Far Cry 4 – Review



Just as with films, the video game industry is fuelled by blockbuster sequels. An established brand already popular enough to warrant expansion is inherently a safer investment than journeying into uncharted waters and trying something new. By virtue, sequels are not villainous or opposed to the tastes of the public – rather, it is the public’s impassioned fervour that dictates the continued retreading of familiar ground. The danger of sequels is stagnancy, relying too much on the strengths of previous incarnations than establishing new avenues of exploration. Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4 shows us a series that whilst not entirely out of new ideas, is content to rest up upon past glories.


Far Cry 4 has one of the more unique opening premises I’ve ever played in a video game. Indian-American Ajay Ghale (pronounced both “A.J. Gale” and “R.J. Gar-lay” to dizzying effect) is taking his recently-deceased’s mothers ashes to the fictitious Indian nation of Kyrat. A country ravaged by typical third-world civil war, Ajay is immediately besotted upon by local warlord-come-king, Pagan Min. Pagan, whilst simultaneously capturing and torturing a friendly guerrilla leader, reveals that the relationship between the Ghales, the civil war and Pagan himself is far more intricate than first thought.


Following a daring attack launched by the rebel army, the Golden Path, Ajay is immediately thrown head first into the open conflict. Within minutes, the player is mowing down a half-dozen soldiers on quad bikes with nary a care in the world. The idiosyncrasy of combining such a sombre opening and Ajay’s unwavering acceptance of murder within the first five minutes of gameplay is immediately unsettling. Over the course of the story, Ajay’s continued help given to the Golden Path renders what could have been a thematically interesting narrative beat to little more that a paper-thin ruse designed to elicit cheap emotion.


Besides some opening inconsistencies, numerous lessons have clearly been learned since the storytelling mistakes of Far Cry 3. A strong emphasis on character building is devoted to Pagan and his three lieutenants: Paul “De Pluer”, an American businessman in love with the chaos and power of Kyrat; Noore, the Queen of the local Man vs. Animal slaughterdome, trapped and blackmailed by inescapable ransom; and Yuma, Pagan’s second in command, obsessed with reaching Shangri-La, the promised land. The investment in the characters is well realized, with players learning to equally pity, condemn and abhor the fanatical four. As their tales each come to a close, their removal from the narrative leaves the player with simultaneous feelings of satisfaction and loss. Creating villains that you both want to beat and want to save is a delicate balance to maintain, but is pulled off beautifully here.


Far Cry 4 - Characters
The wonderful facial animation and great voice acting makes for some highly believable characters.


Rather than just follow orders blindly, Ajay is frequently tasked with resolving the escalating tensions between the two leaders of the Golden Path: the fiercely traditional Sabal, and the trend-bucking revolutionary, Amita. Their disagreements regarding the future of the Golden Path require Ajay to step in and determine the course of action to be undertaken. Completing a mission at the behest of one denies the other, leading to increasingly hostile confrontations. The pure venom and hatred elicited as Ajay directly impedes one of their visions of the future is truly frightening. It’s a testament to the fantastic voice acting and character animations that their impassioned speeches and shouts dripping with tangible rage are more akin to what you’d find in film, than from a simple video game.


There haven’t been a whole lot of differentiations made to the core gameplay from previous Far Cry titles. Kyrat is a positively massive location, filled to the brim with hundreds upon hundreds of discoverable locations and collectibles. Almost every building and settlement within the greater nation is its own named location, complete with two or three trinkets to discover or herbs to harvest. The wide open landscape between locales is densely populated with scores of wild animals and harvestable flora, which can be hunted and used to create new permanent upgrades and short-term buffs. The shift in locale to India allows for a change in the variety of animals to be found: Rideable elephants, snow leopards, yaks and rhinos all meander around the dense jungles of Kyrat, haranguing each other and foraging for food. Stealth killing animals with bows yield higher amounts of loot as opposed to using firearms, forcing the player to determine what is the best choice for their current situation. I can tell you first hand that trying to bow-hunt a charging rhino is not a pleasant experience.


Disappointingly, there haven’t been any real changes to the animal AI over Far Cry 3. Docile creatures still just seemingly stand around waiting to be shot, whilst predators will run directly up at you to ruin your day. It seems like there are far greater numbers of aggressive animals than ever before, with packs of wild dogs, honey badgers and leopards getting in your face constantly. By far the worst, however, is the seemingly apocalyptic plague of gigantic, big-enough-to-steal-a-deer eagles that terrorize the skies. They strike from nowhere, doing a crazy amount of damage and are damn difficult to shoot without resorting to napalm-based weaponry. You will frequently see swarms of Kyrati civilians screaming and shooting at the sky, trying to prevent the two-winged Riders Of The Apocalypse from ending their lives. Pray that these Hitchcockian, avian nightmares never find a way to leave the fictional Kyrat, or all of our lives are in danger.


Far Cry 4 - Rhinos
You need to think very, very carefully about attack strategies when you come across a rhino.


Far Cry 4 is a beautiful world to explore, and is made all the more interesting by choosing a setting rarely explored in video games. Traditional Indian culture has so many interesting dynamics that are available to explore, and are intelligently layered throughout the background from beginning to end. There’s an overreaching sense of differentiation of culture, from the music to the sights and sounds that serves as intelligent set dressing. In the eyes of this poorly travelled Australian reviewer, it elicits a sense of authenticity and interest that I both wasn’t expecting and am not used to being highlighted. It’s a setting well due for exploration again.


Far Cry 4 is a long game by 2014 standards, with a fairly thorough romp taking within the ballpark of 30 hours. The ludicrously large map and gigantic number of collectibles helps pad this number out, but the act of exploration and discovery is still enjoyable. Some very clever design decisions relating to collectibles help resolve any feelings of repetition by the player. In the
progression menu, the player can see exactly how many of each collectible they have gathered at that time, and how close they are to the next reward. By cleverly staggering the rewards given for completing these open-world stalwarts, the game adds weight and importance to a mechanic that is traditionally used to pad out a title, rather than positively contribute towards it.


Far Cry 4 - Battles
The battles between Pagan Min’s loyal soldiers and the Golden Path break out constantly across the map, rewarding the player for intervening. It’s a cool way to add some dynamism to the jungles.


Unfortunately, Far Cry 4’s biggest fault is that it’s still Far Cry 3 at its core: same game, different sari. The mission varieties, methods for taking over outposts, bell tower designs and hunting challenges all play out exactly the same was as they did in 2012. The change in theme does add a new spice to the mix, but there’s a strong feeling of familiarity to every single thing action you complete.


The map editor, co-op campaign and multiplayer components of Far Cry 4 aren’t particularly noteworthy, with each detracting from the single player experience. The co-op integration into the game is poor, with my enjoyment of the title severely hampered each time I tried to engage in it. Load times, which are already hugely long (some in the realm of two or three minutes), were exponentially extended whenever I engaged with Co-op. Whenever I could get a game to work, I experienced significant frame-rate drops. Most importantly, however, playing stealth titles in co-op is an ultimately flawed experience. I was at the mercy of the skill of my co-op partner, and was frequently left changing my own play style to match theirs. It’s not worth engaging in.


Similarly, the multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired. Five vs. Five death match in a fairly middling first-person shooter is not my idea of fun, even when the unique powers of the bow-wielding hunters are taken into account. With games like Destiny and Call of Duty being released in the recent months past, I struggle to imagine why anyone would want to play the multiplayer here long term.


The map editor can be fun, and the tools the player is given to make new worlds are quite powerful. There’s a pretty shocking amount of depth to the single-player mission maps that can be created, which left me strongly surprised – but without the single-player progression of collectibles or story, there’s nothing to drive the player forward. It ultimately feels rather hollow.


Far Cry 4 - Map Editor
The map creator is powerful, but ultimately fairly toothless.


Even with some missteps relating to multiplayer and a strong amount of repurposed content from previous titles, there is still some serious fun to be had with Far Cry 4. Pagan Min is a wonderful, if not slightly derivative central villain in a title filled with enjoyable, memorable character performances. Though some plot inconsistencies are big enough to drive a truck through and not all the characters are fantastic (stoner duo Yogi and Reggie are consistently abhorrent), the story and setting of Far Cry 4 are the true stars. The strong writing and performances of the main characters, coupled with a living, breathing, detailed world combine together wonderfully to make for a unique sequel with plenty to discover. Far Cry 4 isn’t revolutionary, but it’s fun: and above all else, you can’t ask for anything more.


Rating: 7/10