The various plants on the islands are another key to survival, as they provide ingredients that boost health and endorphins or enhance perception. And leveling up allows Jason to unlock new skills such as takedowns involving grenades and knives, increased health or adrenaline, and the ability to take less damage from falls and fires.
As in most first-person shooters, killing a bad guy leaves a body to loot, and the controls on this move inflict the game's only significant annoyance. On numerous occasions I found myself mistakenly swapping out a favorite gun for the enemy's weapon when all I wanted to do is grab a little cash.
"Far Cry 3" also has a formidable multiplayer element, with several familiar game modes and a creative addition called Firestorm, in which a team must set fire to the opponents' supply nodes and then escape the spreading flames while capturing a radio transmitter.
So far I've spent several dozen hours exploring the Rook Islands and haven't experienced a moment of boredom. Whatever games find their way under the tree this year, I'll probably still be playing this over the holiday break. Four stars out of four.