When I hear the words ‘Far Cry’ mentioned, memories of 2012 come flooding back. Memories such as walking through luscious forest in fear of being mauled by a nearby wandering tiger, driving along rocky paths at breakneck speeds you just wouldn’t dare to do in real-life, to taking down those puzzle-like outposts and scaling valleys of radio towers. These are all activities you’d love to do again, right? Well lucky you, because you can do this all again, and then some, in Far Cry 4!
Taking an ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ approach, Ubisoft have taken what we loved from their last instalment, Far Cry 3, and pressed the keys Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V on it all. Underneath this Himalayan wrapping, Far Cry 4 oozes, well, lots of Far Cry 3 if I am honest. But that is no bad thing! Just as long as you loved what Far Cry 3 offered on the table last time, you’ll be golden.
The game follows Ajay Ghale, who after the death of his mother, returns to his home country of Kyrat to carry out his mother’s dying wish to scatter her ashes there. However like all video game plots, nothing is that easy. Kyrat is an unwelcoming place, with its natural habitat full of threatening predators, challenging mountainous environment and its very own corrupt government.
The game begins with Ajay’s bus being attacked by government forces lead by Pagan Min, the country’s violent and rather eccentric King. Once captured, Ajay manages to flee Pagan’s clutches and finds himself following his parents’ footsteps; meeting Sabal and Amita along the way, who are leaders of a rebel faction called the Golden Path, originally founded by Ajay’s father. As events swiftly escalate it soon becomes Ajay’s task to help the Rebellion in fighting against Pagan’s control of the northern region of Kyrat with the goal to reach his final destination and fulfil his mother’s wishes.
If you’re familiar to Far Cry 3 and you know its mechanics and how it generally plays, then there is very little else to learn about this latest instalment of the franchise, it is very much more of the same: travel around a vast open-world full of dangerous wildlife and bad guys, take down Bell Towers (like the radio masts in Far Cry 3) to uncover the hidden regions on your map, scout out and take down outposts in each region to reduce and remove any of Pagan’s control in the area and avoid or kill any predators that come in your way of completing all the above. Sound familiar? It is!
So that’s Far Cry 4 in a nutshell, but if that was all it was, it would be a very short game. So much like the previous title we all played in 2012, there are a number of new and old side-quests and collectables to lengthen this experience to the point of OCD-like proportions – gotta collect them all! – ’Cleanse’ the game’s map full of diamonds (loot crates), question marks (undiscovered locations), masks (collectables), plants (health and performance boosters) and a number of available sub mission/event markers. There is certainly plenty to do in Kyrat, all there to distract you from the game’s main campaign, and this doesn’t even include all the dynamic tasks and events that can trigger as you wander the forests, mountain peaks, caves, villages and lakes of Kyrat.
The game’s main campaign follows the divided leadership between Sabal, a character that follows the gung-ho vision of Ajay’s dad, or Amita, who follows a more careful and strategic approach to reducing Pagan’s grasp on the region and its inhabitants. As a result, whichever side you choose to take has the other side not so happy with your decision, so you end up playing through the campaign feeling like a gooseberry between a bickering couple, as both aren’t too pleased with you not carrying out each of their own missions. Sometimes you have to make a decision between them both, and then hear the wrath from the person you didn’t choose in the following mission.
To lure you away from the main campaign, or to get a bit of peace from the two bickering leaders, there are the usual outpost and bell tower challenges. Reclaiming outposts riddled with Pagan’s forces help to reduce their occupancy on the specific region of the map, and you’ll see less of them in the world too, however there are times they will try to fight back against the rebel troops and also try to reclaim these outposts once again. Both of these certainly keep you on your toes as you progress through the game. Bell towers are this game’s radio towers from Far Cry 3. By simply climbing up these puzzle-like towers, and deactivating the propaganda messaging machines located at the top, you will capture them and reveal the local area and its riches (collectables and events) on your map.
Once each outpost on the map is reclaimed, these spawn a number of sub-missions you can tackle to help improve your arsenal of weapons, unlock new skills in your skill-tree, or to just line your newly crafted wallet full of Rupees. Fast-tracking between locations also becomes available, which helps to cut down on travelling over the vast mountainous region. These sub-missions are quite varied, and it helps to enrich the gameplay in the game. Of those on offer we have Assassinations, Hunting and Hostage missions, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. Armed Escort missions have you perched on a moving truck, projecting it as it travels from A to B. Supply Drops have you racing through the game’s world picking up supplies and dropping them off, whilst Propaganda Centre missions are similar to capturing outposts, however you must destroy propaganda machines, cars and equipment at a given location. Once complete these sub-missions disappear off the map, however there are a few (outpost replays and checkpoint races) that remain and they also offer an online leaderboard results system to compete with.
If you need a helping hand, or you just fancy teaming up with another player, Far Cry 4 can be played whilst being connect online to enable co-op play. This feature allows you to invite or join in on an existing session and cooperatively fight back Pagan’s goons. As a group, tackling the more difficult events, such as the four main fortresses in the main campaign, can make for a fun experience as you both plan your entrances, carrying out distractions and kill shots.
Although Far Cry 3 was a bit of a technical marvel on the last generation of consoles, Far Cry 4 evolves this achievement and adds some much extra next-gen spit and polish to bring it up to today’s console expectations. Draw distances are improved, detail in buildings and vegetation is increased greatly, and overall the game’s world is a much richer and full of life world that, at times, can have you stopping in your tracks to admire the gorgeously rendered vistas of Kyrat.
I could go on for another thousand words, as there is so much to do, craft, climb, weaponise, fly, drive, see, swim and experience in the game; but to keep this review short I feel it is best to sum up Far Cry 4 as: it’s a lot like Far Cry 3 with a new tale to tell. It has a deeper and a more varied main campaign and with so many sub-missions and events it can easily eat into your daily allowance of real-life. However, if you choose to spend your time on the Golden Path, in the wonderful world of Kyrat, you’ll be rewarded with yet another stellar Far Cry experience that will easily see you through the cold and wet winter months ahead, and possibly see you into next summer too!