Far Cry 4 Review
The thrill of the hunt
Some modern franchises, including Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed, are often criticized for their familiarity and yearly iterations. Far Cry has managed to avoid the yearly release schedule, thus allowing for more time to innovate and present a notably different experience with each iteration. Far Cry 4, however, is a game that features many very familiar elements for those that played the great Far Cry 3 two years ago. To say that this is the same experience with a new coat of paint may be harsh, but it will ring true for some players. Even so, it's more of the same great gameplay, so what's wrong with that?
You are Ajay Ghale, a young man who finds himself in his homeland nation of Kyrat. His goal seems simple, to fulfill his mother's dying wish by spreading her ashes in the mountains. But alas, upon arriving he is tangled up with the maniacal ruler Pagan Min, and his civil war against the local rebellion called The Golden Path. The game's plot remains a relative afterthought compared to the gameplay, but we'd still hoped that Ubisoft would do better. Min has all the traits of a proper sociopath, not unlike Vaas from Far Cry 3. But like Vaas, the box cover villain barely spends any time in our company to truly appreciate the madness behind his ways. He at least holds more of a presence via occasional radio chatter.
The rest of the plot unravels in a predictable fashion, with sometimes basic dialog and Ajay's personality being blander than Jason Brody's. The developers did try to mix things up by offering an occasional choice to make between what missions to undertake, but overall the campaign is relatively short and moves at a quick pace, pushing out deeper into Kyrat quickly. Aside from the main game world, players will also get to visit Shangri-La via drug-induced trips, where you and a friendly tiger must fight mythological beings on a path to enlightenment. There's also an arena mode, where you'll be facing off against waves of human and animal enemies.
But it's the open world setting of Kyrat that is the main attraction of Far Cry 4. This fictional region is based on the Himalayan regions in Nepal, with beautiful greenery at the foothills, deep caverns and steep cliffs, all the way to the snowy peaks. It's definitely an impressive natural environment with unique architecture and soundtrack, that will sometimes remind players of Uncharted 2. The core concepts of exploration, combat, and crafting are carried over from Far Cry 3 in almost identical fashion. You'll still be climbing radio towers to reveal the surrounding area map and get rewarded with free guns for your efforts. You'll free camps from enemy occupation, and these will become your safe heavens and fast travel points. And of course, you'll hunt animals for their materials to upgrade your inventory, and collect various flowers to craft syringes for temporary ability boosts.
If this all sounds familiar, it should. But that doesn't make the game world any less enticing or the gameplay any less exhilarating. Far Cry 4 evokes the feelings of being a deadly predator – both to humans and animals – like no other, and it's a fantastic thrill. Infiltrating enemy camps by stealth, picking off hostiles and moving their bodies before anyone notices, and performing clean operations without raising an alarm is exciting every time. Or, you ride into the camp atop an elephant, guns blazing. The freedom of choice for approach and tactics means that few open-world activities ever play out the same, and the thrill never seems to fade. And of course, you could just have Mother Nature do the work for you – using the new bait inventory item to lure predators to an area, and letting them clear the camp for you. The interaction with animals remains a unique aspect of Far Cry, and it's just as excellent here as it was two years ago.
Mimicking Far Cry 3’s crafting system, you’ll need to collect the pelts of Kyrat’s thriving animal population in order to create better items, including weapon holsters, loot bags, ammo pouches and other useful items. The animals you come across will behave randomly and unpredictably, so caution is always advised, especially against predators. There are still some annoyances - such as animal packs not spawning when you need them for your next crafting item, or the randomly attacking eagles, or the impossibly tough badgers. But on the whole, interacting with the wildlife is usually exciting and always beneficial. It should be noted that animal lovers will definitely want to proceed with caution, as you'll be skinning a lot of helpless creatures to increase your capabilities.
There are a few new elements that streamline or add to the overall experience. For example, collecting green herbs will now auto-craft health syringes. A new auto-pilot feature will keep your vehicle on the road and travelling to the set destination on the map, while you can now shoot foes while driving. You still earn experience, this time split into two different paths, and with a sequential progression for each range of abilities. A grappling hook has been added to give the game have more verticality, yet it is only usable in specific locations, thus still keeping your paths linear. Finally, there's now a Karma system that rewards you with points for completing random open world activities, and unlocking new items to buy in the shop.
When you aren't undertaking story missions, or giving in to your ADD and hunting for animals, collectibles, clearing camps and so forth, there are plenty of bite-sized activities to undertake. The open world itself will have random events, such as firefights between Min's forces and rebels, delivery trucks to hijack and return to the people, and armed convoys to take out. Side quests fall into a number of categories, from hunting rare animals, performing target assassinations, or rescuing hostages. Most of these activities are a more focused way to experience what the open world of Kyrat has to offer, and still reward you for your efforts. Despite their similarity to Far Cry 3 and indeed each other, the side quests are still usually engaging and entertaining due to their short length and focused objectives.
To take on all that the game has to offer, there is an impressive arsenal of weapons at your disposal. The classic bow will be your go-to toy for animal hunting, as clean kills yield better loot, however humans are susceptible to it as well. But if you prefer standard weaponry, there's a large assortment of handguns, rifles, machine guns, and now specialist weapons. That last category contains guns that are only unlocked via completing certain side quests, but the reward is usually well worth it. Standard guns can be outfitted with attachments, such as scopes and silencers, as well as custom paint. All of the weapons handle excellently and with some real weight, so firefights are usually very satisfying.