I’ve died a lot in video games. I’ve been gnawed on by a zombie, shot dead by a Nazi, fallen into the abyss, and succumbed to the skill of another human opponent on countless occasions.
But I’ve never been involved in a bone shattering, high speed traffic accident with a rhino. And I’ve certainly never been massacred by a reasonably cute looking honey badger in the middle of a relaxing stroll.
That’s all changed since playing Far Cry 4.
The Memory Remains
You play as Ajay Ghale, one of the few first-person characters in existence who actually has their own voice (hurray!). After the death of his mother, Ajay returns to his native country of Kyrat, a fictional Nepal-inspired locale in the Himalayas, to scatter his mother’s ashes.
While riding in the back of a dilapidated bus with an inquisitive monkey for company, Ajay’s seemingly simple quest is derailed by what can only be described as a troop of trigger happy soldiers. After almost being shot in the face and becoming a jar of ashes himself, Ajay meets Far Cry 4’s well-dressed yet clearly unhinged antagonist, Pagan Min, who stabs a man in the neck, kidnaps Ajay and claims he had “relations” with Ajay’s now deceased mother. Talk about awkward introductions…
What ensues from then on is an intriguing but fractured story where Ajay Ghale is anointed as the driving force behind the Golden Path, a band of rebels who used to have ties with Ajay’s father. With Ajay’s help, the Golden Path aim to dethrone Pagan Min, the self-imposed king of Kyrat, and end his infamous reign.
Although Pagan Min is an incredibly convincing character, brought to life by the voice of Troy Baker (who also played Joel in The Last of Us), he’s tossed to the sidelines in favour of Far Cry 4’s trademark open world mayhem. This means that Min influences the plot through topical and surprisingly funny radio calls primarily.
The main focus of the game’s story is the divide that forms between the two leaders of the Golden Path, Amita and Sabal. Ajay is asked to choose sides on a number of occasions during the story, with different outcomes and missions available depending on which choices you make. Sabal is a traditionalist, while Amita is focused on doing whatever it takes to win.
Unfortunately the characters Ajay encounters during the game are generally detestable. There’s the loud, brash and politically incorrect American, Hurk; the crazed gun-touting religious enthusiast, Longinus; and even Amita, one of the game’s supposed “good guys”, is about as warm as the polar ice caps. Yes, they’re all well-animated, and the voice acting is top notch, but such divisive characters can make Kyrat feel like a lonely place, one which is better enjoyed on your own.
It may sound overly simplistic, but if you’ve played Far Cry 3 then Far Cry 4 is by all means a bigger and better version of its predecessor. That’s not a criticism by any means, as Far Cry 3 was arguably the best in the series by some margin.
What I will say, though, is that Far Cry 4 has all the hallmarks of a typical Ubisoft title: there’s a mind-bogglingly amount of side-quests, objectives, secrets and abilities to unlock; hundreds of icons, millions of markers, towers to liberate and of course, Uplay integration.
Far Cry 4 has all the hallmarks of a typical Ubisoft title.
For some, this will be reason enough to skip Far Cry 4 altogether, as the amount of activities on offer is excessive to say the least. But unlike Watch Dogs and even Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 4 offers far more freedom to the player. The end result is that Ubisoft’s daunting to-do-list actually fits the game’s formula quite well, even if there’s little to no structure on offer.
Let’s Get Loud
Far Cry 4’s sandbox gameplay helps alleviate some of the grind that arises with Ubisoft’s habit of over-indulging the player because you can tackle each situation a little differently. You’ll still be re-claiming outposts, rescuing hostages, upgrading weapons, and traversing the genuinely captivating Kyrat, but essentially you’re just relinquishing the grip of Pagan Min’s forces on the land. Thankfully there’s enough mission variety and experimentation opportunities to keep things interesting, not to mention a genuinely excellent, fully-fledged co-op mode.
Vehicles are generally fun to use, too. The skycopter is a particular highlight, reacting to the game’s vegetation and environment with astonishing accuracy. Grass and trees sway as you make your ascent, and you can even hear the branches and twigs being shredded by the skycopter blades if you fly too close.
General gun play is noticeably loose in comparison to most modern-day shooters, giving a satisfying rawness to proceedings that would be expected from someone who isn’t proficient with a weapon. There’s a wide array of arsenal to discover, including throwing knives and syringes full of natural stimulants to help aid Ajay in battle when things need to get a little… far out, man.
Flags flutter convincingly in the wind as they line the snowy mountain trails.
Stealth (which I’m pretty sure is now including in every single game apart from maybe Forza and Super Mario 3D World) is also an option, and its incorporated fairly well – a surprise when you consider the Assassin’s Creed games fail so spectacularly at implementing any sort of workable stealth mechanics…
Far Cry 4 is also a gorgeous looking game. Running on Ubisoft’s Dunia engine, flags flutter convincingly in the wind as they line the snowy mountain trails, explosions create dark plumes of thick, menacing smoke, and even the interior of a worn-out jeep is laced with trinkets and meticulous detail. For an open world title, it’s a remarkable technical achievement.
Kyrat is home to a wide variety of vicious nasties and docile inhabitants. There’s the aforementioned honey badgers, poisonous snakes which slither in the grass, packs of wild dogs and, perhaps the most feared of all, eagles…
Yes, that’s right, eagles. The majestic, feathery kings of the sky are bona fide human killing machines in Far Cry 4. “Eagle! Eagle! Look out!” I hear them cry as the winged beast dives in with its razor sharp talons splayed. Gunshots and screams fill the air and then… silence. Another victim. Another savage eagle attack.[yt_video id=”jYcc_5ahyXw”][/yt_video]
Ubisoft Montreal have clearly realised that nature is awesome, unpredictable and deadly. But humans? Well, we’re slightly dull in comparison – especially when it comes to video games. After the opening cinematic, I was half expecting to sink into another similar slog of stealth, kill, move and repeat. However, during the first half hour of the game, I was asked to bait a bear into an area occupied by a trio of guards. After chucking a lump of meat in their general direction, I watched gleefully as the guards yelled, ran and were eventually torn to shreds by my newfound bear buddy. It was like being a Pokémon master, only with bloodshed, deaths and none of the glamour. “Grizzly bear, I choose you!”
Elephants will now forever hold a destructive place in my heart.
But the fun didn’t end there. Elephants will now forever hold a destructive place in my heart. Grey, leathery, angry and massive; with the help of elephants, I’ve liberated enemy camps without even squeezing the trigger. Riding into battle atop the tusked beasts while wielding all sorts of exotic weaponry is also a timeless thrill.
So Far Cry 4 won’t win any points with animal lovers (and I’m sure the PETA organisation is frantically preparing buckets of red paint to throw over any Ubisoft employee involved), but it might just steal your heart due to the wonderful dynamics Kyrat’s crazy wildlife add to the game.
One area which is definitely soured by the game’s fauna and flora is upgrades. To level up your abilities, you need to scavenge plants and animal skins to expand even the most trivial of equipment like Ajay’s wallet. When you’re running around desperately looking for an animal you simply can’t find just to hold more items or cash, it quickly becomes an irritating affair.
A review copy of Far Cry 4 was provided courtesy of Ubisoft. The game was reviewed on Xbox One.
A Fine Send Off
A fantastic setting, another crazed villain and plenty of animal antics makes Far Cry 4’s home of Kyrat a fun place to visit. While the Ubisoft formula may be tried and tested, perhaps even burnt out, Far Cry 4 provides enough freedom for players to create some memorable moments and is oozing with exciting possibilities. Just watch out for those damn eagles – seriously, you’ve been warned.