Far Cry was one of the first, if not the first open world First-Person Shooter that raised the bar considerably and demanded bigger and more ambitious ideas out of developers of the genre. Ten years later, with Far Cry 4 now out, developer Ubisoft have once again proven that the Far Cry name is still one that gamers who want a massive, thoroughly comprehensive shooters can still turn to.
For fans of the series curious to know what new things Far Cry 4 brings to the table, the answer is: everything and more. For potential newcomers, it’s safe to say that this game is one of the biggest, most fun filled shooters on the market now, the density of its content far exceeding its $60 price tag. Quite simply, Far Cry 4 contains so many things for players to do that it would be practically impossible to address all of them in one review. Suffice to say, the game brings in elements from both Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 2 to ensure that there is a much, much greater diversity of fun filled activities aside from taking over outposts. More on this later.
From the get go, the most immediately impressive aspect of Far Cry 4 is its Himalayan setting, rendered with eye-watering beauty by its modified Dunia Engine 2. Unlike Far Cry 3’s tropical paradise, the Nepalese/Tibetan styled region of Kyrat has a more rugged look that combines lush forests with snow-covered mountains. The improved level of detail over the previous game is remarkable, and quite frankly it’s hard to imagine a videogame looking any better.
More notable are the inhabitants of Kyrat, who feel more alive than the dead-eyed denizens of FC 3’s Rook Island. As the American-educated Ajay Ghale, you can’t help but feel a sense of cameraderie with members of the Golden Path rebellion you are fighting with. Soldiers seeing you triumph over the Kyrat Royal Army will pump their fists in the air and fire their AK-47s, and best of all, you can call on them to help you out on any task. It’s worth noting that, for the first time in the series, female soldiers are featured quite prominently among the Golden Path ranks, and this definitely livens the Far Cry formula up and better sells the idea that the civil war in Kyrat is as desperate as it appears to be.
The list of activities available to you in Far Cry 4 is long enough to take on encyclopedic proportions. In Far Cry 3, you could complete campaign missions, take over outposts, hunt animals, and participate in the occasional racing sequence. Far Cry 4 has all of these, plus arena fights, hostage rescues, convoy interception (which makes its return from Far Cry 2), mountain expeditions, and a lot more. It also includes several fortresses for you to take on, and on harder difficulties these can be difficult enough to warrant bringing in a co-op partner. Unlike the crushingly disappointing Watch Dogs, Far Cry 4’s numerous activities are not glorified minigames; they are all a test of your mastery of the game’s mechanics and, with a few exceptions, all factor into the ongoing struggle for the Golden Path to free its people.
From a gameplay perspective, perhaps the most welcome addition is the increased level of verticality. Taking advantage of its mountainous setting, FC 4 throws in things like grappling hooks and helicopters for you to toy around with. The helicopter, in particular, is perhaps the best new thing introduced in FC 4. At its simplest, it allows you to explore the landscape and really appreciate the game’s visuals in ways that a wingsuit or hang-glider cannot. Beyond that, it opens up a huge array of strategic options, as you can now approach your objectives from a whole new direction. You can, for example, turn it into an attack helicopter by firing your grenade launcher as you make passes over an enemy encampment. Alternatively, you could use it to quickly transport you to different vantage points, sniping enemies and swiftly switching positions before enemies can get a grasp on your location.
The missions that involve you pursuing an enemy convoy or truck suit the helicopter extremely well. Flying parallel to an enemy truck as it passes over a bridge and sending it careening over the edge with a well placed grenade shot is one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had in a videogame. Playing chicken with an enemy Blackhawk and delivering a fatal headshot to its pilot, sending the chopper and its occupants into a fatal rendezvous with a cliff wall is perhaps *the* most satisfying moment I’ve had in a videogame. Aside from the helicopter, you can also fire your weapon while using the hang glider and parachute, both welcome additions that, again, open up strategic possibilities.
The game’s increase in difficulty is also welcome. Far Cry 3 got boring once you had unlocked all the weapons and attachments and taken over all the outposts, and FC 4 has responded in spades with more reactive AI that is quicker to spot you and more relentless in their pursuit of you. Stealth is a much tougher proposition as a result, and while the game gives you the ability to turn off every HUD element, you’d have to be a real masochist to turn off the detection meter. The game allows you to replay any outpost you’ve taken over to experiment with different tactics, and on occasion you’ll get notice that one of your nearby outposts is under attack and needs your help; something that was sorely missing from FC 3.
Beyond outposts, the fortresses are truly the ultimate test of any Far Cry 4 player; the game recommends you bring in a co-op partner, because going it alone is no laughing matter. However, the number of options available to you at approaching them is dizzying; you could charge in on an elephant, do bombing runs with a helicopter, sneak your way in, or call in reinforcements with your Golden Path companions. These fortresses ensure that players will get plenty of replayability from FC 4 for a long time.
Where Far Cry 4 falters is quite obvious: it spends a lot of effort adding things to the formula established in Far Cry 3, but doesn’t try to change things up. The game functionally feels identical to Far Cry 3, down to the manner in which enemy soldiers are dressed in bright red uniforms and friendly soldiers in blue. The game, ironically enough, seems to acknowledge these similarities in one mission in which a soldier thanks you for getting a supply of contraceptives for the men, commenting that “now they won’t complain about how it burns when they piss.”
One of my biggest peeves with Far Cry 3 was that it placed you in this gigantic island but didn’t make you feel like you were loading up on supplies and venturing out into a dangerous world. It made things too convenient by providing too many outposts to restock and the ability to fast travel between them. Additionally, night time wasn’t even remotely dark, and the game totally missed the chance to give you a sort of night safari in which you hunted both man and beast in the cover of darkness. Sadly, this has not changed in Far Cry 4. The game allows you to use outposts to fast forward time to the hour of your choosing, but what is the point when night time doesn’t present different tactical options and you can simply fast travel anywhere you want if the hour doesn’t suit you?
The scarcity of weapon diversity and customization is also apparent. Nearly every weapon in FC 4 has been carried over from FC 3, and you can only have up to two attachments per weapon. Why? Would it have killed Ubisoft to change things up a little by offering a more diverse selection of firearms and more player choice with customization? Some weapons have improved, punchier sound effects, but Ubisoft’s lack of effort in freshening up the game’s arsenal reeks of laziness.
My last complaint with Far Cry 4 has to do with the characters. Far Cry 3 was noted for its cast of ridiculous characters, such as the memorable Vaas, and clearly Far Cry 4 takes a lot of cues from its predecessor with its own characters. While newcomers to the series will likely find a lot to like with the expressiveness and colorfulness of these characters, veterans of the series will likely tire of them quickly. It seems as though Ubisoft drew from a very specific rulebook in designing Far Cry 4’s characters, as the vast majority of them are just outright insane and plainly annoying.
The game’s antagonist, Pagan Min, is a clone of Borderlands 2’s Handsome Jack and will regularly ring you up to make some snide, sarcastic remark every time you throw a wrench in his operations. There’s also a priest who traffics in firearms who gesticulates wildly when speaking and has clearly lost his mind, the two backpacking drug addicts who are practically FC4’s version of Resident Evil Revelations’ Keith and Quint, a deranged fashion designer who leans in scarily close to you many times, and of course, the outright bonkers hillbilly Hurk. In many cases I found these characters extremely grating because they all seemed to be trying so hard to mimic either Vaas or Hoyt from Far Cry 3. It is a lazy way of drawing the player into the story; instead of complex characters that you are fascinated with, the game instead tries to be provocative and controversial with its cast of lunatics.
Instead of making you feel compelled and sucked into these characters, Far Cry 4 only succeeds in making you wish you could shoot them mid-sentence. Given the state of motion and facial capture technology, as well as FC 4’s astounding visuals, it doesn’t need to have characters speaking theatrically and having fits of hysteria to wow us; a more measured, realistic tone would have been better appreciated.
The Final Verdict
It’s hard to imagine that Ubisoft had a hard time working on Far Cry 4; all they had to do was build upon what Far Cry 3 established, and that is exactly what they have done. Far Cry 4 is by far the most complete and well crafted game in the series thus far; it has none of its predecessors’ faults and all of their strengths, and as a result this is an easy game to recommend. However, it is unfortunate that the developer didn’t put a little extra effort into changing the formula up a bit. Far Cry 4 is sure to keep its players entertained for a good while, and I’m hoping that Ubisoft spends a little more time to expand on the series more dramatically in order to prevent it from going stale.
+Lots and lots of things to do
+Increased verticality allows for more tactics
-Plays it a bit too safe by not changing things up from Far Cry 3