When games get to a fourth in the series, things can start to get a little stale and in recent years Ubisoft have been accused, rightfully so, of copying and pasting gameplay elements across all their big franchises. So, I wasn’t expecting much originality from Far Cry 4 and, to be brutally honest, the game doesn’t bring much of that to the table. Indeed, for the first couple of hours I wasn’t entirely convinced I wasn’t playing a HD remake of the previous game in the series and so my initial impressions weren’t too good. However, once you get past the surface you’ll find that what the game lacks in creativity, it more than makes up for in sheer playability.
If you’ve played Far Cry 3 then you already know the drill. You play an everyman character (in this case Ajay Ghale) who ends up in an exotic location, is terrorised by a charismatic psychopath (in this case, a flamboyant Stewie Griffin-alike) and eventually realises that his responsibility is to clean up the region using exceptional combat skills that he probably never knew he had. You’ll explore a huge game world, checking off story missions and occasionally distracting yourself with a host of side-missions that include hunting trips, assassinations and races. The fog of the map is cleared by, you guessed it, climbing towers and you take out outposts to unlock fast travel options. This isn’t just Far Cry, it’s fundamentally Ubisoft in nature.
When Destiny came out, I was initially very impressed by the gunplay but that soon dissipated thanks to the paper-thin story, rubbish mission structure and poorly-executed looting. Far Cry 4‘s combat is way better. At times you’ll be stalking an outpost, taking out enemies one at a time with bows, throwing knives or your trusty dagger. At this point you’ll feel like Arnie in Predator, something the good Far Cry games have always excelled at.
However, when the shit hits the fan, the game gets even better. Approaching your targets with a sniper rifle, unloading your grenade launcher (one of the best toys in any game) at vehicles, laying waste with your flamethrower and flinging molotovs all over the place as a rhino headbutts the nearest vehicle at you. Far Cry 4 lets you create absolute chaos while giving you some of the most satisfying gun combat I’ve ever experienced. Be it massive battles in outposts or one of the many random encounters out in the world, the combat is exceptional. This is, in part, because of how the AI moves. They flank you, they use tactics and when caught out in the open will try to zig zag to present a moving target.
The other star here is the world itself. Set in the fictional Himalayan region of Kryat, the scenery is quite stunning but it’s how the NPCs and wildlife acts and reacts to you that really sells the illusion. It’s great to see random events just occur naturally and this kind of emergent gameplay happens often in Far Cry 4. Getting surprised by a rhino to the face or seeing an eagle pick up a pig really adds an extra layer of specialness to the game.
As with most open world games, it’s up to you how quickly you rush through the story missions. These are particularly good fun and often quite epic and include a host of larger than life characters (and thankfully none of the douchey traveller mates that you had in the previous game) but aside from that, there are loads of other ways to distract yourself. These invariably involve killing something or driving something fast but they are still fun and you can lose hours to game very easily. The game also throws in a few curve balls to keep things interesting too but I’ll leave these for you to discover.
The big budget nature of the game is certainly reflected in the presentation. The visuals are often incredible, and feature countless details that you may not even notice. Likewise the use of sound is incredible, even down to how different areas echo. The soundtrack is a little generic but not distracting, which is how things should be. The only let down is the fussy menu interface which is a product of the constant addition of complexity that Ubisoft seem to be focused on adding so far. A good example is how weapons are handled. You can buy them or get the free if you do certain things, but also you have to unlock some of them by doing missions. Others come by way of Uplay and if you have pre-order codes these often don’t tell you what you are getting and if they do, not how you then get to use them. On top of that, you’ve got the usual thing of having a map with a load of icons all over it.
None of this matters when you are just enjoying what Far Cry 4 has to offer and you’ll be using that Share button to capture the many amazing moments that happen naturally in the game. Co-op play really accentuates this as you get to create random chaos together. The game also offers PvP online play if that’s your bag. Ultimately though, you’ll probably enjoy the majority of the game as a lone wolf in an unfriendly world. Except you’ll be armed to the teeth.
I was ready to be very cynical about Far Cry 4 but so far this has been my favourite full retail game on the system (Resogun is still the best game on the PS4 though). With it’s splendid presentation, believable world and stellar gun combat, this is the best thing to come out of Ubisoft since GRAW2.