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E3 2014: Far Cry 4 Preview: How co-op and elephants change the game

on 19 June 2014

Stepping into the exotic, beautiful, and terrifying world of Far Cry 3 was one of the greatest gaming experiences I’ve had in recent memory, so getting a chance to jump back in Ubisoft's special breed of madness in Far Cry 4 is something I couldn’t wait to try for myself. At E3 this year, I had the chance to do just that. While my time with Far Cry 4 was very limited, it was all I needed to see Ubisoft has at least one must-buy title on the near horizon, and all PSU needed to crown the game E3 2014's Best Shooter.

Unfortunately, I was not able to experience any of the new game’s campaign missions, pitting you (and your friends!) against Kyrat's self-appointed dictator, Pagan Min. Instead, myself and PSU senior editor Kyle Prahl jumped into the newly featured cooperative play of Far Cry 4, which extends across the game's vast, mountainous open world. Faced with the goal of liberating the encampment featured in the game's Sony press conference trailer, we were given three scenarios meant to simulate how a duo would attack an encampment in Far Cry 4's open world: Stealth, Fly, and Ride. I’m happy to say that the smooth and weighty controls in Far Cry 4 are essentially identical to the title’s predecessor. While no noticeable change has been made to the game’s core mechanics, several small, yet major, additions have been made to improve how Far Cry plays. At the very least, they allow for new types of action and strategy.

Stealth was the first option we chose for camp liberation. Sadly, the greatest stealth weapon of all, the compound bow, was nowhere to be seen. I can only assume it will make its triumphant return later in the full game. One of the new features in Far Cry 4 that was immediately pointed out to us was a type of cooperative marking system. Whenever your partner aims down the sights of their gun at an enemy, a small blue eye icon will appear above that enemy’s head on your screen to indicate who your partner is targeting. The same is true for when you look at an enemy--your partner sees who's in your sights. While an extremely simple addition, this is one of the best features for cooperative play that I never knew I always wanted. This new targeting feature makes having a deadly duo even more efficient in Far Cry 4's unforgiving world. This marking ability is also available anytime during cooperative play, not just restricted to specific weapons or when you aren’t detected by enemies. Another interesting mechanic noticed while playing is that enemy detection is per individual, meaning that if one of you is detected, the other can remain anonymous and continue to pick off enemies from the shadows--unless Far Cry's unrelenting forces demand more forceful backup.

The next cooperative demo, Fly, presented more of a challenge, to say the least. In this mode, we were spawned next to a small helicopter that can seat both players, one as the pilot and one as a passenger. Both players have the ability to shoot from the helicopter using their normally equipped weapons--shooting from a driving position is another new feature. Using a helicopter to get a birds-eye view of an encampment provides a great advantage in being able to see what you’re getting yourselves into, but piloting the helicopter and shooting from it is not the simplest thing to do and will take some time to properly master. Flying too close to an encampment can also be a problem, as you might alert the enemy before you’re fully prepared. The miniature helicopter is hard enough to fly without a storm of bullets to dodge. The final scenario we tried was Ride. Just as the title suggests, you get to ride right into the encampment, starting an immediate firefight, but instead of riding in the standard jeep we’ve become accustomed to in Far Cry games, Kyle and I rode in on majestic, none-too-happy elephants. I had the satisfaction of being the first to the gate and, by pressing L3, lowering my trusty steed’s head to charge through the encampment's wooden doors. As splinters flew, the guards on the other side stood dazed and confused in shock as two men on elephants wielding sawed-off shotguns stormed into the camp.