Danger lurks under every bush.
Looking into the night sky of Kyrat, the fictional Himalayan country that serves as setting to Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4, players may very well find themselves staring at the same stars they would have seen in the sky above the tropical island setting for Far Cry 3. Things are colder this time around, and a lot less tropical, but the similarities between the two games are still quite apparent.
Once again, the player is thrown into a world that they know nothing of, an alien world in which a volatile and unpredictable dictator squares off against a resistance movement that the player finds themselves linked to. Pagan Min wants nothing but the best for Kyrat, or for himself, and the resistance wants the best for the people, although the methods of achieving this differ greatly between the two resistance leaders.
The player takes on the role of Ajay Ghale, a young man who has returned to Kyrat after leaving as a child to scatter the ashes of his dead mother. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when Ajay discovers that he is the son of a famous member of the resistance, The Golden Path, and thus of interest to both Pagan Min and the civil war effort. After being thrown in at the deep end with a baptism of fire introducing some of the games mechanics, the player will get to meet the current Golden Path leaders, Amita and Sabal, each with their own ideas on how to approach the conflict, and choices will have to be made as to which of the leaders to help.
Story missions will present themselves on the massive, mostly hidden, map. As before, the player will uncover the map through finding and disabling towers that are strewn around the wild country of Kyrat, clambering to the top, usually amidst a hail of gunfire and a very real risk of falling. Reach the top and disable Pagan Min’s rambling propaganda and the map will reveal itself, showing not only the actual locations of the story missions, but also a wealth of other activities that will make your stay in Kyrat feel much more like an adventure holiday than a fight for your life.
From raiding forts and rescuing hostages, to gathering plants to mix into mind-altering concoctions and hunting animals for their skins, there really is a lot to do in this open world, and the player has the absolute freedom to do what they want. As each tower is liberated and the area surrounding it revealed, the map will become more and more littered with little icons giving the player yet another excuse to go off and do something other than what they planned. Maintaining focus is a real challenge in Far Cry 4, as distractions that lure the player away from their mission are around every corner.
The gameplay itself is fairly solid first-person shooter fare, with a nice variety of different weapons that slowly become unlocked as the player progresses through the game. There are stealth mechanics that will allow the more cautious player, or perhaps the more sensible player, to lessen the threat. There is plenty of climbing to be had, and a nice collection of vehicles to make the traveling shorter, including a wicked little single-person helicopter that feels as though it may simply fall apart at any minute, hundreds of feet in the air. As they progress, the player will be awarded with points to spend in either the way of the Tiger or the Elephant to unlock new skills and abilities, such as being able to ride an elephant around for example, or simply to become tougher and more capable.
All in all, Far Cry 4 is a very enjoyable, and absolutely massive, game which doesn’t stray too far from the formula of the previous game in the series. However, there are a few highlights that really make the game stand out as being one of the best games this year…
The wondrous country of Kyrat is a real highlight. It stands in stark contrast to the setting from Far Cry 3, with its mountainous terrain, untamed forests and scattered settlements. It is absolutely beautiful as well, making exploring the country a real joy. Whilst the distance between objectives may seem like a chore at times, there is always something to do or something to look at along the way. Kyrat may be in the midst of a civil war, but it still looks like a lovely place to visit.
But perhaps not alone. The story missions may be locked to the single player, but everything else can be enjoyed with a friend in co-op. Taking down an enemy base with a buddy is brilliant fun, but so is simply exploring. Ubisoft have managed to nail the co-op game in Far Cry 4, and it really is hugely fun, resulting in the best co-op experience in a long time. There is a multiplayer option which takes place outside of the open world, with a few different match types available. But this feels mostly throwaway and will not be able to compete with the dedicated multiplayer games around at the moment. The co-op is where the fun is, but if you don’t happen to have a buddy handy, worry not. Players can obtain tokens that allow AI resistance fighters to join the player is particularly difficult missions. It is not quite the same, but at least it gives the player options.
However, the biggest highlight, and indeed star of the show, is the wildlife. Pagan Min may be a deliciously psychopathic character to be facing off against, but it is the animals in Far Cry 4 that are the real bad guys. The difficulty level in Far Cry 4 feels higher than that of the previous game, and this is largely due to the AI which controls, quite cunningly, the enemy soldiers and the animals in the game. Whilst the soldiers make sensible decisions to make the players life more difficult, they can be understood. It is the random aggression of the wildlife that will throw the player.
One can understand being cautious around tigers, and perhaps not being surprised when being attacked by a rhino that the player has just shot in the face. But damn if those honey badgers aren’t the most evil creature around, running out of bushes and attacking the player just when they are stealthily stalking an enemy soldier. Or the eagles which swoop down from above and attack for no other reason than they have taken a dislike to the players face. The wildlife is varied in Far Cry 4, and mostly quite horrible.
I am an animal lover, and in no way pro-hunting, so the idea of killing animals to harvest their skins and upgrade my own equipment does not sit particularly well with me. However, the wildlife in Far Cry 4 is so nasty that it quite regularly becomes a fight for survival, so taking their skins if the player manages to live through the encounter doesn’t seem so bad. And I now shoot honey badgers on sight, just because…
Far Cry 4 doesn’t make huge leaps from the previous game in the series, but that really doesn’t matter. It is a huge open world shooter with a massive sense of freedom in which the player will have an absolute ton of different things to do. Far Cry 4 is great fun, and it has honey badgers – what more could you want?