Have you ever gone to a far away country to scatter the ashes of a beloved parent, only to end up joining an insurgency movement aimed at overthrowing the charismatic dictator? Me neither, but I can identify with the story a hell of a lot more than I could with Far Cry 3’s awful protagonist. So even before the game granted me control of the character, I knew things were looking good.
As you may know, this time around the game is set in the mountainous fictional kingdom of Kyrat – think Nepal, mashed up with Thailand with a bit of Cambodia thrown in too. What links it to the previous entry in the series isn’t the story – that’s all new – but the sprawling green open world map, which contains plenty of animals to hunt and enemy soldiers to outwit.
And – spoiler alert – the game is a huge success, cementing Far Cry’s place at the AAA franchise big table (presumably Ubisoft stablemate Assassin’s Creed is shifting nervously in its seat after this year’s buggy entries).
Far Cry 4 is a first person shooter, but not like Call of Duty. Whilst there’s plenty of gun fights and action, the pace is a little less relentless, with the focus of the game being on exploration and not triggering the next fixed event. In the latter case, there is in fact multiple paths that can be taken in some missions – and something of an attempt at a moral choice system (is it better to protect your soldiers or protect the intelligence?) – which adds some variation.
Mechanically, there isn’t a tonne of new stuff: It is much the same with campaign missions and “open world” missions, with skill trees and weapon upgrade paths that are driven by the completion of side quests. The map is still uncovered by unlocking different towers dotted around the map (a bit like in Watch Dogs), and you can upgrade your gear by skinning the right combinations of animals.
But that isn’t a bad thing: Taking down enemy bases and towers is still an exciting challenge, and it feels just fresh enough to stay interesting. The upgrade paths being driven by these quests also are a great motivation to explore the mountains too.
Perhaps the only regrettable thing that is still the same is that driving can still be a bit fiddly when done in first person mode – but even this can be partially mitigated by switching the control scheme in options. Bewilderingly, the default is directional, so that forward, reverse and turning is done with the same thumbstick – instead of using R2 to accelerate like every driving game ever.
Other types of transport have been added to the game too: There’s now a sort of mini helicopter that you can use to traverse the map at speed, and certain rocks can be climbed using rope.
What’s interesting is the use of co-op – much like how Assassin’s Creed Unity does it, and similar to how Watch Dogs handles multiplayer elements, it can all take place inside the game world – with teaming up with a friend for missions a few button taps away. There’s also a fairly perfunctory multiplayer deathmatch mode – but single player is much more satisfying.
In a sense it is difficult to know what to say without giving too much away about the plot – suffice to say it contains everything you’d expect from a Far Cry game – and executes it perfectly. Whilst not a startlingly new, it has a warm embrace of familiarity about it – whilst not getting boring at the same time. If you liked Far Cry 3, you’ll love this and, well, if you like simply good games, then you’ll probably want to add Far Cry 4 to your Christmas list too.
By James O’Malley | November 27th, 2014