Far Cry 4 Review – That Old, Familar Feeling

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Posted December 3, 2014 by Sean Mesler in Nerdy Bits

Far Cry 4

Developed By: Ubisoft Montreal

Published By: Ubisoft

Available On: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: November 18th 2014

Far Cry 4 is at once mesmerizing and frustrating. Its sheer scope and wealth of content is almost unlike any game before it. The frustration comes from it being almost exactly like Far Cry 3, which, I might add, was my personal Game of the Year back in 2012. A sleeper hit that took almost everyone by surprise for its gorgeous rendering of a tropical landscape, its ambitious, bursting-at-the-seams content and its highly addictive, open world gameplay. Flash-forward just shy of 2 years later and almost literally, I can say all of the same things about Far Cry 4. Which is both a great thing and slightly disappointing at the same time. The game feels like taking two steps forward, but remaining in the same place – but what a great place it is.

The game begins as the player, Ajay Ghale (prounounced “Ah-jay Gah-lay”) arrives to his country of birth, Kyrat, which is in the midst of a civil are between the rebels in the Golden Path and the Royal Army of Pagan Min. the despot King of Kyrat. Whom, we find out in the opening scene, has a history with Ajay’s mother, who has passed away and asked Ajay to return to Kyrat to spread her ashes. It’s not long before Ajay finds his way to the Golden Path and he begins assisting them in their rebellion against Pagan Min. The Golden Path is suffering from its own turmoil as two potential leaders vie for the position; Sabal, who is seeking to honor and restore the traditions of Kyrat, and Amita, who thinks Sabal is stuck in the past and is trying to take Kyrat into the future.

The story isn’t that bad, in retrospect, but how it’s presented is kind of a mess. Throughout the game Sabal and Amita remain at adds and as such, Ajay must choose who to side with on specific missions. Doing so will change the next mission or two as the aspiring leader takes control over the Golden Path and dictates the next courses of action. Then Ajay is presented with another choice and the pattern continues. This wouldn’t be so bad, except the game plays coy with each leader’s true motivations until you’ve completed the mission their way and then you’re left either regretting your choice or affirming it. I’m all for moral quandaries in narratives, but when the person berating you for not siding with them withheld key information from you prior to your decision, it’s kind of frustrating and it comes off as artificial.

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The side missions are actually the worst parts of the game, because they each follow a specific type of formula and the quest givers are universally terrible characters. Especially Yogi and Reggie. These two are squatters in your family home and each and every time you see them for a quest, they dope Ajay up and Ajay spends the next 5 minutes in a drug induced state trying to find them and his gear. While the trips are definitely increasingly trippy, the whole ordeal is just pointless and what’s worse, they serve to make Ajay seem like an idiot because he keeps falling for it. Longinus fairs a little better. The Bible quoting gun’s dealer at lease offers suped up guns as parts of his mission, but most of what he said to me passed into one ear and out the other as indiscernible nonsense.

There is also a relatively pointless character named Willis who claims to have information regarding Ajay’s mother and father. While he’s amusing enough, his missions are actually some of the best and most varied in the game since he takes you off the map and into the Himalayan’s, snow covered mountains.

What is impressive about the game is how funny it is. While the violence is brutal and graphic, most of the side characters and are all a little ridiculous and provides the Far Cry franchise with some much needed, slightly bent, humor.

The real star of the show is Kyrat. Huge and gorgeous, the world of Kyrat offers players a massive playground with so much to do that it’s almost overwhelming. Between story missions, I was able to hunt, race, defuse bombs, carjack Royal Army cargo trucks, assassinate Royal Army Captains, destroy propaganda posters, collect “haunted” masks, there was always something to distract me and keep me entertained. Then there are also the side missions of climbing radio towers and taking over even outposts and fortresses. These play out exactly as the did in Far Cry 3 – tag as many enemies in the area as possible with your camera, then try to take them all out with your arsenal without raising the alarm or being detected. Doing so will earn you a greater amount of XP which can be used to upgrade your skills, failing to do so doesn’t really change much other than fighting more enemies and getting less XP.

Early on, the outposts are more of a challenge because you won’t be able to carry as many weapons and syringes that aids the process immeasurably. Later in the game, however, I was taking over outposts in under a minute, undetected. While some may scoff at being that overpowered, I enjoyed the ease of which I was able to move in, take everyone out and expend little to no ammunition.

Fortresses are larger outposts and depending on where you are in the story, can either be more difficult or exponentially easier. Each outpost belongs to a “boss,” and if attempted before they’re taken out through the course of the story, means you’ll face more enemies in the fortress themselves as well as when the alarm is raised.

As mentioned earlier, earning XP will afford the player upgrades that range from takedowns, how much health can be healed from medical syringes, how much damage bulletproof vests can take, to how long the effects of hunting syringes lasts and so. Crafting also remains largely unchanged – kill and skin a specific amount of a specific animal and you can make better holsters, ammo bages, syringe carriers, etc. Again, if you’ve played Far Cry 3, you know what to expect here.

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This is a recurring theme throughout my experience with Far Cry 4. The geography may be different, but far and wide, the gameplay, the systems, the structure is nearly identical to Far Cry 3, and depending on how one felt about the previous game, your enjoyment may vary. Personally, Far Cry 3 was my Game of the Year so getting what is essentially Far Cry 3 part 2, is extremely okay with me, but I would be lying if I said, Far Cry 4 lacks in the surprises and the awe I felt when first experiencing Far Cry 3.

To Ubisoft Montreal’s credit, they do improve many of the previous game’s mechanics, streamline others and do throw some new toys into the mix. The two biggest things I noticed were wildlife and traversal. There are far more animals in Kyrat than there were in Far Cry 3’s Rook Islands. And more wildlife means more ways to die. Elephants are probably the most notable addition to the formula because they can be used as vehicles and as a weapon. Riding an elephant into an enemy outpost and tossing and trampling enemies to death is a great deal more fun than I had ever anticipated. Another new animal of note is the honey badger. These little creatures are tough, aggressive and ruthless. Many a time, especially early in the game when quality and effective weapons were scarce, being attacked by one of these would mean certain death. Yes, death by honey badger is a very real thing in Far Cry 4.

Getting around the map has never been more fun than it is here, in Far Cry 4. Kyrat is a huge, sprawling area, and Ubisoft Montreal has provided a measurable amount of improvements in how you will traverse the landscape going from point A to B as well as points C through Z, depending on your penchant for being distracted. Want to climb up the face of a mountain? Look for climbing rope up the side and use your grappling hook, want to cross a canyon? Jump off and use your wingsuit. Want to get to a new tower or outpost and avoid roads? Use a Buzzer Gyrocopter. Even driving is improved with the new auto-drive feature. Clicking in the left stick while behind the wheel of a ground vehicle will set it on auto-drive and you can kick back and cruise. It also makes shooting while driving much more manageable. Even better, you can set a waypoint and the vehicle will just drive there. It’s not without its quirks though, because it seems that no one told the AI how to react to vehicles headed towards them because they will not get out of the way on foot and will drive headlong into you in a car.

As hard as it is to imagine having your fill of running around Kyrat by yourself, exploring, shooting, looting, hunting and so on, Far Cry 4 also offers a decent amount of multiplayer/community options. From running around Kyrat and taking over outposts with a buddy (or stranger, if you can find a game) in co-op or playing Battles of Kyrat competitive multiplayer with 4 game modes, and its unique, arrows vs guns gameplay, there is more to do. Unfortunately, Far Cry 4 doesn’t scream multiplayer and either I had no luck finding matches in anything but Quickplay, or the community for competitive is DOA.

Thankfully, there are the Map Browser and Map Editor to dive into. Like previous Far Cry games, included on the disc is a map creator suite that is incredibly robust. Unlike previous Far Cry games, rather than multiplayer maps, players will create enemy outposts, hunting zones to hunt animals, extraction zones that require you to escape enemy territories and basic assault maps in which the player is tasked to kill every enemy in sight. It’s incredibly robust, full of not only objects and terrain, but also enemy and animal AI. There’s a lot to dig into here and if you don’t feel like creating your own, you can enter the Map Browser and play some of the user generated maps in all of their serious or wacky glory. One map I played peppered the area with tons of enemies and game the player unlimited ammo and invincibility. Another put me on a higher level than an open encampment and a sniper rifle. There’s plenty to do here and adds a lot of value to the already huge game.

At the end of my time with Far Cry 4 for this review, I had played for exactly 33 hours and 22 minutes, with an overall completion of 62.58%. That’s a lot of time and I still had plenty more to do. Adding the ability to reset all of the outposts and fortresses you can easily add on dozens of hours to your game clock. It’s impressive that Ubisoft Montreal has accomplished such a polished, robust and ambitious game in less than 2 years, but they’ve done it – even if that comes at the expense of doing anything truly new and revolutionary. While Far Cry 4’s story is messy and some of the side characters don’t resonate, it’s still a blast to play and at the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?


About the Author

Sean Mesler

Sean is a semi-retired hardcore kid, semi-grown up and transplanted from his original home of New York to Los Angeles. A lover and critic of movies, music and video games, Sean is always quick with an opinion, a heaping dose of snark, and a healthy dose of pragmatism. PSN & Live Gamertag: N2NOther