I played the first Far Cry, and I remember what a big deal everyone made about the graphics. About the foliage, and the draw distance, etc etc. It was neat, but I also recall thinking that once you got past the graphics, it was just a regular ol' first-person shooter. So I never bothered with Far Cry 2 when it came around.
I was actually ready to not bother with Far Cry 3 either, but I started hearing some pretty good things about it, so I decided to give it a look for myself. I was pleasantly surprised. It's been called "Skyrim" with guns, and I think that's an apt description for the overall feel of the game (though I enjoy it far more than I did Skyrim).
I will say that calling it "Skyrim with guns" does absolutely no justice to Far Cry 3's incredible characters and voice acting. The wooden, stiff "characters" of Skyrim are nowhere to be found here. The characters are so well animated and acted (Vaas especially) that I'd place it at Uncharted-level of quality.
The game is first-person, but it's one of those games that goes whole-hog into first-person. What I mean is that you aren't just a hand with a gun for the entire game. Through the variety of climbing, falling, diving, tumbling and execution animations, you really feel like you're an actual person in the environment, and not a floating gun.
The story is pretty decent, and it's made better by the fantastic characters I mentioned above. But you can't just focus on the storyline and nothing else. You'd be cheating yourself out of half the experience. You need to explore, do challenges, and most of all, you need to hunt.
Hunting animals for their skins isn't even really an option, and it quickly becomes something of an obsession. You need skins to upgrade your gear. If you want to carry more than one gun, you need a bigger holster. You need a bigger backpack to carry more loot, so you'll need skins to craft that. You need a better wallet to carry more cash, so you need skins for that too. If I had to give one piece of advice to people starting FC3, it would be to hunt early, and hunt often. In fact, as soon as you're out of the tutorial mission, go hunting. Start upgrading your gear. You'll be glad you did later.
If I was going to give a second piece of advice though, it would be to alternate story missions and free-roaming. Find a balance in the story missions, and having fun completing random objectives around the island. It keeps the game engaging, and also makes sure that you're keeping up in experience and skills.
It's definitely a game I'd recommend, on PC if you can run it. I've read that the Xbox/PS3 version suffer from some framerate problems. If you just want to watch the game though, I've been streaming a little gameplay every day this week, and probably will tonight as well (subsribe to twitch or twitter to be notified when I stream). You can also watch previously recorded streams on my Twitch.tv channel.