In 2012, Ubisoft breathed new life in to the Far Cry
franchise in Far Cry 3
. A game which won both public and critical acclaim thanks to its densely populated tropical setting and the fun-filled variety of gameplay on offer. So popular was Far Cry 3
, in fact, that the following year, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
, the 80s-inspired, neon-filled, standalone XBLA release, ramped up the action again, allowing us to pay one last visit to Rook Island.
In Far Cry 4
, Ubisoft offer up more of the same in the fictional Himalayan region of Kyrat, but this time aiming to be even bigger and better.
You play as Ajay Ghale, a native of Kyrat who, along with his mother, fled the country’s civil war as a youngster. In an attempt to grant her final wish, Ajay returns to Kyrat to scatter her ashes, only to discover that his father was the founding member of the Golden Path, a group of freedom fighters aiming to end the reign of the eccentric and violent king, Pagan Min. With little choice in the matter, the game’s 32 main story missions see Ajay attempt to weaken Pagan’s grip on the land, as he slowly dismantles Pagan's regime piece by piece.
As a character, Ajay is often little more than a glorified yes-man who happily ventures off into the wild to go and blow more stuff up, but thankfully the remaining cast of characters make up for his blandness, none more so than the seductively evil Pagan Min, who like Vaas in Far Cry 3
, steals the show.
The gameplay on offer is very similar to that found in Far Cry 3
, and it’s obvious the game has been approached with an "if it’s not broke, don’t fix it" philosophy. Aside from the main story, the map is filled with towers that need to be climbed in order to reveal more of your surroundings, and enemy outposts which, when liberated, help release Pagan Min’s grip on the area and grant you with a base to fast travel to and stock up on weapons and ammunition. With each liberated outpost also comes more side missions, which include hunting, racing, assassinations and hostage rescue.
The game’s main story missions take on a very linear path - including the usual Ubisoft array of follow and stealth missions that will often cause an instant fail if you are spotted – and whilst they may lack in flexibility, they offer a great deal in terms of variety. In one mission, you’ll be chasing a plane using a wing suit, whilst in another you’ll be entering the drug-induced world of Shangri-La where you'll need direct a tiger to do your killing.
A new addition to Far Cry 4
’s main campaign sees you act as the deciding vote when the Golden Path’s present day leaders, Amita and Sabal, disagree on the next course of action. Amita is very much in favour of change for her country, whilst Sabal aims to stick to a more traditional course, and at points during the story, you’ll have a direct influence on which way the story goes. Do you capture Pagan’s heroin crops and use them as a way to fund revolution, or destroy them in an attempt to hurt the regime? Each choice will alter your path to victory and influence your surroundings, although ultimately the choice feels hollow as the story still concludes with the same inevitable ending.
Out in the wild, you’re given the freedom of choice to approach each task as you wish. When approaching outposts you can take the stealthy option and scope out the area from the surrounding hills, marking each of your enemies before picking them off one by one. Alternatively, you can choose to charge in on the back of an elephant whilst firing rocket launchers. There’s no right or wrong way to approach things; it totally depends on how you feel at the time.
Coupled with the freedom of choice comes the random elements that make Far Cry
so memorable. Often times whilst attempting to make a stealthy approach, you’ll suddenly find yourself being attacked by some of Kyrat’s wildlife. These random attacks are unpredictable and, although at times they become annoying, it leads to some hilarious and enthralling circumstances.
The Himalayan surroundings of Kyrat are perhaps the biggest difference of note between Far Cry 3
and Far Cry 4
. The environment is beautifully designed and densely populated with both NPCs and wildlife, but perhaps the biggest advantage Kyrat has over previous Far Cry
locales is the increased scale of verticality that makes use of the new grappling hook. The grappling hook allows Ajay to quickly climb the side of rock faces or swing across large gaps.
Hunting and upgrades have been important in previous iterations of the Far Cry
franchise, and the same applies here. You can hunt specific animals to increase the size of your ammo and loot bags, collect different plants to build syringes that will grant you increased powers, and use XP to add new abilities and upgrades.
Perhaps the biggest let down in Far Cry 3
was the co-op missions that the game offered, and in Far Cry 4
, Ubisoft have taken a different approach by allowing you to cause mayhem with another friend in the game’s open world. Unfortunately co-op hasn’t been fully integrated so you won’t be able to play story missions together, but you can use the additional hand to help you make light work of enemy outposts and forts.
Multiplayer in the game offers three separate objective based game modes. Matches are split into two rounds with one round seeing you play as well-armed Golden Path warriors and the other switching you to playing as a Rakshasa warrior who is limited to only a bow and arrow as a weapon, but with the ability to turn invisible and summon beasts such as hawks and bears to help him out. Although a nice idea in theory, the gameplay seems very much overpowered when on the Golden Path team unless playing with more experienced players.
Within a week of release, the multiplayer component already feels dead with waiting times of five to ten minutes to find a full lobby of six commonplace.
The majority of the game’s achievements can only be unlocked in the single player campaign, and are awarded for completing the game’s main story and sampling different side objectives. Many of the side objectives can be completed in co-op, so if you want to make light work of it, enlist the help of a friend.
The most time consuming achievement in the game, Fully Loaded
, will require you to unlock all of Ajay's abilities and will require some XP grinding once the game has been finished, but with so much to do in the world anyway, it shouldn't feel too repetitive.
Only the Renaissance Man
achievement requires you to play online multiplayer, but it might take a while to find a match in each of the three game modes required.
The final two achievements in the game will require a co-op partner and a little co-ordination, so if you don’t have a friend with the game, I’d recommend a session rather than trying to find a random willing to help.Far Cry 4
is, very basically put, more Far Cry
on a larger scale and with the odd gameplay improvement, but it’s hard to count that as anything other than a positive when you consider the quality of its predecessor. Couple that with the the variety and sheer amount of gameplay available and there's not way Far Cry 4
can be considered anything other than a success.
Whilst the multiplayer falls short, the co-op and in particular the single player experience is once again brilliantly put together and something gamers shouldn't miss out on.The reviewer spent approximately 35 hours fighting Pagan Min and his forces, completing drug-induced side missions, waiting in multiplayer lobbies, and fighting off honey badgers and hawks in the wilds of Kyrat, earning 37 of the game's 50 achievements. This Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.