I remember when I first watched gameplay videos of Far Cry 4. A sequel to 2012’s Far Cry 3, I was worried that the next main installment in the franchise would feel more like Far Cry 3.5; an expansion, rather than a full-fledged sequel. I’m happy to say that this is not the case—Ubisoft Montreal has managed to strike gold once again, while making the game feel refreshing despite nearly identical core mechanics.
Fay Cry 3 made use of the Dunia Engine 2, and so does Far Cry 4, but between then and now, Ubisoft Montreal has made some heavy modifications to the engine. The result is improvement water mechanics, a better weather system, better AI, realistic facial expressions, and more. Couple this with NVIDIA’s close work with the game to provide NVIDIA Godrays, HBAO+ and Hairworks, and what you get is a game that is absolutely beautiful.
When I first took control of Ajay Ghale, the protagonist of the game, I was awestruck by how beautiful everything was. I was in a relatively dark room, with beams of light creeping in from various places. Going outside for the first time gives you a stunning look of the mountains. Flying your gyrocopter, flying in your wingsuit, or parachuting over the region of Kyrat while looking down at the ground below you is truly an amazing experience. It makes you feel small. Especially when you are down on the ground, running or driving to your next destination, and you see massive mountains all around you.
It almost makes you wonder how you’ll ever get to your objective quickly. This is where one of the new features come in—the grappling hook. If you look closely, you’ll see grappling spots on the sides of mountains. All you need to do is throw your grappling hook up there, and rappel up the side of the mountain. If in your game, you haven’t acquired the wingsuit or the parachute, you can also attach your grappling hook from the top of a cliff, and rappel downwards as well. Then there’s these Legend of Zelda-eque moments where you throw your hook to a point, and just swing across an open gap. It is so much fun doing that.
Then there’s also the gyrocopter, another newcomer to the series. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of it. It works well, although you can’t go too high without stalling out. But you get a lot of the action the closer you are to the ground, and you miss it when you use the gyrocopter.
Karma events such as rescuing hostages or killing lieutenants, are random occurrences in Far Cry 4. You’ll see a notification of your optional objective, followed by a purple waypoint that indicates where this event is taking place. Upon completion of these events, you are awarded with Karma Points, which help unlock skills and weapons.
You can run into random supply trucks, and either blow them up, or kill the driver and take the truck to a hideout. There’s even huge military convoys on the road from time to time. Let me tell you, laying down C4, waiting for three heavily armored trucks to pass, and then blowing them up feels like something out of a movie. The best part is that events like these aren’t set pieces. Again, they’re random occurrences. I could have approached the convoy any way I saw fit.
Then there’s outposts, which thankfully have been made harder than in Far Cry 3. From what I remember in the previous game, outposts were relatively easy. If you could get to one of the alarm posts and disable it, you would disable all of the alarms in the outpost. Then you could easily take out all the guards there, without worrying too much about being caught. In Far Cry 4 however, if an outpost has multiple alarm posts, you have to disable each one manually or risk having reinforcements called if you are spotted.
An age old tactic for outposts was to let any caged animals in the vicinity out, and to let them wreak havoc on the poor unsuspecting soldiers in the outpost. This game even took the bait feature from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, so you can throw some bait to lure any wild animals in. That should make your life easier right? It would, if it weren’t for a new enemy: Hunters. Hunters are complete badasses. They use bows and arrows, and they’re stealthy. They can see you through vegetation, and you can’t tag them for more than 3 seconds, meaning you’ll lose track of them if you don’t take them out quickly. Not only that, but they charm animals to work for them. I was taking out an outpost, and saw a Bengal Tiger in a case, so I decided to shoot the cage from a safe distance to release the tiger. Next thing I know, I see the tiger had been charmed, and it came straight after me, and I’m frantically shooting arrows at it and shoot it down just as it gets to me.
If you find that even the hardest outposts are too easy for you, take a shot at one of the four fortresses in Kyrat. Fortresses are new, and they are essentially extremely beefed up outposts. If you get caught and reinforcements are called…prepare to die. I got caught once and within seconds had three attack helicopters on me. I didn’t stand a chance. You can either attack a fortress as soon as you find it, or wait for campaign events to occur that’ll result in the fortress being weakened. If you rush in when you find it, it’ll be a lot harder, and you’ll want to consider doing the fortress in co-op mode with a friend. If you wait, it becomes a little easier, and you can handle it yourself.
Notice I haven’t mentioned the campaign yet. Almost everything I’ve talked about so far is optional. I haven’t even covered half of the side quests/activities, but just know there is so much to do in Kyrat. Hostage rescues, hunting, arena battles, races, etc. But for now, let’s talk about the story. Unfortunately, while the rest of this game is superb, the campaign in Far Cry 4 is subpar. The world is filled with amazingly interesting characters, but Ubisoft Montreal failed to utilize them to their full potential. Ajay Ghale himself isn’t exactly an interesting character, but almost everyone around him is. You have Pagan Min (voiced by Troy Baker, voice actor extraordinaire), who is in my opinion, a much better antagonist than Vaas from Far Cry 3. He makes a stunning entrance in the beginning of the game, and sadly doesn’t show up for the bulk of it, save for a few random calls to your cellphone to say random things and barely progress the plot.
You have Amita and Sabal, the two would-be leaders of the Golden Path rebel group. Their power struggle makes for very interesting choices. These “Golden Path missions” have you choose between Amita’s plan and Sabal’s plan. Choosing one over the other provides for different conversations and relationships, and different missions as well. Save your soldiers, or gather intel? Destroy an opium farm, or use it for economic purposes?
Aside from them, you have a crazy religious arms dealer, and two stoners, who provide you with fun missions. As a miniature campaign, there are four “Shangri-La” missions, which place you in a completely different world, and are…interesting, to say the least. But regardless of who you’re doing a mission for, you’ll find lots of action. One mission had me providing cover fire from a rooftop, then going into a balls to the wall shootout, and it ended with me driving an ATV off a cliff, and using the momentum to deploy my wingsuit and glide over to a flying plane, take a briefcase from the plane, jump off and then chuck a grenade into the plane. Awesome.
Co-op and competitive multiplayer are also fun. Wreaking havoc in Kyrat with a friend is extremely satisfying. There a few co-op missions to tackle, as well as the fortresses. While it is fun, there isn’t anything too special about co-op, so I won’t spend too much time on it. The competitive multiplayer however, deserves a little more attention.
There are three modes to play, all just slight variations of classic modes everyone has seen before. Nothing special there, they work well, they’re fun to play, but it’s nothing revolutionary. Where Ubisoft Montreal managed to spice things up however, was with how they split the teams. If you’ve ever played the Spies versus Mercs mode from Splinter Cell: Blacklist, you’ll be familiar with this. There are two teams in the Far Cry 4 multiplayer. There are the Golden Path soldiers, and the Hunters. Yeah, that’s right. The badass Hunters that I mentioned earlier? You get to play as them.
The soldiers function just as Ajay does, you use guns and grenades to fight off the other team and fulfill your objective. The Hunters are stealthy, and use bows with various types of arrows as their main killing machine. And instead of using grenades, they use their ancient magic to summon different types of animals into the fray, and charm them against the soldiers. I prefer stealth, and I make a point to use the bow as much as possible in the single player mode, so I always enjoyed playing as a Hunter in the multiplayer.
You can customize your loadout with weapons and attachments, and also equip skills that give you certain advantages. The more you play and the better you do, the more things you can unlock for use.
Now, I’ve gone on for a long time, and haven’t fully gone over half of the content in this game. It’s huge. The campaign consists of 32 missions, roughly 10-15 hours. But everything else easily adds hours upon hours of gameplay time. My roommate walked over to my room in the late hours of the night following the release, as I was in my 6th or 7th hour of binge-gaming. As he gave me a judgmental, almost worried look, all I could tell him was that this game is so addicting. There is so much to do in this game, and almost every little thing you do feels satisfying, that you just don’t want to let it down.
One final note, before I wrap this review up. In light of Ubisoft’s recent bad rep for their PC ports and optimization (ahem, Watch_Dogs and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, anyone?), I feel I should mention that this problem is not present in the PC port of Far Cry 4. The game runs beautifully smooth. Obviously if you have an older computer, you’ll run into problems if you’re trying to max out the graphics. But it’s optimized well so that this game can run on a variety of different machines, and still look/run well.
For those of you who don’t like reading reviews in their entirety, here’s what you’re looking for: Far Cry 4 is a fantastic game. It sticks to the mechanics from its predecessor, and manages to avoid feeling stale by improving on the engine and adding new features. There’s hours of content aside from the campaign ready since Day One. The campaign makes poor use of the games otherwise strong cast of characters. The multiplayer and co-op modes add another layer of fun, even if they don’t do anything groundbreaking. But all in all, Far Cry 4 should definitely be on your list of games to buy soon. Oh, and you can also ride elephants. How cool is that?
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