Far Cry 4 Review
Far Cry 4 is an open-world shooter that puts you in the shoes of American-born Ajay Ghale, son of the now-deceased founder of a revolutionary militia that represents one side of a civil war in the fictitious and gorgeous country of Kyrat. The game kicks off with Ajay’s arrival in his parents’ homeland, a country whose government is cruel, totalitarian, and run by a sociopathic villain by the name of Pagan Min. Mere seconds upon his arrival in the country, Ajay is inadvertently sucked into Kyrat’s civil war. What follows is an incredibly fun time in a detailed world that rewards your every action, but also might remind some Far Cry fans too much of its predecessor.
Ajay’s coming to Kyrat is due to his mother’s last wishes; she had hoped to have her remains placed in her family plot. It is Ajay’s first visit to Kyrat and it seems a little inconsiderate of a mother to ask her son to go to such a violent and dangerous country, but I suppose it is as good as any excuse for kick-starting a game in a new world (or was Ajay just an idiot, not considering he could have waited until Kyrat was a little less of a warzone before he delivered his mother’s ashes?). The game world is dense and offers many things to do while travelling across it. Animals, enemies, collectibles, hidden caves, bell towers, and outposts litter the map. You will hunt animals in order to use their skins to upgrade your various equipment capacities. You will climb many bell towers, revealing more of the map each time. You will liberate many outposts by killing all its guards, in the process earning yourself another fast travel location on the map. You will also be doing series of other missions, from assassinations to hostage rescues to destroying propaganda centres. Yes, you will be repeating many similar quests, each with small changes, but the gameplay while doing so is terrific fun. Tagging enemies with binoculars and then either silently taking each enemy out or running in with grenades is an absolute blast. Far Cry 4 features enough different weapons, explosives and mechanics so that both stealth and non-stealth are fun, viable options to complete missions.
The audio and visuals of Far Cry 4 are above average but not without some error. Pop-in occurs in the textures of foliage and housing, especially when flying above the world. However, character models look good, as do fire and explosion effects. The lighting on guns makes them look especially real. Human and animal animations never looked out of place. Similarly, the audio in the game is of high quality. Gunfire, ambient voices, animals, and vehicles all sound like their real-world counterparts. The music fits the scenes well, whether it’s epic action playing out or a trippy, drug-induced quest to find your buddies. Some of the ambient music is especially good, reminding me of the excellent pieces in Fallout 3 and the Mass Effect trilogy that make open-worlds that much more enjoyable to explore. As for technical issues, I experienced few. Sure, sometimes you can see through your character’s hands while in a climbing animation, but in general the game ran smooth and predictably. Only once in 40 hours did I have to quit the game because of a glitch.
Main story missions make up a large portion of the content in the game. The missions are varied in how they play out. Some require non-lethal stealth, a few have you guarding an area from incoming waves of enemies, while others let the player decide the route of attack. The result is a collection of enjoyable and sometimes surprising missions whose quality is simply not met by the story. The yarn being spun in Far Cry 4 is in large part the tale of Ajay’s parents and their connection to Pagan Min. There are twists and turns as the story plays out, as Ajay questions who is parents really were and whether or not he is doing these missions for the right reasons. While in some media, a character is introduced and then immediately dies, with our hero weeping over him and us left asking, “Why should we care?”, Far Cry 4 unfortunately condenses it even more by introducing us to Ajay’s dead parents at the beginning of the game. A good mystery will connect the dots, so to speak, in an interesting way, however, in Far Cry 4, there is no back story or scenes with Ajay’s parents. Essentially, there are no dots to connect and instead the story messily unravels through cutscenes that appear before, and sometimes after, main missions. These first-person scenes hardly ever stretch over 120 seconds long, leaving little time to expand on any one character’s history, personality, or future endeavours. Even Pagan Min, who is voiced wonderfully by the prolific Troy Baker, does not get enough time in the lime light and instead comes off as a sometimes entertaining but more often lame cliché of a villain. In truth, the story of Far Cry 4 is not terrible but it is forgettable, purposely sped through so that the player can return to the fantastic gameplay.
In many ways, what you get out of Far Cry 4 is what you put in. Nowhere is this clearer than in the incredible number of collectibles (over two hundred) that you will find in Kyrat. None are too difficult to get to and all of them reward experience points but they can also be completely ignored for the entirety of the game. Things that shouldn’t be ignored, such as bell towers and outposts, are also numerous and are essentially “rinse and repeat” missions but each is slightly different, allowing the player to try different strategies out as well as different combinations of attacks. The key to the fun of the game is that so many of its elements are inherently enjoyable. The stealth and shooting mechanics are by themselves fantastic. When you add throwing knives, flamethrowers, double takedowns, C4, mines, ATVs, and RPGs, your options expand quickly. Topped off with sending attacking animals into an enemy base, shooting grenades 100 feet up from a one-man helicopter, and the ability to ride an elephant, Far Cry 4 starts to make you feel like an action movie star. Like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, Ubisoft’s fourth in the Far Cry series also delivers an enjoyable combination of fun, scripted missions alongside random, non-scripted events.
The biggest downfall of Far Cry 4 is that it is very similar to Far Cry 3. A massive portion of the gameplay is identical, save for a few additions here and there. The world and the villain also draw parallels to the third instalment, but the gameplay is simply so good and so enjoyable that it makes up for this fact. The well done shooting, stealth, and other gameplay mechanics are still fresh enough to elicit genuine fun from the player, and are on the whole better in Far Cry 4 than in Far Cry 3, though minimally. In short, this fantastic formula for Far Cry has merited two games, but Ubisoft will have to change it up more for the fifth instalment. True, some fans of Far Cry 3 might find the fourth entry too similar, but I will guess that the majority will fall in love all over again with the mechanics and all-out fun that make both games so worth their time.