Unfortunately, cooperative play is separated from the open world romp that makes up the campaign, but don't let that get you down - Far Cry 3's co-op offering is a fantastic addition to an already great game. Up to four players can play together online, and the console versions even get combo co-op, though your splitscreen partner will also need to have an Xbox Live Gold account on the 360.
The co-op is presented as a six-mission mini campaign. Our four heroes, Mikhail, Leonard, Tisha, and Callum have been wronged by the captain of the ship they were working on, and decide to go on a killing spree to get back the money he owes them. You'll get story beats via short cutscenes and dialogue from the characters as you complete tasks. I got an extremely strong Left 4 Dead vibe from the way everything is presented, but thankfully Far Cry 3 brings plenty of its own personality to the table.
Each mission is broken up into several segments - you'll begin by traversing to a location, clear all the enemies out and then have to complete various objectives, such as scavenging the environment to find rockets for a launcher, guard your allies as they carry explosive charges to take out a bridge, or stand your ground while protecting a generator. Following the completion of a segment, your XP will be tallied and you'll get the chance to equip any new unlocks or tweak your loadout a bit.
Did I say unlocks? That's right, your multiplayer unlockables and custom loadouts are also earned through co-op play. Earning new toys is always fun, and being able to tweak the loadout to suit your playstyle or complement your teammates is a welcome addition. If you're playing with random folks online, I'm not sure I'd recommend taking a stealth-oriented loadout, but a full team of bow-equipped predators is a total possibility with the right crew.
Two nice additions that encourage cooperative play are the Battle Cry and Booster systems. Battle cries are temporary buffs (improved movement speed, health regeneration, etc.) that are applied to every teammate in range, and Boosters are stronger buffs you can offer another player, but they consume syringes you find in the environment and are harder to come by. Managing both of these effectively definitely makes the harder battles a little easier to tackle, so being a good teammate is highly encouraged.
Another fun addition is a little bit of friendly competition - certain segments in the levels keep score between the players, whether it's a kill tally or points scored while racing ATVs carrying explosives. Whoever wins gets a nice little XP bonus.
What I really like about the co-op in Far Cry 3 is that it could probably hold its own as a separate game. With a good crew it'll probably take between 5 and 8 hours to finish the co-op content depending on difficulty. Hopefully the future holds more missions via DLC (that aren't restricted to the PS3 version).
I've been playing the PC version, which looks absolutely stunning and runs well on my mid-range hardware, but I've heard that environment pop-in and framerate issues are endemic to both the PS3 and 360 versions of the game. I've been assured that the console versions play just fine, but if you've got a PC that can run it, you'd almost be a fool not to go that route.
Far Cry 3 offers some of the best value I've seen in a retail game lately. That it's also a great game gives me a lot of hope for the future of the series - one that I'd almost written off after all of the problems I had with Far Cry 2. The solo campaign, though the storyline is patently ridiculous and borderline offensive in tone, is a real blast to play through and the co-op offers plenty of its own fun. Highly, highly recommended.
The Co-Optimus review of Far Cry 3 is based on the PC version of the game.
The Co-Op Experience: Four players can can battle through 6 co-op missions with various objectives. Players will earn experience and can unlock abilities, weapons and more.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.