The Far Cry series has always been ahead of the curve in a lot of areas, starting with the very first one on the PC. Graphically, the whole series has always been over the top, but it’s also been advanced in terms of open-world gameplay and intense multiplayer action. Far Cry 4 follows this trend nicely. While it’s not quite as big a leap forward as we saw with the original, Far Cry 2 or even Far Cry 3, the latest game in the series is technically impressive. And more importantly, it’s a lot of fun to play.
Lest anyone think that the series is running out of places to set their tale, Far Cry 4 takes place in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat. The environments are quite different from what’s been experienced before in Far Cry 2’s dusty Africa or Far Cry 3’s tropical Rook Island – though there are some areas within Kyrat that resemble either place.
The story behind Far Cry 4 is actually a lot better than what was put in the other games. Instead of a malaria-infected mercenary or a spoiled rich kid, you play Ajay Ghale, a native of Kyrat who left a long time ago as a child with his mother and was raised in America. He’s come back to the country to scatter his mother’s ashes. Of course, it’s never quite that simple, as he gets caught up in a civil war between the Golden Path and the despotic leader of the country, an outsider named Pagan Min. There is actually quite a lot of double take moments as you dive into the story, much more than most games these days. Players will remember that there were quite a few little twists and turns back in the original Far Cry, and it’s nice to see that coming back with Far Cry 4.
As with most open world games, players are presented with a large map that is dotted with quite a few activities that can be undertaken. Most of these are optional, such as finding demonic masks placed around the world by a prolific serial killer, or competing in race events. Then there are hunting challenges which are used to craft better gear once you skin your prey. Unlike Far Cry 3, you are not restricted to hunting with a certain type of weapon, though there are some considerations. Killing an animal with a bow yields two pelts instead of one and blowing one up yields nothing but a damaged pelt that can’t be used for crafting.
In the mid range of importance for events are tower climbing and outpost attacking activities. Climbing the towers is exactly like it was in Far Cry 3, except that you are making your way up an aging bell tower that is being used for radio signals instead of a World War II era metal tower that is getting ready to fall down. It’s actually a lot less scary to climb the towers in Kyrat. The effects are the same though. Liberating a tower removes the fog of war around that area of the map. Outposts are strategic areas held by the enemy at first. Liberating them grants control of that part of the country, meaning far less Pagan Min patrols and more friendly Golden Path fighters wandering around in those areas.
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There are also lots of random missions that pop up while you travel. These are things like helping Golden Path members in a skirmish, saving people from an animal attack or freeing hostages being marched to reeducation camps.
At the top level are the story missions, which are represented by letters on the main map. Following these will advance the plot, though in practice you will need to undertake several of the other missions in order to unlock them, or to open up the part of the map where they reside. Doing the optional missions also opens up new guns for purchase, which is arguably one of the things that needs to be accomplished in order to survive later into the game.
Interestingly enough, there are two leaders of the Golden Path for the story missions that involve them. One is Sabal and the other is Amita. Basically, Sabal is a traditionalist and an isolationist while Amita is a progressive, but also a bit of a fascist and a wannabe drug dealer. There are branching points in the story when both Amita and Sabal have missions for you to undertake. The catch is that you can only do one. Whichever mission you choose means that the quest giver will be the “in power” leader until the next branching quest in the story. Functionally, this means that in the end game, you will have placed either Amita or Sabal into power in Kyrat. They are also represented by the tiger and the elephant in the title screen for the game, as each represents a different animal spirit.
Like in previous Far Cry games, there are tons of guns available here. They can be looted from soldiers you kill, purchased in shops or awarded as rewards for completing certain quests or a series of quests. Once you unlock a full weapon holster, you can carry one sidearm and three other weapons. Many of the weapons in the game can have attachments like scopes, silencers and other attachments added to increase their effectiveness.
Combat is fast paced and the enemy AI is pretty good. It’s a totally open world so things do sometimes happen to confuse the enemy, like getting pinned against a building by a flying car or falling off a ledge, but for the most part it acts realistically. You can even do things like snipe people (silently with a silencer attached or with a quiet weapon like a bow) walking in a line on patrol and if you hit the ones in the back first, the people up front may not notice until it’s their turn. In addition to all the guns, you also have a supply of mines, grenades and even bait (which is used to attract dangerous wildlife) at your disposal to use in combat or to set up ambushes.
Of course there are vehicles in the game too. The control for most of them is a little bit off I think, or at least it seems more difficult to control them than say, cars in Grand Theft Auto V which have a much more natural feel. However, Far Cry 4’s controls are very simple, using just the left stick to move. You just point where you want to go. There is even an auto drive feature which when activated keeps a car on the road with no need to steer. It’s used mostly so that you can aim and shoot with your sidearm while driving because doing both at the same time would be impossible. In addition to the normal vehicles and boats, there is now an ultra-light vehicle that you can fly around in. Although it has an upper ceiling which keeps it from being too powerful, it’s nearly game breaking anyway. Once you learn how to fly it properly, you can equip a good sidearm (like the grenade launcher) and easily complete most attack type missions while only taking minimal damage. I fancied myself as the Kyrat air force and was quite a force to be reckoned with. You can even use the little helicopter to take you to the top of some bell towers, eliminating the need to climb all the way to the top of each one. I’m not saying the new vehicle is a bad thing, just that players should really learn how to use it if they want to exploit quite an advantage.
The wildlife is also prominently featured in Far Cry 4, which builds on how it was in Far Cry 3. The whole country is populated by dangerous beasts now, and even small animals like wild dogs and honey badgers can rapidly take you down if you’re not careful. On the plus side, the addition of elephants, which you can ride if you have the correct skill, make for an interesting strategic choice that are quite powerful.
Multiplayer has also been given a serious upgrade. You can now invite your friends to play with you online to help you complete missions, even if they don’t own the game. On the PlayStation 4, you have ten keys to distribute to friends so that they can help out, and experience the game before buying it themselves. You can also randomly jump into someone else’s game who is asking for help, or bring in other game owners for challenging missions. Pure multiplayer is a bit different than in Far Cry 3. With Far Cry 4, you have Golden Path versus Royal Army fighting, and they have different weapons at their disposal. Some of the levels are actually kind of tactical as opposed to a total run and gun affair.
Far Cry 4 is a ton of fun, and that fun should last a long time. There is literally hundreds of hours worth of content if you try and do everything. Even just wandering around will trigger missions. And that does not even consider multiplayer. Even if you somehow made a beeline and tried to just do the main story missions (why you would I don’t know) you are still talking about probably 30 or so hours of content. That a lot of time to spend inside this beautiful, hyper violent world. While not quite perfect, Far Cry 4 is certainly a candidate for Game of the Year.