Far Cry 3 starts off with the kind of American frathouse holiday stuff - too much joyful irresponsibility - that is a turn-off for tall-poppy slashers like us, so there might be a "well, good job then" feeling when the tour party is kidnapped during their tropical getaway by a violent gang of locals.
It doesn't seem like such a good job when we learn what becomes of the unlucky travellers.
The pirates of Rook Island are represented by a chap named Vaas, who is completely unhinged and terribly violent.
You are Jason Brody, a spoilt American rich kid with no apparent aptitude for combat or survival, but your brother - and cellmate while Vaas unloads taunt after taunt - happens to be a former soldier, so maybe there's something in the genes.
As you go it alone on the island in search of friends, Jason will develop hunting and survival skills, and he'll grow into the bloodletting in a way that's thrilling - and unsettling.
After being freed by Vaas in the name of sport, Jason is stopped by a pursuer. Left with no other choice, he buries a knife in the pirate's throat and then does what I imagine most of us would do: first he whimpers, then panics, and then runs like hell. From there, you don't stop running but you do develop Jason into an efficient and enthusiastic killer. Your morality is in for some testing times.
That gives Far Cry 3 a good story and plenty of punch-in-the-guts depth, but it's the gameplay that sends it through the roof. It looks like a first-person shooter and plays like Assassin's Creed at boot camp, combining the best elements of shoot-em-up combat with stealth, exploration, and alchemy processes to create something quite special.
Speaking of special, my ears pricked up when one of the island's inhabitants greeted me with a cheerful "kia ora!", and I was astonished moments later when I wandered into a Kiwi-accented conversation between two more Rakyat villagers. As it happens, the island's freedom-loving inhabitants are Maori in almost every conceivable way, and it's an unexpected warm touch in the middle of a chilling campaign. Ka pai.
As open-world games go, Far Cry 3 may be the best in its class. The island is teeming with life and possibilities, and your journey is full of choices and consequences.
The freedom handed to you after your initial break from captivity is quite a gift and, while there are some technical imperfections and questionable aspects of the plot that threaten your rhythm, it's one that keeps on giving.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC