Michael Clarkson has a great post up analysing in some detail the design features of Far Cry 3 and their relative success or failure.
Most interesting to me is his discussion of why FC3 designs away the landscape, by encouraging the player to treat the map itself as the terrain, and this is borne out in how much more “vividly” he says he recalls FC2’s landscape vs FC3’s. Here’s what he has to say about one of the main design features that does it, and I’m glad he pointed it out because I don’t think I had made this point explicit myself (and I totally agree):
The oversimplified routing that results from the fast-travel system also contributes [to the player disregarding the landscape]. Far Cry 3 allows the player to teleport in close to a desired point and then take a relatively short and direct route to wherever the mission will start. So, at any time that the player has a goal in mind, his first action will always be to look at the map and find the nearest fast-travel point. The map itself, rather than actual travel through the world, becomes the journey. The world effectively becomes discontinuous and only coheres when mediated by the map. Additionally, the density of fast-travel points means that the player doesn’t have to really think deeply about the relationship between the map and the landscape, since the ease of travel mostly obviates the need for route-planning.
There’s a great level of depth to the rest of his analysis too, go check it out.