Far Cry 4 (Review)

We’ve been dying for another gargantuan open-world FPS since Far Cry 3 and nothing’s come close to providing an equal timesink if we’re honest. There was promise in Destiny, but their version of our local solar system ended up being a collection of corridors and desolate wastelands with inane missions and a leveling system that demanded too much for little in return. So, chances are Ubisoft are running unopposed here, it’s not like they’re going to mess up one of their leading franchises. Well, not two of them in one year…

You are Ajay Ghale, a prodigal son returning to the Himalayan region of Kyrat to carry on his father’s work of leading a rebel group called the Golden Path against the tyrannical forces of Pagan Min. Min himself is the pink-suited fellow we’ve come to know in reveals over the last few months and is a larger than life character that suitably camps things up one moment, only to shiv a soldier in the neck over nothing the next. He’s a brilliant villain, but I’m enormously sad to report that he rarely makes an appearance for most of the game.

As a new Golden Path recruit, it takes a while for Ajay to establish himself and you will often be able to choose which of two senior Golden Path members you wish to support by going with their plan for a mission. This inevitably pisses the other off and I’m looking forward to playing though the game again and picking the alternate choice, although I’m not expecting the meat of most missions to change. They’re still going to involve killing everything in an area and then burning/not burning it to the ground. Deep, the story is not.

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But that’s fine, we’re here to have fun, and Far Cry 4 does that in spades. Using elephants to storm fortresses is as fun as it looked at E3 or on YouTube. Using the wingsuit to survive larger drops or dive through mountain passes should be experienced ASAP too. And the ever shifting environments of meadows, caves, snow-ravaged peaks and the constant threat of hungry wildlife or AI soldiers attacking you mean you’ll never be bored.

The character upgrades are very similar to those found in FC3, which is a little disappointing. You’re still making your way towards more effective stealth takedowns, and various syringe enhancements. Throughout the game there’s strong vibe of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ So, the stealth mechanics are still excellent and the weapon handling is still reliably solid, with a bit of muzzle drift to stop you holding down the fire button for too long. Something has gone amiss with the bows though as I couldn’t hit a boar from 10 feet away with the first one I was given. On the plus side, many upgrades require you complete certain types of side-mission first, which ensures a varied playstyle and a constantly fresh experience.

The crafting system is largely the same, requiring a large number of skins in order to create apparently small items (how many rhinos for a new wallet!). At least their menus have been streamlined so you can see more items at once.

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New elements have been included, such as the new mini-crossbow, which fares much better than the regular bow. A new grappling hook allows you to climb up or down specific areas, which is essential given some of the steep slopes in the Himalayan setting. I wish there was a few more spots to use it though as I regularly faced a lengthy trek around a mountain, trying to look for somewhere to climb. Or you can go through the typical degrading FPS platforming process of trying to climb the scenery with your chin. Better yet, try out the new gyrocopter which is easily the best way to travel the huge map.

Speaking of climbing, the radio towers are back with lengthier and more challenging ascensions to the top in order to de-fog the map. Oh yes, the map, once again it’s packed with collectibles to find, just like pretty much every Ubisoft game of the last few years -why does The Crew have discoverable radio towers?

While the collectibles in Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed Unity create a bloated experience to hide the shallow main game, Far Cry once again excels in tempting you away from your main quests. The extra cash is always handy for new weapons and parts, there are numerous diaries and letters to find and there are plenty of propaganda posters to destroy and more. Add in the XP, weapon and Trophy rewards for regular collection milestones and they always feel like a worthwhile distraction. Well, if you like collecting things it does at least.

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Dynamic events can appear at any time, such as a group of rebel fighters being attacked by Min’s army and animals, helping out in these tasks will earn you Karma points, which upgrade the AI support troops you can call in. The outposts return as well, and are just as fun when you try to take them on as silently as possible. You should unlock as many of these as possible too as they become fast travel spots.

There are lots of fleshed out optional side-missions for you to take on if you fancy a breather from the main campaign. You might be smuggling weapons for a crazed Warlord Priest, rescuing hostages, assassinating commanders, bouncing an ATV through a checkpoint race and so on. The obvious highlight though is the dreamlike trips to Shangri-La where you play as an ancient warrior fending off demons with a pet white tiger amid some strikingly gorgeous red-flavoured temple scenes.

Playing through the entire game on PS3, I noticed a few foibles that are hopefully missing from the next-gen versions. The resolution is obviously a bit smudgy in comparison, but there are odder moments too, such as the occasional forest of flat tree templates viewed from the skies that spin madly trying to trick you into thinking they’re 3D models. The sound mix is pretty poor too, with the dialogue being so quiet I had to play with subtitles, which also struggle to keep pace with the spoken lines. Car audio frequently washes out when inside a vehicle. The frame-rate seems stable though and I never experienced any full crashes, which is more than can be said for Unity.

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Multiplayer

The inclusion of co-op to the main game held much promise, but it’s not quite the essential mode we were hoping for. One player can join your game, or vice versa, but they can’t take part in main campaign missions. Any collectibles picked up by player two won’t be waiting for them when they go back to their own game. The connections seem solid enough, meaning that silently taking out an outpost together can be a lot of fun, even if you manage to co-ordinate it without headsets.

The most off-putting element though is that you have to select the online mode from the main menu and you’re told that the game will quit out if either player’s connection goes down or if a player leaves or is kicked. Given Ubisoft’s disaster-face that was AC Unity, it’s not something many gamers are going to opt for. The ‘integrated’ co-op has meant the standalone co-op mode, where four players fought through waves in story maps, has been ditched, which I feel is a bit of a shame.

Competitive multiplayer options aren’t going to keep people playing for long when faced with better options in COD and the like. One team play as gun-carrying rebels and the other as archers with powers of invisibility in modes involving capturing bases and so on. The balance feels weighted in the rebels’ favour, as they can cut down archers from great distances. Things on PS3 aren’t helped by some awful lag that sees players bouncing around the map and a horrible pause whenever you try to get in a vehicle. Worst though, there are not many people online at all. I get the feeling this wouldn’t have been getting much of a mention from me if Ubisoft could have been bothered sending me a PS4 copy instead of a PS3 one.

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The map editor hasn’t seen much use yet, probably because players can’t build maps for competitive multiplayer. Instead, I’ve mainly seen outpost style ones where players have to take out all enemies without raising the alarm. There’s definitely fun to be had there, but having to download each created map makes it a lengthy process.

So, the multiplayer options have turned out a bit disappointing. But if I’m honest, that’s not why I was looking forwards to Far Cry 4. I was hoping for a large expansive world, packed with varied missions and collectibles provided in such a way I wouldn’t mind losing hours at a time just exploring, hunting and occasionally remembering there were some story missions that I should be doing. And that’s what I got. You should opt for the new-gen versions for less rough edges though.

Pros

  • Packed with fun
  • Solid and reliable mechanics
  • Open approach to missions

Cons

  • Co-op is a bit of a letdown
  • Last-gen versions lack polish
  • Barren online servers

8/10

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