The third installment of the Far Cry series is more impressive as a game (to us, at least) than its predecessor. But do you need really powerful hardware to enjoy it? We benchmark 15 different graphics cards and eight different CPUs to find out.
The Far Cry franchise enjoys a distinguished place in the history of PC gaming. At the beginning of 2004, while we were busy drooling over how awesome John Carmack's upcoming Doom 3 looked in its promotional screenshots, upstart game developer Crytek shipped its own first-person shooter several months ahead of id's offering and wowed jaded enthusiasts accustomed to dark, enclosed environments. Although Doom 3 went on to become a huge commercial success, I personally think that Far Cry was the better game by far. It defined what a open-world sandbox shooter could be. There's no right or wrong way to play the game; we could use stealth or run-and-gun as we saw fit.
Crytek was not involved in Far Cry 2, and the franchise was (man)handled by Ubisoft's Montreal development team. It was a sequel in name, but didn't have anything to do with its predecessor, aside from the fact that they both featured palm trees. The game received generally positive reviews, but several of the Tom's Hardware editors remember Far Cry 2 as being forgettable. I don't think any of us bothered to finish that one.
As a result, my expectations of Far Cry 3 were deliberately held in check, as I half-expected a lame cash-in on the franchise. Happily, I was wrong; Ubisoft managed to create something very special. It has the original Far Cry's lush island setting and open-world freedom combined with The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion's exploration and loot mechanics, Battlefield's outpost capturing, Just Cause 2's vehicle variety and flavor, and a handful of unique innovations, including a crafting system that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out and a tattoo-based skill mechanic.
A huge interactive intro does an impeccable job of establishing the character and encouraging you to identify with his plight. I won't spoil any of the details, but I will issue a warning: this is one of those games that you should avoid if you don't have much self-control. That's how addictive it is. Allow it to, and it'll eat up the hours you should probably be spending with your family...
...and that's only the single-player campaign. I avoided the competitive and co-op modes because our goal here is to measure PC hardware performance; that's really difficult in the variable world of multi-player gaming. So, let's have a look at the game's graphics and detail settings.