewise your character gains skill points throughout the game, which are redeemed in the form of a tribal tattoo on your characters left arm.
Quite how this tattoo relates to you gaining a new or better ability, or how it magically burns into your arm is never logically explained, but again, in practice it works with minimal fuss and is easily overlooked.
Unfortunately, as stimulating as the open world is, it throws into contrast the shortfalls of the games main campaign elements.
Despite some brilliant voice acting from the key actors who genuinely put you into the story, (Including some local Kiwi actors providing the Rebel Rakyat voices) the linear scope of the story missions structure often jars when compared to the complete freedom of the open world side quests available.
There are a few sections where you have to climb or jump a particular area and the games slightly clunky controls, which are workable when you are free to choose a less challenging path, can become frustrating sometimes in confinement.
Once you finish the campaign it can leave you feeling like a bit of a loose end, so I sincerely hope that the game will receive a hefty DLC expansion in the near future to continue to build on the excellent environment.
But overall Far Cry 3 one of those great games who's immersion and entertainment is greater then the sum of its parts and is definitely worth recommending for any Action/RPG fan
Lasting appeal: 8.0