Overall - 90%
Far Cry 4 builds on the features of the Far Cry franchise and remains true to the quality of storytelling, delivery of mechanics and awe of the environment that we've come to expect. A Game of the Year contender without a doubt but the franchise will need a little freshening up with its next installment.
Despite the likes of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Dragon Age Inquisition competing for popularity this past week, Far Cry 4 easily stood out as my most anticipated title of this November’s crazy launch list extravaganza. Through all the excitement I felt as I sat in eager anticipation (during another day 1 patch), I couldn’t help but wonder – was Far Cry 3 the peak? Have Ubisoft managed to create a sequel deserving of the Far Cry franchise or was the Far Cry 2 to Far Cry 3 leap the best they can throw at us? Let’s find out as I dive into Far Cry 4.The open-world approach taken for many big releases last generation left high expectations for Far Cry 4 and not just in freedom and content variety. The open-world nature of these games often overshadows the storytelling elements of the experience but with Far Cry 3 almost a perfect combination, could Ubisoft pull it off again?
Much in a similar way to Far Cry 3 players take on the role of outsider, Ajay Ghale. Returning to Kyrat obeying the wishes of his mother, requesting to have her ashes scattered on a place she once called home, Ajay soon finds himself in a brutal civil war that he himself is heavily entwined. Within minutes of reaching Kyrat Ajay is introduced to king Pagan Min, a vicious dictator hoping to squash The Golden Path rebellion, one way or another. The story follows Ajay’s dealings with Pagan Min and the two bickering leaders of The Golden Path, Amita and Sabal – both of which provide story-changing choices throughout the main campaign. The critically acclaimed elements of its predecessor remain as Far Cry 4 offers an immersive story experience filled with interesting and slightly insane characters, unexpected twists and turns, and a subtle blend of serious dialogue with the occasional humorous undertone. We don’t often dive deep into story elements with the hopes of avoiding spoilers but as the franchise history goes, Far Cry 4’s story is a welcomed addition.
The trippy and rather dark nature that emanated throughout Far Cry 3 makes a triumphant return and it compliments the story perfectly, avoiding over saturating the experience with outer-body experiences aplenty. Instead they offer brief yet enthralling viewpoints into the history of Kyrat and Ajay Ghale. One in particular sees Ajay a prisoner amid a mountain-top prison with “open walls” plummeting hundreds of feet onto a certain rocky death. Injected with some unknown drug the journey that follows is both disturbing and chilling as you rush to construct something to escape. At one point, shortly after removing a sharp metal object from the chest of a hanging corpse, I stopped to admire another poor soul that shared my fate. A prisoner in his cell. I think he was somewhat less concerned about escaping as I gazed at the splatter of blood on the wall before he smashed his face into it endlessly…I don’t care how many people I shoot or animals I skin to the bone, that’s disturbing. Outside of the prison walls Kyrat is a rolling bliss with richly detailed forests, vast mountains, deep rivers and history-filled locations throughout.
The environment of Kyrat is without a doubt one of the most breathtaking sights on any platform. It felt like only yesterday that I said Assassin’s Creed Unity was the best looking title available on the current generation platforms, well okay it was yesterday, but that’s not the point. I won’t take anything away from the sprawling streets of Paris but Far Cry 4 is at the very least on par graphically. The graphical quality and pure scope of Kyrat is never more obvious than when from an aerial perspective and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take that perspective at every damn opportunity. Whether you’re gliding across the tree tops, scouting out the mountains in a Buzzard or gracefully descending with your parachute in toe, Kyrat looks, sounds and feels incredible, every step of the way.
The incredible attention to detail and environmental design is the best the franchise has seen to date. The new grappling hook mechanics offer more variety when traversing terrain, sometimes leaving Ajay swinging from hook to hook with a 200ft sheer drop beneath. Despite flying around in a Buzzer, jumping off every peak I could find with the Wingsuit and tipping my car more times than I can count, I never once found myself anywhere that didn’t seem perfectly suited for its purpose. Never once was I stranded or forced to restart and in an open-world game such as this, that’s one hell of an achievement. Add to that a breathing world of people and wildlife, where I was one second repairing someones vehicle on the roadside and the next watching an Eagle swoop down and snare a pig in its talons, and you’ve got a truly remarkable environment in which to play.
With an endless island of opportunity Ubisoft had the task of filling it with exciting, worthwhile and meaningful content, and they did. It’s very much the same as the additional content that complimented the Far Cry 3 experience, albeit a little greater in variety and impact, but still just as enjoyable as it was previously. Hundreds of chests litter the landscape, items offering insight into Kyrat’s history lay hidden and the surrounding world offers plenty of dynamic events and objectives to help pass the time. There’s more than enough collectible elements to satisfy even the most hardcore of achievement hunters but there’s also a little something for those that desire more substance.
The iconic outposts introduced in Far Cry 3 make a triumphant return and offer ample opportunity to test the newer elements of the game. Greater variety in enemy types, outpost layout and points of attack provide endless hours of testing your stealth abilities, complimented further by the option of co-op play. Whether I was sitting atop a distant rock taking out targets with well placed arrows or bolts, or I was launching an aerial attack dropping M-79 grenades from a glider, the variety of approach is limited only by the imagination. I even strapped C4 to a car, cut its brakes and watched it roll into an unsuspecting group of guards – the outcome was in my favor. The variation between stealth play and all-out-assault is viable in almost every aspect of the game, given more credit thanks to the huge arsenal of weapons that can be unlocked and customized.
That same variation and quality is further enhanced when playing alongside a friend, or a total stranger, or anyone if you can get the darn thing to work. Many of my attempts to initiate a co-op match resulted in a lost connection to the other player and a boot to the main menu, a problem I expect is high on the fix list. But when it does work, it’s everything you’d hope for and more. Synchronizing attacks, testing your abilities on the global leaderboards and constructing new and interesting ways of taking out a Fortress or Outpost are all highly enjoyable elements of the co-op experience. Have you tried taking out an entire Outpost using nothing but a single, perfectly synced detonation of C4?
Crafting is another popular element that sees some welcomed changes in Far Cry 4. The progressive nature of hunting strong wildlife for skins and pelts remains the same, as does the rare and more difficult challenge to complete each upgrade, but the mundane task of crafting syringes and other buff-giving items has been removed for a more favorable automatic crafting of said items. An annoying time sync that I’m very glad to see the back of.
Some of the optional content however is a little lackluster in delivery. Many of the Hunting quests and other side objectives felt little more than shallow A to B objectives with little to compliment the story or other assets of the game. The same can be said about the Ghale Homestead upgrades – Ajay’s family home that provides little more than a serious money sync void of any serious customization or worthwhile return. There is ample content to keep players entertained for 20-30 hours but if you’re serious about nearing the 100% mark, I’d expect some frustration and repetition along the way.
Considering the size of Kyrat, the often lengthy distance between objectives and the high level of attention paid to the map design, I was hoping for similar improvements in the driving mechanics. Sadly they’re nowhere to be found. Often driving on roads no more than 10ft wide and with almost certain death on either side, I would expect a responsive system that displayed the same level of quality seen throughout the game. Instead the driving is unresponsive, clunky and just feels poor. Thankfully however a new feature has been added that sees the vehicle control itself, sticking to the current course or navigating toward a waypoint, while also allowing for some pretty insane vehicle to vehicle combat. I would have preferred a more detailed approach to driving mechanics but it’s not a game breaker.
Assassin’s Creed Unity suffered heavy criticism following its launch last week, with many attacking the game for its lack of technical polish, so it was safe to expect a slightly cautious approach to Far Cry 4 launching under the same development studio. Although I experienced very little in regards to bugs breaking the experience entirely, a few did occur on more than one occasion. Weapons in my inventory would vanish without reason, quests would disappear from sight never to return and the enemy AI would sometimes clump in groups following an escape – slightly spoiling the challenge but an outcome my M-79 grenade launcher greeted with a grin. Overall Far Cry 4 is not technically perfect but games of this nature and scope rarely are.
Far Cry 4 builds on the features of the Far Cry franchise and remains true to the quality of storytelling, delivery of mechanics and awe of the environment that we’ve come to expect. A Game of the Year contender without a doubt but the franchise will need a little freshening up with its next installment.