Platform reviewed: PS4
The toughest decision you’ll need to make in Far Cry 4 is what to do next. Maybe you’ll ride an elephant through a rebel village flipping over cars with your powerful trunk, or grab your bow, head for the forests and take up the more leisurely pursuit of killing Honey Badgers. Alternatively, you might jump into a gyrocopter with a RPG strapped to your back and wreak havoc from above on a passing enemy convoy before looting all the bodies and fleeing the area on the back of an ATV that your PSN buddy is driving.
You might then ‘flip him the bird’, just because you can, and he might deliberately drive over the edge of a cliff causing you to trigger your wingsuit and make a hasty landing into a lake full of Demon Fish and enemies patrolling in speedboats. Not to worry though, as you may soon see him arrive from the distance in his own boat to pick you up, only his is equipped with a machine-gun turret.
Jumping into the gunner’s position, you could decide to take out the enemies swiftly and head for the nearest outpost, where you might throw a piece of meat at the feet of a group of guards and sit back and watch as a Clouded Leopard tears them apart, before steaming in with assault rifles and grenade launchers to send the outpost up in smoke. After all the carnage, you might want a bit of peace and quiet again and head out into the wilderness to track down Wild Boar before skinning them and making a wallet so that you can carry all the loot that you’ve just found scattered throughout Krayt. I think it’s fair to say: Far Cry 4 is all about player choice.
As Far Cry 4’s new protagonist, Ajay Khale returns to his homeland of Kryat in what should be a simple trip to scatter his mother’s ashes. From the moment he steps off the train, Ajay is drawn into the civil war which has broken out across Kryat between the army of despotic king Pagin Min and a rebel organisation called the Golden Path. From this point forth, players are embroiled in a power struggle, not just between the two rival factions but also with the two primary leaders within the Golden Path who have different visions on the way things should be run.
This leads to an interesting new concept for the Far Cry series in which players can shift the balance of power between the two leaders, Anita and Sabal, by choosing which quests to accept. For example, Sabal will ask you to burn down an Opium field in one mission as he wants to rid Kryat from the corruption of drugs, while Anita will request that you takeover and protect the fields so the organisation can profit from its ill-gains. Though the full impact of these choices doesn’t really seem to make that much difference to the storyline until you get near the end of the game, the missions are often dramatic, exciting and full of action; it’s through these NPC-triggered missions, with the likes of Yogi and Reggi and their mind-expanding drugs and former warlord Longinus, that Far Cry 4 shows off some of the personality that was so distinct in Far Cry 3.
Indeed, the cast is excellent and some of the characters memorable for their dry wit and quirky personalities, while others are annoyingly over-the-top, like Rabi Ray Rana and his repetitive radio station rants. The billboard and box-art baddie Pagin Min is one of the highlights and when this impeccably dressed psycho first arrives on the scene, savaging one of his own soldiers repeatedly with a knife to the throat, the Kryat leader shows vast potential to be one of video game’s most ruthless and memorable bad guys. Voiced impeccably by Troy Baker, he’s a brilliant character acted out superbly with some great lines penned by the story’s writers. What’s disappointing though, is that Min rarely appears in the game at all.
Consequently, what could have been one of the most memorable bad guys of all time, doesn’t quite live up to the billing of Far Cry 3’s psychopath Vaas Montenegro in terms of his stature and presence in the game, which is slightly disappointing considering the impact he makes at the beginning of the story. The same goes for new main character Ajay, who feels a little short on personality due to the fact that he rarely speaks and there isn’t much of a chance to get to know him. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that it didn’t really bother me that the narrative and main characters failed to grip me as much as in Far Cry 3; I was too busy having fun to care.
Within 30 minutes of starting the game, the map is littered with icons offering so much choice it’s initially a little overwhelming. There’s Bell Towers to climb to unlock fogged-out areas of the map, outposts to take over that then unlock even more missions, such as vehicle races, survival challenges, and Fashion quests where you need to track down furs, skins and feathers for the local designer. There are fortresses to penetrate, caves to loot, assassination and rescue missions to complete, and a ton of objectives laid out by the various colourful characters of Kryat, which often provide some entertaining backstories. Then there are plants to collect, so you can craft syringes to give you performance-enhancing boosts, and also a ton of collectibles to find, from propaganda posters and lost letters to spinning Mani wheels and Masks. Everything you do in Kryat is worth the effort too as you earn XP and money to buy weapons and equipment, and unlock new skills to make your character more powerful.
Character progression is well-paced and the more XP you earn the stronger you get, with the likes of weapon switching becoming faster and cool moves like the handgun takedown offering you more ways to kill enemies. The economy in Far Cry 4 is excellent too with players earning money that can be spent on better weapons, equipment and armour. There’s a good balance between reward and challenge, ensuring you really need to work and get out there and do stuff for cash in order to get the cool stuff, such as a range of signature weapons that deliver powerful damage to enemies. The hunting mechanic is also incredibly addictive, offering a much more slower-paced experience to the numerous scraps you’ll find yourself in. With the ability to craft more slots from the skins you collect for the likes of your ammo bag, hunting soon becomes a necessity, but it’s also a lot of fun stalking your prey through the undergrowth and waiting for exactly the right moment to fire an arrow into its body.
Indeed, Far Cry 4 offers a lot of different type of challenges, and there’s a number of reasons that make these objectives fun to carry out. First up, is the unpredictable nature of the game and freedom of choice. You can be on your way to meet Anita, for example, for the next Golden Path mission and soon stumble across a Karma Event where friendlies are being attacked by a pack of animals, or you might spot a group of Pagan’s vehicles coming down the road which can be sabotaged for XP and cash. You might stumble across a Bengal Tiger and stop to kill it when you realise that you need its skin to help you craft extra space for your loot bag, or perhaps see a Bell Tower in the distance and make the decision to take a detour to unlock that area. There’s so much going on, there’s enough content to last weeks, even months. The only annoying factor is getting interrupted constantly when you’re on your way to a mission because yet another enemy vehicle pulls up in front of you and starts shooting; dying after making a 1000-2000 metre trek can be very frustrating.
One of the other fun things about Far Cry 4 is the way in which you traverse land, sea and air to reach your destination. Far Cry 4 has a ton of vehicles which can be driven, and the addition of an auto-travel option now means that you can simply click the right analog stick and it will take you directly there. The driving mechanics are smooth and it’s good fun hurtling around the mountain paths at break-neck speeds in the likes of an ATV. The real highlight, however, comes from soaring across the lakes and forests in a hang glider, activating the wing suit and flying through the air like superman or taking in some impressive sights in the gyrocopter.
Then there’s the weapons, of course. With sniper rifles, mines, sticky grenades and upgrades available, such as a silencers, there’s the option to tackle enemies stealthily, tagging soldiers with your binoculars and using takedown skills to systematically dispatch them. Or, you can just go charging in on the hind of an elephant with a grenade launcher in hand, or on foot with an assault rifle and RPG. The weapons handle impeccably, feel weighty and really pack a punch while enemy A.I. largely does a good job at providing a real challenge and taking up intelligent positions during battles. I say “largely” as Far Cry 4 isn’t without it’s odd A.I. hiccup and glitch with enemies doing “the running man” on the spot, or failing to work out where you are despite you standing right in front of them. It’s also a little annoying when you start a mission only to realise that you could have done with equipping a different type of weapon, such as a sniper rifle, so then have to quit the mission, go back to your safehouse, select it and start again.
The impressive-looking world of Kryat also plays a huge part in the game and spans a huge area filled with caves, camps and fortresses set against the backdrop of the Himalayas. In truth though, the steep-sided mountain peaks, alpine glaciers and acre-spanning valleys aren’t quite as attractive to traverse as Far Cry 3’s sun-drenched beaches, grassy knolls and colourful settlements. Though Kryat is teaming with impressive wildlife and hidden secrets, you’ll be doing a fair amount of slow-paced, and quite dull, mountain climbing with the grappling hook where you’ll be begging for a gyrocopter to get you from A to B more quickly; even though you’re restricted to the height it will travel.
It’s not all mountains and climbing though as there’s plenty to explore, including a new area called Shangri-La which offers a nice change of scenery for some missions and looks stunning with its blood-red rivers and eye-catching Japanese maple trees. During these missions, players have access to primitive weapons only with the likes of assault rifles traded in for knives, while an invisible armoured tiger can be commanded to attack enemies. Indeed, the use of animals in Far Cry 4 is superb with wildlife being both a hindrance and a help. Riding an elephant into an outpost, for example, is pure carnage and a lot of fun, though getting stampeded by a Rhino while you’re out in the sticks hunting Wolves goes to prove the unpredictability of wildlife in the game, which certainly keep you on your toes.
What cements all of Far Cry 4’s good points together is the addition of co-op play, though it’s admittedly a little disappointing that you can’t play together in the story mode. Though you can call in an A.I. companion to help you out during some of tougher encounters, such as taking over fortresses, you can also invite a friend or jump into someone else’s game. It’s a huge improvement over multiplayer in previous games, giving players the whole world of Krayt to explore and enjoy together. If you thought you were creating your own stories in solo mode, you’ll experience a whole new level of insanity in co-op mode as you work together seamlessly to cause carnage. There’s also 5 versus 5 multiplayer to get stuck into and a comprehensive map editor to create your own worlds which can then be shared and download with the community.
Far Cry 4 must have been a daunting task for its developer, Ubisoft Montreal. Having created one of the best open-world games and most immersive environments of all time with Far Cry 3, there was a relatively small margin for improvement. Nevertheless, although Far Cry 4 doesn’t quite manage to hit those heady heights of its predecessor in terms of its storyline and new locale, fans can once again look forward to a hugely entertaining game that offers a wealth of missions and a breadth of freedom and player choice that should do more than enough to keep fans totally immersed in its world for many hours.