The travel brochure that enticed Jason Brody and his friends to book their spring break-style trip to the Rook Islands probably left out the pillaging pirates, aggressive bull sharks and lunging leopards.
The picturesque setting of "Far Cry 3" (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.99; PC, $49.99) turns out to be far from hospitable to the naive tourist, who can barely stand the sight of blood when he finds himself caged up in a village ruled by a sadistic drug lord.
Jason's transition into a seasoned survivor anchors "Far Cry 3," an outstanding open-world first-person shooter that intersperses character arc, plot and suspense throughout a variety of action-packed firefights, stealth sequences and side missions.
The game begins with Jason being led out of captivity by his military-trained brother, a linear sequence that helps introduce Jason and acclimate players to the control scheme. The islands quickly open up after the arrival of Dennis Rogers, an ally to the indigenous Rakyat tribe who guides Jason on his quest to reunite with his girlfriend and fellow tourists. Dennis sees a burgeoning warrior in Jason and entices him to help free the islands from ruthless criminals.
Each section holds a radio tower handicapped by a signal scrambler, and climbing a tower and disconnecting the device opens a small part of a ridiculously expansive map that's on par with Bethesda Softworks' recent "Fallout" or "Elder Scrolls" installments. Freeing a tower also helps open an area to trade, which makes weapon dealers so happy that they'll start showering you with free guns.
Ridding an enemy outpost of bad guys provides a new location to buy and upgrade weapons with scopes and silencers, as well as a fast travel point to speed trips between friendly villages. But with so many ATVs, trucks and jeeps spread throughout the islands— not to mention hang gliders, jet skis and boats — why not take the scenic route?
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