Shooters, Let Me Play As A Rookie Moron, Please

Far Cry 3 does something interesting with its protagonist Jason, presenting him not as a bloodthirsty killer with military training, but as some kid, thrust into a situation well outside his abilities or understanding.

When you jump off a cliff, he screams. When you cut open an animal for its skin, no matter how many times you do it, he goes "eeewwww", just like you or I would.

When the game opens, he's quite literally running for his life. It has you thinking that, hey, maybe this game will be different to every other shooter ever released. Maybe in this shooter I'll actually be outmatched, my lack of training and experience with military weapons turning me into a vulnerable little bag of exposed flesh, fear and panic.

Then, within 10 minutes, you're storming a compound of bloodthirsty pirates with an assault rifle, tossing grenades and pulling off headshots, and you realise nothing is different whatsoever. Shame.

In narrative terms, and this continues long into the game, Jason is portrayed as a naive rich white kid, without any kind of experience or training whatsoever, who is suddenly dropped into the mouth of hell when he and his pals are kidnapped. It's meant, I guess, to make you relate to him, if not in terms of gender or race, then at least in terms of the fact most gamers are just regular people, not military professionals.

No matter how many movies I've seen or games I've played, if you put me on an island and handed me an assault rifle, I'd be lucky to know how to properly load the thing, let alone shoot someone in the head with it. I don't know how to ride a jetski. I can't operate a heavy machine gun. And don't get me started on firing a bow and arrow.

If that really was me on that island, or someone like me, the biggest challenge would be learning how to even use a gun. So it's jarring to see the whole "helpless dude" routine confined to the game's story, while the actual game has you playing with the skillset of Rambo or Master Chief.

I mean, in the game's opening section, you can't even crawl without guidance. A bit later, there's a point where your girlfriend says she's worried about your relationship. Um, sure, so am I, more worried than I was about the three panthers I just killed with a knife, or the jeep I blew up while flying over it on a zipline.

The gulf between the person the story is telling you you're playing and the way you're actually playing is similar to that found in, say, Grand Theft Auto games, where murder is treated as a big deal on a mission...even though you just ran over 17 people on the way over. But in those games, it's almost a joke, so absurd is the nature of the game.

In Far Cry 3, things are so much more immediate, your premise taken so much more seriously that for much of the game's opening sections it just feels stupid. More importantly, it feels like a missed opportunity.

I think there's scope out there for a game to actually play as though you're a rookie. Make you learn how to fire a gun not by simply pointing a cursor at something, but with, say, minigames teaching you how to load and ready the weapon. If you're going to just suddenly jump into all these exotic vehicles, make you struggle to learn how. If you're going to make some kid do something as complex and messy as skin an animal, make you have to earn it by doing it properly.

This might sound boring to you, but I think with the right application, pacing and introduction, it'd be fantastic. By replicating a sense of helplessness you're creating tension and excitement, in which every single kill is a victory, which also has the knock-on effect of making those victories more rewarding.

I'm not knocking Far Cry 3 for not doing this. It's the game its designers wanted it to be, and the gulf between the story's Jason and my Jason is quite literally the only thing I'm finding wrong with it right now. But the disappointment I felt when the game didn't follow on with that opening premise has certainly left the door open, even if it's just in my heart, for another game to come along and make me a helpless, accidental hero.


    Totally agree Luke, the disconnect between story and gameplay is a real shame, there was an opportunity with the concept of fc3 to do something genuinely interesting.

      Although, never assume 'It’s the game its designers wanted it to be'. It's the game the guys paying the bills wanted it to be ;)

      I'm just saying, if you want to be challenged, maybe turn up the difficulty.
      Although I do agree that he goes from terrified white kid to murderer very very quickly.

    I got the same feeling from the trailers. They wanted this guy to be an "every-man", except he's an every-man who almost instantly gains the ability to skillfully jump off a cliff and land a machette into some poor blokes neck then doing a commando roll into the bushes and sniping the other 3 guys out of their respective watchtowers before detonating some C4 and speeding away in a stolen moter boat (and totally not looking at the explosions as he does it).

    They should increase the bloom, spread, and recoil of all weapons by a large amount that will slightly reduce over time when you upgrade via tattoos. To make you feel like you've earned a kill rather then let you kill 10 guys at once in quick succession.

    Also, give the enemies moral checks. Make them run away, pile into a jeep and fly off if they're losing the battle.

      This. I was also thinking they'd have the gun jam feature from FC2, at least early on to help convey that Jason has no experience with weaponry, hence he jams reloads etc

      Problem is that they did something exactly like it in Mass Effect 1 and people hated it. I still remember unending threads of people complaining about how they couldn't shoot straight with a sniper rifle or hit anything with the rifles only then to get angry when people asked if they'd thrown any skill points into those weapons. Personally I liked it but it seemed to do nothing but confuse a lot of people back then and I think you'd see something similar if they tried it in FC3.

    Happens a lot in books too: protagonist starts out as a complete noob but all to soon is somehow better than people who have trained all their lives.

    By the same token though, I don't feel that an open world action game is the best medium to be progressing a character in such a way. Since the game leaves you on your own as much or as little as you want it to, a lot of progress can be done outside of the main story. I would welcome a mission or more structured game to introduce this concept though, as a refreshing change of pace in both story telling and game play. Fingers crossed for the new Tomb Raider eh?

    I have not yet played the game but plan to. A leveling system like Skyrim would be good, the more you use a certain gun the more you level in that gun and get to choose better aiming, reloading etc.

    Completely agree with this aswell. I was really looking forward to having jason grow from a scared boy into a fearsome warrior but no more then an hr or so into the game im blowing up, sniping, stealth killing entire entourage of guys like jason is an experienced killer when he has barely held a gun for very long.

    "I think there’s scope out there for a game to actually play as though you’re a rookie. Make you learn how to fire a gun not by simply pointing a cursor at something, but with, say, minigames teaching you how to load and ready the weapon. If you’re going to just suddenly jump into all these exotic vehicles, make you struggle to learn how. If you’re going to make some kid do something as complex and messy as skin an animal, make you have to earn it by doing it properly.

    This might sound boring to you, but I think with the right application, pacing and introduction, it’d be fantastic. "

    No I agree that this sounds pretty awesome.

    I would love to play a game where you play as a guy who can't reload or aim a gun where every mo,net is a struggle against superior foes. But I don't think a game in which the main character can't aim is going to sell to the masses unfortunately.

    I could be wrong, hopefully I am.

    If you want to feel like you are in a shooter with no gun experience at all I would have to suggest you try Receiver by Wolfire.

    Until you get the hang of it you will be screwing up and dieing all the time. My favorite move is panicking and ejecting the magazine onto the floor when you bump into an enemy.

    Lurker here, contributing to this discussion as a guest.

    I was under the impression that it was all purposefully satirical. Wasn't there talk about how Far Cry 3 was going to have a lot of metacommentary? Maybe I dreamed that up somewhere as I'm wont to do. If it's true though, it kiiiind of makes sense in this context. I'm about halfway through the game so please don't spoil anything, but my understanding of things is that this idea of a rich white kid picking up a gun in a "savage" (to use a colonialism) land and quickly being the indigenous population's all-supreme savior was purposefully absurdist; meant as a commentary about how the most popular videogames exploit our fantasies when they thrust us into situations, give us a quick tute on how everything works, and then transform us into by-the-numbers killing machines saving the world/galaxy/whatever. It was like Cabin in the Woods asking, "why do we, as an audience, collectively enjoy watching teenagers get dismembered in horror films?"

    Again, I'm nowhere near the ending and I'll admit that this interpretation isn't as plainly obvious as I make it sound - by which I mean I could be projecting or giving Ubisoft way too much credit. I've been playing this game thinking it's satirical and associated my discomfort at times to the notion that I'm the target of its joke. Maybe my discomfort stems from the game actually being sincere about everything... I don't know. Am I alone this?

    I was able to fool myself that the whole mushroom mission coupled with the tattoo was some sort of epiphany. Instant hesitant badass. There are however glaring inconsistencies in the early progression of the game. But I can still punch a crocodile, skin a deer and shoot a pirate all within 30 seconds. So I'm pretty happy.

    Ubisoft's biggest mistake is not introducing predatory animals in Far Cry 2. I loved the African setting. The whole thing felt much more oppressive. Dense. The environment and terrain made it's own challenge. Bad: The AI had glasses that could see through dense jungle. The Rook Islands look like were designed for a roller coaster ride approach. Not forgiving the menial but well implemented hunting/ crafting thing...

    I'm all for games which approach things from a much more specific angle, such as simulators and RTS for example. It's why I enjoy things like Arma and DayZ and have played many many hours of both. It is a much more visceral world and your actions have consequences beyond health packs and cover shooting. I guess living the experience is the key. Every moment matters, AI are difficult to overcome and bullets kill. One at a time.

    There's no question that Far Cry 3 is arcade in it's approach. Ultimately that defines the phenomenal character progression as a means to ramp up the pace early. Grab the everyman gamer by the tits and give him/ her the tools to run riot before tiring of any particularly complex progression or skill tree. There can be a lot of tedium in repeating mundane complex actions. Far Cry 3 doesn't need to be weighed in complication as a game mechanic but I definitely see the opportunity for a more detailed or extended introduction to surviving the environment and it's many perils.

    No, it all makes oerfect sense. Its the tatau.

    It would habe been good if there was a leveling mechanic to guns and weapons.
    The more you use them the better you are at aiming and such.
    For example at the start your aim is shocking (jittery and off kilter) but as you use it, it becomes steadier and more accurate.

    I watched the first 30 mins of the game and had the same thoughts. This kid is a spoilt brat that hasnt used a gun in his life, and then he is goddamn rambo.

    Completely agree. I think smarter use of the skill tree could have corrected the feeling that the main character instantly transformed from noob to natural born killer,

    Ummmm I thought there was subtle tones of supernatural elements in the game - which changed the character from a newbie fighter into a warrior. Maybe i interpreted the story wrong, but that was how i justified it.

    Last edited 07/12/12 10:08 am

    FC3 is a shooter, not an RPG. Play something else if you want all those annoying little things. They're small and petty, honestly its a video game. Move on.

      Well, it looks like you completely missed the point.

    How would you survive in such a situation? It would have to be through guerilla warfare. Hiding, running, laying traps, using distractions and misdirection, stealth and only trying for kills that are a really safe bet. And even then they'd be a struggle (I'm thinking of the stressful moments from The Walking Dead game). I'd love a game that catches that type of feeling in a Far Cry-like setting!

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