Far Cry 4 Review

Lee Bradley

Sequels don’t get much more sequelly than Far Cry 4. Where Far Cry 3 took the bare bones of Far Cry 2 (open world, exotic location, outposts, deranged bad dudes) and turned it into something altogether more crowd-pleasing, Far Cry 4 builds on its predecessor by essentially adding loads more of the same. And I do mean loads.

Expect more animals, more outposts, fortresses, a larger world, more toys, more trippy diversions, co-op, countless side quests and a baddie that’s possibly the most outlandish, over-the-top, howl-at-the-moon kook to have ever graced the series. It’s a classic video game industry move: give ‘em more of what they want. And for the most part, it’s bloody fantastic.

Far Cry 4 is set in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat. Returning to this world of flapping prayer flags, crumbling architecture and snow-topped mountains is protagonist Ajay Ghale. He’s back to scatter his mother’s ashes, but before he can do so he’s interrupted by Kyrat’s extravagantly camp dictator, Pagan Min (played by BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us star Troy Baker). Turns out Ajay’s more than just a tourist.


Hurk and Ajay team up.

After a few minutes of watching Troy Baker gobble up the digital scenery, Ajay escapes into the open and finds himself wrapped up with The Golden Path; rebels intent on bringing down Min and establishing a new order. But all is not well within the insurgency, as potential leaders Amita and Sabal have conflicting ideas about how Kyrat should be saved. And Ajay has to pick between them.

I struggled with some of these choices. In most of the campaign missions you’re presented with  Amita and Sabal’s plans and you have to pick one, choosing between tradition or reform, naked aggression or a more calculated approach. It’s tough. Neither of the squabbling would-be-boss’s plans are without downsides, so expect a bit of head scratching. It contributes to a storyline that’s far more focused than that of Far Cry 3.

For me, however, the glory of the recent Far Cry games has less to do with the story Ubisoft Montreal creates and more to do with the stories it facilitates. It’s all about the open world and the situations you stumble into, the animals that ruin (or help with) your plans, and the tools, weapons and abilities that allow you, in Pagan Min’s words, to “tear shit up”. In that respect, Far Cry 4 is brilliant.


This sight usually means death isn't far away.

This time out you can equip a grappling hook to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, ride elephants, pick up rickety little “Buzzer” helicopters, throw bait to attract Kyrat’s aggressive wildlife and craft syringes to boost your abilities. All are great additions to Far Cry 3’s already fantastic blueprint. It means that your freedom to traverse the environment and the creativity with which you can approach situations continues to be the series’ greatest strength.

Outposts remain a highlight. These guarded little villages allow you to exercise all of your skills, either blasting, or sneaking and stabbing everyone in sight in order to liberate the area. Plenty of games promise the option of stealth or action, but few deliver on both so satisfyingly. Outposts are either neatly designed stealth maps or raucous shooting galleries depending on your approach and both are a riot. An option that allows you to re-take outposts (while challenging your friends’ high scores) is a welcome addition, as are fortresses - essentially larger outposts with more enemies, more alarms and a greater challenge.

Indeed, fortresses are a decent metaphor for Ubisoft Montreal’s approach to Far Cry 4. Everything is bigger, with more elements thrown into the mix. It means that you can’t walk or drive more than about 200 yards without encountering a honey badger, a hostage situation, a convoy to intercept, a skirmish to assist with, or a collectible to snap up. In some ways this is good. Far Cry 4 will keep you entertained long after the credits have rolled. But I found that the game sometimes chucks too many elements into the pot.


And this sight also usually means you're dead.

Some of my favourite moments in Far Cry 3 came when a tiger would randomly turn up and start causing havoc. In Far Cry 4 stuff like that happens all the time. Too often, in fact. On numerous occasions, I’d be making my way to the next waypoint and come across a firefight between The Golden Path and some Min soldiers, only for a pack of wolves to come charging in from nowhere, quickly followed by a pissed off bear. It makes what should be random encounters feel a tiny little less magic. And don’t even get me started on those fucking eagles.

There’s other issues too. Step back from the action for a second and you’ll realise that most of what you're doing is nuts. There’s no real reason for Ajay to get wrapped up in Kyrat’s revolution and there’s even less reason that his wallet has to be made from four bloody Asian rhinos. Also, why does Ajay know how to expertly skin a tiger, but the process revolts him? And why do Sherpas carry enough weaponry to equip an army?

Most of these incongruities and awkwardnesses were true of Far Cry 3 too, of course, but I felt it a little more strongly this time out. Getting the most out of Far Cry 4 involves saying to yourself, “fuck it, it’s a video game”.

They’re all minor complaints, really. Far Cry 4 is stuffed with so much fantastically enjoyable stuff to do, see and discover that whinging about the niggling stuff that falls flat seems overly picky. But coupled with the game’s sense of familiarity (it’s really quite a safe sequel) Far Cry 4 falls just shy of true greatness. The XBA and PST editorial team adored Far Cry 3 so much we gave it our Game of the Year 2012 award, so more of the same is welcome. For straight-up fun Far Cry 4 is hard to beat. But when the inevitable Far Cry 5 turns up, I’m hoping for more of a leap.

 

An eclectic mix of Asian-inspired tunes, a more traditional western soundtrack and solid voice acting, Far Cry 4’s audio does the job nicely. The incidental dialogue from NPCs often raises a chuckle.

Kyrat is a beautiful place and you’ll find yourself stopping to admire views of the mountains, valleys and crystal clear lakes. The character models are impressive too, contributing to a handsome new-gen package.

It’s enjoyable from the outset, but once you’ve unlocked the wingsuit, Ajay’s takedown abilities and some decent weapons, you’ll feel like a one-man army. Only the multitudinous, overly aggressive wildlife knocks it down a peg.

Far Cry 4 is huge, with a ridiculous variety of activities, missions and collectibles to engage with. Throw in co-op, outpost recapturing, an arena, largely forgettable multiplayer and a map editor too and you’d be greedy to ask for more.

With some recycling, there’s nothing truly remarkable about Far Cry 4’s achievement list, but thanks to the quality of the game itself, you’ll have fun unlocking that 1000G. It’s a great excuse to keep playing.

Far Cry 4 is Far Cry 3 dialled up to eleven, with more animals, activities, missions and abilities. And while throwing more stuff at the player isn’t the perfect recipe for success, I was happy to play a richer, larger version of one of my favourite games in recent years.

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